By Steve Silverman
Saturday, January 6
No. 7 Oklahoma (12-1, 2-0) at No. 6 West Virginia (13-1, 2-0), 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The Sooners are one of the most surprising and exciting teams in the nation, as they are led by freshman sensation Trae Young.
The Sooners are averaging 95.8 points per game and connecting on 50.6 percent of their shots from the field, while the Mountaineers are averaging 84.2 ppg and hitting 43.9 percent of their shots.
The Sooners have won 10 games in a row since an early-season loss to Arkansas, and they have perhaps the nation’s most dynamic player in Young. He is averaging 29.4 ppg and contributing 10.6 assists per night. Many of those dimes are spectacular, as Young regularly demonstrates outstanding court vision as he attacks opposing defenses.
West Virginia lost its first game of the season to Texas A&M, and has reeled off 13 straight victories since then. The Mountaineers often trigger their offense with their defense, as they can attack shooters and come up with game-changing plays.
Jevon Carter is leading the team in scoring with 16.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per night, while Daxter Miles Jr. is second on the team with 14.5 ppg.
This is an early-season showdown game in the Big 12, and while the Mountaineers have the home-court advantage, the Sooners have the explosive Young and he could lead Oklahoma to a key win.
Sunday, January 7
No. 1 Michigan State (15-1, 3-0) at Ohio State (12-4, 3-0), 4:30 p.m., CBS
The Spartans are rolling and head coach Tom Izzo has challenged his sophomore-laden team to respond to the challenge of holding the No. 1 ranking by embracing it and playing like the best team in the nation on an every-game basis.
If that is going to happen, the Spartans can’t take any opponent lightly, and that includes the unranked Buckeyes. Miles Bridges and his teammates can’t go to Columbus and think the Buckeyes are going to be intimidated by their presence.
The Spartans have always been a strong fundamental team under Izzo, but they have become a high-scoring team this season. Michigan State is averaging 87.9 ppg and connecting on an eye-catching 53.3 percent of his shots from the field.
The Buckeyes are averaging 79.0 points per game and hitting 49.0 percent of their shots from the field.
Bridges is averaging a team-leading 16.9 ppg and 7.7 rebounds per night, while Nick Ward is averaging 15.4 ppg and connecting on an amazing 72.3 percent of his shots from the field. Joshua Langford, Cassius Winston and Jaren Jackson Jr. are all averaging in double figures for the Spartans.
Forward Keita Bates-Diop is averaging a team-leading 19.3 ppg for the Buckeyes, and he is also pulling down 8.9 boards per game. Guard C.J. Jackson is averaging 14.3 ppg and handing out 4.3 assists per night.
Wednesday, January 10
No. 5 Xavier (15-1, 3-0) at Villanova (13-1, 1-1), 8 p.m., FS1
The Villanova Wildcats take up the chase again after losing their top spot in the rankings. After losing on the road to Butler December 30, Jay Wright’s team was not scheduled to get back into action until Saturday against Marquette, but this game against the Musketeers is one of the can’t-miss games of the week.
The Musketeers have won 10 games in a row and should come into this game with a ton of confidence. Both teams have very similar profiles, as Xavier is averaging 86.5 points per game and Villanova is scoring 88.1 points per night. Both team are shooting 51.0 percent or better.
Villanova guard Jalen Brunson is averaging 18.9 points per night and connecting on 59.5 percent from the field, while swingman Mikal Bridges is second on the team 17.8 points per night while he is connecting on 52.0 percent of his shots from the field.
Guard Trevon Bluiett is averaging 19.8 ppg game to lead Xavier, while guard J.P. Macura is averaging 13.3 points per night and connecting on 49.3 percent of his shots from the field.
Mid-Major/Small-School Game of the Week
Saturday, January 6
San Diego (12-3, 3-0) at St. Mary’s (14-2, 3-0), 11 p.m., FS1
The West Coast Conference is usually the province of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but the St. Mary’s Gaels have long been their rivals and appear to be in a position to make a strong challenge for conference superiority.
They face a tough challenge from the Torreros, who have reeled off seven wins in their last eight games and they are led by transfers Isaiah Wright and Isaiah Pineiro, who are averaging 14.9 and 14.5 ppg, respectively.
The Gaels are led by 6-11 center Jock Landale who is averaging 21.3 ppg and 10.3 boards per night. Landale is knocking down 64.9 percent of his shots, and he is getting help from Calvin Hermanson and Emmett Naar.
Hermanson, a 6-6 forward, is averaging 13.0 ppg and knocking down 53.5 percent of his shots from the field, while Naar is knocking down 11.0 ppg and 9.5 assists per game.