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Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

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    This weekend in college basketball, the action begins to heat up with plenty of nonconference showdowns.

    Some of those games, like Temple vs. Duke and UCLA vs. Texas, are being played at neutral locations which could set the scene for an upset. 

    Other quality games this weekend send ranked teams across the country to play strong unranked teams. 

    23 of the 25 teams in the AP Top 25 will be in action this weekend with Florida and San Diego State being the only two ranked schools not to play. 

    Here is the ranking of the top 10 games being played across America this weekend. 

10. #21 UNLV at California

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    When: Sunday, Dec. 9, at 6:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPNU

    UNLV is one of the few ranked teams going on the road this weekend as they visit Haas Pavilion to play The University of California Berkeley. 

    Cal suffered their first loss last Sunday at Wisconsin by seven points. 

    The California Bears have put together a strong non-conference schedule with UNLV Rebels being the first of two ranked teams to come into Berkeley. 

    The Rebels head into their clash with their Pac-12 hosts with a 6-1 record as they look to avoid their second loss to a Pac-12 team this season.

    UNLV suffered their only loss on November 23rd in Las Vegas at the Global Sports Classic to the University of Oregon. 

    This battle of 6-1 teams will be overshadowed by all of the NFL action on Sunday but if you can find a way to watch this game, you will not be disappointed. 

9. Arkansas at #3 Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 12:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: CBS

    One of the first games to tip-off on Saturday will see the Arkansas Razorbacks visit the third-ranked Michigan Wolverines. 

    Arkansas is coming off of a close 81-78 win over the Oklahoma Sooners at home and will play on the road for the first time this season.

    The Razorbacks are led by sophomore guard B.J. Young , who has averaged 19.5 points per game, and junior forward Marshawn Powell. 

    Both players will have their hands full with the undefeated Wolverines. 

    Michigan boasts one of the best guard combinations in the nation with sophomore Trey Burke and junior Tim Hardaway Jr. 

    If the Wolverines' guard play is unexpectedly shut down by the Razorbacks, they can always turn to their powerful frontcourt, which is led by freshman pair Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. 

    Michigan has a very strong team this season and should easily win this Saturday.

8. Northern Iowa at George Mason

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 6:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: NBC Sports Network 

    The next game on the list is for the lovers of mid-majors out there. 

    The University of Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Conference will make a trip to Virginia to play George Mason University out of the CAA. 

    The George Mason Patriots are playing in just their fourth home game of the season on Saturday and they will look to take advantage of the home crowd against the Northern Iowa Panthers. 

    The Patriots are 6-3 this season and have wins over the University of Virginia and the University of Rhode Island but they have lost their two biggest challenges of the season to the University of Maryland and the University of  New Mexico. 

    The Panthers had the unfortunate opportunity to play in the stacked field at the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they lost to the University of Louisville, Stanford University and the University of Memphis. 

    Northern Iowa has rebounded from their three-game losing streak with wins over UW-Milwaukee and the University of Northern Colorado this week. 

    This battle of mid-majors may have been more attractive to college basketball fans two years ago, but regardless of how the teams are playing at the moment, it will be a hotly-contested game. 

7. Wisconsin at Marquette

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 6:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN2

    The in-state rivalry between the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University gets reignited on Saturday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. 

    Both teams come into the game unranked and with plenty of losses to ranked teams this season.

    The Wisconsin Badgers have fallen to two ranked teams, the University of Florida and Creighton University, as well as being upset at home by the University of Virginia in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. 

    The Badgers will rely on their star player, Jared Berggren, who is their leading scorer and senior leader. 

    The Marquette Golden Eagles have suffered losses to Florida and Butler University but they have beaten everyone else on their schedule, and all five of those teams are considerably worse than Florida and Butler. 

    The Golden Eagles will rely on veteran experience in junior forward Davante Gardner and junior guard Vander Blue, who are the two most experienced players on a young Marquette roster. 

    This may be the toughest game to predict a winner from in the top 10 games to watch this week and this game should come down to whoever performs better down the stretch in the second half. 

6. Butler at Northwestern

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: Big Ten Network 

    Butler University's final preparation for their showdown with the Indiana Hoosiers next Saturday comes in the form of the Northwestern Wildcats. 

    Brad Stevens' team has already lost to one team from the Big Ten, the University of Illinois, during the Maui Invitational.

    The 6-2 Butler Bulldogs have recovered since their loss to Illinois in Maui with three straight wins but they will face a tough test at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday.

    Northwestern is flying high after their win on the road against Baylor University and they are looking for their eighth win of the season on Saturday. 

