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Basketball

VIEWER’S GUIDE: Top college hoops games for Jan. 2

Morning Block

A Good One: Texas at Texas Tech | 1:00 PM, ESPNU

You may want to sit down for this, but chances are Texas Tech will be the favorite in this matchup for the first time in over a decade. Texas strung together six straight, including knocking off North Carolina, before losing to UConn in Storrs to wrap up non-conference play. They’ll bring a Cameron Ridley-less squad into Lubbock where the Red Raiders have ripped off seven in a row since Thanksgiving behind a stellar man-up defense.

KenPom Line: Red Raiders by 5

Matchup to Watch: Devaughntah Williams vs. Javan Felix

A Better One: West Virginia at Kansas State | 11:00 AM, ESPNU

The 21-3 combined record between these two teams is ultra-deceiving because this is by far the most difficult test either has faced all year. Things don’t look all bad for Kansas State after essentially being fleeced in the offseason. The Wildcats boast a relatively experienced backcourt that plays lights-out perimeter defense. Problem is, so does “Press Virginia.” If that KSU backcourt can’t beat the pressure, this will be over quickly.

KenPom Line: Mountaineers by 3

Matchup to Watch: Kamau Stokes vs. Jevon Carter

The Best One: Butler at Xavier | 12:00 PM, FS1

I was floored to see Xavier lose they way it did Thursday at Villanova, and this is a tough turnaround, especially after losing starting PG Edmond Sumner who left that game on a stretcher. Butler’s identity has changed for the better with the Bulldogs playing efficient basketball in the post and putting up a ton of points. Interior defense is a bit of a weakness for the Musketeers and will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

KenPom Line: Musketeers by 7

Matchup to Watch: Trevon Bluiett vs. Andrew Chrabascz

Afternoon Block

A Good One: Indiana at Nebraska | 3:00 PM, BTN

Hey, this installment of Nebrasketball could actually be kind of fun. Indiana is good offensively and bad defensively. Nebraska? The exact opposite. The Hoosiers are looking for their seventh straight win but looked awfully underwhelming in a close win at Rutgers on Wednesday. If the Huskers are going to catch them napping, PG Shavon Shields needs to lock up Yogi Ferrell and attack the basket like he’s done so well. 

KenPom Line: Hoosiers by 6

Matchup to Watch: Shavon Shields vs. Yogi Ferrell

A Better One: Baylor at Kansas | 3:00 PM, CBS

This matchup is a hell of a lot more lopsided than it teased us all to be about a month ago. Baylor has a close home win over Vanderbilt on an otherwise unimpressive non-conference résumé, while Kansas has won 10 straight using the nation’s deepest backcourt to light opponents up from three. Frank Mason has been sensational but will need to beat Lester Medford in this one, who is excellent defensively. Ellis-Prince will be the main event.

KenPom Line: Jayhawks by 12

Matchup to Watch: Perry Ellis vs. Taurean Prince

The Best One: Iowa at Purdue | 5:00 PM, BTN

Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons are probably going to beat Adam Woodbury like he stole something, and unfortunately I’m not sure Iowa has another big who can hang with Purdue’s twin towers on the block. Get Woodbury in foul trouble and the Boilermakers will be well on their way to 14-1. To notch its fourth straight win, Iowa will need to shoot the lights out against Purdue’s inexperienced guards. And we know they can.

KenPom Line: Boilermakers by 8

Matchup to Watch: Caleb Swanigan vs. Jarrod Uthoff

Evening Block

A Good One: Villanova at Creighton | 9:00 PM, FS1

Creighton is faced with the unfortunate task of simmering down a white hot Villanova squad in this one, which just delivered a 31-point drubbing to previously unbeaten Xavier. I really like the backcourt matchup here, and Creighton is capable of filling it up from deep if the Wildcats aren’t careful. Down low, Cole Huff and Geoffery Groselle are experienced bigs who will need to neutralize Daniel Ochefu to give the Blue Jays a chance.

KenPom Line: Wildcats by 8

Matchup to Watch: Maurice Watson vs. Ryan Arcidiacono

A Better One: Maryland at Northwestern | 7:00 PM, BTN

Don’t look now, but the Wildcats are 13-1 with a top 50 KenPom rating and are scoring some serious points. But to get their 11th consecutive victory, they’ll need to put a body (or a semi truck) on Maryland’s Diamond Stone who just dropped 39 and 12 on Penn State. The Cats, surprisingly, can probably match shots with the Terps, but their defense has been atrocious thus far against some weak opposition. The KenPom line in this one is very intriguing.  

KenPom Line: Terrapins by 1

Matchup to Watch: Bryant McIntosh vs. Melo Trimble

The Best One: Iowa State at Oklahoma | 6:00 PM, ESPN2

Ah, yes. The main event. I have no doubt in Oklahoma’s ability to hang a hundred points in this contest. The question is, is this going to be a Colorado game or a Virginia Tech game offensively for Iowa State in response? Just looking at individual matchups, there’s no decided advantage for either team at any position, but the Cyclones absolutely cannot let OU’s starters (50.3% from three-point range) get hot, Ryan Spangler included. I’m anxious to see Deonte Burton’s fingerprint on this game.

KenPom Line: Sooners by 12

Matchup to Watch: Isaiah Cousins vs. Monte Morris

A

Austin Narber

contributor