Starting Five: Purdue-Indiana, Kansas-Iowa State headline the men's college basketball weekend
A huge in-state rivalry game headlines the men’s college basketball lineup this weekend. And even though one team is coming off a loss, there will be major implications as … the nation’s No. 1 team goes on the road in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere at Assembly Hall.
Ha, you thought we were talking about Duke-North Carolina, didn’t you? Yes, that one is happening as well, and it certainly isn’t without import as both name-brand programs find themselves fighting to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish and coveted double bye in the upcoming ACC tournament.
But there are five Top 25 matchups taking place Saturday, and the prime-time showdown with the Tar Heels at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) is not one of them.
Oh, we’ll watch it, of course, as one never knows what’s going to happen when these archrivals meet. We further acknowledge that while neither UNC nor the Blue Devils look like Final Four contenders right now, we were saying pretty much the same thing a year ago at this time.
For now though, that game is relegated to first off the bench.
Here is the Starting Five for this weekend.
No. 1 Purdue at No. 22 Indiana
TIME/TV: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Boilermakers have raced out to a comfortable lead in the Big Ten. And though the Hoosiers saw their five-game winning streak come to an end Tuesday at Maryland, they and their home crowd will be quite geared up to give Purdue a battle. Indiana’s problem, however, is finding a consistent source of offense when opposing defenses are able to shut down Trayce Jackson-Davis. Purdue’s Zach Edey might be able to do that without help, and he’s been getting a lot more support on the offensive end of late as well.
No. 8 Kansas at No. 13 Iowa State
TIME/TV: Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
Remember that three-game skid the Jayhawks were on? Yeah, neither do they. Kansas appears to have righted the ship with a road win at Kentucky and a convincing home triumph against Kansas State that avenged one of those losses. The Cyclones have dropped two in a row but have yet to lose this season at Hilton Coliseum. In addition to the usual contributions from high-scoring wingman Jalen Wilson, the Jayhawks have been getting solid production on the inside from KJ Adams. KU still doesn’t have much of a bench, however, so expect Cyclones guard Jaren Holmes to make frequent drives to the hoop in an effort to draw fouls.
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No. 23 Auburn at No. 2 Tennessee
TIME/TV: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Volunteers justified their assent in the polls with an impressive performance against Texas last week, then promptly reminded everyone why the team still has its share of skeptics in a miserable shooting performance in a Wednesday loss at Florida. Auburn, meanwhile, has been lurking and now has a chance to grab second place in the SEC standings. The Tigers aren’t the most efficient offensive team either, which might not bode well against Tennessee’s big perimeter defenders. But the Vols’ half-court sets run much more smoothly when Olivier Nkamhoua gets opportunities in the paint.
No. 14 Gonzaga at No. 18 Saint Mary’s
TIME/TV: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s a full day of hoops, but you’ll want to stay awake for this one if you can. While the Zags have ruled the roost in the West Coast Conference for a number of years, the Gaels have often proven to be worthy foils. Gonzaga is hard to stop when Julian Strawther’s shots are falling, but Saint Mary’s plays a disruptive style of defense that has given the Zags trouble in the past. Freshman guard Aidan Mahaney has elevated the Gaels’ offensive effectiveness since cracking the starting lineup.
No. 21 Miami at No. 19 Clemson
TIME/TV: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ACCN
While Duke-UNC will always get top billing, this ACC clash is just as important. The Tigers enter the weekend clinging to a share of first place in the league but are coming off a bad loss at Boston College. The Hurricanes have struggled mightily away from home and need a strong performance here to reverse that trend. Clemson’s reliance on the three-point arc can result in lengthy scoring droughts, though that has been less of an issue in their Littlejohn Coliseum home. Miami’s smallish lineup must box out and give Norchad Omier some help on the boards.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Indiana-Purdue, Kansas-Iowa State top men's college basketball weekend