Weekend Look Ahead: KU-OSU highlights Saturday's schedule

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Top game: This Kansas-Ohio State matchup projected in the preseason as a showdown between two elite programs, and neither team did anything to mess it up. The Jayhawks are 9-1 and ranked ninth. The Buckeyes are 9-1 and ranked seventh. Both have top-15 offenses. Both have top-15 defenses. Both have legitimate National Player of the Year candidates in Jeff Withey (Kansas) and Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State). So make sure to spend Saturday afternoon tuned to CBS, because this could be a game between the eventual Big 12 and Big Ten champions.

Another interesting matchup: The Bragging Rights game is big every year in St. Louis because it brings fans of major universities from bordering states into the same building, and that's always fun (even when one of the teams stinks). But this game is especially big when both teams are operating at a high level, and that's precisely why I'll be at the Scottrade Center when No. 12 Missouri plays No. 10 Illinois on Saturday, because the Tigers and Illini are both operating at a high level under coaches who have in consecutive years taken what their predecessors left behind and made it better.

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Yet another interesting matchup: Most elite coaches at elite programs don't like to travel on consecutive weekends for nonleague games, so good on Billy Donovan for doing it. The New York native with two title rings took his eighth-ranked Gators to Tucson to play Arizona last Saturday, and he'll have them in Kansas City playing Kansas State this Saturday for a game between teams with a combined record of 16-3.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: Kennesaw State has dropped eight straight games, including Wednesday's 85-57 loss at Notre Dame. So how are the Owls supposed to stay close at Pittsburgh on Sunday ... especially when that'll be their second road game in three days? (Kennesaw State is at IPFW on Friday night.)

Guaranteed to be an upset: Kansas is ranked lower and will be a slight underdog on Saturday at Ohio State. So I'll take the Jayhawks in the smallest of upsets because, well, how often does Bill Self come with points?

Player trying to keep rolling: The only thing more impressive last Monday than Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim using the spotlight that came with his 900th victory to promote a cause  was Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams recording at least 10 assists for the fifth straight game and seventh time in 10 outings. Consequently, the sophomore is averaging 10.7 assists per contest; that leads the nation by more than two. So Carter-Williams will remain atop that list regardless of what happens Saturday when the third-ranked Orange play Temple in New York.

Player trying to get rolling: There are many reasons why North Carolina is struggling. But if you're looking for an individual to blame, look no further than James Michael McAdoo -- the 6-foot-9 sophomore who is just 13-of-37 from the field (35.1 percent) in UNC's three losses to Butler, Indiana and Texas. Odds are, the Tar Heels will get by McNeese State on Saturday regardless of what McAdoo does. But he must be better against quality opponents or else UNC will keep losing to quality opponents.

Three things you should know before you go

  1. Louisville will play its seventh consecutive game without Gorgui Dieng on Saturday when the fifth-ranked Cardinals meet Western Kentucky in Nashville. The 6-foot-11 center broke his left wrist in a win over Missouri on Nov. 23. He'll likely also miss next weekend's game against Kentucky, then return for Louisville's game against Providence on Jan. 2.
  2. Myck Kabongo's season-long suspension was appealed Thursday, and a final ruling on his eligibility could come as early as Friday afternoon. Will it be overturned? That seems doubtful considering the Texas guard did exactly what he's accused of doing, i.e., take impermissible benefits from an agent and lie about it to the NCAA. So the best that Texas can hope for is a lessened penalty.
  3. South Alabama will play without Ronnie Arrow for the first time Saturday when the Jaguars host Arkansas-Little Rock. The 65-year-old coach announced his retirement earlier this week. South Alabama is 5-5 this season.

Final thought: I don't agree with everything that Kentucky's John Calipari says, but it's hard to argue he didn't make a fine point with his latest blog post at CoachCal.com. The headline is "Let's focus on the rules that matter and let our kids eat." Calipari spends the post explaining that NCAA rules limit what schools can feed their student-athletes, and how it's a problem because those same student-athletes often aren't properly nutritioned.

Calipari wrote:

The response we get is, “Well, they can eat whenever, they’ve just got to go out and buy it like a normal student.” I hate to break it to you, these aren’t normal students. We ask a lot of them and demand a huge chunk of their schedules. They aren’t afforded the time that normal students have. Also, athletes do not eat three times a day. They eat – and need to eat – five, six and sometimes seven times a day. Ask Michael Phelps. He spends every waking moment of the day trying to get calories into his system because he knows he’s going to have to burn all that energy once he competes. We go so hard and train so much that these kids exert and spend a lot of energy. Are we not going to let them refuel? If they want to grab a snack at their dorm because they’re starving after a practice, we aren’t going to let them because there aren’t snacks at the other dorms?

I recognize some will roll their eyes at the idea of a man with two vacated Final Fours trying to eliminate parts of the NCAA rulebook. But I'm a big fan of common sense, and what Calipari wrote is rooted in common sense. Basketball players produce billions of dollars in revenue. If a school wants to feed them properly, why should that be a problem?

Would this create an advantage for Kentucky?


There's no denying UK would be able to afford to feed its basketball players in a way that, say, South Alabama would not and, rest assured, Calipari would have personal chefs hired in a week. But let's be honest -- Kentucky already has tons of advantages over most schools, and I can't imagine we'll ever see the day when the nation's No. 1 recruit proclaims he's enrolling in Lexington because he'll get three great meals per day there as opposed to one OK meal per day somewhere else. So it's an advantage that wouldn't matter much in the world of advantages. And, even if it would, who cares? Sometimes it's best to just do what's right. And, when it comes to this, Calipari's suggestion is right.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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