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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 22, 2017

Watch for strong guard play in Syracuse-St. Bonaventure

  Alabama hosts Texas in a major non-conference showdown.

What you need to know for Friday, Dec. 22:

1. Syracuse vs. St. Bonaventure: Yes, I said the game of the night is in Syracuse, and it’s not an old Big East foe or an ACC power. No, no, no. It’s St. Bonaventure from Olean, N.Y. This could be a monster game for the Bonnies, who checked into the last spot of this week’s Power 36. The Bonnies have one of the best backcourts in the country. Period. Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are the real deal. They will be able to score against the Syracuse zone, which is long and active and deliciously good this season. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard will have as tough a time defending them as they will any tandem in the ACC. A Syracuse win will give the Orange a quality victory heading into the ACC and another pop on the resume. A Bonnies win will be a major coup for them, a huge win for the resume, and will launch them toward a possible at-large berth if they aren't the automatic qualifier out of the A-10.

2. Miami at Hawaii: It will happen when most are asleep on the mainland. Miami (9-0) opens the Diamond Head Classic at Hawaii (7-2). The Rainbow Warriors are always a tough out at home, especially in this tournament. If the Stan Sheriff Center is rocking, then the Hurricanes will be in as tough a situation as a lot of stops in the ACC. But if Miami gets a win here like it did in Minneapolis against Minnesota, then the ‘Canes should be golden. This is a huge resume opportunity.

3. Alabama vs. Texas: Two of college basketball's most exciting players will be on display in this game. Of course, Mo Bamba and Collin Sexton aren’t lining up against each other, but how each performs in yet another tough test will be a barometer. And yet again, the Tide get plenty of praise from this space for the scheduling. This is another example of Avery Johnson stepping out and doing it right (the selection committee is watching). Texas could use another quality win away from Austin, especially after losing to Michigan sans Andrew Jones. That loss won’t sting as much since Jones didn’t play, but a home loss is a home loss.

4. Oklahoma’s Trae Young: Young gets his own category. Northwestern has defended extremely well since getting shellacked by Texas Tech last month. Now comes the toughest individual test: guarding Young. Heading into the new year, he’s the leader in the clubhouse for national player of the year, not just the top freshman. Young will be on display at home in a big game against a quality opponent. All he did in his last game against Northwestern State was go for 26 points and 22 assists.

5. Xavier at Northern Iowa; Colorado vs. Iowa in Sioux Falls, Iowa; and Temple at Georgia: These are all quality games that will resonate in March. UNI needs another big-time win while Xavier could pick up a solid victory ahead of the Big East. The Buffaloes need to enhance their road/neutral record while the Hawkeyes are finally playing better. Temple could be a bubble team in March and a win at Georgia would help, while the NCAA tournament hopeful Bulldogs bounced back nicely with a home win over Georgia Tech after losing to Massachusetts.

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