Of course, college football and the NFL will be the focus this week. But college basketball will also offer an impressive array of games — including the final run of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on the ESPN family of networks.
Don’t know what to watch? Do not worry. We’ll help you identify the four games you can’t miss this week and even offer some predictions.
Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Coach K isn’t going through that door, folks. And that’s good for Jon Scheyer, who understands he’ll be under scrutiny as the successor to the most accomplished manager of all time. But losses to Kansas in the Champions Classic and Purdue in the Phil Knight Legacy event over Thanksgiving weekend highlighted the growing pains of a Duke team that hasn’t been healthy for most of the season and has only managed 29% of their 3-point attempts – one of the worst grades in America. This week, the Blue Devils face an Ohio State team that scored 80 points in a win over Texas Tech (19th in Adjusted Defense Efficiency at KenPom) last week. Freshman Brice Sensabaugh (15.8 PPG, 46.2% of 3) is one of five buckeyes averaging at least 9.2 PPG.
Forecast: Duke 73, Ohio State 69
Wednesday, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
As this season began, it was easy to see the potential pitfalls in North Carolina’s late November/early December schedule. But the former No. 1 squad will fly to Bloomington, Indiana, in a desperate attempt to land a quality out-of-conference win after losses to Iowa State and Alabama (four overtimes!) after nearly losing a game to Portland at the Phil Knight Invitational would have. Hoosiers star Trayce Jackson-Davis (18.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG) looks like the All-American he was predicted to be in 2022-23, leading a team that has shot 38.3% of 3 to date Has. For a UNC roster that also has pending matchups against Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Michigan before Christmas, the preseason hype surrounding its national title hopes before the New Year could die if it doesn’t find some momentum soon.
Forecast: North Carolina 77, Indiana 74
Brice Sensabaugh knocks down the triple
Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Chris Beard lured former Iowa state standout Tyrese Hunter to Austin after several Power 5 schools pursued him last summer. And the addition changed the program. With Hunter on the ground this season, the undefeated Longhorns have made 67% of their shots inside the arc and kept their opponents to just 60 points per 100 possessions, according to hooplens.com. (By comparison, the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the best defense in the NBA, have held their opponents to 106.5 points per 100 possessions this season.) But Creighton is brimming with talent — Ryan Kalkbrenner (16.1 PPG) is one of five Bluejays with an average of at least 12.0 PPG – and ranked in the top 20 nationally for turnover rate.
Forecast: Texas 75, Creighton 70
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, Peacock TV
Both teams have a lot going for them – and a few things to consider. Five-star recruit Keyonte George (14.8 PPG, 5.0 APG) was key for a Baylor team that ranks second at KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency. But the Bears have also dropped 70 or more points in their first six games, including their 86-79 loss to Virginia in the Continental Tire Challenge. For Gonzaga, Drew Timme (20.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.1 APG) is once again chasing the Wooden Award as the leader of a team with Final Four ambitions. But the Zags’ losses to Purdue and Texas suggest the team needs to improve their guard game significantly to compete with the best teams in America.
Forecast: Baylor 80, Gonzaga 78