By Steve Silverman
Saturday, January 13
Kansas State (12-4, 2-2) at No. 12 Kansas (13-3, 3-1), 12 noon ET, ESPN
The Big 12 is the best basketball conference in the nation this year, and while this conference is almost always the domain of the Jayhawks, that may not be the case this year.
Kansas has plenty of talent and will be near the top of the conference and almost certainly a two or three seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Jayhawks will be tested almost every game among by their conference opponents.
That includes this game against in-state and archrival Kansas State. The Wildcats would like nothing better than to come in Lawrence and steal a win from the Jayhawks. Guard Barry Brown is coming off a career-high 38-point game against Oklahoma State, and he is leading Kansas State with an average of 16.9 points per game.
Forward Dean Wade has the size at 6-10 to be a factor on the boards. He is averaging 14.6 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds per night.
The high-scoring Jayhawks (86.6 points per game, 13th in the nation) are led by guards Devonté Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who are averaging 18.1 and 16.9 points per game respectively. Center Udoka Azubuike is averaging 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per night.
Look for the Wildcats to push hard in this game, but Kansas will have too much for the visitors in the second half.
Saturday, January 13
No. 20 North Carolina (13-4, 2-2) at Notre Dame (12-4, 3-1), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
The North Carolina Tar Heels may be the defending NCAA champions, but they have not looked like they will be at a similar level this season at tournament time.
Roy Williams’ team has had a number of hiccups already, but there is still plenty of time to turn their season around. They have an opportunity to right themselves on the road against a tough opponent. Key road wins will do more for a team’s confidence than anything else, and while Notre Dame is tough at home, the Irish don’t have star forward Bonzie Colson (broken foot) in the lineup.
The Tar Heels lost back-to-back road games to Florida State and Virginia, but they rebounded with a 30-point win over Boston College. Forward Luke Maye is averaging 18.2 points per game and pulling down 10.2 rebounds per night.
Senior guard Joel Berry is averaging 17.6 points per night, but he is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field.
The Irish are trying to survive without Colson, and that will be tough against strong opponents like the Tar Heels. Colson was averaging a team-high 21.4 points per game, and senior guard Matt Farrell is averaging 15.4 points per game. Farrell is getting support from fellow guard T.J. Gibbs, who is scoring 14.6 points per night.
This could be one of the most exciting games of the week and the matchup between Williams and Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey is like a chess match between two grandmasters.
Wednesday, January 17
No. 11 Arizona State (13-3, 1-3) at Stanford (9-8, 3-1), 11 p.m. ET, Pac12
The Sun Devils were on a roll through the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule, as they won their first 12 games of the season. However, when Pac-12 play started, Arizona State has lost three of its first four conference games.
Head coach Bobby Hurley needs his team to turn it around, and do it quickly. They will get a chance against the Cardinal.
Stanford has had nearly the opposite kind of season as the Sun Devils, as the Cardinal struggled in the non-conference portion of the schedule but have won three of their first four conference games.
Guard Tra Holder is Hurley’s go-to scorer, averaging 20.9 points and 4.0 assists per game. Fellow guard Shannon Evans II is contributing 17.1 points per night, but his .376 shooting percentage is an issue.
Stanford is led by forward Reid Travis, who is averaging 20.4 points and 17.5 rebounds per game. The Sun Devils will have to keep an eye on freshman guard Daejon Davis, who is averaging 9.9 points per night and connecting on 53.1 percent of his shots from the field.
Sunday, January 14
Army (10-6, 3-2) at Navy (12-6, 3-2), 2:30 p.m., ET, CBSSN
This clash between the two service academies may not have the glamour and tradition as the battle on the gridiron, but the clash on the basketball court may have even more significance.
Not only do both service academies have winning records this season, they are also in the same conference. So, this game will have a lot to say about the standings of the Patriot League. The Army-Navy game in football has no significance as far as conference standings are concerned since Army is an independent and Navy is in the American Athletic Conference.
Army has won five of its last seven games prior to playing the Midshipmen, and Jordan Fox is leading the Black Knights in scoring with 14.9 points per game. Matthew Wilson, a 6-9 forward, is adding 12.5 points per night and connecting on 59.1 percent of his shots from the field.
Navy has won three of its last four games, and the Middies are led by senior guard Shawn Anderson, who is averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per night. Fellow guard Bryce Dulin is contributing 11.3 points per night and junior guard Hasan Abdullah is also averaging in double figures at 10.7 points per game.
Navy leads the all-time men’s basketball series between the two service academies, 78-49.