Viewer's Guide: Friday's Top-20 matchup gets weekend started early

Isaiah Austin will have to play to his potential if Baylor is going to knock off Kentucky. (USATSI)
Isaiah Austin will have to play to his potential if Baylor is going to knock off Kentucky. (USATSI)

We have a terrific weekend ahead of us – and we don’t have wait until Saturday to see big games. There’s a top-20 matchup on Friday night, and then there are plenty of must-watch games throughout the weekend. Moreover, ACC play tips off Sunday (although the game won’t move the needle too much).

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

Best game: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor (Friday, 10 p.m., ESPN). Athletes, height, length – this one is loaded with future NBA prospects. Baylor has the talent up front to hang with Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein, but will the Bears be physical enough to keep the Wildcats off the offensive glass? On the other side, Baylor will have to take care of the ball – it ranks near the bottom of D-I in turnover percentage, and while Kentucky doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, the Wildcats can turn the tide of a game with its athletes in transition.

Second-best game: No. 6 Kansas at Colorado (Saturday, 3:15 p.m., ESPN2). This was supposed to be a mildly intriguing game last season, too, but the Jayhawks steamrolled Colorado at home by 36. This one will be slightly different – but can the Buffaloes get a big win at home? Colorado guards the paint very effectively, and Kansas has been inconsistent from behind the arc. On the other side, the Buffaloes need to attack the rim and try to get Kansas in foul trouble. Junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie has been playing extremely well after an up-and-down start, and he could be the difference.

Another one to watch: No. 18 UCLA at Missouri (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., CBS). Two 8-0 teams looking for a marquee non-conference win. UCLA has been rolling on the offensive end, pushing the ball and filling it up. Jordan Adams could lead the Pac-12 in scoring, while Kyle Anderson is a triple-double threat every night. Meanwhile, Missouri has the backcourt to compete in the SEC, with Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross getting buckets consistently. The key in this one will be Missouri taking care of the ball and not allowing UCLA to push the ball off of turnovers.

Guaranteed win: Anytime North Carolina plays a team it should beat, I feel like I’m taking a risk. But I think the Tar Heels are going to keep their momentum going after beating No. 1 Michigan State on the road – they should handle UNC Greensboro fairly easily (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU). Just in case, though, here’s a couple more easy picks: No. 4 Syracuse at home against Binghamton (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN3) and No. 5 Ohio State at home against Central Connecticut State (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).

Potential upset: Couldn’t find any good ones on Sunday, but let’s give you guys one for Friday and Saturday. First, we’ve got California traveling to UC Santa Barbara (Friday, 10 p.m.). The Golden Bears bounced back from a 1-2 Maui trip by beating UC Irvine, but Santa Barbara has already blown out UNLV on the road and hung tough with Colorado and UCLA. After its pitiful offensive performance against Wisconsin, Virginia could have more trouble against a team from the Badger State. The Cavaliers play at Green Bay (Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPNU) – and the Phoenix have Alec Brown down low and Keifer Sykes on the perimeter.

Five more must-watch games:

BYU at No. 21 Massachusetts (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network): This is going to be up-tempo and high-scoring. Maybe the most entertaining game of the weekend.

Marquette at No. 8 Wisconsin (Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten Network): Wisconsin is playing like a top-five team, while Marquette is still having inconsistencies on the offensive end.

Cincinnati at New Mexico (Saturday, 4:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network): Two teams that just flat-out win games. The key matchup could be Sean Kilpatrick against Kendall Williams. Can the Bearcats match New Mexico’s bigs?

UNLV at No. 2 Arizona (Saturday, 5:15 p.m., ESPN2): Arizona will move to the No. 1 ranking in the polls if it handles UNLV at home. The Wildcats’ defense is going to be brutal for the Rebels.

No. 13 Oregon at Ole Miss (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPNU): Two of the better perimeter groups in the country go at it. Joseph Young will lead the Ducks, while Marshall Henderson paces the Rebels.

Other games to watch:




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