It seems impossible, yet we really have reached Championship Weekend of the college football season. That’s right, while a few conference championship games still remain, this will be the first weekend since mid-August that our entire Saturday afternoon and evening won’t be packed with wall-to-wall, non-stop football on every single channel we watch. Where does the time go?
But while the football is officially slowing down, it means that college hoops is heating up. And to the credit of the powers that be in college hoops, they have given us an awesome slate of games this weekend. Both the Big Ten and ACC will be playing conference games, with a number of other big non-conference matchups dotting the slate.
So while we’ll all be watching football, what basketball do you have to keep an eye on as well? Here is a viewing guide for the weekend.
Iowa at No. 4 Michigan, 6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
No need to wait until Saturday for all the hoops action, as it all gets underway early Friday evening, with Michigan hosting its Big Ten opener against Iowa. At this point, we already know Michigan’s story, as they are looking to bounce back after that dreadful performance at Louisville on Tuesday night, but what about Iowa? The Hawkeyes are a sneaky interesting team that has beaten Texas Tech and Syracuse in the past week and can’t be overlooked.
No. 10 Duke at Virginia Tech, 7:00 p.m. ACC Network
Once Michigan and Iowa get underway make sure to flip over to the ACC Network, where Duke will play its second road game in four days against Virginia Tech.
Could this be a trap game for the Blue Devils?
It sounds crazy, but they just played at Michigan State on Tuesday and now, 72 hours later, will play another road game, this one the ACC opener. Also keep in mind that Virginia Tech has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Blue Devils, who have lost two straight in Blacksburg.
In an interesting twist, Blacksburg is also where Grayson Allen served his famed, one-game, “indefinite suspension” during the 2016-2017 season.
Pittsburgh at No. 1 Louisville, 9:00 p.m. ACC Network
We already mentioned Louisville’s win over Michigan the other day, but it’s worth repeating here for one reason: I was stunned by how many national college hoops writers (not me) called it a “statement” win for the Cardinals.
Yes, it was a good win, that will look good on their resume all season. But was it really a “statement” win? Or did Louisville simply have one player (Jordan Nwora) go off, and everyone else struggled? Overall, I’d say that the Cards played a “C+“ game, and it just so happened that Michigan played at a “D-“ level.
We’ll see if the Cards look sharper in their second ACC game of the season against Pitt.
Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State, 12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge taught us a lot, but maybe nothing more than this: Ohio State is a legitimate Final Four and national title contender, after they just handed Roy Williams the worst home loss of his time at North Carolina.
Still, the Buckeyes can’t look past a good Penn State team here, which already has wins over Syracuse and Georgetown this season.
It’s also fair to wonder: With the Buckeyes football team playing later Saturday night, what will the crowd be like in Columbus on Saturday afternoon?
“Not great” would be my guess.
No. 12 Arizona at No. 18 Baylor, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Speaking of big football games, how about the bad luck Baylor got here? This will probably be the second biggest home game of their entire season for Baylor basketball (behind only Kansas) and yet it’s going on at the exact same time as the Big 12 title game.
So yeah, attendance probably won’t be good. To the point that Baylor is literally giving away free tickets for anyone who is interested in coming just to get butts in seats.
You know what else isn’t good? The fact that Arizona could be without both star freshmen Nico Mannion and Josh Green, one who is dealing with a back injury, the other one illness.
Florida at No. 24 Butler, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
It will be matchup of one of the most pleasant surprises in college basketball against one of its biggest disappointments, as Butler hosts Florida here. We all know about the Gators’ struggles, but how about the play of Butler, which has already beaten Ole Miss, Missouri and Minnesota this season?
Still, the story here is Florida.
It’s early, but if the Gators are going to have any chance of reaching their potential this season, they need to start winning games like this.
Fairleigh Dickinson at No. 8 Kentucky, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network
It’s a little bit of a slow afternoon between 2-4, so after you’re done watching a little football, flip over for the UK game around 4 p.m. ET.
Honestly, there isn’t much here in terms of analysis that needs discussing. Kentucky should and must win this game.
On a different note, how many days until that Ohio State game again?
Also… WHO’S COMING TO LONDON!??!
Indiana at Wisconsin, 4:30 ET, Big Ten Network
Indiana is undefeated, and let’s be honest, their fans are getting a little chesty following this week’s win against Florida State. Still, for all the Hoosiers’ early success, they still haven’t left Bloomington, and this will be their biggest test to date.
