A handful of ranked teams take the court across the country Tuesday, but only one game features ranked teams against each other, and it happens in New York City. The No. 15 Memphis Tigers take on the No. 16 Florida Gators in Madison Square Garden, a prime-time matchup of similarly profiled teams.
Looking at how KenPom.com rates each team's offense and defense, they're nearly identical. Their adjusted offensive efficiency ratings: 113.0 (Florida) and 112.6 (Memphis). Their adjusted defensive efficiency ratings: 92.3 (Florida) and Memphis (93.1). Less than a point per 100 possessions against the average Division I team separates the two teams on both ends of the floor.
Add in the neutral-floor factor, far from home for both — 1,000 miles for Gators fans and 1,095 miles for Memphis fans to pack the house and force a possible advantage one way or the other — and ESPN may have one of the best games of the week on its schedule Tuesday. The two teams tip off in the second game of a Garden doubleheader on ESPN and WatchESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
The first game of the doubleheader features one of the most unheralded teams in the country to date this season.
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Cincinnati Bearcats, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN: Pittsburgh is still undefeated at 10-0, and Associated Press Top 25 voters have still declined to vote the Panthers into the Top 25. When Monday's poll was released, Pittsburgh was left out again, and it wasn't even the top team in the receiving votes category (UCLA was). Pittsburgh is one of 14 undefeated teams, and one of three that remain unranked in the weekly poll (St. Mary's and Toledo are also unranked). A win against a major-conference opponent on a neutral floor may finally earn the Panthers some rapport with the holdout voters.
Pittsburgh is currently No. 9 in KenPom.com's team ratings, and even if a win Tuesday over Cincinnati (No. 58) wouldn't be its biggest win of the season — an 88-67 win over the Stanford Cardinal (No. 46) in Brooklyn qualifies as such — the Bearcats are a bigger-name team, for whatever little that's worth to voters who may mistake such frivolities for landmarks.
Cincinnati has lost two games in a row, including a 64-47 loss to its crosstown rival, the Xavier Musketeers, on Saturday. Senior guard Sean Kilpatrick is having his best season as a Bearcat yet, averaging 19.3 points per game. But after shooting 23-of-47 from deep in Cincinnati's first seven games and making at least two threes each time out, he's a combined 2-of-10 from three during the Bearcats' current swoon.
North Florida Ospreys at No. 5 Michigan State Spartans, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: One surprising factor about this year's Michigan State team — when considering simply the idea of a Tom Izzo team instead of actually looking at the roster without preconceived notions — has been its struggles on the offensive glass. The Spartans are 183rd in Division I with a 31.1 offensive rebounding percentage (possible rebounds gathered by the offense), an area in which the Spartans typically excel and exploit opponents. The Division I average so far this season for offensive rebounding percentage is 31.8, meaning Michigan State is a below-average offensive rebounding team heading into play on Dec. 17.
Either way, that shouldn't mean much Tuesday against North Florida, a 5-6 team with two wins over non-Division I opponents.
Missouri State Bears at No. 6 Louisville Cardinals, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN: ESPN2's only men's game of the evening — a women's hoops game between the No. 1 Connecticut Huskies and No. 2 Duke Blue Devils is on at 7 — features the No. 6 Cardinals, the 9-1 team that KenPom.com's data ranks as the best team in the country. Their schedule hasn't been much (only two top-100 opponents according to those same computers, and one of those was their 93-84 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels), but each of Louisville's wins has been by at least 14 points, and seven of those have been by at least 22. The Bears are a one-loss team with a top-100 win over the Texas A&M Aggies — the loss was to the Virginia Cavaliers — that don't turn the ball over much, but Louisville's press will test that.