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College basketball preview: Dec. 21

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Top five games

5 LSU at Marquette » Few would have guessed that LSU (7-1), picked to finish 11th in the SEC preseason poll, would have a better record than perennial Big East power Marquette (7-3). But the Tigers have thrived with the help of a 7-foot-3 former tuba player for the school's marching band, Andrew Del Piero, who came to LSU on a music scholarship. (Saturday, 2?p.m., ESPNU)

4 No. 8 Florida vs. Kansas State » At the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Florida (8-1) looks for the finishing touch in a hostile gym after blowing a six-point lead in the final minute at Arizona on Saturday night. Kansas State (8-2) is propelled by former Archbishop Carroll star Rodney McGruder (13.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), the last player left from the Wildcats' D.C. connection. (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN2)

3 No. 3 Syracuse vs. Temple » In the inaugural Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden, Syracuse (10-0) diverts from its usual diet of December cupcakes, facing Temple (8-2) and 6-6 Scootie Randall. Led by stat sheet stuffer Michael Carter-Williams (12.9 ppg, 10.7 apg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 spg), the Orange try to deliver coach Jim Boeheim his 901st victory. (Saturday, noon, ESPN2)

2 No. 10 Illinois at No. 12 Missouri » In his first season last year at Missouri, Frank Haith boosted the fortunes of the Tigers en route to becoming NCAA coach of the year. The early leader for the award this season is Illinois first-year coach John Groce, who has guided the perimeter-oriented Illini (12-0) to double-digit wins over Butler and Gonzaga. (Saturday, 6?p.m., ESPN2)

1 No. 9 Kansas at No. 7 Ohio State » The basketball bluebloods, both 9-1, meet to see which team misses its departed muscle man most -- Thomas Robinson (Kansas) or Jared Sullinger (Ohio State). Both teams have compensated nicely. The lone loss for the Jayhawks came by three points to No. 20 Michigan State. The lone defeat for the Buckeyes came at No. 1 Duke by five. (Saturday, 4?p.m., CBS)

LOCAL GAMES

Northern Kentucky at Navy

When » Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where » Alumni Hall, Annapolis

After 11 days off for exams, vastly improved Navy (6-6) is back in action against Northern Kentucky (0-6), which is transitioning to Division I after much success in Division II. The Norse will play a full schedule in the Atlantic Sun Conference but won't be eligible for the NCAA tournament until 2016. Don't expect Western Kentucky to be a pushover. Earlier this month, it took Texas Tech to the final minutes in a 75-69 loss in Lubbock.

VMI at George Washington

When » Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where » Smith Center

Radio » 1500 AM

Free-wheeling Virginia Military (4-6) ranks sixth in the nation in scoring at 82.2 points per game behind 6-foot-6 senior Stan Okoye (19.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and 6-9 junior D.J. Covington (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Coach Duggar Baucom has guided the Keydets to three Big South title games in the last six years but has yet to win and reach the NCAA tournament. Tough-luck GW (4-6), led by 6-9 Isaiah Armwood (13.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg) has lost three straight games by a combined 10 points.

Virginia vs. Old Dominion

When » Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Where » Richmond Coliseum

TV » NBCSN

The second game of the inaugural Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic appears to be a mismatch as Virginia (9-2), which has won eight straight, plays Old Dominion (1-10), which has lost nine in a row. The Monarchs' free fall has come after nine straight winning seasons, including four NCAA tournament appearances, under coach Blaine Taylor. The first game figures to be much more competitive, matching George Mason (6-4) and Richmond (9-3).

Virginia Tech vs. Bradley

When » Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where » Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Radio » 106.7 The Fan

In the Las Vegas Classic, Virginia Tech (8-2) and Bradley (8-2) meet for the first time, with the winner playing Sunday against the winner of the game between Colorado State (8-2) of the Mountain West and Portland (6-6) of the West Coast Conference. The Hokies will try to rebound from a stunning 78-73 loss at home to Georgia Southern in which the Southern Conference school beat a BCS conference team for the first time in 20 years.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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