After a couple of soft schedule days, college basketball kicks back into high gear today with several big time match-ups.
#13 North Carolina (6-2) at #1 Kentucky (10-0) 12PM, Lexington, KY, CBS
Today we have one of the season's marquee match-ups, in a rematch of last season's 82-77 Tar Heel win in Chapel Hill. Many have branded Kentucky as unbeatable, however, UNC is one of the few teams in the country that can match the Wildcats' size and depth of size. They are also one of the few teams that can put at least half as many McDonald's All-Americans on the floor. Big Blue Nation suffered a soon-to-be-determined-how-serious blow, with the loss of junior Alex Poythress for the year due to an ACL tear. Though Kentucky has the bodies to replace him, Poythress was one of their frontline veterans, coming into his own, and often sparked them offensively and defensively in moments of need during close games. The Tar Heels were a popular preseason Top 5 pick, but have struggled early, losing to Butler and Iowa. This should be a fun game to watch, as UNC will likely be the first team to attempt to run with the gazelles from Lexington. Prediction: Kentucky 83, UNC 77.
#19 Utah (7-1) vs. #10 Kansas (7-1) 3:15PM, Kansas City, MO, ESPN
Very intriguing game, here. Utah has opened eyes this season, jumping out to a more than solid start, with a win versus Wichita State and coming off a nice road win at rival BYU this week. Their road gets tougher today in Kansas City. Yes, we remember, Kansas lost by 32 to Kentucky in November. But, apparently, the Jayhawks remember as well. Bill Self's team has not lost since and their last three wins were solid ones over Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown. Both squads are good on both sides of the ball and both have a wealth of offensive contributors. Prediction: Kansas 66, Utah 61.
#21 Michigan (5-3) at #4 Arizona (9-0) 5:15PM, Tucson, AZ, ESPN
Go Blue has been more blue than go, recently, after losing back-to-back home games to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. They will undoubtedly fall from the rankings unless they can pull off the huge upset in Tucson. It might be more realistic for Michigan to focus on simply playing well. Arizona has been rock solid again this year, as evidenced by their win-loss record. Last Saturday, the Wildcats prevailed in maybe the season's best game to date, a 66-63 overtime win versus Gonzaga. Prediction: Arizona 70, Michigan 62.
#24 Northern Iowa (9-0) at VCU (5-3) 7PM, Richmond, VA, NBCS
The upstart Panthers of Northern Iowa get their first real test of the season in the form of havoc in Richmond. UNI has looked impressive on the court, but their best wins so far have been over the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Richmond. Not exactly murderers row. VCU, on the other hand, has paid for their tough early schedule. Two of their three early losses have come to two of the country's best teams, Villanova and Virginia. So, while this game is obviously huge for the team from the Missouri Valley, it is just as big for the Rams to get back on the national radar. Contrasting styles will be in play here, as VCU will attempt to speed up the methodical Panthers. VCU 71, UNI 67.
#8 Gonzaga (7-1) at UCLA (8-2) 10PM, Los Angeles, CA, ESPN2
The high-powered Zags play their second road game versus a high profile Pac 12 team in as many weeks, after losing a heart-breaker at Arizona last Saturday. That, of course, was Gonzaga's only loss of the season. They possess one of the country's most potent offenses, with nearly 6 players averaging double figures (Gary Bell being the 6th at a 9.6ppg clip). UCLA's record looks OK until you take a closer look and notice that their best wins came over the likes of Long Beach State and San Diego (not State). The Bruins were beaten rather soundly by Oklahoma and blown out by UNC. Prediction: Gonzaga 82, UCLA 72.
Other games of note...
Dayton (7-1) at Arkansas (6-2) 2PM, Fayetteville, AR ESPN2
St. Bonaventure (6-1) at Pittsburgh (4-3) 2PM, Pittsburgh, PA, ESPNU
Saint Mary's (4-1) at Creighton (8-2) 2:15PM, Omaha, NE, FS1
#12 Oklahoma (5-2) at Tulsa (5-4) 2:30PM, Tulsa, OK, CBSS
Xavier (7-2) at Missouri (4-4) 4PM, Columbia, MO, ESPN2
Oregon (4-3) at Illinois (7-2) 7PM, Chicago, IL, BTN
Florida State (4-4) at #22 Notre Dame (9-1) 8PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN2
Cincinnati (6-1) at Nebraska (5-3) 9PM, Lincoln, NE, BTN
Purdue (8-2) at Vanderbilt (4-2) 9PM, Nashville, TN, SECN
Other Top 25 games...
#11 Wichita State (5-1) at Detroit (4-3) 12PM, Detroit, MI, ESPNU
Morehead State (3-7) at #14 Ohio State (7-1) 1PM, Columbus, OH, BTN
Nicholls State (0-4) at #6 Wisconsin (9-1) 3PM, Madison, WI, BTN
Texas State (3-1) at #7 Texas (7-1) 8PM, Austin, TX, LHN