WBB Watch Guide 12-29: Basketball Is Back (Again)

The holiday break is over, and after a couple of games on Monday night to get us warmed back up for college basketball action, things really get going this week. It's conference play time for most teams, which means the games get tighter and things really start to matter.

For some conferences, the schedules will start to look a lot more uniform, with Conference USA and the Sun Belt both doing Friday/Saturday back-to-backs between the same two teams each week. We'll have a few more days each week with light slates — Wednesday and Thursday have a combined three games this week — but that just makes it easier to keep up with the games, right? Saturdays are also about to get really, really busy: 16 games are currently scheduled for this Saturday with Texas teams.

Note: SMU's women's basketball team has canceled the rest of their season per Sam Blum of the Dallas Morning News.

Here's this week's Watch Guide. All times are Central.

Cancellations:

- Cincinnati at SMU, Dec 30. 
- Tulsa at SMU, Jan. 2.

Tuesday, December 29th

Incarnate Word at Texas Tech at 1 p.m.
ESPN+

Prairie View A&M at Houston Baptist at 2 p.m.
PVAMU Sports Network

Three games welcome us back to basketball on Tuesday, but two of them are likely to be blowout wins for the Big 12 teams involved. Prairie View and HBU should be a sneaky fun game, though. HBU is 3-3, though all three wins have come against non-DI teams. The Huskies are getting some good production from former Mansfield Timberview guard Timia Jackson, a sophomore who struggled against Rice in the season opener but has scored in double figures in each game since. On the other side, PVAMU is 1-1, beating McNeese and losing to UTRGV. We haven't seen a ton of the Panthers yet, but four players are averaging 10 or more points per game, and Diana Rosenthal in particular has been shooting the ball well.

Lamar at No. 19 Texas at 4 p.m.
Longhorn Network

 

Wednesday, December 30th

Wichita State at Houston at 7 p.m.
ESPN+

Newsflash if you missed my recent article: The Cougars are good. They sit at 4-1 right now and are getting contribution up and down the roster from a variety of places, from transfer wing Britney Onyeje to center Tatyana Hill to the 3-point shooting of Miya Crump. None of those players was available in last week's win over Memphis, so one thing to watch for here is what the Cougars actually look like. This incredibly deep Coogs squad will face a Shockers team that shoots 37.3 percent from three, so if both teams are at full-strength, expect a ton of offense.

 

Thursday, December 31st

Tennessee at No. 9 Texas A&M at 6 p.m.
ESPNU

We only have one New Year's Eve game in Texas, but it's a good one, as the undefeated Aggies face a good Lady Vols team that's 5-1 on the season. Tennessee is led by star wing Rennia Davis and has been a good offensive team and an elite defensive team, though they've faced a fairly weak schedule, with their toughest game — a road contest against Texas — canceled due to COVID concerns. A&M — who I wrote about this weekend — needs to win games like this if they want a shot at taking home an SEC title, but the Lady Vols defense is going to cause some issues. Thankfully, the Aggies have found ways to score inside and outside this season, so while Tennessee allows the 14th-lowest field goal percentage to opposing teams, they haven't really faced anyone as dynamic as the Ags. 

 

Friday, January 1st

Little Rock at UT Arlington at 1 p.m.
ESPN+

I'll be honest here: it's hard to really say that there's a safe way to play sports during a pandemic, but I like what the Sun Belt and Conference USA have done schedule-wise, as their teams will play back-to-backs against the same teams on Friday and Saturday to minimize travel and help limit potential COVID exposure.

So, that means we get consecutive days of Little Rock — 4-3 on the year thanks to four starters averaging 30 or more minutes per game and the team's ability to get to the free throw line — facing UTA. It's been a roller coaster for UTA, who had four games canceled by COVID, then had to pause a game after one quarter because of a wet floor at the South Padre Island Classic. But the Mavs should be contenders to win the Sun Belt, and with conference play tipping off, we get to see if that's the case. Little Rock should offer some good resistance, but UTA should be favored in both games.

Rice at UTSA at 2 p.m.
CUSA.TV

Southern Miss at UTEP at 2 p.m.

