College basketball today: UNC visits Florida State, Kentucky-LSU, Trae Young's first Bedlam and more
Here's what you need to know in college basketball for Wednesday, Jan. 3:
The game of the night:
North Carolina at Florida State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Florida State draws the unlucky scheduling draw by getting Duke and UNC back-to-back. The Tar Heels were pushed by Wake Forest but have a closer in Joel Berry II. Luke Maye was a go-to scorer early, but the Tar Heels will win in the ACC at the highest level if Berry continues to have the ball in his hands late in the game. And he will. Florida State isn’t defending the way it normally does, giving up 100 points to Duke. The length of the Seminoles can be matched by North Carolina, but if they are going to be taken seriously, this is the game that they need to win at home. Losing to UNC at home after missing a chance to win at Duke doesn’t cancel out an ACC title chase -- but it makes it highly unlikely. One win won’t change the narrative, either. But it at least gives them a chance.
Contender/pretender ACC game:
Syracuse at Wake Forest, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
to Wake Forest.— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 2, 2018
Hoping to back in ‘Cuse - in ACC play pic.twitter.com/186UIqS98a
The Demon Deacons played very well against North Carolina. If Wake were able to defend Berry late, they would have had a real chance to pull off the upset in Chapel Hill. Syracuse’s zone is working at a high level and the Orange are showing a balanced offensive effort. Syracuse could also use a true road win. The Demon Deacons have shooters and a slew of bigs to get inside the zone. But the Orange have great length and athleticism on the top of the zone to make this a potentially very even matchup. The Demon Deacons desperately need to get on a run or their tournament hopes could continue to fade.
Stars on display:
Kentucky at LSU, 8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
This will be a showtime game for LSU freshman Tremont Waters. He’s averaging 17.1 points a game and has a chance to be another stud in this crazy-good class. But he’ll have company on the floor in this game. Kentucky’s freshmen class is, as always, delivering. But the biggest surprise is that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the go-to player for the Wildcats lately. He was sensational off the bench against Louisville and Georgia. This is the first stop on an SEC tour that is destined to be challenging for the preseason favorites (see: all the results from Tuesday night).
Trae Young’s first Bedlam game
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
.@TheTraeYoung enters tomorrow's game with straight games of + points. His streak is the longest in Big 12 history and tied with Stacey King and Wayman Tisdale for the longest by a Sooner. pic.twitter.com/nH77qNq69e— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) January 2, 2018
Trae Young will get at least two of these this season, maybe three, if the two schools were to meet in the Big 12 tournament. So, what will Young do in this game? Go for 40 and 15? 25 and 17? Each Young game is a guessing game on how many points he will score and assists he will deliver. He scored 39 and dished out 14 assists in a win at previously undefeated TCU on Saturday. Enjoy every minute of Young’s season.
Seven others to watch
Clemson at Boston College, 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network: The Eagles are to be looked over no longer, nearly upsetting Virginia in Charlottesville. The Tigers fancy themselves an ACC contender and with good reason.
Illinois State at Drake, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3: Both teams are 2-0 in the Missouri Valley and neither has had an easy road. The Bulldogs are new to this contender status, while the Redbirds are on the other end, battling injuries all season.
.@coachNikoMedved talks about the Bulldogs' 2-0 start in #MVCHoops action and previews Wednesday's game vs. Illinois State— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) January 2, 2018
Full video https://t.co/JmwHowHjRV
St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 8:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: The Bonnies are in lock step with Rhode Island for the A-10 title chase. Dayton is in a rebuilding season. Games like this on the road could prove decisive in the tournament race.
Virginia at Virginia Tech, 9 p.m. ET, ACC Network: The Cavaliers perform well on the road, with the pack line defense on target. The Hokies have shown well for spells, but still need to be able to close out games.
NC State at Notre Dame, 9 p.m. ET, ACC Network: This is the first time the Irish and coach Mike Brey have to play without Bonzie Colson, who is done until the ACC tournament, possibly the season, with a broken left foot. The Irish should win, but how they do it and who fills the void on the backboard and in the post is the question.
MORE: Brey on Colson's injury
Illinois at Minnesota, 9 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told NCAA.com Tuesday that Nate Mason will be evaluated at shoot around Wednesday to see if he can go against the Illini. Illinois coach Brad Underwood told NCAA.com that the Illini are shooting the 3 better, making fewer mistakes defensively and getting the ball to LeRon Black. Trent Frazier has been breaking down defenders and Mark Alstork’s on-ball defense has improved so this could be a late-possession game.
Wyoming at Nevada, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: The Wolf Pack are the favorite in the Mountain West. But the Cowboys are pushing to be considered in the chase after beating San Diego State in their opener. Remember the name Hayden Dalton. The Wolf Pack will, considering he scored 36 in the win over the Aztecs.