By Jon Rothstein
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IOWA STATE AT IOWA
An intense in-state rivalry should provide a thrilling atmosphere in early December. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery recently switched his starting back court to two freshmen in Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons while the Cyclones have finally been getting steady playing at point guard from Korie Lucious. Both teams in this game have yet to identify a set rotation or lineup that really works, but Lucious, Will Clyburn, and Melvin Ejim have all played in big games before while most of the Hawkeyes haven’t. In the end, that type of experience will be the difference.
PREDICTION: IOWA STATE 78, IOWA 72
TEMPLE VS. DUKE
The Izod Center will play host on Saturday to two teams that always take care of the ball and rarely beat themselves. Both the Owls and the Blue Devils enter this game with undefeated records and it will take take a special effort for either team to come away with a victory. Duke big man Mason Plumlee has made a massive jump from his junior to senior season and clearly has emerged as one of the better players in the country. Overlooked by many in the preseason, the Blue Devils have taken on all comers early, but there’s one factor in this game that isn’t in Duke’s favor — depth. Temple is clearly the deeper team in this game and has three proud seniors in Khalif Wyatt, Scootie Randall, and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. It says here that trio will keep the Owls close, but not close enough to give the Blue Devils their first blemish of the season.
PREDICTION: DUKE 72, TEMPLE 68
ARKANSAS AT MICHIGAN
The fastest 40 minutes in basketball against the nation’s top point guard? Sounds delicious. Wolverines’ floor general Trey Burke clearly looks like the nation’s best point guard and he’ll be tested mightily on Saturday against Arkansas’ relentless full court pressure. The biggest thing to watch in this game for the Razorbacks? Transition three-pointers. Quickening the pace leads to open shots and no team could benefit from that more than Michigan. The Wolverines are shooting 42.5% from three-point range as a team and freshman guard Nick Stauskas is shooting 63.6% himself. We like John Beilein’s squad in this one.
PREDICTION: MICHIGAN 83, ARKANSAS 70
ILLINOIS AT GONZAGA
John Groce is off to a tremendous 9-0 start at Illinois and has one of the best back courts in the Big Ten with Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams. That’s the good part. That bad part? It’s going to take a remarkable effort for the Fighting Illini to beat a Gonzaga team that could very well be the best squad Mark Few has had since he’s been in Spokane. The Bulldogs have one of the better power forward/center combinations in the country with Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk and that should be the difference on Saturday.
PREDICTION: GONZAGA 84, ILLINOIS 72
COLORADO AT KANSAS
Allen Fieldhouse is by far the hardest place to win a road game in college basketball — but we think the Buffaloes have a chance in this one. Colorado is underrated and under appreciated despite winning the PAC-12 last season and starting this year with an impressive 7-1 record. Tad Boyle has two of the better players in the country in Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson and he’ll need big outings out of both to beat Kansas. The Jayhawks are tough to beat at home but there’s just something missing right now with Kansas. We don’t know what it is, but it says here they won’t fix it by Saturday.
PREDICTION: COLORADO 73, KANSAS 69
What’s your must-watch game? Let us know in the comments below!