Arizona State at Kansas (2 p.m. ET) is a can’t miss game today between an upstart program and one of the blue bloods of the sport. The Sun Devils have been an offensive juggernaut so far this season. Kansas coach Bill Self told NCAA.com Saturday that the Jayhawks “have to guard the ball lots better,’’ after losing a stunner to Washington earlier in the week in Kansas City. “We have to be better in transition and our energy level was awful against Washington.’’
#ForksUp from Kansas pic.twitter.com/OuhPxS5vRE— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) December 9, 2017
ASU has had a whirlwind weekend, playing and beating St. John’s Friday night at the Staples Center as part of a triple header. If the Sun Devils pull off this win at Phog Allen then they will own two of the best wins of any team this season — the other one being over Xavier in Las Vegas last month. Showing well, but losing, will still do wonders for their national profile. Kansas will have plenty of big-time games this season, but this is a gut-check game for the Jayhawks after the loss to the Huskies.
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Gonzaga at Washington (8 p.m. ET) could help deliver one of the best weeks in Huskie basketball in quite some time. If the Huskies are able to pull off a week in which they beat Kansas on the road in Kansas City (yes a neutral court, but not impartial fans) and take down the in-state rival Gonzaga? Wow. Mike Hopkins would be making the ultimate impression on his fan base.
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The Zags played their worst game of the season earlier in the week against Villanova at the Jimmy V Classic in New York. Gonzaga didn’t defend well in transition, shot too quickly and didn’t get the necessary scoring deluge from Johnathan Williams. Not having Corey Kispert hurt their depth. The good news was Jacob Larsen proved he could be a post presence that can finish around the basket. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a few stats to tell the Washington story of late then look at this: The Huskies are shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line in the final five minutes, the highest that has been in the past five seasons. Steals are up in the 2-3 zone from 6.1 to 8.8 a game. And the shot selection has improved. Patience has prevailed under Hopkins.Southern at Iowa (5 p.m.) has nothing to do with Southern. This is all about Iowa for this space. The Hawkeyes have lost four in a row, granted to all quality opponents of which three were on the road. Still, Iowa was supposed to be a sleeper team in the Big Ten. But at 4-6, the Hawkeyes simply need to get back to playing consistent basketball at both ends. They haven’t been healthy and that has had a huge effect on the team. Still, this squad needs a win. Drake and Colorado are two of the three games on tap before the Christmas break and both will be tough to take down.
Tulane at Florida State (12 p.m.) is an early start and a game between two schools that can score over 80 a game. The Seminoles have had a season-changing week with the dominating win over Florida. Beating Tulane today would add to the resume if the Green Wave continue to look like a team that will show well in the American.
Feeling when you beat the 5th ranked team on their home court. pic.twitter.com/dOB4Ao7c2a— FSU Men's Hoops (@FSUHoops) December 5, 2017
The Seminoles are shooting over 50 percent from the field, holding teams to 68 points a game and have already won two true road games. Tulane’s Melvin Frazier is having himself a season, averaging 18.8 a game and putting up 27 in the loss at North Carolina. Florida State’s Terance Mann put up 25 in the win over the Gators. Who stars in this game should be interesting to track.
La Salle at Villanova (1 p.m.) in the Big Five should be a lopsided win for the Wildcats and prove yet again (listen up Phily schools) why there should be a tournament for these games to start the season.
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If you want to create buzz for these games then play them over a weekend and if not everyone gets a crack at Nova each season, too bad. La Salle got beaten by depleted Drexel earlier in the week. Nova had an impressive win over Gonzaga. Mikal Bridges was sensational with 28 points.