10 Things to Look Forward to in College Basketball This Saturday

Saturday is a great day for basketball. Whether you’re gearing up for a loaded Boardwalk Showcase, or avoiding the cold by watching college basketball, there are great games all over. As conference play rolls on, we’re seeing great story lines develop. Ranked teams playing ranked teams for conference standings, teams losing key players, and other teams beginning to play their best basketball. Here are 10 things to look for heading into Saturday’s games.

How Good is Clemson?

It’s time to start taking this Clemson Tigers team seriously. It’s weird to envision a scenario where Clemson is better after losing Jared Blossomgame than with him, but it’s true. This is one of the most balanced teams in the ACC, with five players averaging 11.5 points of more per game. The Tigers had a relatively light non-conference, and their conference play started with Boston College and NC State, two teams who are on the bottom half of the conference. Saturday afternoon against Louisville will be the first test to see how good the Tigers are. The Cards are coming off a win over Pitt, but are just two games removed from a beating by their in-state rival, Kentucky. If Clemson can hold off a hungry Louisville team, we have to start talking about them finishing in the Top 3.

Game time: 12:00 PM on ACC Network

National Championship Game 2 Days Early

Alabama and Georgia will meet for the College Football National Championship on Monday night. Their college basketball programs will meet two days earlier in Georgia. The highlight of this game is the two leading scorers in the SEC going head to head. Alabama’s Collin Sexton has been one of the most electric scorers in college basketball this season. A lot of Sexton’s points come from the line, due to his constant ability to put his head down and attack the basket. He’s extremely explosive in transition though, and is a must watch. One the other end, SEC fans know all about Yante Maten, who has been a leading scorer in the SEC for years. This year however, Maten not only leads the Dawgs in points, but rebounds as well. If you like individual performances, this is a game for you.

12:00 PM on SEC Network

Two Best Bigs in the Big 12 Square Off

Speaking of individual performances, two of the best big men in the Big 12 meet in Texas, as Mo Bamba and the Longhorns head to Waco to play Jo Lual-Acuil and Baylor. Bamba and Lual-Acuil are the leading rebounders in the conference and both are in the top five in blocks per game. Bamba leads the conference with an insane 4.5 blocks a game, whereas Lual-Acuil has the edge in scoring, with 6 points a game more than Bamba. Baylor is still looking for their first conference win and Lual-Acuil is a major key to achieving that. If there’s a big in the Big 12 who can contain him however, it’s Bamba. Expect these two to bang against each other for 40 minutes Saturday.

Game time: 2:00 PM on ESPNU

Life Without Bonzie

Notre Dame received crushing news this week when Bonzie Colson was announced out for the next eight weeks with a broken left foot. A Preseason All-American selection, Colson was playing like one this year for the Irish. He was second in the ACC in scoring, and third in rebounds. His 2.4 blocks and 2 steals a game were also career bests. The loss undoubtedly puts Mike Brey and Notre Dame in a less than envious position. They head to the Carrier Dome Saturday, then are on the road against Georgia Tech before hosting UNC and Louisville. It’s not an easy stretch, and it becomes harder without your All-American. ND has struggled to have role players step up this year, now they need it more than ever.

Game time: 3:15 PM on ESPN2

Which Kentucky Team Will Show Up?

We’ve seen two different Kentucky teams this season. It’s not really surprising when you’re talking about a team as young as the Wildcats were/are. We are now getting the idea that Kentucky is starting to come together, and the SEC is rolling their eyes and saying “here we go again.” In the early going, it was a lot of Kevin Knox, and not a ton of support, at least steady support. That appears to change of late, with Hamidou Diallo becoming more agressive attacking the rim, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appearing to have won the vacant point guard position. With a primary ball handler, a secondary scorer, and Knox, Kentucky appears to be back on track, it you ever considered them off track. A win at ranked Tennessee will further support that theory and make winning the SEC that much harder for anyone not named Kentucky.

