Saturday Setup: Louisville, Memphis welcome newcomers

Ryan Greene
December 17, 2011

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.


Memphis (5-3) at No. 4 Louisville (9-0), 4:00 p.m. EST: Louisville, despite having to deal with a wave of injuries early on, has managed to maintain an unblemished record, which is quite impressive despite eight of those nine games being played at home. They'll be at the swanky KFC Yum! Center again on Saturday when Memphis comes to town, and the Cardinals are continuing to get some bodies back as non-conference play winds down. After just getting forward Rakeem Buckles back from last year's season-ending knee injury, highly-touted freshman guard Kevin Ware will make his season debut against the Tigers. On the other side, Memphis has been up-and-down so far, and gets a boost of its own coming in, with Seton Hall transfer Ferrakhon Hall set to bolster its front court. The Pick: Louisville.

No. 22 Texas A&M (8-1) at No. 13 Florida (7-2), 2:30 p.m. EST: It's test time for the Aggies, who are playing their first true road game of the season here. In their lone venture away from home, they split a pair of games against Mississippi State (loss) and St. John's (win) at Madison Square Garden in mid-November. Since then, they've run through five overwhelmed opponents, scoring only an average of only 59.6 points per game. On the other hand, they've only allowed 44 a game in that stretch. How does that style hold up against an athletic and deep Florida team with a shot-happy backcourt? One positive in their corner is having star junior forward Khris Middleton back. After suffering a knee injury just 10 minutes into the season-opener, he came back last Saturday and scored 24 points in 28 minutes against Louisiana-Monroe. The Pick: Florida.

No. 6 Baylor (8-0) at BYU (8-2), 2:00 p.m. EST: Baylor went on the road for the first time two weeks ago and had no problems with Northwestern, but this will be significantly tougher. Forget having to overcome playing in the altitude in Provo, but BYU is in dire need of a signature win if it wants to set itself apart in March coming out of the West Coast Conference. Both teams will be welcoming in freshly eligible point guards in this one, too. For BYU, UCLA transfer Matt Carlino gives them a scoring threat at the position that they have not had so far this season Meanwhile, Cal transfer Gary Franklin likely won't make Baylor less turnover-prone, but he's another well-rounded, capable scorer at Scott Drew's disposal. The Pick: BYU.

No. 1 Syracuse (10-0) at North Carolina State (6-3), 6:30 p.m. EST: Syracuse is the better team here, and no one's going to question that. But this is the Orange's first game since earning the nation's No. 1 ranking, and it's also a rare non-conference game outside of the northeast for Jim Boeheim's program. N.C. State has shown vast improvements under Mark Gottfried, and has also been strong on its home floor. This is a showcase game, which means you can expect the best the Wolfpack has to offer. The Pick: Syracuse.

UNLV (10-2) at No. 19 Illinois (10-0), 5:00 p.m. EST: Despite a meeting last month with then-No. 1 North Carolina, no game will mean more this non-conference season to UNLV than Saturday's showdown with the Illini at the United Center in Chicago. Illinois embarrassed UNLV last year in Tulsa in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but both teams enter the rematch in far better shape than they were in back in March. This should be an uptempo, entertaining affair. The Pick: UNLV.


Arizona (7-3) at Gonzaga (6-2), 4:00 p.m. EST: Arizona has tested itself plenty in non-conference play, and this is its last major hurdle before Pac-12 play begins. Despite the game being played in Seattle, expect it to have the feel of a true road atmosphere. They looked strong in a 63-47 victory over Clemson last Saturday, but the key storyline here for the Wildcats involves highly-touted freshman guard Josiah Turner, who returned from a one-game suspension against the Tigers, but had only one assist and five turnovers in 17 minutes of play. If he can figure things out, Arizona should get on a roll and be back on the radar in no time. The Pick: Gonzaga.

Purdue (9-2) vs. Butler (4-6), 2:00 p.m. EST: This game is huge for Butler, whose aggressive non-conference scheduling has backfired some on it while still trying to find a flow without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack to lean on. The Bulldogs enter Saturday's game at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis having lost four of their last five, most recently at Ball State last Saturday. The Pick: Purdue.

No. 18 Indiana (9-0) vs. Notre Dame (7-4), 4:30 p.m. EST: No, Notre Dame shouldn't scare the Hoosiers too much right now, but what makes this game interesting is that this is Indiana's first outing since its dramatic buzzer-beater to beat then-No. 1 Kentucky last Saturday. Will they suffer an emotional letdown here? It's a group that's not used to dealing with expectations like this. Plus, this is the nightcap of a great day of hoops at Conseco. The Pick: Indiana.

No. 23 Alabama (8-2) at Kansas State (6-1), 10:00 p.m. EST: Even though this game is being played two hours away from the K-State campus in Kansas City, Alabama will be walking into a tough gym. Alabama gutted out a tough win over Detroit on Sunday after suffering back-to-back losses, and it will meet a Kansas State team that needed overtime to beat North Florida a couple of hours later. Expect incredibly physical play in this one, while a nice storyline will be Alabama sophomore point guard Trevor Releford returning home to play just a couple of miles away from where he starred in high school. The Pick: Alabama.

Indiana State (7-2) at No. 25 Vanderbilt (6-3), 5:30 p.m. EST: Sneaky-good game here, as Indiana State is one of nation's true up-and-coming mid-majors. The Sycamores have a shot at a true signature win against a Vanderbilt squad that can't really afford any more slip-ups before SEC play starts. The Pick: Vanderbilt.

New Mexico (7-2) at Oklahoma State (6-3), 10:30 pm. EST: It hasn't been a great start to the season for the Lobos, who were a near-unanimous preseason choice to win the Mountain West. They've suffered two unexpected losses, and nearly took a third last Saturday when a brutal offensive drought almost cost them a game at USC. Their non-conference schedule isn't very strong, so winning this one in order to avoid Steve Alford potentially having to campaign for an at-large bid down the road is crucial. The Pick: Oklahoma State.

Villanova (6-4) at St. Joseph's (7-3), 8:00 p.m. EST: Nothing like rounding it out with a good ol' Philly brawl. It's the second in a week for Villanova, who is struggling to find its footing and lost last weekend at Temple. St. Joseph's, on the other hand, has turned into one of this season's nice early surprises. The Pick: St. Joseph's.

Last Week's Picks: 6-4.

Season Picks: 15-6.

Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene