College Hoops Viewing Guide: January 4, 2014

Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play begins in the ACC and Big 12 on this first Saturday in January, while there's an intriguing A10/SEC mini-challenge on tap as those leagues wrap up their non-conference slates (Tennessee's game with Tusculum is not included).

All TV info is courtesy Matt's College Sports on TV site. He has many more games listed, and you'll also want to check out his listings for information on which ACC and SEC regional contests and CSN, FSN, and Root Sports games (all games listed in these posts marked with an *) are available on which affiliates.

All times are Eastern.

American Athletic Games To Watch

Cincinnati Bearcats (12-2, 1-0 AAC) at Memphis Tigers (10-2, 1-0), 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
Connecticut Huskies (11-2, 0-1) at SMU Mustangs (10-3, 0-1), 2 p.m. (ESPNU)
Temple Owls (5-6, 0-1) at UCF Knights (8-4, 0-1), 4 p.m. (ESPNews)
Houston Cougars (9-5, 1-0) at USF Bulls (9-5, 0-1), 4 p.m. (CBS SN)
Louisville Cardinals (12-2, 1-0) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-7, 1-0), 6 p.m. (CBS SN)

The American heads into its first weekend of action with matchups between four of the five unbeatens in the conference -- with the contest in Piscataway being a bit of a surprise given the Scarlet Knights' early season struggles. Cincinnati's trip to Memphis is particularly intriguing, as the Bearcats will be challenged to keep up with the Tigers' exciting offense.

Of the two matchups between winless teams, UConn's trip to SMU for the Mustangs' first game back in a remodeled Moody Coliseum is vital for both, but more so for the Huskies. They looked completely disinterested in a loss at Houston to close out 2013. An 0-2 start would not be ideal for a team that has the talent to contend for the inaugural conference crown.

ACC Actual Opening Day

Pittsburgh Panthers (12-1) at N.C. State Wolfpack (10-3), 12 p.m. (ACC Network*/ESPN3)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-4) at Maryland Terrapins (9-5, 1-0 ACC), 2 p.m. (ACC Network Regional*/ESPN3)
Miami Hurricanes (8-5, 0-1) at Syracuse Orange (13-0), 2 p.m. (ACC Network Regional*/ESPN3)
Duke Blue Devils (11-2) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-4), 4 p.m. (CBS)
Clemson Tigers (9-3) at Boston College Eagles (4-10, 0-1), 4 p.m. (ACC RSNs*/ESPN3)
Virginia Cavaliers (9-4) at Florida State Seminoles (9-3), 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

Of the ACC's 15 members, three resume conference play and nine open up league action today. North Carolina travels to Wake Forest tomorrow night and Virginia Tech, currently sitting at 1-0 in the conference, taking the day off before hosting Syracuse on Tuesday night. Two big potential bubble battles in College Park and Tallahassee stand out to me on this slate with UVa's trip to FSU looming particularly large, given the Cavaliers' shambolic performance in their final non-conference game, a 35-point loss at Tennessee on Monday night. Of course, a contest between two top 10 teams in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings may not be one for the neutrals.

Notre Dame and N.C. State will look to pick up surprising home wins over Duke and Pitt, respectively, while unbeaten Syracuse should stay that way against a Miami squad that's improving, but nowhere near the level of last season's ACC championship team. Finally, Clemson should take care of business in Chestnut Hill, unless the Tiger squad that lost at Auburn makes the trip north.

Big 12 Opening Day

Iowa State Cyclones (12-0) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (8-5), 1:30 p.m. (Big 12 Network*/ESPN3)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-1) at Kansas State Wildcats (10-3), 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
West Virginia Mountaineers (8-5) at TCU Horned Frogs (9-3), 4 p.m. (Big 12 Network*/ESPN3)
Oklahoma Sooners (11-2) at Texas Longhorns (11-2), 8 p.m. (Longhorn Network)

Preseason favorites Kansas and Baylor don't begin Big 12 play until midweek, with the Jayhawks hosting a dangerous San Diego State team as a final tuneup on Sunday afternoon. In today's openers, Oklahoma State will be challenged by a Kansas State club that's reeled off eight in a row after a rough 2-3 start -- with all but two of those wins coming in the Sunflower State. Oklahoma's trip to Austin is an intriguing one, as I'm not quite sure what to make of either of these squads and their surprising records. The Sooners and Longhorns certainly look like they'll fall below the contenders in the standings, but an NCAA trip is possible for both. Such a fate looks unlikely for WVU and TCU, along with Texas Tech, who should become unbeaten Iowa State's unlucky 13th victim in the first conference game of the season.

Big East Games To Watch

St. John's Red Storm (9-4, 0-1 Big East) at Georgetown Hoyas (9-3, 1-0), 1 p.m. (FS1)
Butler Bulldogs (10-3, 0-1) at Xavier Musketeers (11-3, 1-0), 2 p.m. (FSN*)
DePaul Blue Demons (8-6, 0-1) at Marquette Golden Eagles (8-6, 0-1), 2 p.m. (CBS SN)
Creighton Bluejays (11-2, 1-0) at Seton Hall Pirates (10-4, 1-0), 3 p.m. (FS1)

If you figured that DePaul and Marquette would have the exact same record at this point of the season, you're not telling the truth. The Golden Eagles, Butler, and St. John's could all be 0-2 after the first week of play in the new Big East if they don't grab wins today.That task will be particularly difficult for the Red Storm and Bulldogs, as they each face a difficult road trip. Creighton makes its first trip east. I'm curious to see how the travel affects the Bluejays during an afternoon trip to Newark, especially if they've had travel delays because of the winter storm of the millennium of the week. On paper, Creighton should overwhelm the Pirates thanks to their offense and improved defense.

