Ten Games to Watch: Week of Dec. 19

Alexis Wangmene (Texas) & Tyler Zeller (UNC)
By Paul Seaver (TheArenaPulse)

As the Christmas holiday approaches, the non-conference slate in college basketball begins to wind down.

Due to the holiday, there will be no action this weekend, but the work week is full of a number of high-quality match-ups that are worth checking out.

Let’s take a look at the can’t miss games coming up this week (12/19):

Headline Game: Texas (9-2) at North Carolina (9-2), Wednesday (12/21): 7 p.m.

     The Tar Heels will receive a visit from Nicholls State on Monday night before focusing on Texas this Wednesday. UNC has won three consecutive games entering the week and the game against the Longhorns stands their only true test prior to ACC play. As for Texas, at 9-2 overall the Longhorns ride a seven-game winning streak into Chapel Hill looking to make a statement as Big 12 play looms.

College of Charleston (9-1) at Louisville (10-0), Tuesday (12/20): 9 p.m.

     This game is in Louisville and the Cardinals have remained undefeated through their first ten games. However, Charleston is one of those gritty, mid-major teams looking to break into the national discussion, and at 9-1 overall, an opportunity to do just that presents itself this Tuesday. The Southern Conference race will likely determine Charleston’s postseason aspirations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t give Louisville a game.

Butler (5-6) at Gonzaga (7-2), Tuesday (12/20): 9 p.m.

     Two of the nation’s premier mid-majors will do battle in a recently-decided upon home-and-home series that will begin on Tuesday and continue next year in Indianapolis. Gonzaga is the host squad on Tuesday and the higher-ranked of the pair, yet Butler is fresh off a come-from-behind win over Purdue and looking to maintain its current momentum despite an up-and-down start to the season. The Zags have won back-to-back games and currently hold a 4-1 mark at home this season.

Oklahoma State (6-4) vs. Alabama (8-3), Wednesday (12/21): 9 p.m.

     After beginning the season at 7-0 overall, the Crimson Tide have hit a bump in the road. Alabama has dropped three of their last four games and now must prepare for Oklahoma State. This game will be played in Alabama, but in the city of Birmingham rather than Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma State enters the contest at 6-4 overall, lacking a statement win despite a few non-conference opportunities. Both teams need a win on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see who takes advantage.

Tulane (11-1) at Syracuse (11-0), Thursday (12/22): 7 p.m.

     Tulane would probably be in consideration for the Top-25 had they not lost to Wofford back on Dec. 6, but at 11-1 you can’t fault the Green Wave’s hot start. Syracuse is the nation’s top team at 11-0 and the Orange will play host in Thursday’s game, so the favorite in this one is clear. This match-up is intriguing based off the team’s records alone, not to mention it should showcase a deeper glimpse into just how real Tulane can be this season.

Memphis (5-4) at Georgetown (9-1), Thursday (12/22): 7 p.m.

     Is it too early in the season to call Memphis’ trip to Georgetown a must win? At 5-4 overall, the Tigers have been a disappointment so far, despite a tough schedule to begin the year. Memphis will take on Lipscomb on Monday, looking to snap a two-game skid and gain some momentum before heading to the Verizon Center on Thursday. This game will serve as a rematch of the Nov. 23 contest between the two, a game that Georgetown won 91-88, in overtime on the island of Maui.

Florida State (8-3) at Florida (8-2), Thursday (12/22): 7 p.m.

     The annual, in-state rivalry between the Gators and the Seminoles will take to the court again on Thursday with each team looking for their ninth win of the season. After a three-game skid dropped FSU out of the Top-25, the Seminoles have rebounded nicely over the past few weeks, entering the contest with Florida on a current three-game winning streak. As for Billy Donovan‘s squad, the Gators enter the week on a three-game winning streak of their own, a mark that also includes a recent 20-point thrashing of Texas A&M.;

Illinois (10-1) vs. Missouri (11-0), Thursday (12/22): 9 p.m.

     After a 10-0 start to the season, UNLV got the best of Illinois over the weekend, and while the Illini focus on Cornell this Monday, a date with undefeated Missouri is scheduled to follow. The Tigers have been red-hot to begin the year and at 11-0 overall, Mizzou is beginning to look like a serious contender on the national stage. Illinois will need to figure out a way to slow down Missouri’s high-powered offense if they hope to have a chance at victory.

Saint Mary’s (8-1) vs. Baylor (9-0), Thursday (12/22): 10:30 p.m.

     The Bears survived their trip to BYU, improving to 9-0 on the season with a thrilling come-from-behind victory. Now they take the court against another WCC opponent in St. Mary’s, who has once again been off to a terrific start. The Gaels will play host to Kennesaw State on Monday before heading to Las Vegas. Thursday’s match-up will be played on a neutral court, but it is by far the Gaels biggest test of the non-conference slate. Will Baylor continue to prove its elite status or will St. Mary’s makes its case with a big, statement victory?

West Virginia (7-2) vs. Baylor (9-0), Friday (12/23): 9 p.m.

     Win or lose, the turnaround for Baylor will be quick this week. As part of their trip to Las Vegas, the Bears will take on St. Mary’s this Thursday before squaring off with West Virginia on Friday. The Mountaineers have won three consecutive games since falling to Mississippi State on Dec. 3, but a win over Baylor would certainly boost their confidence as Big East play looms. The trip to Las Vegas marks a key stretch for the Bears with a number of high-quality match-ups coming up.

*Photo: Alexis Wangmene & Tyler Zeller *Credit: bleacherreport.com

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