Viewer's Guide: Iowa State looks to stay unbeaten

Melvin Ejim is averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last three games. (USATSI)
Melvin Ejim is averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last three games. (USATSI)

We’re beginning a quiet week in the college basketball world, with Christmas meaning no games Tuesday or Thursday, and the Diamond Head Classic carrying the load on Monday and Wednesday. In fact, Wednesday has just four games – all in the Diamond Head Classic. This might be the only Viewer’s Guide until Friday, so get your fix.

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

Best game: No. 17 Iowa State vs. Akron (4:30 p.m., ESPNU). Will Iowa State be the next unbeaten to fall? I think Akron of last season would have a better chance; the Zips are 6-2 so far, and have won five in a row, but Iowa State is rolling right now. The Cyclones have difficult matchups across the front line, with Georges Niang scoring in different ways, and Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue causing problems on the glass. Plus, DeAndre Kane is a do-it-all playmaker at the point. Akron will have to seriously limit the pace, and try to get second chances off offensive rebounds.

Second-best game: South Carolina vs. Boise State (9 p.m., ESPN2). Boise State doesn’t get its rematch with Saint Mary’s, but South Carolina should still be a good test. The Gamecocks gave Saint Mary’s its first loss of the season on Sunday night, and the battle in the backcourt will be fun to watch. South Carolina has the aggressive duo of Tyrone Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell, while Boise counters with Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. If South Carolina can keep the Broncos out of transition and out of the lane, Frank Martin’s troops have a shot at advancing to the Diamond Head Classic finals. 

Another one to watch: Mississippi State at UNLV (10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network). Rick Ray knew he had a rebuilding task in front of him when he took the Mississippi State head coaching job, but the Bulldogs are 9-2 right now, coming off a win over South <span data-shortcode=" data-canon="Florida Gators" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> in Las Vegas. Now, can they throw a scare into UNLV? Mississippi State forces turnovers at a high clip, but it remains to be seen if it can score efficiently enough to beat the Runnin’ Rebels. Gavin Ware will have his hands full down low with Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch.

Guaranteed win: Two teams should roll on Monday. No. 1 Arizona will live at the top of the rankings for another day, as the Wildcats host Northern Arizona (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Kaleb Tarczewski is going to sit, but that shouldn’t slow down Arizona too much. Meanwhile, Cincinnati had an offensive explosion against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, scoring more than 54 points for the first time since Dec. 3. The Bearcats should have no trouble with Chicago State (7 p.m., ESPN3).

Potential upset: Saint Mary’s lost its first game of the season on Sunday night, falling to South Carolina out in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic. Can the host Rainbow Warriors make it two in a row (11:30 p.m., ESPNU)? Hawaii had won five in a row before falling by one to Boise State on Sunday, but Gib Arnold will look to push the pace and speed up Saint Mary’s. They also have to keep the Gaels off the glass.

Three things to keep an eye on:

Neither team is very good, but Loyola (Ill.) at Fordham (4 p.m.) features two of the top freshman scorers in the country: Milton Doyle (15.9 ppg) and Jon Severe (19.8).

The lone game of the Diamond Head Classic we didn’t mention yet is George Mason vs. <span data-shortcode= State" data-canon="Oregon Ducks" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> (2:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Two teams that need some momentum heading into conference play are Virginia (vs. Norfolk State, 7 p.m., ESPN3) and Tennessee (vs. Morehead State, 7 p.m., ESPNU).

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