The 24-hour basketball marathon continues on Tuesday, and culminates in the Champions’ Classic, which features two matchups of potential Final Four teams.
Best game — No. 2 Kentucky (-2) vs. No. 5 Duke — 7:30 ET, ESPN
This is one of the best games of the season, and you should be glued to your television for it. If you like college hoops you’re seeing two of the most talented teams with two of the best coaches in the sport matching wits. If you’re an NBA Draft fan, there are about five prospects on each team worth watching including Brandon Ingram, Grayson Allen, Skal Labissiere, and Jamal Murray. It’s a game that given the youth involved could go either way. Just make sure you’re sitting down for it because there will probably be four or five standout plays that make it worthwhile.
Second-best game — No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Michigan State — 10 ET, ESPN
The Jayhawks are the national favorite for quite a few writers at CBSSports.com, including yours truly. There’s a lot to like about them, as they have the experience of having Frank Mason and Perry Ellis as well as the upside of having guys like Carlton Bragg and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The same could be said about Michigan State, as Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris can score as well as some exciting youngsters like Deyonta Davis. This one will look like a major win at the end of the year, and the key to the game will be whether or not Tum Tum Nairn can pressure Mason into a tougher time.
Another to watch — Georgetown at No. 3 Maryland (-8) — 9 ET, ESPN2
The Hoyas are coming off of a pretty monumentally surprising loss against Radford. Also, Paul White may not play in the game with a hip injury, and he’s the kind of guy who could really be used to defend Jake Layman, the terrific forward. The battle away from the ball will be terrific, as Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Jessie Govan will have to face off against Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone. But ultimately, it’s the matchup at the point that will have the biggest impact on the game, and we’ll get to that in the next section.
Matchup of the night — Melo Trimble vs. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Trimble is a preseason All-American for a reason, as he’s the driving force behind a national title contender. The guard is terrific at getting to the rim, but needs to do better at distributing the basketball and defending his position. Smith-Rivera is a multi-year starter who can score with the best of them when he gets hot, as well as defend his position reasonably well. Whoever wins this matchup will give his team the best chance to win, even if Georgetown is at a fairly sizeable talent disadvantage here.
Pick of the night — Oklahoma (-4) at Memphis
Yeah, I’m going with the Sooners here. This is a top 10 team in the country, and the Memphis roster hasn’t particularly proven itself as a good one, let alone one that cang hang with a team like the Sooners. I know that it’s in Memphis, but this seems like a 10-point spread based on the rosters, and I’m just not of the opinion a home-court advantage is worth six points here.
- Valparaiso takes on Rhode Island early in the morning, and the Crusaders could use this game as a springboard toward an at-large bid. Or, the Rams could use this to stabilize their season following E.C. Matthews’ injury.
- Wichita State and Tulsa is a game worth watching, as it features an absolutely awesome backcourt matchup of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker vs. Shaq Harrison and James Woodard. Frank Haith’s group has a legit chance to win against the Shockers.
- Tim Miles’ Nebraska takes on Villanova. Shavon Shields might be able to do his part, and Andrew White should be a good second banana. But The Wildcats have depth all across the court and should take this one.
- Alabama takes on Dayton tomorow afternoon during the marathon. Given that Dayton’s still short-handed, I’m not sure how worthwhile this is.
- Xavier takes on Missouri in a game that it should win rather easily given the departures from the Tigers’ roster.
- Both Stephen F. Austin and Northern Iowa need to rebound from rough performances in their openers. They’ll get a chance early in the morning.
- Iona dropped a tough game to Valparaiso on Sunday, and now plays Oregon State in a tough one that could help its seeding in the NCAA Tournament if it can pull off a MAAC conference championship.