First loaded Saturday of hoops is here!
There are always games. That is one of the best parts about the college basketball season, and sometimes we take that for granted. With the college football season now officially in bowl season, that means more free time on Saturday to watch college hoops. While we all enjoy a Monday night double header, nothing quite beats a full day of action on the hardwood. Sleep in a little bit, turn on GameDay, and then watch college hoops for twelve straight hours on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, CBS, the SEC network, the YES network. This is one of those Saturdays!
December 19th is the first really good hoops Saturday of the 2015-16 season. We have two quality neutral court doubleheaders, a top 10ish match up in Virginia, and at least 10 watchable fixtures to get you through 12 hours of the day. Now that college football takes a back seat and final exams should be wrapped up, it is time for some college hoops!
Here are some of the match ups you must watch, according to awesomeness:
No. 12 Villanova Wildcats @ No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers, 12pm EST (ESPN2)
The Wildcats could be a top 5 team. Starting the season off with 8 convincing wins, Jay Wright and Villanova were looking like a sure fit for a Final Four tip off. They then traveled to Hawaii and lost by 23 to an up-and-coming Oklahoma squad. In that game, Villanova jacked up more threes (28) then they did two pointers (23). Virginia had their own shooting woes at the beginning of the season, including their lone loss to George Washington. The Cavaliers are averaging 38% from beyond the arc, and with the amount of turnovers they force, this Virginia team could be the best in the country. Both of these teams are better than the numbers next to their names. This is not just the best game of the day, it may be the best non-conference game of the year.
No. 17 Butler Bulldogs @ No. 9 Purdue Boilermakers, 5pm EST (Big Ten Network)
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index debuted with the Boilermakers at No. 1 this week. Matt Painter’s team is 11-0. They have yet to win a game by fewer than 12 points, and its average margin of victory is 26 points. Then again, none of those 11 opponents were like this Butler team. Second year head coach Chris Holtmann has taken the reins off Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Bulldogs fans are now witnessing a super efficient, but yet up-tempo and attacking offense. Does Butler have the size to handle the Purdue bigs? Probably not. But will the Bulldogs test the nation’s best defense on the other end of the floor? Absolutely.
No. 11 North Carolina Tar Heels @ No. 22 UCLA Bruins, 1pm EST (CBS)
At this point last year, UCLA was riding a 5 game losing streak. They fell at home to Gonzaga, lost to No. 1 Kentucky, had road losses at Alabama and Colorado, and were embarrassed 71-39 against Utah. This year? The Bruins have already knocked off No. 1 Kentucky, and defeated Gonzaga up in Washington. They broke into the top 25 on Monday and head into a nationally televised game against North Carolina, who will be without big man Kennedy Meeks for two weeks. The Tar Heels need to find it soon before the head into ACC play. They already have losses on the road at Northern Iowa, and most recently at Texas on a last second shot. Coming off an injury, potential POY Marcus Paige is averaging just over 17 points per game in the four contests he has played in.
Utah Utes @ No. 7 Duke Blue Devils, 12pm EST (ESPN)
This will be the first big test for the reigning champs without big man Amile Jefferson. Utah boasts one of the best big men in the game in 7’0” sophomore Jakob Poeltl. The Utes center is averaging just over 19 points per contest to go along with 9.5 rebounds and 22 blocks in 10 games. Utah, who has 8 wins on the season, also have 2 bad losses against Miami, where they lost by 34, and then a 17 point loss against Wichita State. The Blue Devils always have a solid following when playing at the Mecca of basketball. Grayson Allen is in the early running for National POY and is the clear favorite for ACC POY. Freshman Brandon Ingram has been coming into his own, but it will be the impact of teammate Chase Jeter which will be a telling story of how far this team advances. Don’t forget about the last Plumlee: Marshall. Remember Duke’s first game when he scored the first 9 points of the game?
– Brian Wolf, @bwolf_17