You're probably noticing something different about the Weekend Viewer's Guide. There's an easy explanation. Because everyone loves delicious hoagies, the Friday version of our Viewer's Guide will now mirror the "Hoagie Scale" used for Jason La Canfora's NFL Game Rankings. Nothing much will change with the content; only the categories separating the games. Now I'm hungry.
Expect some serious changes to the rankings come Monday, as this weekend will see 15 top-25 teams go on the road for conference games. It's an early chance for the league favorites to establish their superiority on the rest of the conference, while middle-of-the-pack teams can start boosting their at-large profiles with key wins.
No. 20 Iowa at No. 3 Ohio State (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., CBS)
Like many Big Ten games this season, this game is going to be terrific. Iowa has three losses this season – to Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin (combined one loss) – by a total of 12 points. Will the Hawkeyes break through and get a marquee win in Columbus on Sunday? The Buckeyes suffered their first loss of the season on Tuesday, coming back from a 17-point second half deficit against Michigan State only to lose in overtime. The pace will be a major factor, as Iowa likes to push the tempo once it gets the ball. In the half-court, will Hawkeyes' point guard Mike Gesell able to initiate offense against Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott? Roy Devyn Marble is averaging 19 points in Big Ten play, and he needs to keep it going. Defensively, Iowa could look to take LaQuinton Ross out of the game – without him scoring, Ohio State can go into droughts.
North Carolina at No. 2 Syracuse (Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPN)
Obviously the biggest question in this game revolves around which North Carolina plans on showing up to the Carrier Dome. If the Tar Heels that won at Michigan State (and beat Louisville and Kentucky) are there, this one should be interesting. If it's the team that lost to Wake Forest and Miami the past two games, Syracuse will run them off the court. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, I tend to think it's going to be the latter. North Carolina's inability to knock down outside shots and tendency to turn the ball over lends itself to fast-break points – where Syracuse excels. Defensively, the Tar Heels have to keep Tyler Ennis out of the lane and the Orange off the offensive glass. A hot start is necessary for the Tar Heels.
Arizona State at UCLA (Sunday, 10 p.m., ESPNU)
A nice late-night Sunday game for everyone. Arizona State has a brutal schedule the rest of the way, playing eight of its final 15 games against Colorado, California, Arizona and Oregon. Plus this road trip to Westwood. This will be a matchup of two of the best players in America, with Arizona State's Jahii Carson going against UCLA's Kyle Anderson. The Bruins have struggled to corral explosive guards this season, but their zone defense will focus on keeping Carson out of the lane. Defensively, Arizona State has to get back to prevent fast-break points. UCLA isn't as effective in a half-court setting – with Arizona State's shot-blocking star Jordan Bachynski protecting the rim, that might not change on Sunday.
No. 25 Kansas State at No. 18 Kansas (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
This is a big opportunity for Kansas State, as the Wildcats have won 10 in a row – including last weekend's home win over Oklahoma State. This one is on the road, though, and the Jayhawks will be hungry after going just 5-4 in their last nine games. The in-state rivalry aspect only adds to the intrigue. If Kansas State is going to keep it close or pull an upset, it needs to get Kansas in foul trouble and knock down shots from the perimeter. Marcus Foster has to come up big, and Thomas Gipson needs to hold his own down low. Kansas was 50 percent from 3 against Oklahoma; a repeat of that would be huge.
Xavier at Creighton (Sunday, 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Creighton's first game without Grant Gibbs will be a huge test. Doug McDermott should be good to go, but it won't be easy against Xavier. The Musketeers have won eight in a row, and are 3-0 in the Big East. Semaj Christon is making his case as one of the best point guards in the country, and Justin Martin is averaging 14.3 points in league play. Creighton has the most efficient offense in the country, but the loss of Gibbs will be huge. Devin Brooks could play a bigger role in the backcourt for the Bluejays.
