Welcome to my new weekly series in which we will take a look at the best that Saturday’s in college hoops have to offer.
Luckily for the first installment of this series, we have some very intriguing games coming up this Saturday starting with Duke taking a trip to Louisville at noon and ending with a late-night WCC showdown.
#7 Duke (14-3) @ #14 Louisville (14-3) 12 P.M. EST ESPN
For two teams loaded with talent, both of these teams find themselves currently on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Coming off of two straight victories after being upset by Virginia Tech on the road, the Blue Devils continued to struggle on the road and fell victim to a red hot Florida State team on the road on Tuesday. Duke is now 0-2 on the road against ranked opponents in ACC play so far this season and have allowed 79 points per game in ACC play, something you would not expect from an always talented Duke team.
The length and athleticism of Florida State gave Duke fits all night long and Louisville has plenty of length and athleticism of their own. Led by Donovan Mitchell (13.5 ppg), the Cardinals will be looking for their third straight victory after grinding out an 85-80 victory against a tough Pitt team on Wednesday night, despite a career high 43 points from Jamel Artis.
Duke has the advantage in talent, but that hasn’t seemed to matter too much in ACC play so far. This Louisville team may not have that one superstar, but they play well together as a unit and always are a tough team to knock off at home. I’m taking Louisville in this one.
#9 Florida State (16-1) @ #11 North Carolina (15-3) 2 P.M. EST ESPN
Florida State was supposed to be a good team coming into this season, but I don’t think anyone could have seen this coming.
The Seminoles have four wins over ranked opponents and will be looking to make it five at Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon after a big win over Duke. Sophomore Dwayne Bacon leads Florida State in scoring with 17.8 points per game, but the Seminoles get contributions across the board from Jonathan Isaac (12.1 ppg), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (12.1 ppg) and Terance Mann (9.4 ppg). Florida State will be able to stay in any game they play because of their length and athleticism on the defensive end. They generate turnovers with their length and run the break well with their athleticism.
It has been business as usual in Chapel Hill this season, as North Carolina is towards the top of the ACC standings as expected. Justin Jackson leads the Tar Heels with 17.7 points per game on an impressive 46% from the field, but are an extremely balanced team in their own right with four players averaging double figures and seven players averaging at least five points per game.
While Florida State has the length and athleticism to compete with UNC, they may not have the strength down low, as the big-bodied Kennedy Meeks is almost averaging a double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game. The Tar Heels are pretty athletic in their own right as well.
Florida State was able to win on the road at Virginia, but a trip to North Carolina will be a true test for the red hot Seminoles. I’m taking UNC to win this game, but there is no reason why Florida State can’t win this game.
#15 Xavier (13-3) @ #12 Butler (14-3) 2 P.M. Fox Sports 1
Both of these teams are coming off of losses to #3 Villanova and #8 Creighton, respectively.
At the same time, both of these teams were not favored to win those games and neither game was competitive for the most part. That will not be the case on Saturday.
These are two evenly matched teams with Butler getting the edge simply because they are nearly impossible to beat at home.
Xavier is led by Trevon Bluiett (17.3 ppg), Edmond Sumner (15.3 ppg), and the scrappy J.P. Macura (14.4 ppg). The Musketeers have also been given a boost with the return of senior Myles Davis from a suspension, which gives them some additional depth.
On the other side, Butler is a veteran, senior-laden team and it shows in the way that they play. They move the ball well and are extremely unselfish, almost always coming away with a good shot and playing stellar defense for all 30 seconds of the shot clock. They are led by junior Kelan Martin with 16.8 points per game, but after Martin, it is really a combination of guys who help to carry the load for this Butler team.
As I previously mentioned, the Bulldogs don’t lose at Hinkle fieldhouse and I wouldn’t expect that to change on this Saturday, even though Xavier will almost certainly give them a run for their money.
#21 Saint Mary’s (15-1) @ #5 Gonzaga (16-0) 10 P.M. EST ESPN
If you needed something to do on Saturday night, here it is.
Every season, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga always get together for a matchup of the two best teams in the WCC and there is a little added juice to this one, as both teams are ranked and Gonzaga is the only undefeated team left in the country.
This will be a game won in the frontcourt, as both teams have extremely skilled big men down low.
Saint Mary’s features one of the best big men in the country in Jock Landale, who is averaging 18 and nine on the season and leads the WCC in rebounding.
While Gonzaga’s big men may not light up the stat sheet, they make a major impact for the Zags. Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins combine to form one of the better frontcourt duos in the country and Gonzaga doesn’t lack in guard play either, led by Nigel Williams-Goss (15 ppg) and California grad transfer Jordan Matthews (10.8 ppg).
Gonzaga is the better team from top to bottom and are another team that rarely loses at home, but don’t write Saint Mary’s off just yet. Landale has the ability to take over the game for the Gaels and for that reason alone, they should be able to hang around until the end and potentially end Gonzaga’s undefeated season.