    However, the Wildcats have lost their last two games at home to the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois-Chicago and they will have to play much better on their home court if they want to take down of the nation's top mid-majors. 

    Butler will have a tough test on their hands but they should come out of Evanston with a victory. 

5. Temple vs. #2 Duke

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 3:15 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    Last season, Temple University pulled off an upset for the ages when they defeated Duke University, 78-73, but this season's game may not end in the same way.

    The Duke Blue Devils are ranked second in the nation and have already taken down three top-five teams in their first eight games. 

    The Blue Devils have a fairly easy schedule during the month of December but they should not overlook the unbeaten Temple Owls. 

    Temple has played two fewer games than Duke, and the caliber of Temple's competition has been lower with Villanova University being the toughest test for the Owls so far.

    There is always potential for an upset in this game but the Blue Devils are just too good for the Owls and should cruise to victory in this neutral site game being played in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

4. #8 Arizona at Clemson

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN2

    #8 Arizona Wildcats make the cross country trip to South Carolina to play the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. 

    The Wildcats come into this game at 6-0 and a road trip to Clemson will be the team's first test. 

    This is the roughest part of the Wildcats schedule before Pac-12 play begins as they will play the Florida Gators at home next Saturday. 

    Clemson is coming off of a victory over rivals University of South Carolina and they will be looking to make a statement to the national audience—Clemson is the surprise team to watch in the ACC this season. 

    The Tigers come into Saturday's home game with a 5-2 record with losses to top programs Gonzaga Univeristy and Purdue University. 

    Arizona should win on Saturday night but they have to be aware that Littlejohn Coliseum is a tough place for any visitor to play.

3. #14 Minnesota at USC

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: Pac-12 Network 

    The University of Minnesota has been one of the biggest surprises of the season and they will face a tough test on Saturday night as they travel to Los Angeles to face USC.

    The only blemish on the Minnesota Golden Gophers' record this season is a loss to #2 Duke University at the Battle 4 Atlantis. 

    After their loss to Duke in the opening round of the Thanksgiving weekend tournament, the Gophers pulled off upsets over the University of Memphis and Stanford University to start a five-game winning streak.

    Since their trip to the Bahamas, the Gophers have beaten Florida State University, the University of North Florida and South Dakota State University.

    The USC Trojans have not been as fortunate this season as the 9-1 Gophers this season. 

    The Trojans come into Saturday's game at the Galen Center on a four-game losing streak, which includes losses to the University of Nebraska, Marquette University, San Diego State University and the University of New Mexico.

    USC is struggling mightily to win a game at the moment and a perfect way to break out of their losing streak would be an upset win over Minnesota at home.

2. UCLA vs. Texas

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 5:15 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    Two of the biggest disappointments so far this season in college basketball will meet each other at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Saturday. 

    UCLA sits at 5-3 after losses in the last two weeks to San Diego State University and Cal Poly. 

    Since freshman Shabazz Muhammad entered the starting lineup on November 19th, the UCLA Bruins have gone 2-3 with losses to Georgetown University, San Diego State University and Cal Poly.

    The trip to Houston is a key to turning around the Bruins season and it will give Ben Howland's team a national platform to prove that their losses in the past few weeks were just a fluke. 

    The Texas Longhorns had the dubious honor of losing to Chaminade University in the first round of the Maui Invitational, which was followed up the next day with a loss to USC.

    Since coming back to the mainland, the Longhorns have posted a 2-1 record with their loss coming at the hands of Georgetown University at the Jimmy V Classic on Monday night. 

    Both teams desperately need this win and that should show in their performance on the court in what should be a very tight game. 

1. #13 Illinois at #10 Gonzaga

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    When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 10:00 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN2

    The only game between two ranked teams this week takes place at The New Kennel in Spokane, Washington, home of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. 

    The Zags are the best team on the west coast and they will get another chance to show a national audience why that is the case against an upstart Illinois team on Saturday night. 

    The University of Illinois were the surprise winners of the Maui Invitational and go into Spokane at 9-0 looking to pull off what would be a stunning road victory. 

    Gonzaga is one of the deepest teams in the nation and they can beat you from any position on the court. 

    The star of the team is senior forward Elias Harris, but there are plenty of role players like Kevin Pangos and David Stockton that can step up when they are called upon. 

    It will be a tough task for the Fighting Illini to go into The New Kennel and defeat the Zags but if they do, fans around American will start taking them seriously. 

     

    What do you think is the game of the week in college basketball?

    Comment below or leave a comment for me on Twitter @JTansey90

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