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Basketball

VIEWER’S GUIDE: Featuring the SEC/Big 12 Challenge

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Morning Block

A Good One: Virginia at Louisville | 12:00 PM, CBS

This Saturday is stuffed with some of the best individual matchups I’ve ever seen, and if it weren’t for Simmons vs. Cousins this afternoon, Lee and Brogdon would be the one to watch. The small forwards have their teams on four- and three-game winning streaks, respectively, pouring in 29 and 28 points in each of their last outings. Expect a slower pace and exceptional backcourt play in this matchup, albeit with limited perimeter action. Virginia and Louisville like to work things inside.

KenPom Line: Cardinals by 6

Matchup to Watch: Damion Lee vs. Malcom Brogdon

A Better One: West Virginia at Florida | 11:00 AM, ESPN

The Big 12/SEC Challenge tips off Saturday morning with the Mountaineers and Gators, each looking to avenge losses in last year’s challenge. West Virginia is 8-2 away from home this year, but they’ll face a Florida squad that’s won 13 of its last 16 in Gainsville dating back to last year. The Gators are still looking for a win against a surefire NCAA Tournament team to spruce up an otherwise bland résumé. With a brutal three-game stretch ahead, WVU has to notch a quality road win here.

KenPom Line: Mountaineers by 1

Matchup to Watch: Dorian Finney-Smith vs. Jaysean Paige

GAME OF THE DAY: Iowa State at Texas A&M | 1:00 PM, ESPN

Arkansas handed Texas A&M its first loss since Dec. 5 on Monday night. But make no mistake, with a 121-5 record in home non-conference games since 2003, the Aggies will be out for blood as they look to right the ship on their home court. Iowa State is on a four-game tear since its overtime loss at Texas. Something to keep an eye on here: the Cyclones commit the fewest fouls in the country at 14.6 per game. The Aggies get a fairly decent 20% of their points from free throws but are just 290th in FT% (65.8%).

KenPom Line: Aggies by 4

Matchup to Watch: Jalen Jones vs. Georges Niang

Afternoon Block

A Good One: St. Joseph’s at Rhode Island | 5:00 PM, CBS Sports Network

Hey, everyone should watch at least a few Atlantic 10 games every now and again. Their schedule as a whole isn’t anything to write home about, but St. Joseph’s is white hot, ripping off 14 wins in 15 games since losing at Villanova on Dec. 1. Dan Hurley’s bunch doesn’t play a terribly thrilling style of basketball, but Rhode Island’s roster is full of great athletes, particularly in the backcourt. At the very least, tune in to watch the Owls build on an impressive run in their attempt to make the A-10 a three-bid league behind VCU and Dayton.

KenPom Line: Rams by 2

Matchup to Watch: Jarvis Garrett vs. DeAndré Bembry

A Better One: Texas Tech at Arkansas | 3:00 PM, ESPNU

Things were once looking so promising for Texas Tech, which found itself at 11-1 with a win over Texas and a KenPom rating as high as 39th on Jan. 2. You could say Iowa State initiated the downward spiral, as the Red Raiders have now lost six of seven. Fresh off that home win over Texas A&M, Arkansas is looking to wedge itself out of a logjam in the middle of the SEC, where NCAA Tournament bids will likely be at a premium. The Hogs don’t shoot a ton of threes, but they’re fourth nationally in 3P%.

KenPom Line: Razorbacks by 4

Matchup to Watch: Moses Kingsley vs. Norense Odianse 

The Best One: Oklahoma at LSU | 4:00 PM, ESPN

If nothing else, the world deserves to see the best player in the country face off against the best team in the country. With decent size for a point man at 6-4, Cousins will likely draw the assignment on Simmons, as he’s committing just 1.4 fouls per 40 minutes in conference play—tops in the Big 12. With a 3P% defense ranked just 167th nationally, LSU is going to have to find ways to limit Oklahoma’s typically unconscious three-point shooting or it could be a very long night.

KenPom Line: Sooners by 8

MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Ben Simmons vs. Isaiah Cousins

Evening Block

A Good One: Providence at Georgetown | 7:00 PM, Fox Sports 1

Providence is 8-1 in its last nine road games dating back to last season, which spells trouble for a Georgetown team that’s already lost four in its own building (including a double overtime stunner against Radford). And accounting for both Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil isn’t going to make things any easier for the Hoyas. A stat to keep an eye on: turnovers. Georgetown is 236th in committing them and 265th in forcing them. The Friars: 45th and 32nd, respectively.

KenPom Line: Hoyas by 3

Matchup to Watch: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera vs. Kris Dunn 

A Better One: Seton Hall at Creighton | 7:00 PM, Fox Sports Net

Creighton is making its fourth appearance in the viewer’s guide this season, and with a deep and experienced roster, it appears former Iowa State coach Greg McDermott is eyeing his fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. Seton Hall has had a brutal stretch of Big East road games, going 1-2 against Villanova, Providence and Xavier since Jan. 6. They’ll need a strong showing in Omaha or the Pirates will be staring at a fifth loss in eight games.

KenPom Line: Blue Jays by 5

Matchup to Watch: Maurice Watson vs. Isaiah Whitehead

The Best One: Kentucky at Kansas | 6:00 PM, ESPN

It’s a little weird to see how guard-centric both Kentucky and Kansas have become this year, but it gives us no shortage of quality individual matchups in the Big 12/SEC Challenge nightcap (I mean, unless you really want to watch Auburn and Oklahoma State at 7:00). This is the Jayhawks’ first time back on the court since losing by 13 in Ames, looking for just their third win in six games. The Wildcats have three pretty bad road losses on the year—a trip to Allen Fieldhouse should be quite interesting. 

KenPom Line: Jayhawks by 6

Matchup to Watch: Frank Mason vs. Tyler Ulis

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Austin Narber

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