I know you'll probably be watching the NFL on Sunday. I probably will, too. But Saturday is a day worth devoting to college basketball because there are five games featuring matchups between two ranked teams. Three of those games will be in the afternoon. Two will be at night. Let's prepare and get excited together. This is the Weekend Look Ahead.
Top game: "I don't think there's a better coach," Jim Boeheim said this week when asked about Rick Pitino, which means Saturday's showdown at the KFC Yum! Center between Syracuse and Louisville will feature college basketball's second-winningest coach and the coach that coach believes is better (or just as good) as everybody else. Also worth noting is that Syracuse is ranked sixth while Louisville is No. 1. Both teams are 16-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big East. So this should be fun, right?
Another interesting matchup: Billy Donovan's Florida Gators probably won't finish the SEC portion of their schedule unblemished, if only because that's really hard to do. (Slipups happen in this sport, you know?) But it should be pointed out that KenPom.com projects the 10th-ranked Gators to be at least a seven-point favorite in each of their remaining regular-season games, including Saturday's with 17th-ranked Missouri (minus Laurence Bowers). So maybe an 18-0 league record is possible after all.
Yet another interesting matchup: The Big Ten is and will continue to be a wild league -- proof being that six members are ranked in the Top 25 while the school at the top of the standings (Wisconsin) is not. (Note to Wisconsin fans: That should be fixed Monday, long as you don't lose this weekend at Iowa.) Two of the Big Ten's ranked schools are No. 11
Probably will be a blowout: Yes, VCU barely got by Saint Joseph's at home. And, yes, the 22nd-ranked Rams might be due for a letdown on Saturday considering the Saint Joe's game didn't end till late Thursday. But how's a Duquesne team that turns the ball over on roughly one of every five possessions (and is on a five-game losing streak) supposed to deal with HAVOC?
Definitely could be an upset: The ultimate compliment to Greg McDermott is that he has won so much through two-plus seasons at Creighton that his fans take offense to the mere suggestion that his team might lose a game. So I realize what I'm doing to my Twitter mentions when I suggest that his 12th-ranked Bluejays might lose Saturday at Wichita State. But they really might. And they'll drop into a first-place tie with the Shockers if they do. But, even if they do, the Bluejays will still win the Missouri Valley Conference because -- make sure to pay attention to this part, Creighton fans -- Creighton won't lose another regular-season game the rest of the way, regardless.
Player trying to keep rolling: And the reason (or at least the main reason) Creighton won't lose another regular-season game regardless is because of the coach's son, Doug McDermott, who has scored 39 and 31 points in the Bluejays' past two wins while making 27 of 41 (65.9 percent) field goal attempts and four of six (66.7 percent) 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-8 forward has made us look wise for moving him to the top of our Player of the Year Watch List. For that, we sure are appreciative.
Player trying to get rolling: Sheldon McClellan is Rick Barnes' leading scorer, but the Texas coach barely used the sophomore in last Saturday's game at Iowa State. That experiment didn't go well; the Longhorns lost by 20. So it'll be interesting to see what kind of role McClellan plays this Saturday when Texas hosts No. 4 Kansas in a game that sounds nice given the names but probably won't be competitive given the personnel.
Three things you should know before you go
- Bill Self's Jayhawks are the favorite in the Big 12 -- mostly because they're obviously the league's best team, somewhat because KU has won at least a share of the Big 12 title in each of the past eight seasons. But who will finish second this season? That could be decided Saturday, when Oklahoma visits 16th-ranked Kansas State. Both teams enter the weekend with Big 12 records of 3-0.
- The Pac-12 still has three schools with perfect league marks, and two of them -- No. 21 Oregon and No. 24 UCLA -- will play Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins are on a 10-game winning streak. This is not the same team that lost to Cal Poly.
- There's just one school with an unblemished Big East record besides the two that'll spend this weekend at the Yum! Center, and that school is Marquette. The 25th-ranked Golden Eagles are 13-3 overall, 4-0 in the league entering Saturday's game at Cincinnati, and who projected this after Marquette lost at Wisconsin-Green Bay?
Final thought: The Gonzaga-Butler game scheduled for Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse lost some luster when the Bulldogs announced that their leading scorer (Rotnei Clarke) will miss the game with a neck injury. But this should still be great. Gonzaga is 17-1 and ranked eighth nationally. Butler is 15-2 and ranked 13th nationally. And good on Mark Few and Brad Stevens for scheduling this non-league showdown in January.
Because what's better than a great non-league showdown in January?
Though it's less true now because Gonzaga has BYU in its league while Butler is suddenly (and probably temporarily, if the Catholic 7 has its way) competing in the A-10 with VCU, Temple and Xavier, these nationally prominent programs need games like this to remain on the national radar this time of the year. Not every coach would understand this, but Few and Stevens do. So they'll play late Saturday on a big stage, and, yes, one of them will lose. But college basketball will be a winner regardless of the outcome, and it's nice to see two men putting that fact above conventional scheduling wisdom.