Non-conference play continues into the third weekend of December. Here’s what we’ll be watching these next few days.
Can’t Miss College Basketball Games
*All times listed are Central Time
Saturday, December 16
No. 15 Seton Hall Pirates at Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ 11 a.m. on Big Ten Network
Seton Hall is a legitimate Elite Eight contender. This team is loaded with big guys who can run the floor, and they defend as well as anybody. A Battle for New Jersey is on the line here, with Rutgers having a big opportunity to knock off one of the nation’s top teams.
Butler Bulldogs vs No. 17 Purdue Boilermakers @ 11 a.m. on FOX
The opening game in the now-infamous Crossroads Classic pits a top Big East opponent against one of the Big Ten’s best in Purdue. Butler has won its last five games but are already 0-1 against Big Ten competition this season.
Syracuse Orange at Georgetown Hoyas @ 11:30 a.m. on CBS
Certain college basketball matchups scream history, tradition and excellence. Yes, Georgetown has fallen on some hard times the last few years. These two teams used to be the cream of the crop in the old Big East. Those days are long gone. For those feeling nostalgic, tune into CBS late Saturday morning.
The second game of the Indianapolis Crossroads Classic takes place between Indiana and Notre Dame. Indiana is still trying to find their way while Fighting Irish senior Bonzie Colson continues his push for both team and individual awards. Colson is a unique superstar in college basketball and gets it done in a variety of different ways on both ends of the floor.
UCLA has had a week to prepare for the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats after the Bruins fell in overtime to Michigan on Saturday. It’s clear UCLA lacks depth with the three (now two) troubled student-athletes serving suspensions. Cincinnati under head coach Mick Cronin is disciplined, hard-nosed and plays some of the toughest defense around.
Oklahoma Sooners at No. 3 Wichita State Shockers @ 3 p.m. on ESPN2
This is the best game of the long college basketball Saturday. Wichita State is rolling, and whoever wins this game earns a huge, huge resume booster come March. Both of these teams will be in the NCAA Tournament. Sooners freshman guard Trae Young is a local kid and is averaging 28.8 points and just under nine assists per game. He’s one of of those can’t-miss players this season — and he might be the best player in the country irregardless of position.
Remember when these teams used to play regularly when both were members of the Big 12? Following a loss to Arizona State, Kansas head coach Bill Self takes “the softest team Kansas has had since i’ve been here” to Lincoln, Nebraska hoping to right the ship. On paper, Kansas should dominate Nebraska. How will the Jayhawks respond to the criticism? Stay tuned.
Illinois heads back to the United Center to take on New Mexico State. Last season in this game, the Fighting Illini narrowly beat BYU 75-73 in a tight one throughout. New Mexico State has a surprising 8-2 record. Will Illinois defend their second home court easily? Or will the Aggies make things tough in the Windy City?
The “Holy War” rivalry takes center court in Provo after a one-year hiatus. College basketball, and really all of college sports is at its best when rivalry games happen. This one takes place early on in the season and both teams want to make the state of Utah bleed either red or blue.
Sunday, December 17
The defending national champions head to Knoxville, Tennessee, to take on the one-loss Volunteers. Tennessee has a perfect record aside from their loss to the No. 1 team in the land right now, Villanova. Tennessee is deep; they have four players averaging double-digits in scoring. North Carolina’s been excellent, save for their thumping disaster of a game against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans a few weeks ago in the PK80.