College Hoops 101 has undergone a facelift. My weekly breakdown of the past week in college basketball and look ahead will now be split into two parts. (Click here for a look at the past week.) This week’s edition of the “The Week Ahead” looks at the best games of the up-coming week including a preview of the annual Braggin’ Rights game between Missouri and Illinois, and why Xavier will be upset in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic.
Butler at Gonzaga, Tues 8:00, ESPN2
This is a match-up of two of the premiere mid-major programs in the country, with both teams coming off big wins against talented opponents (the Zags against Arizona, Butler versus Purdue.) The Bulldogs have gotten off to a really slow 5-6 start and likely have to win the Horizon League to make the tournament this year. A win in a hostile environment like Gonzaga would certainly help their confidence.
Texas at North Carolina, Wed 6:00, ESPN
Despite having a young, under-sized team, the Longhorns are 9-2 to start the season including recent wins at UCLA and versus Temple. Their lack of size will be a major issue against the Tar Heels size inside and it will be a major challenge for them to pull off the upset in Chapel Hill. I’m intrigued by the Kendall Marshall versus Myck Kabongo battle at the one since they are two of the top distributors in college basketball. Expect to see a lot of up and down action in this one.
Seton Hall at Dayton, Wed 6:00
Both of these teams have surprised some by getting off to solid starts. It is only December but this game could have a lot of influence come Selection Sunday with the winner scoring a nice out of conference victory especially for the Pirates who will play their first true road game of the season.
Diamond Head Classic, Thurs-Sun
Xavier and Kansas State are the favorites for this rare Christmas Holiday Tournament and figure to meet in the title game. One match-up to keep an eye on is the opening round game between Xavier and Long Beach State. The Musketeers are coming off their first loss of the year, playing short-handed without their starting guards of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, and Dezmine Wells who were all suspended stemming from their part in the brawl against Cincinnati. Lyons and Wells will miss the game against the 49ers who have played a brutal non-conference schedule but scored a win at Pitt and were competitive in losses against San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, and North Carolina. Long Beach State could be poised to pull off the upset.
Memphis at Georgetown, Thurs 6:00, ESPN2
JT3 has the Hoyas as perhaps the biggest surprise teams of the season as their youth and length have really caused problems for their opponents. Plus, guys like Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson have tremendously helped the cause by making major strides with their game. The Tigers are one of the most talented teams in the country but just haven’t figured out how to play as a cohesive unit yet. They could really use this win to bolster their resume.
Florida State at Florida, Thurs 6:00, ESPNU
The Battle of the Sunshine State… The Gators live and die by their guard play but Patric Young will have to play a major role in this one against the Seminoles monster front line. FSU does have a win against UCF but has also lost to UConn, Harvard, and Michigan State so they could use a signature out of conference win especially since the ACC figures to provide them with a weak strength of schedule this season.
Illinois vs. Missouri, Thurs 8:00, ESPN2
This game would have brought a lot more juice to the annual Braggin’ Rights battle if it were a battle of unbeatens but that was squashed when the Illini lost to UNLV on Saturday.
Mizzou is second in the nation averaging more than 87 points per game and will look to run all over Illinois. Bruce Weber’s team will have to keep this a half-court game and get a monster night from seven-footer Meyers Leonard who could cause match-up issues for the Tigers thin frontline. One thing is for sure, if the Illini want to hand Missouri their first loss they will have to play a heck of a lot better than they did Monday night versus Cornell.
California at UNLV, Fri 4:00, CBS Sports Network
Cal already lost at San Diego State this season so another loss against a Mountain West would further darken the Pac-12’s black eye especially since the Bears are considered the best team in the Pac-12.
As UNC found out earlier this season, UNLV can be a very tough place to play and the Rebels balance might be the difference if Allen Crabbe or Jorge Gutierrez has an off night.
ONE-ON-ONE MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Doug McDermott vs. John Shurna
I am going off the cuff here a bit in picking a match-up of white boys from Creighton and Northwestern who can flat out shoot the rock.
McDermott is second in the nation in scoring and shooting a ridiculous 55.3% from distance. The son of Blue Jay head coach Greg McDermott flew under the radar some coming out of high school since he played alongside Harrison Barnes, but he has taken an incredible leap during his sophomore campaign. Shurna on the other hand has struggled with his stroke early this season but can certainly light it up when he catches a hot hand.
Northwestern likes to play a lot of zone but McDermott might easily shoot them out of that zone which means we could see plenty of these two taking it right at each other.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.