Still sitting on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner? Looking for a break after NFL games on Thursday as you ramp up for college football’s rivalry games on Saturday? Well, college basketball tournaments are there for you on Friday night. Once again this weekend, the best matchups come on Friday night – and you won’t see that often once football ends.
Three of our games to watch will be played Friday night (all times ET):
No. 5 Duke (4-0) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (3-1) (Friday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
VCU coach Shaka Smart and his Rams are at it again, creating “havoc” and upsetting ranked teams. The latest example comes from the Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas. It wasn’t exactly Paradise for No. 19 Memphis Thursday night as VCU’s defense forced 22 turnovers ad the Rams hit 13 of 22 from three-point range. That’s a winning formula for most teams and elevated VCU into Friday’s semifinals against Duke. The Blue Devils defeated Minnesota 89-71 Thursday. Mason Plumlee continued to put up great numbers with 20 points and matching a career high with 17 rebounds. Seth Curry scored 25 for Duke. "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era,” Smart said of Duke. "But we won't fold up to the test."
No. 13 Missouri (4-0) vs. No. 2 Louisville (4-0) (Friday, 9:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The guess here is that Louisville coach Rick Pitino will have his team ready for this test. Why? Well, the Cardinals got quite a scare Thursday night from Northern Iowa in The Opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Louisville led by 18 points with just under 12 minutes to play and had to hang on for a 51-46 victory. Russ Smith, who scored 16 points, hit the deciding three with 5.1 seconds left. But Louisville only played well for about eight minutes at the start of the second half. Missouri got 19 points and 10 rebounds from Laurence Bowers to beat Stanford 78-70 Thursday. Bowers missed all last season with a torn knee ligament but after a long rehab, he is off to a good start. The real attraction in this game should be the point guard matchup between Missouri’s Phil Pressey and Louisville’s Peyton Siva. Let’s just say it will be worth staying up late to watch those two guys.
No. 14 Creighton (4-0) vs. Wisconsin (3-1) (Friday, 10 p.m., ESPN2)
This is a huge credibility game for Creighton. All-American Doug McDermott confesses the Bluejays have had this game circled on their calendar for a while. But Creighton isn't likely to be intimidated by a team from the Big Ten. Last year McDermott averaged 25.3 points and 8.7 rebounds as Creighton finished 3-0 against Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern. As Creighton tries to convince the nation it belongs in the Top 10, Wisconsin could climb back into the Top 25 with a win. The Badgers lost to Florida on Nov. 14 and fell from the rankings. In an 88-43 win over Presbyterian on Tuesday, Wisconsin made 15 three-pointers. One last cool fact: Wisconsin and Creighton last met in 1949.
Stony Brook (3-1) at No. 21 Connecticut (4-1) (Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPN3)
The UConn reunion tour continues. Last week in St. Thomas, first-year UConn coach Kevin Ollie, a former Huskies point guard, met former UConn assistant Tom Moore, who now coaches Quinnipiac and has Ollie’s former teammate, Scott Burrell, on his staff. UConn won 89-83 in double overtime. Now Stony Brook, led by former UConn captain Steve Pikiell, comes to Gampel Pavilion. The Jim Calhoun tree has lots of branches. Ollie’s team will be coming off its first loss of the season, a 66-60 setback to New Mexico in the championship game of the Paradise Jam. It’s the same for the Seawolves, who suffered a rare home loss to Sacred Heart 64-62 on Nov. 18. Pikiell’s America East team is capable of reaching the NCAA tournament but this will be a tough weekend. Stony Brook hosts Canisius (3-0) Saturday at noon, then travels to Storrs. The Seawolves originally were on UConn’s schedule Nov. 13 but were invited to play in the ESPN 24-hour marathon against Rider on that date. UConn cooperated and changed the date. But now Pikiell’s team faces its own two-day marathon of hoops.
No. 25 San Diego State (3-1) at Southern California (3-2) (Sunday, 10 p.m., FOX Sports Net National)
Here’s a little treat from the west coast to close out your weekend. The Aztecs have won three straight since losing their opener to Syracuse on a sunny, windy day of outside ball on an aircraft carrier. San Diego State’s defense has been solid, giving up only 44 and 43 points the last two times out. Going on the road to USC will be a good test for Steve Fisher’s team. Then, on Dec. 1, the Aztecs play at UCLA. The Trojans lost two of three at the Maui Invitational, falling 94-64 to eventual champion Illinois in the opener, knocking off Texas in overtime and then losing to Marquette 72-64 to take sixth place. Junior guard J.T. Terrell leads the Trojans in scoring with a 13.6 average and the Trojans average just 67.2 points.