The Big Ten won the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge this week, with big wins coming from Purdue and Ohio State. With the new early conference schedule being implemented this season, some teams will be turning their attention to conference play a little sooner than usual. There’s a boatload of enticing games this weekend, but here’s five you need to see:
5. #20 Colorado at #2 Kansas, Saturday, 7:00 pm, ESPN2
The 20th-ranked Buffaloes travel to Lawrence to take on the second-ranked Jayhawks Saturday night. Colorado owns two solid wins over Arizona State and Clemson, and is led by Tyler Bey’s 14.0 PPG and 11.9 RPG. McKinley Wright IV (12.4 PPG) and D’Shawn Schwartz (12.3 PPG) are the other double-digit scorers for Tad Boyle.
The Jayhawks have won six straight after their opening season loss to Duke in New York, including winning the loaded Maui Invitational. Bill Self has the best interior presence in college basketball in Udoka Azubuike, who is averaging 15.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG. Azubuike is also leading the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 79% from the floor. Sophomore Devon Dotson (19.7 PPG) is having a breakout year and was named MVP over in Maui, along with his teammate Azubuike. A top-20 showdown in Allen Fieldhouse is definitely something you don’t want to miss.
4. Florida at #24 Butler, Saturday, 12:00 pm, FOX
The Gators head up to Hinkle Fieldhouse to battle the 24th-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday. After high expectations and a rocky start, Florida has come on strong as of late, and won the Charleston Classic championship a week ago. Kerry Blackshear Jr. (12.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG) is a name to watch, as he is one the most versatile forwards in the country.
Butler is 8-0 with wins over Minnesota, Stanford and at Ole Miss this past week. The Bulldogs are led by Kamar Baldwin’s 17.5 PPG, and rank eighth in the country in scoring defense. Expect a competitive, low-scoring affair between two tournament teams. Butler still plays at Baylor and has a neutral site game vs Purdue before starting Big East play.
3. #12 Arizona at #18 Baylor, Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPNU
Another intriguing top-20 matchup involving a Big 12 team is set for this weekend, this one taking place in Waco. The twelfth-ranked Wildcats put their undefeated record on the line Saturday when they take on the 18th-ranked Bears. For Arizona, Zeke Nnaji (17.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG) and Nico Mannion (15.3 PPG, 5.8 APG) run the show for Sean Miller. The Wildcats (87.1 PPG) rank third in the country in points per game.
Baylor is coming off an impressive outing in South Carolina last week, where they took down Villanova for the Myrtle Beach Invitational crown. Jared Butler leads the team in scoring at 19.4 PPG, and is shooting 52% from three on the year. Anticipate a close ballgame between two Sweet 16-caliber teams. Defense may be optional though, as both teams like to get up and down and score the ball.
2. #9 Gonzaga at #22 Washington, Sunday, 7:00 pm, ESPN2
The ninth-ranked Bulldogs face off against the 22nd-ranked Huskies in Seattle on Sunday evening. The Zags took down Southern Miss and Oregon before suffering their first loss to Michigan in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship. Filip Petrusev (15.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG) leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and can score the ball in a variety of ways. Killian Tillie (13.4 PPG) is back from injury, and will provide depth and experience for Mark Few’s team. Gonzaga ranks fifth in the country in scoring at 86.2 PPG.
The Huskies have rattled off five straight after falling to Tennessee in Canada. Isaiah Stewart (16.5 PPG) and Jaden McDaniels (15.0 PPG) have the size and talent to battle Gonzaga’s big men down low. Quade Green, the transfer from Kentucky, leads the team in assists (4.9 APG). The Zags lead the overall series 13-8, with the Bulldogs winning last season’s meeting 81-79.
1. #7 North Carolina at #5 Virginia, Sunday, 4:00 pm, ACCN
The seventh-ranked Tar Heels travel to Charlottesville for an ACC tilt against the fifth-ranked Cavaliers. Both teams are coming off of blowout losses to Big Ten opponents, and are looking to remain unblemished in conference play. North Carolina, coming off their worst home loss in program history, is led by one of the most dynamic scorers in the country in Cole Anthony (20 PPG and 3.9 APG). Roy Williams will be without key big man Armando Bacot (10.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG) after he suffered an ankle injury against the Buckeyes. Offense is already an issue for the Tar Heels, who rank 195th nationally with just 71.6 PPG. Going up against Virginia’s relentless defense won’t make things any easier.
The Cavalier’s suffered their first loss of the season to Purdue on Wednesday and one of their worst losses under Tony Bennett (Hey, UMBC). The UVA defense has never been a concern; however, their offense certainly has. They currently rank 350th in the country with 53.3 PPG. Mamadi Diakite (13.4 PPG) is the only reliable scorer for Virginia, which makes them one-dimensional and very easy to guard. Having Braxton Key (10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) back in the lineup will certainly help their offensive woes, as he is still dealing with a wrist injury. Expect this to be a low-scoring, but competitive game between two top-10 teams in an early-December ACC showdown.