Skip to content

Weekend Preview: Gonzaga and Illinois highlight Saturday’s action

Dec 7, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

Western Carolina Illinois Basketball

Game of the Weekend: Sat. 10:00 pm: No. 13 Illinois at No. 10 Gonzaga (ESPN2)

The consensus heading into this season was that this could end up being the best Gonzaga team that we’ve seen in a few years, and through the first month of the season, the Zags have done nothing but confirm that line of thinking. After going into Pullman and beating Washington State in a thriller on Wednesday night, the Zags are sitting at 9-0 with a title in the Old Spice Classic under their belt.

But Illinois, the Maui champ, is 9-0 as well. Their situation is quite a bit different, however. The Illini didn’t have much in the way of expectation in the preseason, but seeing them have success isn’t that much of a surprise in hindsight. They have quite a bit of talent on the roster, and their poor record last season was as much a result of them quitting as it was an issue of whether they were good enough. With John Groce at the helm, might Illinois be able to turn their fortunes around?

Through nine games, that answer is yes. But that answer has also been given with close wins over mediocre opponents and a dominating run through the Maui that consisted of wins over USC, Chaminade and Butler. The Illini haven’t been tested yet, and they’ll get that in the form of Gonzaga.

Mark Few’s club is balanced, talented and deep. Most importantly, for this game, they have a ton of size up front. Illinois is loaded with good shooters, but their biggest player — Tyler Griffey — averages the fewest rebounds of any starter. Led by Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, the Illini are going to be able to win some games they shouldn’t win on nights they get hot, but we’ll find out on Saturday night two things: a) how they play on the road, and b) if they can handle a team with size in the paint.

Five more games that you have to watch:

  • Sat. 12:00 pm: Arkansas at No. 3 Michigan (CBS): Michigan and Arkansas have contrasting styles — the Hogs like to get up and down the floor at a breakneck pace while Michigan is known for their more conservative, half court tempo — which makes this an intriguing matchup for hoop heads as it is. Throw in the fact that Michigan looks like they’re in the conversation with Duke and Indiana for the best team in the country and that Arkansas looks like they could end up being a top three team in the SEC, and the matchup gets even juicier. Trey Burke and BJ Young could end up being first-team all-americans together.
  • Sat. 2:00 pm: Colorado at No. 9 Kansas (ESPN2): This is easily the second best game of the weekend. After looking complacent in their first week as a ranked team, Colorado bounced back with a dominating win over rival Colorado State. The Rams are good, but they are no where near the same kind of team as Kansas. The Buffaloes might be good enough to win the Pac-12, which will mean that this old Big 12 rivalry (which was never really a rivalry since Colorado was never really good) should be quite entertaining. This game also features the best individual matchup of the weekend: Spencer Dinwiddie and Ben McLemore.
  • Sat. 6:00 pm: Wisconsin at Marquette (ESPN2): Todd Mayo’s academic issues and Josh Gasser’s ACL have taken some of the luster off of what is one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. Both of these teams should still make the tournament, and while there will be quite a bit of talent on the floor, both Bo Ryan and Buzz Williams are still trying to figure out how all of their pieces fit together. Expect a battle.
  • Sat. 9:00 pm: Valparaiso at No. 18 New Mexico: Valpo reminds me a bit of Davidson. They have a couple of talented, versatile big men in Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wjik and a slew of experience up and down their roster. Davidson gave the Lobos all kinds of trouble at the Pit earlier this season. I think Valpo will keep things interesting as well.
  • Sat. 10:30 pm: No. 14 Minnesota at USC (Pac-12): The Trojans have talent on their roster. I don’t think anyone will deny that fact. But a month into the season, they look to be much closer to the team that won just six games last season than to a team capable of making a run at an NCAA tournament bid. Minnesota, on the other hand, has been really good for the first month, and they’ve done it without Trevor Mbakwe at full strength.

