College hoops viewer's guide: Syracuse - Cincinnati highlights holiday slate

Joe Robbins

It's double the Big Monday as ESPN will air four games as part of its extended Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate. No. 3 Syracuse and No. 21 Cincinnati get things going at 3:30.

Holiday hoops are like the third or fourth best type of hoops.

Here's what you're doing on your day off...or your day of work, who cares?

No. 21 Cincinnati at No. 3 Syracuse (3:30/ESPN)

The first game of the day figures to be the best, or at least the highest-profile.

Syracuse will look for its eighth-straight victory less than 48 hours after upsetting then No. 1 Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor. Cincinnati has an even shorter turnaround from its emotional 71-69 overtime win over Marquette a few hours later on Saturday night.

The big question for Cincinnati is whether or not second leading scorer Cashmere Wright (15.1 ppg) will take the floor. The senior guard tweaked his knee last week against DePaul, and did not play against the Golden Eagles over the weekend.

"He is day to day. I am not making things up. If he decides to play Monday, I'm not calling Jim Boeheim and telling him," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told reporters. "He could walk out (Sunday) and practice. I can tell you this, though, that if he's not 100 percent, I'm not letting him play."

Though Syracuse enters the game as decisive favorite (9 points), Cincy has earned a reputation for being a bit of a giant killer in recent years. The Bearcats have won 10 of their last 14 games against ranked teams, including a 2-1 mark this season.

Oklahoma State at Baylor (5:30 p.m./ESPN)

The two top candidates for Big 12 Freshman of the Year will be on the same floor when Isaiah Austin's Bears host Marcus Smart's Cowboys.

Baylor's Pierre Jackson, the Big 12's leading scorer at 18.1 ppg, will come into the matchup fresh after getting a day off (quite the rarity in college basketball) over the weekend. Austin also watched from the bench as the Bears rolled over Division-III Hardin-Simmons 107-38 on Saturday.

This game will be closer than that game was.

It wasn't quite as lopsided as the Hardin-Simmons win, but Baylor put it on Oklahoma State to the tune of 106-65 the last time the Cowboys came to the Ferrell Center. Markel Brown has not forgotten.

"That was a terrible game we played down there," Brown said. "It's time for us to go down there, respond and play the way we're capable of playing and put pressure on them to make plays and come out with a victory."

Georgetown at No. 24 Notre Dame (7:30/ESPN)

Ordinarily I'd say that this game might be cause for the dreaded 8 p.m turn to caffeine, but Georgetown has actually pushed a faster pace in its last couple of games without suspended senior Greg Whittington. It worked like a charm against Providence (a 74-65 win), but not so much against South Florida on Saturday (61-58 loss).

Though the pace might be slightly more up-tempo than you might have predicted, don't expect the point total to be. The Irish and Hoyas are two of the best defensive teams in the Big East, but neither has hit the 70-point mark more than once in league play.

Each team has had its share of inconsistent performances despite spending time in the national polls. Georgetown's loss to previously winless in league play South Florida dropped it to 2-3 in the conference, while Notre Dame narrowly avoided a three-game losing streak by squeaking past Rutgers (69-66) on Saturday.

Regardless of how ugly it happens, the team that leaves the Joyce Center with a victory tonight is going to be ecstatic.

Bethune-Cookman at Savannah State (7:30/ESPNU)

Just another MEAC Monday.

Southern at Alabama A&M (9:30/ESPNU)

The Jaguars are a perfect 7-0 in SWAC play, and are actually the only team in the conference with an overall winning record (13-6). The most notable of those 13 victories was a 53-51 triumph at Texas A&M back on Dec. 22.

Texas at Oklahoma (9:30/ESPN)

After falling apart late in its upset bid against Kansas over the weekend, Texas will try again to win its first Big 12 game of the season tonight in Norman. The Longhorns have won six straight over OU, and taken 13 of the last 15 meetings.

Despite Saturday's 69-60 setback at Kansas State, the Sooners have legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations. They'll get the chance to prove it over a brutal upcoming six-game stretch that includes trips to Baylor and Iowa State, a return game against Kansas State, and a pair of meetings with Kansas.

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