If you like college basketball and you either have New Year's Eve off work or have a job that won't require much of your attention after lunch, Tuesday is the day for you. College hoops is full of action all day, and there's probably a pun to be made about a ball dropping, but we're too professional to make it.
Just because a bunch of ranked teams are playing on national television — 10 to be exact — none are playing each other, and not many are playing opponents of particular renown. What serves in preview as likely the most interesting game is the Big Ten opener between the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Purdue Boilermakers at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.
The 13-0 Buckeyes will take their nation-leading defense on the road to West Lafayette, Ind., against a Purdue team that hasn't been particularly efficient on offense even if it is 40th in the country with a 37.4 offensive rebounding percentage. Ohio State's 85.5 adjusted defensive efficiency is best in Division I, and the team excels in nearly every defensive metric that KenPom.com tracks. The Buckeyes are elite defensively, and the strength of that defense will play just its second true road game of the season Tuesday (the first was a 52-35 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles on Nov. 16).
Here's a look at the rest of Tuesday's games:
Elon Phoenix vs. No. 7 Duke Blue Devils, 1 p.m. ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN: The Jabari Parker and Friends tour rolls into Greensboro, N.C., for a "neutral" game between Duke and Elon, and it doesn't look good for Elon. The Phoenix aren't particularly big and not particularly deep, and they haven't fared well this season against top competition. Meanwhile, Parker, the 6'8 freshman phenom, has scored no fewer than 15 points in each of the Blue Devils' 12 games this season. He's averaging 53.9 percent from the floor.
Eastern Michigan Eagles at No. 2 Syracuse Orange, 3 p.m. ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN: Syracuse has the best offense in the country according to KenPom.com's adjusted offensive efficiency — the Orange score 119 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition — and Eastern Michigan is not the team you'd pick to stop it. The Eagles lost, 82-59, at Duke on Saturday, and opponents get an average of 41.8 offensive rebounding attempts, third-worst among the 351 teams in Division I.
No. 5 Michigan State Spartans at Penn State Nittany Lions, 5 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: The Spartans seem to have leveled out since a 79-65 home loss to North Carolina and a near-disaster the next time out — a 67-63 win over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, a team that was 2-8 at the time with one of those wins coming over a non-Division I team. Penn State doesn't turn the ball over much, and senior Tim Frazier has scored in double figures in 11 of the Nittany Lions' 13 games so far.
No. 14 Louisville Cardinals at UCF Knights, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN: Louisville has not had a great 72 hours. The Cardinals lost, 73-66, to their archrival, the No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats, on Saturday. And on Monday, head coach Rick Pitino announced that Chane Behanan was dismissed from the team and Kevin Ware would likely miss the rest of the season and seek a medical redshirt. Pitino and the Cardinals hit the road to Orlando to play the first intra-conference game in the history of the American Athletic Conference.
UNC Wilmington Seahawks at No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels, 5 p.m. ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN: The Tar Heels conclude ESPNU's triple-header Tuesday with a game that does not budget to be one of very high competition. The Seahawks rank No. 255 in KenPom.com's team rankings — for emphasis, again, that's out of 351 Division I teams — and don't really excel at anything in particular. It's North Carolina's final non-conference game before opening its ACC schedule Sunday on the road against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
No. 18 Memphis Tigers at South Florida Bulls, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN: Memphis has played a top-heavy schedule, the benefit of which was a win over Oklahoma State. But the downside to that is that other than two games against Oklahoma State, one against the Florida Gators and one against the LSU Tigers, Memphis has not played anyone else in KenPom.com's top 150. That changes, though just barely, Tuesday. South Florida comes in to the matchup ranked 149th.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: The Hawkeyes have only scored fewer than 80 points once this season — and that was the 77 they scored in an overtime win over Xavier — and odds are, that won't change Tuesday. Nebraska's adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 124th in Division I.
No. 11 Villanova Wildcats at Butler Bulldogs, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1: The ball drops on the new-look Big East on Tuesday — dang it — with an interesting matchup. Villanova is coming off its first loss of the season, a 78-62 loss to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, and the Wildcats have been awfully impressive otherwise, especially on defense. Butler, despite having to replace coach Brad Stevens and losing Roosevelt Jones to an offseason injury, has been impressive, having only lost to Oklahoma State and LSU on neutral courts.
No. 17 Connecticut Huskies at Houston Cougars, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN: UConn and Houston play in the same conference now, because welcome to 2014 in college basketball, so they'll play each other in a game Tuesday that has real implications for both. But because of the early strength of UConn's schedule, Houston — which comes in ranked No. 205 in KenPom.com's team rankings — will be the fourth-worst team the Huskies have played this season.