Use your future commitment to do something you don't want to do (or a lot of things you don't want to do) during the week ahead as an excuse to do nothing but watch basketball today. You're going to have earned it.
Georgetown at No. 18 Kansas (Noon/ESPN)
While the bulk of college basketball's preseason top 10 has spent most of the first six weeks of the season feasting on low majors in their backyard, Kansas has been traveling the world (country) facing the best that Division-I has to offer. The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday for the first time in nearly a month to face a Georgetown team that has won six straight, but is still seeking an identity.
Part of that search involves adjusting to life without the dismissed Greg Whittington, a player who was recently the inspiration for a series of Casual Hoya haikus:
Cool Whitt has great length
He plays tremendous defense
I miss his brown suit
Greg's torn ACL
And that damn flash mob final
Made me very sad
Cool Whitt and Comrade
Would make for lousy partners
On radio shows
Greg's leaving us now
But he'll surely dominate
Whittington announced last week that he would be finishing his college career at Rutgers. You probably could have figured that out from the last like of the last haiku, but it's early and I don't even know what you got into last night, so I've got the spoon out and I'm making airplane noises.
Belmont at No. 19 Kentucky (Noon/ESPNU)
Everyone is talking about the bipolarity of North Carolina, but what about the team that dealt the Tar Heels their most dubious defeat? Since beating UNC on their home floor, Belmont has lost to VCU by 13, to South Dakota State by 13 and to 5-5 Denver by 28. There's little to suggest that the Bruins won't be a nice feast for a Kentucky team that couldn't mimic BU's accomplishment a week ago in the Dean Dome.
Tulsa at TCU (Noon/Fox Sports)
The Horned Frogs have won three straight, including a 71-61 triumph over Mississippi State, since suffering an embarrassing 21-point loss to Harvard on Dec. 1. These two teams already met in the Great Alaska Shootout back on Nov. 29, when TCU prevailed 72-65.
Youngstown State at St. John's (2 p.m./Fox Sports 1)
Am I imagining things or has every other Fox Sports 1 game this season featured St. John's? It's like Notre Dame football on NBC except not as many people get the channel, but the exact same number of people care.
I'm just kidding, a lot more people care about Notre Dame football than St. John's basketball. That was an exaggeration made in an attempt to spice this blurb up. Look for similar spice additions in the future.
No. 22 Massachusetts at Florida State (2 p.m./Fox Sports)
The Minutemen are unbeaten and off to their best start in nearly two decades, but they find themselves as a 2-point underdog against unranked Florida State in the first game of the Orange Bowl Classic. Weird tidbit: these two met in the 2011 Battle 4 Atlantis with the Seminoles ranked No. 20 in the coaches' poll and No. 22 in the AP Top 25. On Saturday, it will be UMass ranked No. 20 in the coaches' poll and No. 22 in the AP Top 25. FSU won't win by 20 like they did two years ago, but they'll win.
Middle Tennessee at Cincinnati (2 p.m./Fox Sports Ohio)
A classic C-USA/AAC showdown. This is an extremely dangerous game for a Cincinnati team that doesn't want to have to be almost perfect in league play in order to have a shot at the big dance.
James Madison vs. Hampton (3 p.m./NBC Sports Network)
This is the Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic and it features two teams with losing records. Thanks, Bob McDonnell.
No. 21 Gonzaga vs. Kansas State (3:30 p.m./ESPN2)
Another classic...literally, it's the "Wichita Wildcat Classic" held at Wichita's INTRUST Bank Arena. Gonzaga has won six straight since losing to Dayton in the Maui Invitational, but hasn't looked overly impressive in doing so. The listless performances have left some claiming that that the Zags are ranked solely because of their name, which is sort of insane when you consider that we're talking about a program that plays in the West Coast Conference. Kansas State is limiting opponents to 59.4 points per game and 24.9 percent 3-point shooting, which is not great news for a Bulldog squad that has struggled offensively in recent weeks.
No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m./CBS)
Yet another neutral court game with the once-beaten Spartans squaring off against the once-beaten Longhorns in Brooklyn. We could talk more about it, but we'll leave that to the guys who know these teams the best:
Villanova is unbeaten, playing at home, ranked in the top 10 and a 20-point favorite. Rider senior guard Anthony Myles cares about precisely none of those facts.
"We're definitely looking forward to it," Myles said. "We want to beat them. That's our goal. We're not going to say we competed and have moral victories. We're going to win. I know our team will be ready. We're going to be a lot more aggressive."
Well all right then, young man.
