College basketball is heating up in December, with several marquee matchups between ranked teams highlighting a jam-packed Saturday slate. This weekend features highly-anticipated games like No. 2 Arizona battling No. 14 Indiana, No. 3 Purdue facing off against No. 24 Ohio State, and No. 4 UCLA taking on No. 13 Maryland.
Key Storylines: Indiana Seeks Upset, Wisconsin Bounces Back
The game between Arizona and Indiana pits one of the nation’s top offenses against a strong defensive team. The Wildcats average over 90 points per game behind the play of guard Kerr Kriisa and big man Azuolas Tubelis. However, the Hoosiers have held opponents under 60 points this season and have length in the frontcourt to challenge Tubelis. This will be a fascinating clash of styles.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin looks to rebound at home against Maryland after back-to-back losses on the road. The status of Badgers’ star Tyler Wahl bears monitoring as he deals with an ankle injury. Maryland is led by dynamic guard Jahmir Young, who will test Wisconsin’s defense. This game is critical for the Badgers to avoid a potentially resume-damaging three-game skid.
Saturday’s Other Notable Games
While Arizona-Indiana and Wisconsin-Maryland grab headlines, several other ranked clashes fill Saturday’s schedule:
No. 10 Arkansas at No. 13 Creighton: The Bluejays offense led by Ryan Kalkbrenner and Baylor Scheierman takes on an aggressive Razorbacks defense.
No. 17 Mississippi State at Minnesota: The Bulldogs have impressed early behind Tolu Smith but face a battle-tested Gophers team.
No. 20 Michigan State at Penn State: Tom Izzo’s squad looks to stay unbeaten against a scrappy Nittany Lions group.
And later in primetime, two bitter rivals meet when No. 5 Kansas heads to rival Missouri in what will surely be a raucous environment.
Additional Storylines to Monitor
Beyond the matchup intrigue, several other plots could impact Saturday’s action:
Injuries: Besides the question around Wahl’s status, Arkansas could be without guard Nick Smith Jr. Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard is battling a wrist injury. And UCLA hopes to have Jaime Jaquez Jr. at full strength.
Unexpected Struggles: North Carolina was the preseason No. 1 team but suffered embarrassing losses already to Iowa State and Virginia Tech. They host a dangerous Georgia Tech team Saturday. Meanwhile, Michigan has dropped four straight games ahead of a matchup with Lipscomb.
Opportunity to Build NCAA Resume: Teams like Rutgers, TCU, Saint Louis and Dayton all have chances to notch Quad 1 wins Saturday that could pay dividends come Selection Sunday.
How Previous Meetings Informed Outlook
|Have not played since 2002
|Arizona’s offense will test Indiana’s defense
|Wisconsin won last 2 matchups
|Status of Wahl important for Wisconsin
|Have not played since 2013
|Battle of strengths between Creighton O and Arkansas D
|Minnesota won last matchup
|Question if Miss St can slow down Minnesota guards
|Split last 2 meetings
|Penn St plays tough at home
The table above summarizes key recent history between some featured teams matched up Saturday. The records and statistics point to several competitive contests that could come down to the wire.
Predictions for Top Games
I expect several hotly-contested battles and potential upsets given some of the key injuries and stylistic mismatches. Here are predictions for some featured games:
- No. 2 Arizona def. No. 14 Indiana – The Wildcats offense overwhelms Indiana down the stretch
- Maryland def. No. 24 Wisconsin – Status of Wahl too much to overcome as Terps get road win
- No. 10 Arkansas def. No. 13 Creighton – Hogs defense flusters Bluejays in low-scoring affair
- No. 17 Mississippi State def. Minnesota – Balanced Bulldogs depth wears down Gophers
- No. 20 Michigan State def. Penn State – Tom Izzo keeps Spartans perfect in close one
Outlook for Next Week
While this Saturday has tremendous games, the college basketball spotlight shines even brighter next week. On Saturday, December 17, one of the biggest annual regular season events occurs – the CBS Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Perennial contenders Kentucky and UCLA square off followed by a showdown between top-five teams in Texas and Ohio State.
The sport’s break for finals will also lead to some intriguing midweek clashes. On Wednesday, No. 6 Gonzaga will host No. 24 Washington in a rivalry clash. Then next Sunday, No. 1 Houston faces a strong Illinois squad.
Overall the next seven days feature must-see showdowns between championship hopefuls – the type of games that will shape conference races and NCAA Tournament aspirations. Buckle up for an eventful stretch ahead!
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