And the mid-majors?:

  • Sat. 2:00 pm: Drexel at Princeton
  • Sat. 2:00 pm: Indiana State at Morehead State
  • Sat. 3:05 pm: Murray State at Evansville (ESPN3)
  • Sat. 6:00 pm: Northern Iowa at George Mason (NBCSports)
  • Sun. 4:00 pm: Kent State at Xavier

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Tom Izzo performs with KISS cover band on stage at Michigan State’s Midnight Madness (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    tom izzo

    Tom Izzo does it again. Add it to the long line of amazing midnight madness entrances.

  2. Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ by the Beastie Boys (PHOTO/VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Instagram/XU Athletics Instagram/XU Athletics

    Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ at Musketeer Madness on Friday night.

  3. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker injured at practice on Friday

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Wisconsin forward is likely to miss a week or two

  4. Providence freshman forward, a top 100 recruit, is cleared to play this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Ed Cooley Ed Cooley

    Ed Cooley adds a 6-foot-8 forward to the Friars’ front court.

  5. Larry Brown talks about Ben Emelogu’s wavier to play this season (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Virginia Tech Hokie will be a big boost to SMU’s perimeter.

  6. Manhattan’s returnees look to build on the achievements of last season’s senior class

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards will be key players for Manhattan. (AP Photo) AP

    Manhattan and head coach Steve Masiello had some issues to address this spring, but thanks in part to their departed senior class the Jaspers are well-positioned to once again contend in the MAAC.

  7. Five-star 2015 power forward down to five schools

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    One of the nation’s highly-touted bigs is closer to making a decision after eliminating two programs from his list.

  8. LSU’s Johnny Jones receives raise, contract extension

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT

    Johnny Jones AP

    Jones became the second coach to lead LSU to postseason appearances in his first two years this past spring.

  9. 2014-15 Season Preview: Rivals Iona, Manhattan have company in race to the top of the MAAC

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Manhattan's Steve Masiello (AP Photo) Manhattan's Steve Masiello (AP Photo)

    Rivals Iona and Manhattan are once again among the contenders, but they’ll have plenty of company in the race for the MAAC crown.

  10. UMass rewards Derek Kellogg with contract extension through 2018-19 season

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Kellogg’s led his alma mater to 21 wins or more in each of the last three seasons.

  11. Former Big East foes announce home-and-home series

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    John Thompson III AP

    Georgetown holds a 35-29 lead in their all-time series with UConn.

  12. Top 25 Countdown: No. 11 Villanova Wildcats

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova went 29-5 last season and return essentially the same lineup. Why aren’t more people talking about them?

  13. Four-star shooting guard verbally commits to Texas

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Rick Barnes AP

    Texas now has two four-star commitments, with Kerwin Roach joining Eric Davis on Friday.

  14. Three-star guard becomes Baylor’s fifth 2015 commitment

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Scott Drew AP

    Of Baylor’s five verbal commitments in the Class of 2015 four are guards, including their latest commit.

  15. Syracuse, NCAA Committee on Infractions meeting set for October 30-31

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Syracuse’s men’s basketball and football programs are under investigation, with the stakes being higher for Jim Boeheim’s program.

  16. Georgetown’s senior center looking to rebound from ‘embarrassing’ 2013-14 season

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith

    Joshua Smith averaged 11.5 points per game before being ruled academically ineligible last season.

  17. Cameron Payne didn’t expect to fill Isaiah Canaan’s void at Murray State, but he did

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Cameron Payne (AP Photo) Cameron Payne (AP Photo)

    Cam Payne became the star of Murray State as a freshman, but he wouldn’t have gotten there if he had a back up. Why?

  18. VCU announces addition of 17-year old Morgan Vega to basketball program (VIDEO)

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT

    Shaka Smart Shaka Smart

    The preseason favorites to win the Atlantic 10 added a new teammate Thursday.

  19. Junior guard decides to leave Charlotte program

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester

    Shawn Lester averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the sixth man role last season.