Finally, a weekend where college hoops won't have to share the spotlight with college football...outside of the Heisman ceremony Saturday night anyways. Football is still on everyone's minds, but in between your BCS bashing (I hear you Texas fans) this weekend, here's a few hoops games that deserve your attention.
Saturday, Dec. 13
12 p.m. ESPN #8 Tennessee at Temple
The Vols are still breaking in some of their younger players, but have also been riding the veteran leadership of multi-talented forward Tyler Smith. Bruce Pearl's squad is loaded with talented wing players, and they love to get in the open floor to show off their athleticism. Temple is led by guard Dionte Christmas, who will likely receive plenty of attention from the Tennessee wings. Temple will need a big scoring effort from Christmas (hey -‘tis the season) and a strong effort from Lavoy Allen down low to have kind of chance in this game. Look for the Vols to win going away.
2 p.m. CBS #15 Memphis at #19 Georgetown
This should be a classic match-up, although both teams appear to be still figuring out exactly what they have. Memphis is stocked with young talent, but struggled in their one marquee game this year, a 63-58 loss to Xavier. Frosh Tyreke Evans has a ton of potential, and veterans Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier have provided plenty of balance, but the Tigers' 3-point and free throw shooting woes could haunt them all season. The Hoyas are incredibly balanced on offense, led by DaJuan Summers and Greg Monroe in the post, and wing Austin Freeman. However, the Hoyas struggled with the athleticism of Tennessee earlier this year, and Memphis brings a ton of similar athletes. Look for the home court to give the Hoyas the edge here.
4 p.m. CBS Indiana vs. Kentucky
This hardly carries the luster of some previous IU-UK games, but these are still two proud programs fighting their way back to the top. As I've noted before, UK is a hard team to figure out, going through stretches where they look fantastic, followed by droughts that leave the Rupp faithful shaking their heads. Guard Jodie Meeks and forward Patrick Patterson give the Cats a great 1-2 punch however, and the rest of the players seem to be slowly settling in around them. The Hoosiers are painfully thin on talent, but this is a proud team that plays hard and will scrap all the way through, Unfortunately, that won't be enough, even against the inconsistent Cats. Look for UK to win big.
8 p.m. ESPN2 #9 Xavier at Cincinnati
The Crosstown Shootout is always a huge game for both squads, even if it no longer impacts the national rankings the way it did in the past. Xavier is again off to a great start thanks to a balanced attack, led by veterans BJ Raymond and Derrick Brown. The Muskies already own wins over Missouri, Virginia Tech and Memphis, and their young players are quickly becoming battle-tested. The Bearcats are on the right path in Mick Cronin's second year, off to a 6-1 start, including a win over a tough UAB squad. The Bearcats are led by Deonta Vaughn, who will have to play huge to keep them in this game. Look for UC to keep it close thanks to emotion, but Xavier is just too tough down the stretch, and they'll walk away the victors.
Sunday, Dec. 14
6 p.m. #4 Gonzaga at Arizona
This might look like a premiere match-up with a glance at the team names, but this is not a typical Arizona team. The Wildcats do have two future NBA players in Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, but the depth of talent is just not there this year, due in no small part to the coaching issues the last two years. The Zags on the other hand, are as dangerous as ever, with talent all over the floor. They already own quality wins over Oklahoma State, Washington State, Indiana, Tennessee and Maryland, and have five players averaging double figures (with another at 9.9 ppg). Arizona will need huge effort from Budinger to keep up with the Zags, and even then, it might not be enough, Look for Gonzaga to win comfortably here.