As college basketball kicks off, every week will try to give you our top games in college basketball for that respective week, as in this one it is week two games of the week in college basketball. Do you feel that your team did not make the list, tell us why by commenting below.
1. Marquette Golden Eagles @ Illinois Fighting Illini
Two ranked teams will go at it in Champaign, Illinois, as Shaka Smart, Tyler Kolek, and the fourth-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles go on the road against Terrance Shannon Jr. and the 23-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini. This will be both team’s first real test, as both teams faced low mid-majors to start the season undefeated. According to KenPom, a tool the NCAA committee uses to decide on tournament teams, Marquette is ranked number 11 and Illinois is ranked number 25. Marquette also has the sixth-best offense in the nation, 31st-best defense in the nation, and ranks 155th in pace of play (tempo).
Illinois, on the other hand, is ranked 38th in the nation offensively, 16th defensively, and 272nd in pace of play. Tyler Kolek is the guy to watch in this game, the Big East player of the year a season ago. If Illinois can get Marquette and Kolek to play at their pace, Illinois will have a legitimate shot at winning this game. On the other hand, though, if Illinoi’s defense starts to fall apart and Marquette starts pushing the pace, it will get out of hand. Home-court advantage may be a huge advantage for Illinois in this one.
2. Michigan State Spartans @ Duke Blue Devils (Champions Classic)
The looks to be uninspired and sputtering 18th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will have to get their heads on straight Tuesday night, as they take on the 9th-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the Champions Classic at the United Center. Michigan State is coming off a win against Southern Indiana but lost their opener to James Madison, who is now ranked 24th in the new associated press poll.
Duke’s last time out lost to the Arizona Wildcats at Cameron Indoor, so they will try to turn the page as well. A surprising statistic here is that Michigan State is shooting 6.5% from three. According to KenPom, Duke ranks 12th, with a 14th-ranked offense, and 21st-ranked defense, and ranks 231 in tempo. Michigan State ranks 30th at KenPom, with a 51st-ranked offense, and 12th-ranked defense, and ranks 286 in tempo. So, both have a stiff defense as you can see, but can Michigan State’s offense keep up with Duke’s or will Michigan State have to rely on their defense through the majority of this game?
Should Michigan State-Duke have the top spot of top games in college basketball in week two? Maybe, but the fact that Kentucky looks to be sputtering has the game two instead of one in week two.
3. Kansas Jayhawks @ Kentucky Wildcats (Champions Classic)
Another game in the Champions Classic, this time with the number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks playing the 16-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at the United Center Tuesday night. This will be both team’s first real test of the season, as both are undefeated after playing two mid-majors. One player to watch is Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr, as both are nearly averaging 20 points a game on good efficiency. As for Kentucky, Antonio Reeves will have to be the lead guy followed by freshman guard, Rob Dillingham. Kentucky has good depth this season, as does Kansas, so it will be interesting to see how this game plays out.
According to KenPom, Kansas ranks third, with the eighth-best offense and fourth-best defense, while having a tempo that ranks 55th in the nation. Kentucky, on the flip side, ranks number 15 at KenPom, with the 13th-best offense and 27th-best defense, while having a tempo that ranks 288th in the nation. Kentucky will have to slow down the game to be able to control Kansas’s energetic and running offense.
They may not get many looks down low, with having a weak big man to contain Dickinson. Kansas may run away with this one early.
4. Xavier Musketeers @ Purdue Boilermakers
Both teams come into this game coming off two wins against mid-majors, so this will be the first real test for both teams. Xavier is unranked but thought to be a top 40 team in that nation, while Purdue is ranked third in the country as they return almost everyone, including Zach Edey. Xavier is ranked number 38 at KenPom, as they sit 37th in offense efficiency, 43rd in defense efficiency, and number 31 in the nation in tempo.
Purdue is the number one team at KenPom, having the best offense in the nation, eighth-best defense in the nation, and having a tempo ranked 230 in the nation. So, Xavier likes to run and push the pace, while Purdue is one of the slowest teams in Division One. If Xavier can get Purdue out of their comfort zone in Mackey Monday Night, this will be closer than may expect it to be, as the books have Xavier as a 17.5-point underdog.
The player to watch for Xavier in this one is Quincy Olivari, as he is one of Xavier’s best shooters and Purdue did struggle to defend the three-ball last season. Desmond Claude is Xavier’s best player, but Quincy may match him point for point. This will be a battle Monday Night at Mackey.
5. Michigan Wolverines @ St Johns Red Storm
Michigan, who was supposed to be one of the worst teams in power five, has lifted some heads to start the season, crushing their two opponents, one of which went to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, UNC Asheville. They go against a Rick Pitino-led St John’s team, who filled his team through the transfer portal, bringing some of his former players who played for him at Iona, with him to St. Johns. Michigan’s player to watch is big man and Tennessee transfer Oliver Nkamhoua, who is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds to start the season.
For St Johns, the players to watch are the duo of Daniss Jenkins and Joel Soriano, who have combined for nearly 40 points together. Michigan has a top 50 offense and defense, 27th offense, and 44th defense while having a tempo ranked 133rd in the nation, and they are also ranked 34th in the nation as a team, according to KenPom. For St John’s they rank 60th at KenPom, boasting a 43rd offense, and 80th-ranked defense, while their tempo is ranked 140 in the nation.
St John’s struggled defensively in their opener against Stony Brook, so Michigan might be able to rout the Red Storm early. This matchup was ranked first on Andy Katz’s games of the week.
Honorable Mention: Furman Paladins @ Liberty Flames
Two top mid-majors go at it on Thursday Night, as Furman travels to South Carolina to play the Liberty Flames. Furman is coming off their best season yet and it did not stop, as they toppled a respectable mid-major in the Belmont Bruins. Liberty did not make the NCAA Tournament last season, but they did beat a solid Charlotte team in their second game of the year.
Many may not think this game pops out to them more than Wisconsin-Providence or UConn-Indiana, but to me, this is going to be better than both of those, as two top-five mid-majors battle it out on the court. Both teams are ranked in the top 100 at KenPom, Liberty at 66, and Furman at 98. JP Pegues is the guy to watch for Furman, averaging 23 points and nine boards while being efficient (42.9% from deep and 53.8% from the field). For Liberty, Brody Peebles or Kyle Rode is the player to watch, as they both can shoot the rock efficiently, more so Rode as he is shooting almost 60% from three.
Marquette and Illinois have topped the list of top games in college basketball in week two because of the anticipation of two heavily ranked teams, followed by an All-American and Big East Player of the Year caliber play in Tyler Kolek. The top games in college basketball for week two was quite a task, as you have to factor in multiple factors, and a big reason why some primetime matchups were left out, including the national champions, UConn Huskies traveling to Bloomington to take on the new-look Hoosiers.
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