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Today's Specials: Showdown in the Hawkeye State is worth watching

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Mike Gesell and the Hawkeyes look to protect their homecourt against Iowa State.. (US Presswire)

There are some intriguing games this weekend, but we first have to get through a light slate on Friday. Despite the lack of games, an intrastate rivalry in the Midwest is worth watching.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: Iowa State at Iowa (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). Nice intrastate battle between two teams looking to send a message heading into the holiday break. Both teams are projected to finish in the middle-of-the-pack in their respective conferences, potentially sitting on the bubble come March. Iowa State has relied heavily on the 3-point shot, while Iowa has been adept at getting to the rim and drawing fouls. The forward battle between Will Clyburn and Aaron White should be interesting.

Second-best game: Harvard at Connecticut (7 p.m., ESPN3). Two teams that expected to have different looks this season. Harvard lost Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry in the fall after both withdrew from school, while Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun retired in September. Harvard freshman point guard Siyani Chambers has been one of the more underrated newcomers in the country, and Connecticut is getting nearly half of its points from Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. It should be a good test for Chambers and the Crimson.

Another one to watch: VCU at Old Dominion (9 p.m., NBC Sports Network). This game harkens back to the old CAA days (or last year, too). However, this one doesn't have the same luster as the showdowns in past seasons. VCU is now in the Atlantic 10, and Old Dominion is experiencing a major down year. With that said, it's hard to completely write off the Monarchs, who always seem to be in the thick of things come conference play. VCU will look to turn Old Dominion over at every opportunity -- the Monarchs struggle mightily with taking care of the ball.

Guaranteed win: There's only 10 games involving two Division-I teams taking place on Friday, but I'll go out on a limb and pick Wisconsin-Milwaukee to cruise past Northern Illinois (8 p.m.). Yes, Milwaukee has lost five in a row and is 1-6 against D-I competition -- but leading scorer Paris Gulley is back and healthy. And Northern Illinois isn't very good.

Potential upset: Heading into the season, Siena was expected to be a sleeper in the MAAC. However, the Saints are just 2-7 and have lost five in a row. Meanwhile, Rider has picked up a few solid wins over Drexel and Robert Morris and currently sit at 5-4. Double-double machineO.D. Anosike will have to come up big if Siena wants to get off to a good start in league play.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. At 5-5, Navy is off to a respectable start, and the Midshipmen will look to get another W against Mount St. Mary's (7 p.m.). Watch for Tilman Dunbar.
  2. Manhattan hasn't really hit its stride yet, despite the return from injury of George Beamon. The Jaspers head to Marist on Friday (7 p.m.).
  3. South Carolina has really struggled this season, but coach Frank Martin will get the Gamecocks into shape soon enough. A home game against Jacksonville should help (7 p.m.).
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