Christmas is coming a bit early this year for college hoops fans, as this weekend features a number of big match-ups. So forget about doing any last-minute shopping (that’s what the internet is for), grab a drink, and settle in for a great weekend of hoops. Here’s a few games to keep an eye on.
Saturday, Dec. 20.
2 p.m. CBS #22 Michigan State at #5 Texas
This one has all the makings of a great game, with two of the top programs in the country both looking to pad their resume with a huge non-conference win. The Spartans will be looking to atone for an embarrassing loss to North Carolina, a game in which the Heels completely dismantled them. You better believe Tom Izzo will have his guys focused for this one. Texas meanwhile, is quickly proving to be one of the top teams in the country, despite the loss of PG DJ Augustin to the NBA. AJ Abrams has been lights out most of the year, and Damion James is a match-up nightmare with his size and versatility. The battle between him and Raymar Morgan should be great. Look for a close game throughout, with the Horns pulling away near the end.
2 p.m. CBS #7 Xavier vs. #6 Duke
The Muskies get a chance to show their mettle against one of the best teams in the country in this one. Both teams are actually very similar, relying on tough defense, a balanced offense and outside shooting. Xavier is playing with a ton of confidence, and they have enough veteran leadership in Derrick Brown and BJ Raymond that they won’t be rattled in this one. Duke is led by talented forward Kyle Singler and guard Gerald Henderson, one of the best athletes in the country. Throw in the outside shooting of Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer, and these Devils are going to be tough to beat. Look for Xavier to hang around for a while, but Duke simply has too much talent across the board and they should pull away to get a tough victory.
4 p.m. CBS #2 UConn vs. #8 Gonzaga
Wow- the day just keeps getting better. This one should be fantastic, as both teams are legit Final Four candidates, and feature a ton of NBA talent. UConn is led by big man Hasheem Thabeet, a 7’3” monster whose game continues to develop every time he takes the floor. Behind him, the Huskies have plenty of other options, including AJ Price, Jeff Adrien, Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker. The Zags meanwhile, have plenty of options themselves, led by Jeremy Pargo, Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Both teams are long, athletic, experienced and well-coached. In short, this one should be a classic. Look for the Huskies to win a close one.
4 p.m. CBS #20 Davidson at #18 Purdue
I’ll just go ahead and warn everyone that Davidson will be making a lot of appearances on this guide, because Stephen Curry is can’t-miss television. The sharp-shooting junior is capable of going off at any time, and he’s simply one of the most entertaining players in the country. He’s already cracked the 40-point mark three times this year, and has also shown the ability to get others involved, averaging almost seven assists per game. Purdue will probably use Chris Kramer, last year’s Big 10 Defensive POY, to defend Curry, while sophomores Rubbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore will lead the offense. Look for Purdue to ride their home crowd to the win, although Curry is more than capable of leading an upset.
6 p.m. ESPN #11 Syracuse at #21 Memphis
Another early test for John Calipari’s young squad arrives in the form of the Orange, who already own wins over Florida and Kansas. Led by a veteran backcourt with Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris, the Orange have plenty of offensive firepower and when focused, can lock teams down defensively. Memphis is still sorting out their young talent, but frosh Tyreke Evans is starting to put it together, and big man Shawn Taggart has been surprisingly effective manning the middle. However, look for the Orange to ride their veteran leadership to a tough road victory.
2:30 p.m. ESPN2 Temple at Kansas
The Jayhawks are coming off an upset loss to UMass, so the last thing they want to see right now is another A-10 team. Temple’s Dionte Christmas dropped 35 points in an upset of Tennessee last weekend, but he may find the going tougher here. Look for the Jayhawks to regroup and get a needed win.
10 p.m. ESPN2 VCU at #4 OklahomaLike Curry, OU’s Blake Griffin is must-see TV. He’s a beast in the middle, and plays with terrific intensity. The Sooners are loaded with weapons around him, and look to be a Final Four team. VCU has super-talented guard Eric Maynor, but even he won’t make much of a difference in this one, as the Sooners should roll.