First Take: Saturday Primer
Because there’s just so much to watch…
How excited am I for a full Saturday of college hoops? So much so that I’ve put together a rough outline of my schedule for the next 24 hours to help me avoid sensory overload during this all-day smorgasbord.
11:00 a.m. ET – Wake up
This gives me an hour to shower, eat a solid breakfast and say any final farewells to friends and family before embarking on my journey.
Noon – Michigan at #1 Kansas
ESPN’s Green Game starts me off nice and easy with your standard juggernaut national title contender playing host to an underachieving Big Ten squad which received plenty of preseason hype. Even though the Jayhawks likely win this one by double figures going away, the match up of super frosh Xavier Henry versus Mr. Everything Manny Harris is more than enough to have me awake and raring to go nice and early. This may be the best individual head-to-head position battle of the entire weekend.
2:00 p.m. – #10 North Carolina at #2 Texas, #6 West Virginia at Cleveland State, Xavier at #17 Butler, UCLA at Notre Dame, Stanford at Northwestern
Now things start to pick up – a lot. Thanks to the glorious inventions of the internet and picture in picture TV’s, the majority of the action should be consumed along with steady amount of caffeine to help keep me focused. Carolina and Texas is the crown jewel of the weekend, so it’s almost kind of sad it takes place so early on. Besides the fact that this will be the first basketball game to take place at Texas Stadium, the amount of talent and athleticism on the floor is more than enough to keep even the most casual observer glued to his or her couch for the entire two hours. At any given time, there could be upwards of eight or nine players on the floor who could hear their name called on draft night one day in the future (Ed Davis, Damion James, John Henson, Dexter Pittman, Larry Drew, Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Hamilton, Deon Thompson) and frankly that might be low balling it somewhat given how many young and talented players the Tar Heels have.
I can’t believe West Virginia would venture on the road to play Cleveland State, this is a major trap game for the Mountaineers. Win and you did what you were expected to do as a top ten team, lose and everyone goes nuts you lost to a team from the Horizon League not named Butler. The later has a very good chance of happening as even despite a slow start, the Vikings are a dangerous team and guard Norris Cole can fill up the basket in a hurry.
Xavier and Butler are both coming off of strong wins over Cincinnati and Ohio State respectively. Expect this one to be a dog fight and likely the second best game of the afternoon after the battle in Dallas. Why am I spending even a little bit of my day watching UCLA and Notre Dame go at it? As I said earlier in the season, any chance to watch Luke Harangody compete is worth doing, even if it is against the Baby Bruins. Stanford and Northwestern puts one of the top scorers in the nation in Landry Fields against a surprise overachieving Wildcats team that has won seven straight and should be pesky enough to knock off the Cardinal.
3:45 p.m. – Bathroom break
4:00 p.m. – #15 Gonzaga at #7 Duke (in NYC), Western Kentucky at Louisville
Any other weekend and the Zags taking on the Blue Devils would be the marquee game, but this isn’t any other weekend. Still, it would be wise to watch this one given that Kyle Singler should be close to 100 percent with his injured ankle and Jon Scheyer is playing the best basketball of his career. Oh yea, Gonzaga is no slouch either. The Cardinals are just frustratingly confusing in that they have a tremendous amount of talent and a hall of fame coach, yet find themselves outside the top 25. Still, I’m a sucker for Samardo Samuels so I’ll be tuning in anyway.
4:30 p.m. – #8 Tennessee at USC
An overmatched Trojans team hosting a super athletic, fast paced Vol’s squad that is somehow flying under the radar? Can you say 100-point game and sideline dancing for Bruce Pearl?
6:00 p.m. – Memphis at UMass
Worth watching just because this Memphis team is so much better than they were originally given credit for. Elliot Williams is a stud, Wesley Witherspoon has tantalizing potential as a swingman and the Minutemen have a dynamic scoring duo in Ricky Harris and Anthony Gurely. Top-50 freshman Terrell Vinson out of Baltimore is no slouch either. This game will be much better than many of the advertized meetings of ranked schools that will be seen.
7:00 p.m. – Temple at Seton Hall
I’m pretty sure I’ll get this one on local TV thanks to my northeast habitat. The Owls fresh off taking down Villanova and Seton Hall undefeated still after their school record 134-point explosion against VMI will kick off the evening schedule in fine fashion. Watching Jeremy Hazell and Juan Fernandez duke it out for the high score of the game will be worth the time alone.
8:05 p.m. – #20 Texas Tech at Wichita State
Texas Tech hasn’t been off to a start like this in 80 years and the Shockers may be the toast of the Missouri Valley Conference. Neither squad has much star power – going with the balanced attack instead – but this meeting of nine-win teams is one of the hidden gems of the weekend schedule.
10:00 p.m. – Portland at #21 Washington
There’s nothing like finishing the day off with some Pac-10 hoops, or does that cause restless sleep? I can’t remember to be honest. It wasn’t all that long ago that people were raving about the Pilots after consecutive wins over Oregon, UCLA and Minnesota, then came the losses to Portland State and Idaho. Still the backcourt duo of Nik Raivio and T.J. Campbell should give Isaiah Thomas and the Huskies fits. There may not be an answer for UW’s Quincy Pondexter though who is off to a monster start in his senior season.
Somewhere in there I’ll find time to eat, although if I’m smart I’ll pack a suitcase of food at some point today so that I’m well prepared. Let’s just be thankful final exams are over and done with for the weekend and these kids are free to play.