Saturday is going to be a great day. Most fans of college sports will be focusing on the conference championships in football. I won’t, because it’s a day for some major nonconference, intersectional basketball games, and I’ll be skipping from channel to channel.
The best matchup is undefeated UCLA traveling to Lexington to play undefeated Kentucky. These are the two most storied programs in college basketball history (only Kansas fans could possibly argue with that).
UCLA has underachieved in recent seasons and, not surprisingly, coach Steve Alford has taken the heat along with his son, guard Bryce Alford.
Bryce can be spectacular, but he’s erratic. This season, he has been given a gift in freshman point Lonzo Ball. Ball takes the ball handling and playmaking responsibilities away from Alford, leaving him to hunt for good shots.
Ball is leading the country is assists and has a rare ability to find the open man. He’s special and already has made UCLA a better team.
Beating Kentucky at Rupp Arena is something entirely different, though. Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish of CBSsports.com mentioned on their podcast this week that John Calipari has lost only four games at Rupp Arena. No. 5 is probably not coming Saturday.
The amount of talent on the Kentucky squad is amazing, and it looks as if Coach Cal is actually getting a team to play together and play to win this time. If that continues, the Wildcats will be a serious national champion contender.
They haven’t played a truly difficult opponent this season; they did beat Michigan State, but Sparty has been slowed by injuries.
The Wildcats are beating teams the way they should, averaging 95.6 points and holding opponents to 65.0. Guard Malik Monk has been the standout freshman, leading the team at 19.3 ppg. Another freshman guard, De’Aaron Fox, is averaging 15.3 ppg, 7.5 apg, and 5.7 rpg.
. . .
There are other great games Saturday, and here are all the ones I’d like to see:
The major games
West Virginia at Virginia: The full-court-press Mountaineers vs. the walk-it-up offense, bite-your-ear-off defense of Virginia. On paper, Virginia doesn’t wow anyone, but the Cavaliers have held opponents to 29 percent shooting.
Oklahoma at Wisconsin: Wisconsin will win this on its home court, and the Badgers looked great beating Syracuse earlier in the week, but never forgot how good a coach Lon Kruger is for Oklahoma.
Xavier at Baylor: Baylor, with victories over Oregon, VCU, Michigan State, and Louisville, is one of the most surprising teams in the country. X won the Puerto Rico Shootout (played in Orlando) and is undefeated.
Gonzaga at Arizona: The Wildcats have home court but have been diminished by injuries. The Zags have a lot of new players but have quickly molded into an outstanding unit that should win this game.
Other interesting games
Arkansas State at TCU: The Horned Frogs are undefeated under first-year coach Jamie Dixon, but Arkansas State is 6-1 and has beaten Georgetown.
Central Florida at UMass: UCF has Tacko Fall, all 7 feet 6 inches, 295 pounds of him, and a 5-1 record, with the only loss to Villanova. UMass, with a really young roster, is off to a good start at 5-1. This would be a really nice victory.
San Diego State at Loyola of Chicago: I think it’s pretty rare for the Aztecs to venture to other parts of the country. Loyola is decent and fully capable of pulling off this upset.
Rhode Island at Providence: The Rams NEED to win this game, for many reasons: state pride, alumni pride, personal pride, NCAA tournament profile. I think they will.
Wichita State at Colorado State: Wichita is really good again despite graduation losses; this is a highly unusual road trip against a tough opponent anywhere but also one that plays very well at home. This will be a really good notch in the belt for the Shockers.
Fairfield at Siena: I just want to see Globe All-Scholastic Tyler Nelson light it up again for Fairfield. He had 38 the other night against Rider.
BYU at Southern Cal: I’m still mad at the Lone Peak Trio for losing to Utah Valley. A victory over undefeated USC might make up for it a little.
UNLV at Arizona State: Vegas was supposed to be awful this season, but the Rebels are 5-2, so maybe things aren’t so bad. They could win here, especially if the Sun Devils haven’t recovered from the complete obliteration (115-69) they suffered at the hands of Kentucky.Joe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan