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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 2, 2017

Xavier-Cincy rivalry returns, URI-Providence meet on Saturday

  Cincinnati escaped with an 86-78 win in last year's head-to-head matchup with rival Xavier.

Here's what you need to know for Saturday, Dec. 2:

1. Cincinnati at Xavier: This is one of the best rivalries in the sport. And thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed for the past few years. The intensity of this rivalry between the schools and teams is welcomed. Having it as a regular again on campus each year is what it should be to add to the atmosphere. The timing is perfect this year for it to be at Xavier since Cincinnati is playing at Northern Kentucky due to the construction on their on-campus arena. The Bearcats begin a brutal four-game stretch with this one at Xavier. Games against Florida, Mississippi State and at UCLA follow. But the Bearcats are up to the challenge with the best offensive team under Mick Cronin. Xavier is coming off an impressive home win over Baylor. The Musketeers already own a road win over Wisconsin and their only loss was to undefeated Arizona State in Las Vegas. This should have the feel of an Elite Eight matchup later today.

2. Wichita State at Baylor: Credit Baylor coach Scott Drew for playing a home-and-home series with Wichita State. The Shockers need games like this and should be getting even more of them against major conference schools now that the Shockers are in the American. Wichita State is still trying to get healthy and only suffered one loss — to Notre Dame in a thrilling Maui Invitational title game. The Bears lost at Xavier just a few days ago, putting a bit more pressure on this one to avoid an 0-2 week. But if there were two teams to lose to in the same week this pair would be more than acceptable. Playing this game in Waco should be a good primer for the Shockers in advance of road games to come at UConn and Cincinnati, among others in the American.

3. Providence at Rhode Island: This may be the most anticipated Ocean State rivalry game in nearly two decades. The Friars will be an upper half Big East team and have already won a title (2K Classic) this season. A-10 favorite Rhode Island is a week removed from its biggest win of the season, knocking off Seton Hall in Brooklyn in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Rams coach Dan Hurley said E.C. Matthews won’t be back for this game, but he’s making significant progress. Expect a rocking atmosphere at the Ryan Center. It should be one of the best crowds of the day (I’ll be there for!)

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4. Kansas vs. Syracuse in Miami: The Jayhawks have been destroying the competition since beating Kentucky in Chicago at the Champions Classic two-plus weeks ago. The Orange have to be busting with confidence, especially defensively, after swallowing up Maryland late in their ACC-Big Ten Challenge win. Getting Kansas on a neutral court could be an equalizer, as well. Look, Kansas is more talented and experienced. But the zone is always a potential tool for an upset. Beating Kansas would do wonders for the Syracuse profile and ensure the Orange would be ranked on Monday.

5. Five to circle: Arkansas at Houston — The Hogs would pick up a much-needed quality non-conference win if they can get this one while Houston will snag a resume win before it becomes a thorn for Wichita State and Cincinnati in the AAC; USC at SMU — The Trojans whiffed on their last key non-conference game by getting run out by Texas A&M at home last Sunday. Beating the Mustangs on the road would offer a much-needed lift to the non-conference resume while the Mustangs could add to their Arizona win; Arizona at UNLV — The Wildcats need to get a quality win in the non-conference and the way the Rebels are playing (even after the loss at Northern Iowa) would suffice while UNLV could pick up its second Pac-12 win after trashing Utah; Ohio State at Wisconsin — The Buckeyes can erase the Butler loss by starting the Big Ten with a road win while the Badgers desperately need to pick up brand-name win to boost their conference after losing to ranked Xavier, Creighton, UCLA and Virginia, this season; Georgia at Marquette — Give Mark Fox credit, he takes the Bulldogs on the road for true road games quite often. He ended the Wooden Legacy with a win over Saint Mary’s. Add in a road win at Marquette and the Bulldogs will be doing just fine while the Golden Eagles could use a good home win after losing to Purdue earlier this season.

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