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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Saturday Setup: Concerns for Kansas stretch beyond Sullinger

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Each Friday this season, The Dagger will set the table for college basketball's busiest day of the week, giving you a look at the games worthy of your attention while flipping through the channels.

THE MAIN CARD

No. 2 Ohio State (8-0) at No. 13 Kansas (6-2), 3:15 p.m. EST: Ohio State says it will be up to Jared Sullinger (back spasms) as to whether he plays. Kansas coach Bill Self thinks there's no way he doesn't. But the likely showdown between Sullinger and Robinson won't be the deciding factor this one. It's going to come down to how Kansas's struggling guards handle Ohio State's excellent perimeter defense, led by sophomore Aaron Craft. The Jayhawks are averaging 14.9 turnovers per game, with Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson struggling to change their reckless ways. Self, following a sloppy 88-80 win over Long Beach State on Tuesday night, appeared to be at a boiling point with his team's careless nature in valuing possessions. Ohio State is the more talented and deeper of the two teams, but Kansas will be fired up for this one and the atmosphere at Allen Fieldhouse should be incredible. The Pick: Ohio State.

No. 1 Kentucky (8-0) at Indiana (8-0), 5:15 p.m. EST: OK, Hoosiers, here's your chance to prove that you're ready for primetime. Indiana's best win to this point was last Wednesday's 86-75 triumph at North Carolina State. Kentucky not only wins out on talent, but it's far more battle-tested at this point. On Indiana's side, all eyes will be on star freshman big man Cody Zeller, who is averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Surely, he's talked to older brother Tyler, who faced UK last Saturday, about what to expect. Also, the Hoosiers have been pretty good so far this year in terms of taking care of the basketball. If Zeller can avoid getting overpowered up front and his team doesn't give up too many easy points in transition, they might be able to hang. The Pick: Kentucky.

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Washington (4-3) vs. No. 7 Duke (8-1) (at Madison Square Garden), 12:00 p.m. EST: Washington is a bit of a mess right now, and unless the underachieving Huskies pull this one off, they'll enter Pac-12 play at the end of the month without anything that resembles a signature non-conference win. Like Kansas, they need better point guard play, especially in this spot. Abdul Gaddy has been so-so to this point, while highly-touted freshman Tony Wroten is struggling in that role in 24 minutes per game off of the bench. He is committing a whopping 4.3 turnovers per game, and despite getting to the free throw line more than anyone else on the roster, he's shooting a miserable 47.7 percent at the line right now. It feels right now like a situation where if Washington is going to get things turned around, it's going to have to start with Wroten. The talent to beat Duke is there for the Huskies. The Pick: Duke.

UNLV (9-1) at No. 14 Wisconsin (7-2), 2:00 p.m. EST: Despite mysteriously dropping from the Top 25 polls after a loss last Sunday at Wichita State, UNLV has been one of college basketball's more refreshing stories early in the season. This will be a tough spot for the Rebels, though. Wisconsin is not only out for revenge after losing a gritty battle in Las Vegas last November, 68-65, but the Badgers are hoping to restore some of their mystique at the Kohl Center. Their air of invincibility at home was messed with some in a loss last Saturday to Marquette. In UNLV's loss to the Shockers, it was the first time all year in which the Rebels didn't look dominant and overwhelming in pressuring on the perimeter. They'll have to do so to have a chance against Jordan Taylor — The nation's finest point guard. Also keep an eye on UNLV star forward Mike Moser, who sprained his right wrist earlier in the week. He still grabbed 12 boards in a mid-week win over Cal State San Marcos, but he said after the game that the injury kept him from shooting as much as normal. The Pick: Wisconsin.

THE UNDERCARD

Cincinnati (5-2) at No. 8 Xavier (7-0), 12:30 p.m. EST: Purdue learned the hard way last Saturday that to defeat this Xavier team on its home floor, it takes a consistent 40-minute effort. Can Cincinnati provide that? There's no question that the Bearcats need this game more. In a brutally weak non-conference slate, they've already suffered two bad home losses to Presbyterian and Marshall. Without this one, barring a ridiculous run in Big East play, their résumé is going to look really thin come March if they're on the bubble. The Pick: Xavier.

UW-Milwaukee (8-1) at Northern Iowa (8-1), 2:00 p.m. EST: Two of the best mid-major teams to this point in the season. Whose 8-1 record is more legit? This is tough to call. UNI waxed Iowa at home by 20 earlier in the week, while UW-Milwaukee traveled a couple of hours south and wiped the floor with DePaul. Great under-the-radar game. The Pick: Northern Iowa.

Michigan State (7-2) at No. 23 Gonzaga (5-1), 9:00 p.m. EST: Since suffering back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Duke to start the season, Michigan State has slowly built itself back up, including a couple of nice wins over UW-Milwaukee and Florida State. They'd earn their way back onto the radar with an upset here. The battle between MSU's Draymond Green and Gonzaga's Elias Harris should be wildly entertaining to watch. The Pick: Gonzaga.

Villanova (5-3) at Temple (5-2), 5:00 p.m. EST: Should be a good battle between two Philly schools both needing a big-time win. Nova showed some positive signs of life in a loss to Missouri in New York City on Tuesday, while Temple. The key for the Wildcats will be getting Maalik Wayns back on track. After averaging 22 points per game in the team's first five contests, he's struggled to get clean looks in the last three and in those games, with Nova going 1-2, he averaged just 11.7. The Pick: Villanova.

Oklahoma State (6-2) vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (8-1) (at Madison Square Garden), 2:30 p.m. EST: Oklahoma State has been far from a great road team in recent years, but made a major statement in a 72-67 comeback win at Missouri State on Wednesday night. The Cowboys will need up-and-down freshman sensation LeBryan Nash to come up big to win this one. He had 19 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday in arguably his best game yet at OSU. The Pick: Pitt.

Long Beach State (4-4) at No. 4 North Carolina (7-2), 7:00 p.m. EST: You've got to give Dan Monson credit for his aggressive scheduling. The 49ers already won at Pitt, then were competitive and pesky all the way up until the end in losses at Louisville and Kansas. And they still have a road game awaiting them at Xavier in two weeks. How much can they push the Tar Heels here? Point guard Casper Ware is fun to watch, and this one is interesting on paper. The Pick: North Carolina.

Last Week's Picks: 9-2.

Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene

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