Column: Danny’s can’t-miss games of the week

Katie Lou Samuelson played a key role in the teams win over SMU (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

“Oh boy, the Pro Bowl is this weekend! I can’t wait to watch it!” said no one ever.

Let’s face it, the Pro Bowl is definitely the worst of the professional all-star games, and the NHL All-Star Game isn’t much better. Since both are this weekend, there is little or no action in either of their respective leagues this week.

But fear not, as I have a list of basketball games that you will not want to miss in the upcoming days, both for college and the NBA.

By the way, if you genuinely enjoy the Pro Bowl and/or the NHL All-Star Game, I’m not judging you, but I’m kind of judging you.

NCAAM: Arizona Wildcats vs. USC Trojans

Thursday Jan. 24, 9 p.m. on FS1

This is definitely an under-the-radar game, as neither team is ranked, but you won’t find two more evenly matched teams.

Arizona enters the game in second place in the Pac-12 with a 14-5 record overall and a 5-1 record in conference. Meanwhile, USC is 10-8 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12. Both teams have wins over Cal and Stanford, but losses to Oregon. Both teams are also coming off of wins, Arizona over Oregon State and USC over UCLA.

USC has a slightly better offense, averaging 78 points per game to Arizona’s 74, while Arizona’s defense allows just 66 points per game to USC’s 73.

I’m looking forward to seeing the top guards for both teams battling it out. Both Brandon Randolph for Arizona and Jonah Matthews for USC have multiple 20 point games this season and have the ability to carry their teams if needed.

This should be an entertaining, down-to-the-wire game that will definitely be worth tuning in for.

NBA: Toronto Raptors vs. Houston Rockets

Friday Jan. 25, 8 p.m. on ESPN

It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s the team with the most wins in the league vs. this season’s MVP (James Harden) so far, and it’s happening Friday night.

The Raptors have been unbelievable this season. Kawhi Leonard has been a beast, averaging over 27 points per game and almost eight rebounds per game. His presence has allowed Kyle Lowry to become a true point guard and better passer. He is averaging a career high 9.4 assists per game. Not to mention guys like Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam have been fantastic this year.

The Raptors have a lot going for them, but the one thing they don’t have is James Harden. Harden is making a very convincing case for back-to-back MVP seasons, averaging almost 36 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game. The last time he scored under 30 was way back on Dec. 11 when he scored 29. Also, don’t forget that Clint Capela is a monster on the boards, averaging over 12 per game.

These teams should match up well and provide us with some must-watch basketball.

NCAAM: #9 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #8 Kentucky Wildcats

Saturday Jan. 26, 6 p.m. on ESPN

The two winningest Division I men’s basketball programs of all time. 104 combined NCAA Tournament appearances, 32 combined Final Fours, and 11 combined National Championships. Dick Vitale must be going nuts about this matchup. The storylines really write themselves for this one.

These two teams seem to be great every single year, and this season is no different. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 with nearly identical 16-3 (Kansas) and 15-3 (Kentucky) records. John Calipari and Bill Self are two of the best to ever coach, and once again they’ve put their teams in positions for high seeds in March.

As far as the players go, Dedric Lawson for Kansas and P.J. Washington for Kentucky are the top players to watch. They are the leaders of their respective teams, and are good all-around players.

If you love college basketball, you have to love this matchup. If the result on the floor is even half as good as the buildup, it’s going to be a very fun game.

NCAAW: UCF Knights vs. #3 UConn Huskies

Sunday Jan. 27, 4 p.m. on ESPN 2

I shouldn’t have to tell UConn fans to watch a UConn women’s basketball game. It should be a given. However, this game should be better than most.

UConn has a 16-1 record right now, which is great, but UCF isn’t far behind at 16-2. Both teams are also undefeated in conference play.

I don’t think this will be a run-of-the-mill UConn game, where they get out to a 30-point halftime lead and cruise to a win.

Kay Kay Wright is one of the best players in the conference averaging over 19 points, four rebounds, and almost four assists per game, all of which lead UCF. Obviously we know plenty about the three-headed monster of Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson and Crystal Dangerfield for UConn.

As far as women’s basketball games go, you won’t find too many better than this one.


Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.barletta@uconn.edu.