Weekend Look Ahead: Will Arizona be first to play Florida close?
Here's the Weekend Look Ahead column ...
Here's the Weekend Look Ahead column ...
Top game: Nobody has consistently overwhelmed opponents this season the way Florida has consistently overwhelmed opponents this season. The fifth-ranked Gators have won all seven of their games by at least 13 points and by an average of 24, and that includes a 74-56 win over Wisconsin, an 82-49 win over Marquette and a 72-47 win over Florida State. So they've been awesome, like I mentioned. But Saturday will present the toughest challenge to date -- specifically a trip to Arizona and game against Sean Miller's eighth-ranked and also-undefeated Wildcats.
Another interesting matchup: Louisville-Memphis once was one of the nation's best basketball rivalries -- first in the Missouri Valley Conference, then in the Metro Conference and, eventually, in C-USA. But the series paused when Louisville left for the Big East in 2005, which is why it was cool when Rick Pitino and Josh Pastner restarted it last year with a game at the KFC Yum! Center. On Saturday, the rivalry continues when the sixth-ranked Cardinals visit Memphis. It'll represent the first time that Louisville has been to FedExForum since Darius Washington missed those free throws in 2005.
Yet another interesting matchup: I love, love, love that the state of Indiana's top four basketball programs -- Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue -- created an event in which they play a doubleheader annually against each other with rotating matchups, and I love, love, love that Saturday brings us top-ranked Indiana against a Butler program that's played in two of the past three national title games. Will Brad Stevens' Bulldogs be outmanned? Yes, they will. But I've seen Brad Stevens' Bulldogs outmanned before, and I've been surprised by them many times. So keep an eye on this one.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: I went on a radio show in Syracuse this week and was asked, among other things, what Canisius must do Saturday to beat the Orange. It was a perfectly reasonable pregame question to which I basically said, "Um ... Um ... Um." I had no answer, mostly because there is no answer. Canisius is off to a nice start, and Billy Baron has been terrific. But these basketball teams are at two different levels, and that's why the most likely scenario has the fourth-ranked Orange winning by 20-plus points.
Guaranteed to be an upset: No. 16 Creighton is at risk of being upset Saturday when it visits California because road games against quality opponents are typically difficult. But I just used an appearance on a radio show in Omaha to get Creighton fans back on my side -- or, at the very least, they're no longer calling me names on Twitter -- and I'm not about to screw-up that relationship by picking against them here. So give me No. 8 Arizona over No. 5 Florida in a slight upset, I guess. And never mind that I publicly picked Florida to beat the Wildcats earlier this week. I'm not above changing my pick just to give me something to write in this category. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Player trying to keep rolling: Most knew Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, UNLV's Anthony Bennett and all those Kentucky prospects would be among the nation's top freshmen. But no first-year player is exceeding expectations like Michigan's Nik Stauskas. The 6-foot-6 wing (who has grown eight inches during the past two years) was ranked between 70th and 90th in the Class of 2012 by most relevant recruiting analysts, and yet he's starting and averaging 13.5 points per game for the third-ranked Wolverines while shooting 52 percent from the field, 59 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. With Stauskas performing at this level, Michigan looks like a serious title contender, and that's something Bob Huggins is likely to realize when West Virginia meets Michigan in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Player trying to get rolling: Greg Whittington was really efficient and terrific when I saw him against UCLA and Indiana in Brooklyn last month, but he has been less so lately. The 6-foot-8 sophomore has missed 31 of his past 45 field goal attempts and 15 of his past 17 3-point attempts during Georgetown's five-game winning streak. Truth be told, the 15th-ranked Hoyas will be fine Saturday against Western Carolina no matter how many shots Whittington takes or misses. But he must be better if Georgetown is gonna be a factor in the Big East.
Three things you should know before you go
- The ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks have won 59 consecutive games against non-league opponents inside Allen Fieldhouse heading into Saturday's game with Belmont. So, good luck, Belmont.
- Illinois visited the state of Washington and beat Gonzaga last weekend. Can Illinois' former coach do the same this weekend? We'll see Saturday, when Bruce Weber's Kansas State Wildcats play the 14th-ranked Zags in Seattle.
- The Butler-Indiana and Notre Dame-Purdue games aren't Saturday's only matchups between in-state schools. There's also New Mexico State at No. 17 New Mexico, San Diego at No. 18 San Diego State and East Carolina at No. 21 North CarolinaNorth Carolina Tar Heels.
Final thought: News that the Big East's seven nonfootball-playing members are planning to break from the rest of the league and start a new conference has created a scenario where we have way more questions right now than answers.
Will the new league be called the Big East?
Will it consist of 10 members or 12 members?
Will Dayton and Creighton get in? What about Gonzaga?
The questions are endless and difficult (if not impossible) to answer, at this point. Which is why I've told people for the past 24 hours to try to think of this as an actual divorce.
The word "divorce" is often used in realignment.
And I'm not sure it always applies.
But I absolutely believe it applies here.
Think of this as a woman telling her husband, "I don't know what's gonna happen with our children, our house, our cars, our furniture, our savings account, anything. I just know that I don't want to continue this relationship any longer. It's over. I'm leaving. We'll figure out the details in the coming days, weeks, months and maybe years." That, basically, is what the Big East's nonfootball-playing members have told the football-playing members. They don't know exactly where they're going and aren't sure exactly what they'll take. But they're just ready to move on and get started on a new life, for better or worse, and they're OK with figuring out the details of this separation whenever they can, down the road.
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