Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

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    As we enter the third weekend of conference play, only one thing is known about the college basketball season so far: Expect the unexpected. 

    Last weekend, the top two teams in the country were taken down and there is a strong possibility that top-ranked Louisville could face the same fate. 

    Already this week, second-ranked Indiana was defeated at home by Wisconsin, who are the only unbeaten team left in the Big 10. 

    As for this weekend's games, there are five ranked matchups while plenty of ranked teams take to the road to try and survive another weekend of conference play.

    Here are the 10 games to watch in college basketball this weekend. 


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    The first and easiest of the factors that play into the determination of the weekly rankings is a game between two teams in the AP Top 25. 

    With conference play entering the fold this weekend, the criteria for making the list changes a bit. 

    Ranked teams will have to make difficult road trips to unruly arenas that belong to unranked teams looking to pull off an upset.

    The possibility of an upset, as well as past history between conference rivals, are two very important criteria that factor into the selection of this week's list. 

10. Clemson at No. 14 NC State

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    When: Sunday, 6 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPNU

    With Duke not playing this weekend, the spotlight of the ACC shifts to Raleigh as No. 14 NC State (14-3, 3-1) hosts Clemson (10-6, 2-2) at PNC Arena. 

    The Wolfpack upset a depleted Duke squad last weekend, but they were upset themselves on Wednesday night at Maryland. 

    Clemson comes into Sunday's game on a two-game winning streak after taking down Virginia and Wake Forest in the past week.

    The bad news for the Tigers is that NC State is a much better team their previous two opponents. 

    If the Tigers are serious about contending for a NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament berth, a road win in Raleigh would do wonders for their resume. 

    While Clemson will be thinking about pulling off the upset, the Wolfpack should take care of the Tigers at home, but then again when has the expected result happened this season? 

9. Wisconsin at Iowa

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    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: Big Ten Network

    If you thought Wisconsin (13-4, 4-0) would be the lone unbeaten left in the Big Ten, you might want to go out and play the lottery.

    The Badgers went into Bloomington on Tuesday night and took down second-ranked Indiana.

    As a reward for winning at Assembly Hall, Bo Ryan's team get to visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Des Moines.

    Iowa (12-5, 1-3) currently sits near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, but that could easily change that with a massive upset of Wisconsin.

    Last season in Des Moines, the Hawkeyes played the Badgers tough and only fell to their visitors by a single point.

    In its two Big Ten home games this season, Iowa lost to Indiana and Michigan State by a combined seven points.

    If Fran McCaffrey's Hawkeyes want to have any chance of pulling off the upset, they will need career performances from leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White.

    If Iowa try to catch Wisconsin by surprise after an upset, it will be highly disappointed as Ryan will have the Badgers prepared to go into Des Moines.

    With that being said, it will be a close game, but expect the Badgers to remain unbeaten in conference play for one more game. 

8. UNLV at Colorado State

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    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: NBC Sports Network 

    The Mountain West Conference is one of the most exciting conferences to watch this season and Saturday brings us two of the conference's best games all season.

    UNLV (15-3, 1-1) have started their conference campaign with three difficult games. 

    The Rebels lost to New Mexico and barely defeated Air Force at home in overtime last week before taking down San Diego State on the road on Wednesday. 

    Dave Rice's team will face yet another tough test on Saturday night when they venture into Moby Arena to play Colorado State (14-3, 1-1). 

    The Rams put together a strong nonconference record that included wins over Virginia Tech and Washington before losing to San Diego State in their first MWC game last week. 

    Larry Eustachy is working wonders with the Rams in his first season and is beginning to get national attention for his accomplishments.

    For that national attention to continue, Eustachy's Rams will have to take down the once-ranked Rebels at home on Saturday. 

    The matchup to watch in this game comes in the paint between Colorado State's Colton Iverson and UNLV's combination of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser.

    Whoever wins the battle in the paint will come out of this game with a well-deserved victory. 

7. No. 15 San Diego State at Wyoming

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    When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: No National Television

    The second of the two great games in the Mountain West Conference comes from Laramie as No. 15 San Diego State (14-3, 2-1) makes the trip to visit Wyoming (14-1, 1-1). 

    The Aztecs are looking to bounce back from a tough home loss to UNLV on Wednesday night. 

    After starting strong in the MWC, Steve Fisher's Aztecs are looking to avoid their second straight MWC loss when they visit Laramie on Saturday night. 

    Wyoming was amongst the ranks of the unbeatens until last week when it was shocked by Boise State at home in its first MWC game. 

    Since their first loss of the season, the Cowboys rebounded with a win over Nevada three days later. 

    If the Cowboys are to pull off the upset, they will have to shut down the guard duo of Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, both who average over 15 points per game. 

    Both players are tested veterans and should have no problem dealing with the crowd in Laramie, and their play should help the Aztecs win on Saturday. 

6. No. 8 Gonzaga at No. 13 Butler

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    When: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    The biggest mid-major matchup of the season takes place on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse without one of the key players from one of the teams.

    No. 13 Butler's (15-2, 3-0) Rotnei Clarke suffered a sprained neck last Saturday against Dayton and he will not play against No. 8 Gonzaga (17-1, 4-0) on Saturday. 

    Clarke leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 16.3 points per game and is one of the nation's deadliest three-point shooters. 

    With Clarke absent from the lineup, coach Brad Stevens will be forced to rely more on Kellen Dunham, Chase Stigall and Alex Barlow, who is best known for being the hero in the Bulldogs' upset over Indiana in December. 

    In their win on Wednesday against Richmond, the trio of guards scored a combined 16 points in the Bulldogs' 62-47 win. 