Game time: 9:00 PM on SEC Network

Butler Looks to go 2-1 Against Big East’s Top 3

Villanova, Xavier and Seton Hall were Preseason Top 3 in the Big East this season. So far in conference play, Butler has knocked off the then undefeated Villanova, and went toe-to-toe at Xavier. They’ll get to finish the trifecta Saturday when they host Seton Hall in Ohio. The Bulldogs knew they would be able to rely on Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin this season. The biggest factor to their early season success has been Paul Jorgenson. The junior out of New York has averaged 12 points a game and tallied a career high 23 points in the upset of Villanova. Seton Hall has had their ups and downs this year as well, but beating such a veteran minded team will be no easy task for Butler. If the Bulldogs want to take down two of the three top teams in the conference within the first two weeks of conference play, Jorgenson will need to play well again.

Game time: 2:30 PM on FS1

Is This Must Win for UNC?

The North Carolina Tar Heels have seemed to come down to Earth a bit over the past few weeks. In their last five games they are 3-2, with losses to Wofford and Florida State, not a bad loss at all. They topped Tennessee, manhandled Ohio State and squeaked by Wake Forest. Luke Maye and Joel Berry are far and away the Tar Heels’s 1-2 punch. The issue is the role players for UNC playing at an inconsistent level. Freshman Garrison Brooks and Jalek Felton are still figuring it out, Theo Pinson has underwhelmed, and Cameron Johnson is still getting acclimated. Coming off a loss to Florida State, UNC travels to Virginia to take on that Cavalier defense. The idea of going 0-2 this week, and 1-2 over in the conference is very real. Roy Williams needs to have his team ready for this one.

Game time: 1:00 PM on ESPN

Kansas or TCU: Who will go 1-2 in Big 12 Play

One way or another, one of the top teams in the Big 12 will drop to 1-2 in the conference to start the year, as Kansas and TCU meet in Fort Worth. Kansas has shown their weaknesses thus far this season. They are three-point reliant and a work in progress defensively. In all of their losses this season, they have not shot well from deep at all. Bill Self’s team showed an ability to adjust against Texas Tech, albeit in a loss. After a poor shooting first half, KU attacked the basket more in the second, looking far less one-dimensional. TCU meanwhile picked up their first conference win this week against Baylor, outlasting the Bears in overtime. This game is interesting on both spectrums. On one side, TCU hosts KU before hitting the road and visiting Texas and Oklahoma. Going 1-2 heading into that stretch could put them in a deep hole. On the flip side, KU has appeared vulnerable at home this year, something that usually never happens. This makes every road game huge for them now. Neither team can really afford to close, but one will.

Game time: 9:15 PM on ESPN 2

How Will Markus Howard Follow Up 52

IN what has been an exciting start to Big East play, Marquette and Providence added to that Wednesday night with an OT thriller featuring Markus Howard. The Golden Eagles won thanks to a 52 point outburst from the sophomore guard. Howard accounted for over 50% of Marquette’s points and was a crazy 11-19 from three. Amazingly, that’s the second time he’s done that this season. That’s the good news. The bad news is he now has a target on his back Saturday night in Philly. Expect Jay Wright to do everything in his power to make anyone but Howard beat Villanova. I expect a number of players to tag Howard throughout the game, including Mikael Bridges with his length. What will Howard have as an encore against the conference’s best team? We’ll find out.

Game time: 8:00 PM on FS1

Jevon Carter vs Trae Young

This is the game of the day and it isn’t even close. Two top ten teams and two teams tied in the Big 12 standings. It’s the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year versus the most explosive scorer in college basketball. The Oklahoma Sooners travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia. The Mountaineer defense is nationally known for speeding teams up, getting deflections and forcing turnovers. Enter Trae Young the freshman sensation who leads the country in points and assists. This game is interesting on two levels. How well can Jevon Carter slow down the scorching hot Young, and how much can West Virginia turn him over? Young averages 4 turnovers to his 10 assists a game, and Carter leads the Big 12 with 3.7 steals a game. Whoever wins this match-up will likely see their team win the game. With Esa Ahmad nearing return for WVU, a win against a top ten would be huge. For the Sooners, a win in Morgantown, would put the entire country on notice.

Game time: 7:15 PM on ESPN2

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