Let’s be honest, Saturday is the day of the week most people are watching college football and its “little brother” on the hoops side is just an after thought. Anyone in that mindset this weekend is sorely mistaken. There are some dandies on the gridiron but the hardwood has some outstanding tilts on tap as well. Let’s get to ’em…
Iowa State Cyclones at UNLV Rebels– This is the consolation game in the “Global Sports Classic”, whatever that is. Both teams are still a relative unknown. Iowa State lost a lot from last year’s NCAA squad, highlighted by all everything forward Royce White going to the NBA. This year’s squad is filled with another round of transfers led by former Michigan State Spartans guard Korie Lucious. Junior forward Melvin Ejim has been their best player so far and he’s worked well as an undersized power forward in their small lineup. UNLV has an outstanding freshman in forward Anthony Bennett. He owns smaller front lines but isn’t getting enough touches. This will be an up and down game but I think UNLV prevails being at home. Saying that, they need to run some offense. During their last loss I don’t think they realize this was an organized game. It looked like street ball.
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Oregon Ducks (Neutral)- Another fun one in Vegas, go figure. Cincinnati is a lockdown defensive squad that lost two starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team. However, lethal scorer Sean Kilpatrick is back and he’s better than ever. I worry about their lack of size come Big East conference time but Kilpatrick with Cashmere Wright is a deadly backcourt. Oregon has a major advantage in legit 7 footer Tony Woods. He’s had foul trouble issues but they should feed him the ball earlier and often. Like UNLV, these teams that want to run sometimes neglect the big men. That’s a major mistake. I don’t think Oregon will shown nearly as much pressure defensively considering Wright is a veteran point guard whose seen that before. Cincinnati knows what they have to do to win and will do so in this one.
VCU Rams vs. Missouri Tigers (Neutral)- This is really the 3rd place game of an early season tourney? Damn, that’s one quality field in “Battle 4 Atlantis”. Cheesy title aside, this should be a barnburner. Both teams want to run and get up a lot of shots. Missouri needs to get the ball into Alex Oriakhi during most games but especially in this one. No one on VCU can matchup with his size and I think that gives the Tigers a big advantage. VCU’s sophomore guard Treveon Graham has really found himself early in the season. I’d expect him to have another big one considering Michael Dixon probably won’t play and depth is an issue overall for Missouri. This should be a game that comes down to the final possessions where I think the Tigers prevail.
Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals (Neutral)- Is this the Final Four? No, it’s just November but if you want quality basketball you’ve found your game. Duke isn’t loaded with depth but they’re extremely steady. The backcourt has been led by Seth Curry and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon. Curry has realized he can’t just shoot 3s and has been attacking the basket. Mason Plumlee has been incredible. His athleticism isn’t just a myth or a result of playing on a “slow” Duke squad. Louisville’s pressure is relentless but I don’t expect it to give the Devils problems until later in the game. VCU threw a similar look at Duke and it really didn’t rattle them. The difference is the Cardinals talent late. Russ Smith can drive you crazy but he’ll also hit big shots. Peyton Siva should be able to get to the tin against the duo Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. Louisville will pull away late and win by 8-10 points. Enjoy the games!
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