    Gonzaga comes into this game as the heavy favorite with one of the best teams in the country.

    Mark Few's team is deep with strong players at every position on the court including guard Kevin Pangos and big men Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. 

    The Zags have passed every single road test on their schedule this season with wins over Oklahoma State, Washington State and Portland. 

    With Clarke missing from the Butler lineup, Gonzaga should cruise to victory due to its strong depth at the guard position. 

5. No. 11 Ohio State at No. 18 Michigan State

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    When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    The latest matchup between ranked teams in the Big Ten comes to us from the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday.

    No. 11 Ohio State (13-3, 3-1) silenced its critics last weekend with a win over rivals and then-second-ranked Michigan. 

    With the win over the Wolverines, the Buckeyes moved their record against ranked teams this season to 1-3. 

    The Buckeyes have a chance to once again improve that record with a win in East Lansing. 

    No. 18 Michigan State (15-3, 4-1) did not stay out of the news this week as Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne got into an altercation at the team hotel before their win on Wednesday against Penn State. 

    Dawson and Payne were benched to start the game, but eventually the two contributed 25 points to the Spartans' 81-72 win. 

    The Spartans also have a losing record this season against ranked teams, 1-2, with their latest slip-up coming against Minnesota on New Year's Eve.

    Both teams are trying to improve on their records against ranked ,and the real question surrounding the game is what players will step up. 

    Against Michigan, Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft shut down Trey Burke for most of the first half, something he will have to do against Keith Appling for his team to come out of the Breslin Center with a win. 

4. No. 12 Creighton at Wichita State

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN2 

    The two best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference take the court on Saturday at the Koch Arena in Wichita. 

    No. 12 Creighton (17-1, 6-0) is looking to avenge its 21-point loss at home last season to Wichita State(16-2, 5-1) with its second win in two years on the home court of the Shockers. 

    The Bluejays boast one of the best players in the country in senior forward Doug McDermott, who is second in the nation in scoring with 24 points per game. 

    McDermott is a part of an offense that ranks 10th in the nation in scoring as well as fifth in assists and second in field-goal percentage. 

    Wichita State suffered its first conference loss on Sunday at Evansville and the Shockers will be looking to prove that the loss was just a fluke. 

    The Shockers recovered from their loss with a win over Illinois State at home on Wednesday. 

    For the Shockers to win, junior guard Cleanthony Early will have to rival his 39-point performance against Southern Illinois earlier this season. 

3. No. 21 Oregon at No. 24 UCLA

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: CBS

    No. 21 Oregon (15-2, 4-0) has been the surprise of the Pac-12 season with four straight wins at home to open the conference schedule.

    The Ducks' biggest victory of the young conference season came last Thursday when they handed Arizona their first loss.

    Now, Dana Altman's team have to make a trip to the newly-refurbished Pauley Pavilion to take on a resurgent No. 24 UCLA (15-3, 5-0).

    Since losing to San Diego State on December 1, the Bruins have won 10 straight games, including nonconference wins over Texas and Missouri.

    One of the main reasons for the Bruins' run to the top of the Pac-12 has been the play of freshman Shabazz Muhammad.

    Muhammad has failed to score in double digits in just one of his 15 games this season; he has scored a season-high of 27 against both Missouri and Fresno State.

    This game should come down to the wire, but expect the Bruins to pull out the win on their home court and continue their winning streak.  

2. No. 17 Missouri at No. 10 Florida

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    When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    The SEC is the most difficult conference to figure out at the moment with five unbeatens, one of which is No. 10 Florida (13-2, 3-0).

    The Gators went through a rough stretch right before Christmas with losses to Arizona and Kansas State.

    Since the Kansas State loss, Billy Donovan's team has cruised to five consecutive victories.

    On Saturday, they welcome their biggest threat to the SEC title, No. 17 Missouri (13-3, 2-1), to the O'Connell Center. 

    The Tigers were stunned on their first-ever SEC road trip last weekend when they lost to Ole Miss in Oxford. 

    The second SEC road trip for the Tigers will be even more difficult as they face a Gators team that has plenty of depth and experience.

    The one matchup to watch when the two teams take the court in Gainesville will be between guards Kenny Boynton of Florida and Phil Pressey of Missouri. 

    Boynton is the better scorer of the two, but Pressey is the better all-around player.

    The winner of this SEC clash will be decided by which guard plays the best, Pressey's distribution skills from the point give him a slight edge over Boynton, but that could all change once the two hit the court on Saturday. 

1. No. 6 Syracuse at No. 1 Louisville

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    The Big East steals the spotlight of the nation this weekend with a matchup that contains two of the top six teams in the nation. 

    No. 6 Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) are dealing with the loss of forward James Southerland to suspension, a loss that is indefinite at the moment. 

    The Orange survived their first game without the senior forward last Saturday against Villanova, but playing No. 1 Louisville (16-1, 4-0) on the road will be a completely different challenge.

    The Cardinals survived a first-half scare against UConn in Hartford on Monday night to avoid becoming the second-straight No. 1 team to fall in consecutive weeks, at least for now. 

    Rick Pitino's team contains the best guard combination in the nation with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, who both average over 11 points per game and shoot over 40 percent from the field. 

    The biggest factor in the game at the KFC Yum! Arena could be the absence of Southerland, who would have been matched up with Gorgui Dieng.

    Dieng, who missed his team's only loss to Duke because of injury, should be able to take advantage of the weakened Orange frontcourt. 

    This game is Louisville's to lose and a loss is something that just will not happen on Saturday afternoon. 


    What do you think is the best game of the weekend?

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.