By Steve Silverman
While a lot of focus will be on the various college football conference championship games going on this weekend, we have some exciting college basketball games to look forward to as well.
Here’s a look at some of the top college basketball matchups for the coming week.
(All times Eastern, records as of December 1)
Friday, December 1
No. 25 Creighton (5-1) at No. 15 Gonzaga (6-1), 10 p.m. ET, Spokane, Washington
The Blue Jays are starting to make a name for themselves this season, as they already have victories over Northwestern and UCLA. Gonzaga has its usual array of stars, and the Bulldogs have beaten Texas and Ohio State, while losing a spectacular double-overtime game to Florida.
This should be a high-scoring and entertaining game, as Creighton is averaging 92.5 points per game, while Gonzaga is scoring 93.1 points per night. Both teams are shooting better than 50 percent from the field and handing out more than 18 assists per game.
Creighton is led by guard Marcus Foster, who is scoring 18.0 points per game and connecting on 48.8 percent from the field. Foster was a unanimous All-Big East first-team performer last year, and he is on track for an even better season this year. Power forward Martin Krampelj is scoring 12.5 points and pulling down 7.2 rebounds per night, and the sophomore is improving quite a bit.
Gonzaga is led by 6-9 senior big man Johnathan Williams, who is averaging 16.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 56.2 percent from the floor. Junior guard Josh Perkins is Gonzaga’s triggerman as he is handing out 4.6 assists per night and averaging 15.6 points per game.
Saturday, December 2
No. 4 Villanova (7-0) at St. Joseph’s (4-3), 5:30 p.m. ET, Philadelphia
The Wildcats are once again an elite team under head coach Jay Wright, and it would be a surprise if they didn’t make a long run in the NCAA tournament in March.
However, a Big Five game between these two teams is never easy, and the matchup between a couple of masters like Wright and St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli is worth watching.
The Wildcats have not gotten into the iron of their schedule, but they should be well-prepared when they do. Guard Jalen Brunson is one of the best players in college basketball, and he is off to a sharp start, averaging 18.4 ppg while shooting an impressive 65.8 percent from the field. Mykal Bridges is right behind, scoring 17.9 points and pulling down 5.9 rebounds per game.
The Hawks are led by senior guard Shavar Newkirk, who is off to an impressive start after recovering from ACL surgery. He is averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game. Newkirk is getting help from senior forward James Demery, who is netting 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Villanova will almost certainly figure out a way to win, but this is a Big Five game that could pose some difficulty before the Wildcats figure out the answers.
Sunday, December 3
Seton Hall (6-1) at No. 17 Louisville (4-1), 4 p.m. ET, Louisville, Kentucky
The Pirates are one of the most underrated teams in the nation, and they are good enough to challenge Villanova and Xavier for Big East superiority this season.
Head coach Kevin Willard has a deep team with four players in double figures, including senior forward Desi Rodriguez who is scoring 18.7 points per game and connecting on 50.5 percent from the floor. The unselfish Pirates also get leadership and scoring from Myles Powell, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington.
The Cardinals are going through a tumultuous season since the firing of Rick Pitino, but acting coach David Padgett has some excellent talent on his hands and his players are a solid, hard-working group.
Louisville is coming off a loss to Purdue, but the Cardinals have good size and strength with Rey Spalding and Anas Mahmoud, who check in at 6-10 and 7-0, respectively. Junior swingman Deng Adel leads the team in scoring with 16.6 points per night, while Spalding is averaging 11.2 points and 9.2 boards per game.
Tuesday, December 6
Nevada (7-0) at No. 22 Texas Tech (6-1), 8 p.m. ET, Lubbock, Texas
This is a challenging interconference game between the Mountain West’s Wolf Pack, who are the favorites to win their conference crown, and the Red Raiders of the Big 12.
Going on the road against a strong Big 12 team will be a major challenge for Nevada, but this squad has the weapons to put up a 40-minute fight. Caleb Martin is the leading scorer with an average of 19.6 points per night, and he gets help from Jordan Caroline who is scoring 17.6 points per game.
Head coach Chris Beard appears to be in firm control of the Texas Tech program, and he is getting solid scoring from guard Keenan Evans, who is averaging 15.0 points and handing out 3.5 assists per game.