The Broncs are 5-4.
No. 16 Florida vs. Fresno State (4:30 p.m./Fox Sports)
The second half of the Orange Bowl Classic is highlighted by a Florida team that hasn't had a chance to get used to playing together, because they've barely played together. The addition of Chris Walker means the Gators finally (almost) have the squad they'd thought they would during the summer, and hopefully the gelling can begin. Fresno State has Marvelle Harris, and he's really good, and they have Cezar Guerrero, who's pretty good, but they don't have much else.
Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina (5 p.m./ESPNU)
North Carolina is kind of turning into the shitty reality show everyone loves until too many people they don't like start loving it too. Will they win by 80? Will they score seven total points? Will someone urinate on midcourt? ESPNU has your answers.
None of those things are going to happen.
No. 23 Missouri vs. Illinois (5:30 p.m./ESPN2)
The 33rd installment of the neutral site rivalry features unbeaten Missouri against an Illinois squad that will enter this game unranked for the first time in four years. Only three Missouri players - Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Tony Criswell - have experience in the series. Brown, an Oregon transfer, made his first start for the Tigers in last year's 82-73 victory and wound up leading the way with 18 points and seven rebounds.
I like that a rivalry had the stones to just go ahead and claim a common phrase like "Braggin' Rights" as the official name of its series. It's like if Indiana and Purdue decided to start calling their series "Game Between Teams That Really Don't Like Each Other"...or something...I can't think of a funny analogy, but we can all agree that the original premise is humorous. We can't? Ok, well then I'm going to say "interesting" and move on before you disagree.
Virginia Tech vs. VCU (5:30 p.m./NBC Sports Network)
McDonnell did much better with the second half of the Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic. Although I'd be far more interested if this event included something like him having to compete in a halftime 3-point shooting contest with his re-election on the line. You'd watch.
No. 6 Louisville at Florida International (6 p.m./Fox Sports 1)
Louisville's first road game was supposed to be Pitino v. Pitino II, but instead Richard bolted for Minnesota and left the Cards playing what now just looks like a weird late-December game at FIU. There's still a decent storyline, however, as U of L transfer Rakeem Buckles comes into Saturday as the Panthers' leading rebounder and second-leading scorer.
Cardinal star Russ Smith credits Buckles for talking him out of transferring during a freshman season where he played sparingly, but doesn't say as much about their former prowess as a musical pair.
Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M (7 p.m./ESPNU)
This isn't a Big 12 game, but it is the second half of the Dickies Shootout presented by Target. It's also the final game of the Big 12-SEC Challenge, which the Big 12 has already won by virtue of winning six of the event's first nine games.
No. 3 Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (7:30 p.m./ESPN2)
This is a rare backloaded Saturday, and the evening fun really gets started with this Gotham Classic tilt from Madison Square Garden. Despite having already lost thrice, the Fighting Irish are pretty much the only thing standing between Ohio State and starting Big Ten play with an unblemished record. The Buckeyes have yet to allow an opponent to score 70 points this season, while Notre Dame has failed to hit that same mark just once in 11 games.
Southeast Missouri at No. 15 Memphis (8 p.m./Fox Sports South)
Jarekious Bradley might be the surprise of the OVC so far, but he's not going to be able to save the Redhawks on this night.
Michigan vs. Stanford (8:30 p.m./Fox Sports 1)
Suddenly, this feels like a bigger game for Michigan than it does for Stanford, which notched a signature victory over previously unbeaten Connecticut in Storrs earlier this week. A banged up Mitch McGary made the trip to Brooklyn with the rest of the Wolverines, but there's still no word on whether or not he's going to play.
Marquette vs. New Mexico (9 p.m./ESPNU)
Yet another neutral court game (MGM Garden Arena in Vegas), this one featuring a pair of formerly ranked teams that each desperately need a decent win before conference play. This will be the first ever meeting between these two consistently successful programs.
BYU at No. 13 Oregon (10:30 p.m./Pac-12 Network)
Oregon is playing, which gives us an excuse to post this again.
Also, this should be a crazy fun game to watch.
No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (11:30 p.m./ESPN2)
That's right, if you're on the East Coast and you want to watch the the day's only game featuring two top 25 teams, you're going to have to stay up until around 2 a.m. Colorado will be looking to upset a former conference foe ranked in the top 10 for a second time this season, only this time they'll have to do it on a neutral court (Vegas again). Marcus Smart has been tabbed by many as the early POY front-runner, a challenge the still insanely underrated Spencer Dinwiddie will welcome with open arms.