|KU beat Ohio State twice last season, including in the Final Four, but the Buckeyes will have a shot at revenge Saturday. (bleacherreport.com)|
The NCAA is giving fans a few early Christmas presents with a couple of great match-ups Saturday before teams break for the holiday. During a time when many Top 25 teams are busy beating up on Northwest Mississippi Technical College, Saturday features a couple of big-time battles. Here's a look at some the best games of the weekend:
No. 9 Kansas vs. No. 7 Ohio State - 4 p.m. EST CBS
The Jayhawks not only beat the Buckeyes in Allen Fieldhouse this time last year, but KU also won the matchup last year that meant more, defeating Ohio State in the Final Four. Now the two teams will face off in Columbus, where OSU will look for revenge. Kansas has played as well as any team in the country in December, beating three good teams (Colorado, Belmont and Richmond) by a combined 93 points. Ohio State had been nearly as dominant, up until having to scrap out a 10-point win over Winthrop on Tuesday. Jeff Withey has proven to be a defensive force in the paint, and freshman Ben McLemore is a human highlight reel, but Ohio State has a defensive specialist of their own in Aaron Craft and a pure scorer in DeShaun Thomas. This is Kansas' first true road test, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue the hot play away from Lawrence. Ohio State will be searching for revenge, so expect this to be a close game from beginning to end with lots of lead changes.
No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 10 Illinois - 6 p.m. EST ESPN2
This is a long-standing rivalry game played in St. Louis and this year these two teams are evenly matched and very talented. Illinois comes in undefeated after surviving the toughest test so far in a road game at Gonzaga. Missouri's only loss came to Louisville, and although the Tigers also have wins over VCU and Stanford, the majority of Mizzou's schedule has been weak. It's tough to see how Missouri will play after facing four weaker opponents. Missouri's transfers look to be meshing nicely, under the floor leadership of Phil Pressey, and have the ability to score a bunch of points. Illinois lives and dies by the three, which will certainly be the case again Saturday. Brandon Paul is averaging nearly 19 points per game and is making an early case for Big Ten Player of the Year.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. Temple - Noon Est ESPN2
Syracuse, 10-0, got Jim Boeheim his 900th win Monday against Detroit and should be more relaxed now that the milestone has passed. The Orange are facing a Temple squad that has been praised this season, but just lost to Canisius on Wednesday to move to 8-2. It's human nature for the Orange to relax a bit after seeing the result of Temple's last game, but taking the Owls lightly is not a wise decision. Syracuse's advantage lies in the fact Temple is only shooting 30 percent from 3-point range, and that 2-3 Orange zone will make the Owls beat them with the outside shot. This game will be played on a neutral floor in New York as part of the Gotham Classic, so Temple faces a Syracuse team that's only played one other road game. Syracuse should come away with the win, but don't be surprised if Temple puts up a fight.
Other games to keep an eye on: No. 8 Florida vs. Kansas State in Kansas City, Texas vs. No. 20 Michigan State, Canisius vs. No. 21 UNLV