BOZICH | The best in college basketball in the season's best wee - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | The best in college basketball in the season's best weekend

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Rick Bozich says this is the best weekend of college basketball this season. Rick Bozich says this is the best weekend of college basketball this season.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Finally, a Kennesaw State-free weekend of non-conference basketball with a string of games capable of holding our attention an entire Saturday.

Your weekend guide to the Best in College Hoops.

BEST GAME (502 Edition) – Western Kentucky at Louisville, ESPNU, Noon.

The numbers from the last three decades suggest Western Kentucky is likely to defeat the University of Louisville in basketball once every six opportunities.

Opportunity won’t knock Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.

Not in Louisville, where the Cardinals have beaten the Hilltoppers four straight, six out of seven and 15 of 17.

This isn’t one of Ray Harper’s better squads. The Hilltoppers are 6-4, but a closer look shows that one victory was against Campbellsville and two others were by a combined three points.

The number to note here is 31. That’s how many points Xavier beat the Hilltoppers by in Cincinnati two weeks ago – and the unbeaten X-Men are ranked 10th in the nation. Consider it a measuring stick for Rick Pitino’s team, which delivered a feisty (remember Montrezl Harrell exiting early?) nine-point win at WKU last season.

BEST GAME (606 Edition) – Kentucky vs. Ohio State in Brooklyn, CBS, 3:30 p.m.

Rick Pitino did not win 20 games in each of his first 15 seasons as a college basketball coach. Neither did John Calipari. Nor Mike Krzyzewski.

Thad Matta has won at least 20 during his first 15 seasons at Xavier and Ohio State.

His shot to make it a Sweet 16 is on the ropes. Playing Kentucky Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center won’t help Matta’s cause.

The bobbling Buckeyes (5-5) have already lost three home games. Austin Grandstaff, a member of OSU’s acclaimed freshman class, asked for his release Thursday. The undersized Buckeyes handle the basketball as if it’s coated with 10w40.

I’m not sure if this will be a game for Skal Labissiere to fix his sagging reputation, but Calipari’s guards should have a lot of fun performing in front of more than 40 pro scouts in an NBA arena.

BEST GAME (State of Indiana Edition) – Purdue vs. Butler in Indianapolis, Big Ten Network, 5 p.m.

Some people say Purdue, not Michigan State, is the team to beat in the Big Ten. Some also say Butler, not Xavier or Villanova, is the team to beat in the Big East.

One program can make its case in the second game of the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Nobody has come within 10 points of Matt Painter’s unbeaten Purdue squad in the first 11 games. The Boilermakers rank first in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency metric, allowing only 89 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, UK allowed 86.5 points per 100 possessions last season.

Butler won at Cincinnati. The Bulldogs still attack with their two four-year stars, guard Kellen Dunham and forward Roosevelt Jones. But Butler is developing a third star – former Ballard player Kelan Martin, who is averaging 14.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in only 22.2 minutes per game

RUNNER-UP BEST GAME (State of Indiana Edition) – Indiana vs. Notre Dame in Indianapolis, ESPN2, 2 p.m.

Notre Dame loves to score. Indiana loves to score.

Notre Dame thinks defense is a dealer add-on. Ditto for Indiana.

First one to 100 wins Saturday in the Crossroads Classic opener at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

This is Indiana’s final crack at a prime-time non-conference victory. Indiana handled Creighton, ranked 60th by Pomeroy, before washing out to a sixth-place finish in Maui. You saw what happened at Duke.

The Irish have a nice victory over Iowa, but puzzling losses to Alabama and Monmouth. Their center, Zach Auguste, ranks ninth nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ratings, which smells like trouble for the Hoosiers who have struggled to defend active big men.

Make that first one to 110.

BEST GAME (National Edition) – Villanova at Virginia, ESPN 2, Noon.

It’s too early to say teams are fussing about a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but a two- or three-seed is something that Virginia (ranked 8th) and Villanova (12) could haggle about Saturday in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers have recovered from their November loss to George Washington by winning seven in a row. Their defensive efficiency has slipped from last season but the offense has improved. I wonder if anybody in Charlottesville wonders if UVA coach Tony Bennett has interest in replacing Bo Ryan at Wisconsin. I'm predicting he stays in the ACC instead of taking a job his father once filled.

As for Villanova, Jay Wright’s team needs a win in a game like this to make skeptics forget the Wildcats were beaten by 23 points by Oklahoma last week.

RUNNER-UP BEST GAME (National Edition) – UCLA vs. North Carolina in Brooklyn, CBS, 1 p.m.

North Carolina can blame its loss against Northern Iowa to the absence of injured point guard Marcus Paige. I haven’t heard the excuse for the Tar Heels’ last-second loss at Texas last weekend.

The numbers – UNC ranks 50th in defensive efficiency – say you can score on Roy Williams' team when you really need a bucket.

Can UCLA score on the Tar Heels Saturday in the game that will precede the UK-Ohio State game in Brooklyn?

Kentucky fans know not to sleep on the Bruins. So do Gonzaga fans. The Bruins have won five in a row since finishing fourth in Maui.

BEST GAME (Miscellaneous Edition) – Michigan State at Northeastern in Boston, NBC Sports Network, 12:30 p.m.

What is wrong with Tom Izzo?

Doesn’t he understand he has one of the best programs in America, a team currently ranked number one?

Hasn’t anybody told him he is supposed to stay home and play Hartford, Wright State or McNeese State?

Apparently not. Check Michigan State’s itinerary Saturday. The Spartans are bound for Matthews Arena, a 5,065-seat facility in Boston that is home to the Northeastern Huskies.

All I know about Northeastern basketball is that Jim Calhoun once coached there, Reggie Lewis played there and that the Huskies took down Miami (Florida), 78-77, three weeks ago.

Of course, Northeastern has followed that by losing to Detroit and Western Michigan. But Izzo is taking his team on the road to Northeastern, more evidence that Izzo has never scheduled like a putz.

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