The second-to-last day of college basketball before Christmas brings a loaded schedule of games: ninety-one to be exact, a number you rarely see reached outside of Saturdays. The biggest matchup nationally: Michigan State taking on Texas in Austin. The Longhorns' 103-90 win over North Carolina showed one important thing to future opponents: if you aren't physically strong inside you're in for a long day. That's due to the presence of center Dexter Pittman, who's in the best shape of his collegiate career and has an improved skill set as a result. Add to him the double-double machine known and Damion James and more bodies off the bench and it's safe to say that Rick Barnes' team is loaded inside.
Michigan State will look to their experienced backcourt, led by Kalin Lucas, to control tempo but they were unable to do so in the first half of their loss at North Carolina. How well they do so on Tuesday could be the difference between staying competitive and being blown out of the Frank Erwin Events Center. The players to watch for the Spartans: Durrell Summers, Raymar Morgan (who will likely draw the James matchup) and sophomore forward Delvon Roe. If Michigan State can't keep James and Pittman off the boards they may have to go zone, opening themselves up to the perimeter abilities of freshmen Avery Bradley and J'Covan Brown. Both teams will look to run and if the Spartans can negate Pittman's impact look for it to be a close ballgame.
As for other games on the schedule, California has Theo Robertson back in the rotation as they visit a deep, talented Kansas squad in a game that would be a serious boost to the national perception of the Pac-10 should the Golden Bears win. Washington will also face a Big 12 team, hosting Texas A&M in the final game of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. And there are also attractive games involving mid-majors, with Butler visiting UAB and undefeated Missouri State taking on Arkansas in Fayetteville. Don't be surprised if Cuonzo Martin's Bears win that one and it shouldn't be considered an upset either. If you've finished up your Christmas shopping grab your favorite beverage and settle in; it should be a good Tuesday.
3p ESPNU Northeastern vs. St. Mary's
5p ESPNU Western Michigan vs. USC
6:30p BTN Loyola at Indiana
7p ESPN2 Michigan State at Texas
8p ESPNU SIU-Edwardsville at Purdue
8:30p BTN Cleveland St at Ohio St
9p FSN-Regional Seattle at Denver
9p ESPN2 California at Kansas
10:30p SMU vs. UNLV
11p FSN Texas A&M at Washington
12:30a ESPNU College of Charleston vs. Hawaii
5:30p Tulsa vs. Nebraska (Las Vegas Classic)
7p Ohio at Pittsburgh
7p South Alabama at Florida
7p Marshall at North Carolina
7:30p Western Carolina at Clemson
8p Butler at UAB
8p Missouri State at Arkansas
8p Stanford at Texas Tech
10p LSU at Washington St
10:30p Colorado St at UCLA
Texas over Michigan State: While it wouldn't be a huge shock if the Spartans won it would definitely be a surprise. Pittman's in far better shape than he was as recently as last season, when it was tough to leave him in for longer than three minutes or so at a time. And even if he were to have issues with a fast pace Texas can simply go smaller with a guy like Gary Johnson. Michigan State is definitely a team that will be heard from throughout the season but right now the Longhorns simply have too many answers for them.