Plenty of compelling matchups dominate Saturday’s college basketball schedule, but two games involving four unranked teams — two of which could advance into the next Associated Press top 25 poll — also are worth watching.
Here’s a look at the best the weekend offers.
The two highest ranked teams in the Big 12 meet at Allen Fieldhouse, and the Bears seek to add to their 11-game winning streak while making a statement about challenging the Jayhawks for conference supremacy.
This figures to be a defensive struggle. Kansas (12-2, 2-0 Big 12) has used defense to win its first two conference games, limiting West Virginia to 32.2% shooting last weekend and holding Iowa State to 27 points below its league-best scoring average in a 79-53 win over the Cyclones.
Baylor (12-1, 2-0) is ninth in scoring defense, allowing 58.4 points per game, and 21st in field-goal defense, at 37.8%. But the Jayhawks are strong offensively, shooting 51.0% (third in the nation) and averaging 79.4 points per game. Guard Devon Dotson leads the Big 12 in scoring with an 18.6-point average.
Both teams are strong under the boards. One player to watch is the Bears’ Freddie Gillespie, a 6-foot-8 senior who averages 9.5 rebounds and is third in the nation in offensive rebounding (4.3 per game).
The Fighting Irish (10-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are off to a slow start in the ACC. But coach Mike Brey hopes his team’s performance in consecutive road games — a one-point win at Syracuse, a close loss at North Carolina State in which the Irish coughed up a 12-point second-half lead — can lead to better performances ahead.
Notre Dame is getting a great effort from senior John Mooney, who leads the nation in rebounding (13.6 per game) and is tied for first with 12 double-doubles.
The Cardinals (12-3, 3-1) bounced back from back-to-back losses to ranked teams, at Kentucky and at home to Florida State, with a 74-58 win over Miami. Jordan Nwora leads the ACC in scoring with a 20.9-point average.
The loss by the Mountaineers (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) last week at Kansas ended up costing coach Bob Huggins $10,000, the amount that the Big 12 fined him for referring to the game officials as “three blind mice.”
West Virginia’s defense (average of 60.4 points allowed, 35.7% field-goal defense) and rebounding (plus-7.9 margin) will challenge the Red Raiders (10-4, 1-1), as will what should be a packed house in Morgantown. Jahmi’us Ramsey of Tech is the Big 12’s No. 2 scorer with a 17.7 average.
One of the last two undefeated teams (San Diego State, at 16-0, is the other) in Division I, the Tigers (14-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) are ranked in the top five for the first time in nearly 20 years but are coming off a shaky win over Vanderbilt in which they blew a 13-point lead. The Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1) gave Kentucky a good battle earlier this week, and now get to play the SEC’s other top 25 team with freshman Anthony Edwards (18.7 ppg.) looking more like an NBA lottery pick.
This game features two of the best guards in the nation — certainly the two best in the Big East — in the Golden Eagles’ Markus Howard and the Pirates’ Myles Powell. Howard leads the nation in scoring with a 26.9 average, and Powell is 14th at 21.4. Both can knock down the three-point shot.
“For the Big East to have two guys that are in a position to be first-team All-Americans and potentially national player of the year is great for our league,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said.
Seton Hall (11-4, 3-0 Big East) enters the game on a five-game winning streak, and a victory Saturday could return the team to the Top 25. Marquette also is 11-4, but 1-2 in the league.
Speaking of polls, the Scarlet Knights (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten) have positioned themselves to move in after their victory over No. 20 Penn State. It would be their first ranking since the end of the 1978-79 season. But coach Steve Pikiell isn’t looking past Saturday’s game, knowing his team is 0-4 all-time at Illinois (11-5, 3-2).
“There’s a lot of season left,” he said in an AP story. “I do appreciate the excitement and enthusiasm people have. It doesn’t help us win games. We gotta do a lot of things before we start talking about anything else.”
This is the Scarlet Knights’ best start through 15 games since their undefeated season of 1975-76 that ended in the Final Four at the Spectrum. They are seeking their first NCAA Tournament bid in 29 years.
Could this be the year that Clemson (7-7, 1-3 ACC) finally wins at North Carolina (8-7, 1-3)? The Tigers are 0-59 against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the longest losing streak in NCAA history by a team in the home arena of one opponent. Carolina just lost back-to-back home games to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, teams projected to finish in the bottom half of the ACC.
Two Philadelphia-area players who were teammates at Life Center Academy in Burlington County have reunited as graduate transfers at Hartford.
Malik Ellison, formerly of St. John’s and Pittsburgh, has played seven games for the Hawks (9-8) and leads the team with 16.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Traci Carter, who also played at Roman Catholic High with collegiate stops at Marquette and La Salle, tops the Hawks in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (2.2) and averages 9.2 points.