Meanwhile for Wisconsin, well, they’re currently on a three-game losing streak and just got blown out by NC State.
Yeah, umm, they can use a win here.
Cincinnati at Xavier, 5:00 p.m. ET, FS1
This one won’t quite be the same with Chris Mack and Mick Cronin in Cincinnati, but still, it’s the Crosstown Shootout. Do I really need to add anything else?
Illinois at No. 3 Maryland, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
This is one of the more underrated games of the weekend, featuring two of the five best teams on paper in the Big Ten.
Of course games aren’t played on paper, which is why this one is so big for Illinois. The Illini were projected by many (myself included) to be an NCAA Tourney type team, yet have lost to the only two Power 5 teams (Arizona and Miami) that they’ve played this season.
Going on the road, against a Maryland team that is red-hot (they’ve blown out Marquette and Notre Dame in back-to-back games) is a statement game for the Illini.
I’ll be curious to see exactly what that statement is come Saturday night.
No. 20 Colorado at No. 2 Kansas, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
You won’t even need to flip the channel on Saturday night from Illinois-Maryland, as maybe the best game of the entire weekend will be played on Saturday night in Lawrence.
First off, shout to the Colorado Buffaloes, a team that I said in the preseason was a dark horse Pac-12 title contender, and who has done nothing to disprove it so far. They enter this game at 7-0 and ranked in the Top 20 nationally.
Still, we’ll find out exactly how good they are going into hostile Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas returns to the court for their first game since running through the Maui Invitational last week.
Arkansas at Western Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
Fun fact: There are only two undefeated teams in the SEC right now.
One is the Auburn Tigers, who have just laid waste to virtually everyone they’ve played this season. The other? The Arkansas Razorbacks.
Still, despite its 8-0 start, Arkansas has played just one game away from Bud Walton Arena, and they needed a buzzer beater to take down Georgia Tech in Atlanta last week.
Now, the Razorbacks return to the road, where they travel to take on Charles Bassey and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Western won at Arkansas last season, and it wouldn’t be a total shocker if they won again on Saturday night.
Marquette at Kansas State, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Marquette has Markus Howard. Markus Howard can go for 50 every time he steps on the court.
I’m not saying that you should abandon football to watch this one.
But it’s at least worth monitoring.
No. 7 North Carolina at No. 5 Virginia, 4:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network
It’s a slow start to the Sunday slate, literally and figuratively, with this one serving as the first big of the afternoon to close out the weekend.
On paper, this was supposed to be the game of the weekend, until North Carolina got blown out by Ohio State and Virginia reverted back to its pre-2019, archaic, Fred Flintstone offense and barely broke 50 points against Purdue.
As one of my long-time followers Scott (a huge KSR fan) pointed out this week, Vegas can’t make an over/under low enough in this game.
North Carolina at Virginia on Sunday. First two-digit over/under in Vegas history?
— Scott Collins (@HillbillyInBC) December 5, 2019
No. 19 Dayton vs. Saint Mary’s, 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
While the average fan will be watching North Carolina and Virginia Sunday, be smarter, and flip over to ESPNU for the game of the day instead between Dayton and Saint Mary’s.
We’ve all seen what the Flyers could do during their trip to Maui, and Saint Mary’s might be the best team in the WCC, with wins already against Wisconsin and Utah State.
Both of these teams are mid-majors you need to know. And both can make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, so you might as well get to know them now.
No. 9 Gonzaga at No. 22 Washington, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Woah buddy, you want to talk about a way to cap a weekend… THIS is a way to cap a weekend.
Gonzaga is coming off an impressive showing in Atlantis, and is about to embark on an insane week where they play at Washington, at Arizona and North Carolina all at home in the next eight days. Wozahs!
As for Washington, well it’s been a quiet few weeks since they beat Baylor to open the season before falling against Tennessee a week later, and this will be their last, big, statement out of conference game before opening Pac-12 play in a few weeks.
No. 18 Seton Hall at Iowa State, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
I’m just going to throw it out there and say that I have absolutely no idea why we’re getting a random, Seton Hall-Iowa State game on a Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET.
But, who am I to complain?
It will cap a wild weekend of college hoops, the first of many great ones to come.