No. 9 Iowa State at Oklahoma (Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPNU)
This one could be a first-team-to-90-wins type of game. Both teams love to push the ball offensively, with neither starting five going with anyone taller than 6-foot-8. Oklahoma's defense is going to be the key in this one. Can the Sooners guard the 3-point shot of the Cyclones – and can Jordan Woodard ad Isaiah Cousins keep DeAndre Kane in check? Up front, Cameron Clark has been rolling for the Sooners, but Iowa State could be up to the challenge with versatile forwards Dustin Hogue and Melvin Ejim.
Saint Louis at Dayton (Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN2)
This is a big chance for Dayton to prove its worth in the Atlantic 10 race. The Flyers have a couple of nice wins over Gonzaga and California, but questionable losses to Illinois State and USC also dot the resume. They will have to be disciplined against Saint Louis' physical, stingy defense, while also knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Billikens have won eight in a row heading into the weekend.
Minnesota at No. 5 Michigan State (Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Minnesota picked up a key road win at Penn State on Wednesday, as the Gophers next four games are against Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin. They can't go 0-4 in that stretch if they want to be an NCAA tournament team. It starts against the Spartans, and the key could be execution in the half-court. Austin Hollins has been inconsistent in Big Ten play; he needs to come up big for Minnesota.
No. 10 Florida at Arkansas (Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN2)
This could be an upset to watch. Arkansas lost at Texas A&M earlier this week, but the Razorbacks are completely different at home. Their full-court pressure is taken to a new level – and the Gators need to take care of the ball. Scottie Wilbekin is expected to play, and he's going to be important. Arkansas is going to need to push the tempo offensively, and not go against a set Florida defense.
No. 8 Villanova at St. John's (Saturday, 1 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
After back-to-back double-digit losses to start Big East play, St. John's badly needs a win. Will the Red Storm be able to score in the half-court?
Virginia at North Carolina State (Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN2)
Virginia seems to have recovered from its 35-point loss at Tennessee, winning at Florida State and steamrolling Wake Forest. The Cavs will focus on T.J. Warren.
Georgetown at Butler (Saturday, 7 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
Both teams in need of a victory. Georgetown has lost its two road games by a combined 40 points, while Butler is 0-3 to start the Big East.
SMU at No. 12 Louisville (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Beating Connecticut last week was a huge boost for SMU, but the injury to Yanick Moreira will hurt. Louisville looks to bounce back after a home loss to Memphis.
Stanford at No. 17 Oregon (Sunday, 5 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
A couple of teams entering the weekend on two-game losing streaks. It will be interesting to see if Stanford goes smaller against Oregon's plethora of guards.
Other games to watch:
- Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (12 p.m., ESPN3)
- Wake Forest at Pittsburgh (12 p.m., ESPN3)
- Indiana at Penn State (12 p.m., Big Ten Network)
- St. Bonaventure at No. 19 Massachusetts (12:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
- TCU at No. 7 Baylor (1:30 p.m., ESPN3)
- LSU at South Carolina (1:30 p.m., ESPN3)
- No. 16 Duke at Clemson (2 p.m., ESPN3)
- No. 21 Missouri at Auburn (2 p.m., ESPNU)
- Rhode Island at George Washington (2:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
- No. 24 Memphis at Temple (3 p.m., ESPN2)
- No. 14 Kentucky at Vanderbilt (3:30 p.m., CBS)
- No. 11 Oklahoma State at West Virginia (4 p.m., ESPN3)
- Ole Miss at Mississippi State (4 p.m., ESPNU)
- UCF at Connecticut (6 p.m., ESPNU)
- Rutgers at Cincinnati (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
- Texas A&M at Tennessee (6 p.m., ESPN3)
- San Francisco at Saint Mary's (6 p.m.)
- No. 6 Wichita State at Missouri State (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- California at Oregon State (8 p.m., ESPNU)
- Green Bay at Milwaukee (2 p.m.)
- No. 15 Colorado at Washington (3 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
- No. 13 San Diego State at Air Force (4 p.m., ESPN3)
- Utah at Washington State (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
- No. 23 Illinois at Northwestern (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
- Maryland at Florida State (8 p.m., ESPNU)
- No. 1 Arizona at USC (9 p.m., Pac-12 Network)