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Brian Mull | | January 29, 2016

Virginia-Louisville among exciting weekend

The Big 12/SEC Challenge highlights this weekend’s schedule, providing tasty nonconference matchups that are rare this time of year. Read more on that here.

But there's plenty of other entertaining action across the college basketball schedule, including 143 games on Saturday and 22 more on Sunday. Here are five you don't want to miss:


No. 9 West Virginia (17-3) at Florida (13-7), noon ET, ESPN

  Florida head coach Michael White

First-year Florida head coach Michael White has done an admirable job against the nation’s 10th most difficult schedule. The Gators are fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (89.8 pts. allowed per 100 possessions), shutting teams down inside (42.8 pct on 2-pointers) and outside (30.1 pct. on 3-pointers). West Virginia leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (87.1, relying on its fullcourt press to force turnovers on 27.2 pct of opponents possessions, also best in the nation. Mountaineers forward Jonathan Holton (126.2 offensive rating) is suspended. Don’t expect many 3-point shots -- both teams rank 280th or worse beyond-the-arc.

No. 11 Virginia (16-4, 5-3) at No. 16 Louisville (17-3, 6-1), 1 p.m. ET, CBS

  Malcolm Brogdon

Lately, when the Cavaliers hit the road they leave their Pack Line defense at home. Virginia is 1-3 in road tilts against teams destined for the middle-of-the-pack, at best, in the ACC. It  needed a miracle comeback capped by a banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat lowly Wake Forest on Tuesday. The Cavs allowed between 1.06 and 1.11 points per possession in each recent road game (their season average is 0.99). Malcolm Brogdon has been brilliant for Virginia, however, averaging 23 points on 64 percent 2-point shooting in the last three games. Louisville, No. 3 in KenPom, is underrated in the national polls, but has two chances in three days to impress the voters because North Carolina comes to town Monday night. In conference games, the Cards are first in effective field goal percentage defense (42.9). Damion Lee is an elite operator on the wing (129.2 offensive rating, 17.2 ppg).   

No. 1 Oklahoma (17-2) at LSU (13-7), 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

  Ben Simmons (19.8 ppg) and Buddy Hield (25.9 ppg) will face off on Saturday.

So, Oklahoma has this guy named Buddy Hield. He’s pretty good. And LSU has a freshman named Ben Simmons. Also knows how to play basketball. Any time we can watch two soon-to-be first-team All-Americans in one game, count us in.

But it’s a game of five-on-five.

After an ugly stretch in late November, the Tigers are back on course in SEC action (6-2). Keith Hornsby’s return has helped the backcourt, but he needs more shots. The son of one of the world’s great piano men has hit 56 percent of 2-pointers and 43 percent of 3-pointers, yet has attempted less than one-fifth of LSU’s shots when he’s on the floor.

MORE: Hield vs. Simmons: Tale of the Tape

Try to name a recent perimeter trio in college basketball that’s better than Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Those three Sooners combine for 54 points per game and are 163-for-319 on 3-pointers this season, making 8.5 per game on 51 percent accuracy. Each 3-pointer they’ve attempted has been worth 1.53 points.

No. 20 Kentucky (16-4) at No. 4 Kansas (16-4), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

  Jamal Murray

What do we make of the Wildcats? They’re 6-3 in games against the KenPom Top 100. Their best win is a two-point decision at home over Louisville the day after Christmas. A bad loss at Auburn can be forgiven - those happen in conference play - and the Wildcats have won three in a row since, including a dominant defensive effort (0.89 pts. allowed per possession) in beating Vanderbilt last Saturday. Jamal Murray has been terrific in SEC action (118.1 offensive rating). Also, the Wildcats are one of 10 teams that’s top 31 in offensive and defensive efficiency.

Kansas has lost three of five, and its defense is the culprit. Oklahoma State (1.31 ppp) and Iowa State (1.16 ppp) shredded the Jayhawks. After a sizzling start beyond-the-arc, Wayne Selden is 7 of 22 in the last four games.


Wichita State (15-5, 9-0) at Evansville (18-4, 7-2), 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU

  Egidijus Mockevicius

On the road Thursday night, Evansville trailed by seven with 3:39 remaining in regulation, but rallied to win at Southern Illinois. That’s what good teams do. The Purple Aces feature the talented inside-outside combo of D.J. Balentine (21.1 ppg) and Egidijus Mockevicius, who leads the nation in rebounding (14.5) and drops 67 percent of his 2-pointers. Evansville might not be able to catch Wichita in the Missouri Valley race, but a win could brighten their postseason outlook.

The Shockers are what we expected them to be, rolling now with 10 consecutive victories. They’ve been tested just once in Valley play, and that was a three-point win over Evansville on Jan. 6th. The Shockers are fourth in the nation in turnover margin (5.6) and lead the conference in offensive efficiency (120.1) and defensive efficiency (87.7) in league action.


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