A nice battle of solid Conference USA teams, Southern Miss has played just two games but won them both. UTEP — led by sophomore guard Katia Gallegos — is 3-2, but their fast-paced approach mixed with the Golden Eagles' defense-first, slowed-down approach will make for a fascinating contest.

North Texas at UAB at 2 p.m.

Lousiana at Texas State at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

 

Saturday, January 2nd

No. 7 Baylor at TCU at 1 p.m.
ESPN+

One of the issues with Baylor's schedule this year is that they've faced some poor competition lately. They just won consecutive games by 93 points...in each game! That's a two-day margin of 186 points! But that was against Northwestern State and McNeese. Will they be able to keep that momentum going and dominate Lauren Heard and the Horned Frogs? Will the Lady Bears get their 3-point shooting going?

Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Southeastern Lousiana at 1 p.m.

Lamar at Abilene Christian at 1 p.m.
ESPN+

Rice at UTSA at 1 p.m.
ESPN+

UTSA probably won't be able to slow down Rice, but any chance you get to watch Nancy Mulkey play basketball is a chance you should take.

Southern Miss at UTEP at 1 p.m.

Northwestern State at Houston Baptist at 2 p.m.

New Orleans at Stephen F. Austin at 2 p.m.

Only two teams in the Southland are more than one game over .500. One of those is SFA, who face a 3-3 New Orleans team. The Privateers aren't as good as their 3-3 record based on their advanced metrics ( a -20.7 net rating), but it felt wrong to not recommend one of the Southland conference games on Saturday.

Sam Houston State at Nicholls State at 2 p.m.
ESPN+

North Texas at UAB at 2 p.m.

Incarnate Word at UTRGV at 3 p.m.
WAC Digital Network

Maybe the most exciting game with a Southland team is actually not a conference game, as UIW travels down to the RGV to take on WAC school UTRGV. Incarnate Word is supposed to be rebuilding this year, but this young team is playing some exciting basketball, even if they might still be a year or two away from contending in the conference. Meanwhile, the Vaqueros are 4-2 behind Amara Graham's 16.8 points per game and her 64.9 percent shooting mark from two.

Prairie View A&M at Southern at 3 p.m.

Texas Southern at Alcorn State at 3 p.m.

Lousiana at Texas State at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

Little Rock at UT Arlington at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m.

 

Sunday, January 3rd

Houston at UCF at 11 a.m.
ESPNU

Big day of games on national television Sunday, starting with Houston visiting UCF. We've already talked plenty about the Cougars, but the 4-1 Knights are likely to be their biggest test of the year. They allow just 51.2 points per game, though they also score just 58.8 per game and rank in the fifth percentile in pace. Can their defense impose their will against UH? Will the Coogs find ways to generate offense? Can we annoint the winner as the second best team in the American behind South Florida?

No. 9 Texas A&M at Florida at 12 p.m.
SEC Network

Florida isn't on that top tier of the SEC, but they do sit at 7-1 right now with a 20.8 point per game margin of victory. The Gators toughest opponent was Florida State, who beat them by six points, so I don't necessarily expect the Aggies to face too much resistance. But maybe Lavender Briggs, Nia Rickards, and Kiara Smith's strong offensive showings are for real.

Iowa State at No. 19 Texas at 2 p.m.
ESPN2

Baylor will win the Big 12, but Iowa State and Texas is a battle of the two teams most likely to finish second in the conference. The Longhorns have employed a balanced attack with Charli Collier on the interior and Joanne Allen-Taylor, Audrey Warren, and Celeste Taylor providing offense on the wings. This is a young, deep team, but one of their biggest tests of the season will be slowing down Iowa State's Ashley Joens, who is averaging 25.9 points per game, the sixth-highest number in the country right now. The Cyclones enter on a four-game winning streak, but have struggled when facing top opponents. Texas should win this one, but an Iowa State victory wouldn't be a huge upset.

 

Monday, January 4th

Prairie View A&M at Alcorn State at 5:30 p.m.

Texas Southern at Southern at 5:30 p.m.

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