Ah... the last weekend of college basketball in 2017! Some conferences (Pac 12, Big 12, SEC) will begin conference play this week and weekend. The Big Ten and others still have another non-conference game or two left. Here’s what we’ll be watching.
Can’t Miss College Basketball Games
Friday, December 29
Who would have thought a year ago at this time the hammer would eventually come down on Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals? Even with all of the turmoil, Louisville is an impressive 10-2. The Kentucky Wildcats are 9-2 as they hope to move on from last weekend’s loss to UCLA. Louisville won this game last year. Kentucky has won eight of the last 10 against the Cardinals.
The Big 12 Conference slate opens with a ranked West Virginia team visiting an Oklahoma State team with just two losses (both ranked opponents) to Texas A&M and Wichita State. The Big 12 figures to be really, really good this season. This is not a bad game to kick it all off.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders are ranked with just one loss (Seton Hall) under their belt. They host the Baylor Bears who consistently reload with talented young freshmen under head coach Scott Drew. Keep an eye on Baylor senior guard Manu Lecomte. Lecomte is one of top scorers in the country, averaging over 18 points per game.
It’s pretty obvious by the previous two paragraphs that I think the Big 12 Conference is going to be the best in the country this coming season. Kansas has won at least a share of every single regular season Big 12 Conference since 2005. This game is intriguing because the Jayhawks get to finally play their stud true freshman frontcourt player, Silvio de Sousa. Sousa was a 5-star recruit from Florida’s IMG Academy and was forced to miss the beginning of the season due to NCAA amateur eligibility issues. He’s back and ready to give Kansas a boost before the start of the new year.
Lorenzo Romar was the head coach of the Washington Huskies for 15 years. He coached some top talents (see Brandon Roy, Isaiah Thomas, Markelle Fultz and more) and most expected a bit of a drop-off after his departure. That hasn’t been the case. Washington’s done well so far as they begin their Pacific 12 schedule in Los Angeles versus USC. USC is coming off of an important Diamond Head Classic win over New Mexico State.
Saturday, December 30
No. 11 Wichita State Shockers at Connecticut Huskies @ 11 on CBS
Both Wichita State and UCONN have Final Fours in their histories to boast about. Entering this game, UCONN is struggling — losing three of their last four including an ugly, blowout loss to Auburn. Wichita State is rolling. They’ve beaten some good teams already (Baylor, Okahoma State, Marquette), but narrowly lost the Maui Invitational in one of the games of the year versus Notre Dame.
Last season, Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles were 1-1 against Duke. This season, ACC play tips off in Durham and the ‘Noles will have their hands full against one of the more talented Duke teams Hamilton has seen in his 15 years at Florida State. Duke is not just good, they’re big and good. In the past Florida State would have the big guys to compete with the Blue Devils down low. Not this year — this could get ugly.
Trae Young is a rare, sensational talent. The best player in college basketball by miles suits up for the Oklahoma where he can shoot it from anywhere and has incredible passing instincts and feel for the game. Former Pitt Panthers coach Jamie Dixon has done a better-than-expected job at TCU, where his team is undefeated and ready to begin Big 12 Conference play.
Villanova is really good led by one of the best point guards in the country, Jalen Brunson. The Wildcats are balanced and have elite shooters who can stretch it out to the perimeter. We aren’t quite sure how good Butler is yet. This is a game that would boost their NCAA Tournament resume right off the bat. Unranked at home versus the top team in the land? Hinkle Fieldhouse will be bumpin’!.
No. 3 Arizona State at No. 18 Arizona Wildcats @ 8 on Pac 12 Network
A lot can change in the second half of the season, but the story in all of college basketball up to this point has been the success of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State is 12-0 with one of the best resumes in all of college basketball. They’ve beaten the Kansas Jayhawks and Xavier Musketeers (both wins by ten points or more). Arizona had a tough time with a loaded non-conference schedule — they have the talent and experience to be right where they want to be come March time.
Sunday, December 31
Providence has a lot to play for in this game. The Friars need to add some quality wins to their resume, and a tough road test against a likely tournament team in Creighton would be huge looking down the line. Do-it-all forward Rodney Bullock is one of the top talents in the Big East Conference, and he’ll need to carry the Friars all season long for coach Ed Cooley.
St. John’s Red Storm at No. 23 Seton Hall Pirates @ 4 on FS1
This is a New York vs New Jersey showdown in the Big East on New Years Eve. St. John’s is building a winner thanks to alumnus head coach Chris Mullin. They’ve recruited some real good players in Marcus Lovett (from Chicago) and Shamorie Ponds to name a few, and last week Mullin landed another big-time prospect. Seton Hall is a tough out this early in the season.