This weekend, I’ll be curious about two scores involving Big 12 teams away from home. No. 22 Texas faces North Carolina, and No. 6 Kansas State plays No. 24 Florida. Both games are at neutral sites.UT-UNC (3 p.m. CBS): This game will be played at the Greensboro Coliseum, a rather ugly, plain arena that unfortunately is a de facto home arena for the Atlantic Coast Conference. (Look for the empty green upper level seats, a staple of the ACC tournament.) Anyway, North Carolina lost narrowly to Minnesota, Vandy and Illinois so far, but they looked better in a nice home win against Kentucky.
You heard all about freshman Harrison Barnes before the season, but he is still developing and some impatient folks seem to write him off as some of a bust. This, of course, is ridiculous. Barnes is already an important contributor and should be a fine player.
Texas needs to force tough shots for Tar Heel big man Tyler Zeller. Zeller leads UNC in points and rebounds and takes good shots. Gary Johnson and Tristan Thompson will play a lot and need to rebound the way they can. And they might as well do it Saturday because they’ll need to do it again for their next game against traditionally tough and physical Michigan State.
KSU-Florida (2:30 p.m.): A lot of people seem a little bummed about Kansas State, especially after the uninspiring performance against Duke a few weeks ago. Florida is not elite like Duke, but the Gators aren’t bad and should have a strong fan advantage in Sunshine, Fla. Personally, I was unimpressed watching the end of Florida’s game against Ohio State early in the season, when the Buckeyes pulled away from Florida with such ease in Gainesville.
Florida was a popular choice to win the SEC this year, although overall Tennessee has looked better early. Vernon Macklin (6’10” center) is shooting nearly 65% from the floor, and the Gator scoring responsibility is well-balanced.
Jacob Pullen will have to go to work once again, looking to free himself for good shots. Kansas State took far too many challenged jump shots in the second half against Duke. At 6’8″, it would be nice to see Curtis Kelly rebound a bit better, and the team’s overall free throw shooting (54.3%) is embarrassing. At that rate, slashing doesn’t reward you near as much as it should.
OTHER NOTES: We’ll all be on Selby-watch as No. 3 Kansas hosts USC (11 a.m. ESPN). I expect he’ll get some playing time because coach Bill Self won’t want him to have to wait any longer.
No. 9 Baylor looks to stay undefeated against Gonzaga (5-5), which despite the poor record has lost four games to currently ranked teams and has beaten Marquette. This will be played in Waco. (3:30 p.m., ESPN2)
On ESPNU at 8 p.m., Oklahoma welcomes undefeated Cincinnati (9-0). Texas A&M can go to 10-1 by beating Arkansas in Dallas (1 p.m. ESPN2). Oklahoma State, who hardly anyone talks about yet, can also go to 10-1 with a win over Alabama (5-5) in OKC (5:30 p.m ESPN2).