One of the premier non-conference matchups, No. 18 North Carolina will host No. 11 Kentucky Saturday. With both teams dreaming of 1-seeds come NCAA Tournament time, a win would be a nice resume-builder.
North Carolina is still playing without leading scorer P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, which may explain their Jekyll-and-Hyde season. They have toppled Michigan State and Louisville, but lost to Belmont and UAB in the early going. Their talent level is still superb, and the Tar Heels have the kind of inside presence that could combat Kentucky's Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Randle has been excellent in his freshman season, averaging 17.8 points and 12 rebounds in his first year. If he can draw attention in the middle, fellow freshman James Young and the Harrison twins can get open looks against North Carolina's depleted backcourt.
The game airs on ESPN at 5:15 p.m. ET.
Here's the rest of Saturday's top 25 slate:
No. 1 Arizona Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines, Noon ET, CBS: The other clash of storied programs Saturday, Arizona takes their No. 1 ranking on the road to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have disappointed thus far, but the crowd will surely be rocking for Michigan's first big home game of the season. The Wildcats have earned their top ranking, defeating Duke and San Diego State in their non-confernence schedule. Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley is becoming one of the country's most versatile players, averaging 12 and six behind 61 percent shooting.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. No. 6 Louisville Cardinals, Noon, ESPN2: With a loss to UNC as their only blemish, defending champion Louisville is a contender once again. Russ Smith and Chris Jones might be the best backcourt in the country, carving up defenses with their basket attacks. Western Kentucky should offer little resistance to the Cardinals, who will be looking to their game against Kentucky Dec. 28 as their next big test.
No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN3: The biggest surprise in college basketball this season has been the success of Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers. Off to the best start in school history, the Badgers already have wins over Florida, West Virginia, Virginia and Marquette. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker have given opposing defenses headaches, combining to score nearly 30 points per game. Along with Wisconsin's grind-it-out style, those two may be enough for the Badgers to make their first Final Four run since 2000.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys, 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Marcus Smart looks to continue to build his Naismith National Player of the Year case against Louisiana Tech. The sophomore is averaging nearly 20 points per game, keeping his teammates involved with his dribble drives and his passionate play. Barring a setback against Colorado on Dec. 21, the Cowboys could start Big 12 play with just one loss to their name.
No. 12 Wichita State Shockers vs. Tennessee Volunteers, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Shockers, fresh off their Final Four run last season, may have a better squad this time around. Ron Baker is a breakout star in the backcourt, with Cleanthony Early the do-everything forward for Wichita. Tennessee is facing their first ranked opponent of the year, holding losses to Xavier and UTEP.
Northern Illinois Huskies vs. No. 22 Massachusetts Minutemen, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN: Along with Wisconsin, UMass is one of the better stories in the college basketball season. The Minutemen have their best team since the late-90s, led by 5'9 guard Chaz Williams. The diminutive senior is a highlight machine, averaging 17.5 points and 7.6 assists per game. Against Northern Illinois -- one of the worst shooting teams in the country -- Williams could outscore his opponents by himself.
No. 5 Michigan State Spartans vs. Oakland Grizzlies, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Coming off their only loss of the season, the former No. 1 Spartans look to right the ship against Oakland. The game is in the Grizzlies' arena, but the crowd should still be in Michigan State's favor. Super sophomore Gary Harris isn't expected to play, still nursing an ankle injury that slowed him in the loss to North Carolina.
New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Probably the best three-loss team in the country, Kansas will have to battle against New Mexico. The Lobos have talented players at multiple positions, with three guys who could go for 25 points on a given night. Andrew Wiggins will have to be dynamic in transition for Kansas because New Mexico is ready to run for a full 40 minutes. This will probably be the most exciting game of the day, notwithstanding what happens in UK-UNC.
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. North Dakota State Bison, 8:15 p.m. ET, BTN: The Buckeyes appeared to have problems scoring the basketball when the season began, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross have quieted the doubters. Ross is averaging over 17 points per game in the last four Ohio State games. North Dakota State is no standard mid-major, having upset Notre Dame in South Bend last week. They will need to out hustle one of the best defenses in the country if they are thinking upset.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 15 Oregon Ducks, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: One of the more entertaining teams in the country, Oregon looks to prove there are good teams in the Pac-12. The Ducks overcame 39 points from Marshall Henderson in an overtime thriller against Ole Miss last week, their most recent test. Illinois has played a vanilla schedule, amassing a 9-1 record against inferior competition. A win against Oregon would give the Illini a huge boost going into conference play, where they will have to play three of the bet ten teams in the country.
No. 20 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. South Alabama Jaguars, 10 p.m. ET, ROOT: Kevin Pangos is a must-watch in these late-night West Coast Gonzaga games. The junior guard is averaging almost 20 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the three-point line. South Alabama hasn't played any team of note this season and is 5-4, so look for Pangos to put on a display for Mark Few's team.