Big Ten Games To Watch

Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-5, 0-1 Big Ten) at Ohio State Buckeyes (14-0, 1-0), 12 p.m. (BTN)
Michigan State Spartans (12-1, 1-0) at Indiana Hoosiers (10-4, 0-1), 2 p.m. (CBS)
Penn State Nittany Lions (9-5, 0-1) at Illinois Fighting Illini (12-2, 1-0), 2:15 p.m. (BTN)

Ohio State and Illinois should stay perfect in the conference, thanks to home games against squads that look likely to be wearing road jerseys on Thursday in Indianapolis come March. Michigan State, however, faces a difficult trip to Bloomington, where Indiana will look to rebound from a New Year's Eve loss in Champaign. It wouldn't be a shock if this one is similarly close. If that's the case, it will be interesting to see if Tom Crean and the Hoosiers do anything different down the stretch to avoid an 0-2 league start.

Mountain West Games To Watch

Colorado State Rams (9-5, 0-1 MW) at New Mexico Lobos (9-3), 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wyoming Cowboys (9-4) at Nevada Wolf Pack (6-8, 1-0), 6 p.m. (ROOT Sports Rocky Mtn.*)
Fresno State Bulldogs (7-7, 0-1) at Boise State Broncos (10-3), 9 p.m. (ESPN3)
Air Force Falcons (7-5, 1-0) at UNLV Runnin' Rebels (10-4, 1-0), 10 p.m. (Cox 96 Las Vegas)

New Mexico and Boise State, two of the Mountain West's five 2013 NCAA teams, open the 2014 campaign at home against teams looking to avoid the early 0-2 hole. The third team opening conference play today, Wyoming, enters the second season without the pressure of a perfect record -- unlike last year. The Cowboys also get a slightly more winnable opener than last year's against BSU, though Nevada will be feeling confident after beating San Jose State on the road on Wednesday. UNLV, who took care of scrappy Fresno State on the road on New Year's Day, hosts Air Force. The Falcons, who only had four Division I wins heading into Wednesday's upset victory over Utah State, will be challenged to repeat the feat at the Thomas & Mack.

Pac-12 Games To Watch

Washington Huskies (9-5, 1-0 Pac-12) at Arizona Wildcats (14-0, 1-0), 2 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Oregon State Beavers (8-5, 0-1) at Utah Utes (11-2, 0-1), 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

In game of the Pac-12 Network's doubleheader, the top-ranked Wildcats won't likely replicate Thursday's 60-25 win over Washington State, as the Huskies are not anywhere near as offensively inept as the Cougars, but don't expect Washington to repeat its shocking performance from Thursday's win over Arizona State either. In game two, Utah cannot let Oregon beat them twice. Given that Oregon State doesn't have the Ducks firepower (and is weak on defense as well), that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Other Conference Action To Watch

Missouri Valley

Indiana State Sycamores (10-3, 1-0 MVC) at Evansville Aces (7-7, 0-1), 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

In 2013, the Sycamores finished 9-9 in the MVC. A 16-point loss at the Ford Center on the final day of the regular season doomed ISU to that .500 finish and ended their at-large hopes. The Purple Aces have won just twice in their last nine games, though they played Xavier close in Cincinnati and were competitive with Butler until late in their meeting on December 21st. However, Evansville opened Valley play with a 28-point loss at Drake on Wednesday.

WCC

Pacific Tigers (9-4, 0-2 WCC) at Gonzaga Bulldogs (13-2, 3-0), 8 p.m. (KAYU/ROOT Sports*/TWCS/TheW.tv)
San Diego Toreros (9-6, 0-2) at BYU Cougars (8-7, 0-2), 9 p.m. (BYU TV)
St. Mary's Gaels (10-4, 1-1) at Portland Pilots (9-6, 1-2), 10 p.m. (ROOT Sports*)

Amazingly, Gonzaga and Portland will be through nearly a quarter of their WCC schedules after this weekend. The season really is flying, even if you haven't noticed it at all yet. The Bulldogs will look to push what looked to be a possible contender, Pacific, to 0-3, while Portland can jump above struggling St. Mary's if it can pull an upset at home. Meanwhile, one of BYU or San Diego will be at the bottom of the standings after the two meet in Provo. That's a bit shocking, but considering this is the Cougars' home opener and the Toreros' third straight road contest, such a possibility is far more understandable.

Ah, the quirks of the WCC schedule.

Non-Conference Action To Watch

Richmond Spiders (10-4) at Florida Gators (10-2), 3 p.m. (SEC on CSS*/ESPN3)
Rhode Island Rams (8-6) at LSU Tigers (9-2), 5:30 p.m. (CST)
Dayton Flyers (11-3) at Mississippi Rebels (9-3), 8 p.m. (SEC on CSS*/WHIO/ESPN3)

Three Atlantic 10 teams head into SEC country on Saturday, with Dayton's visit to Ole Miss the most intriguing contest, simply because of its at-large implications. The Flyers, who own wins over Gonzaga and California from their Maui trip, also have losses to USC (at home!) and Illinois State. Those defeats have taken the shine off Dayton's fine early start. A loss to a Rebel team that's in dire need of a quality win, thanks to a loss at Kansas State and home defeats to Oregon and Mercer, would leave UD with a lot of work to do in a stacked A10.

I'll be in Gainesville for Florida's non-conference finale versus Richmond. The last time I saw the Spiders take on the Gators, UR stunned UF by two at the Orange Bowl Classic back in 2009.

Harvard Crimson (12-1) at Rice Owls (5-7), 8 p.m. (CBS SN)

The Crimson cannot get caught looking ahead to Wednesday night's game at UConn, their last shot at a profile-building win before Ivy play begins next weekend. The Owls have defeated just one Division I squad at home, South Alabama, and they needed three overtimes to grab that victory on December 7th.

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