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Saturday’s games: Virginia, Villanova face tough tests

This Saturday, there are 15 games featuring top 25 teams in Men’s college basketball. Entering January, we start to get conference games and a better idea of which schools are going to separate themselves from the pack going forward. Anybody even remotely familiar with college basketball knows the Kentucky Wildcats are the prohibitive favorites to win the title in 2014-15, but which teams will provide the stiffest challenge?

Here are two games to watch on Saturday, featuring a pair of teams to keep tabs on:

No. 3 Virginia at Miami (FL)

The Virginia Cavaliers do not get a ton of national respect. In fact, they get shockingly little. Virginia is one of the best teams in America and was last year also, getting into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed and advancing into the Sweet 16 before losing to Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans, 61-59. Virginia is the reigning ACC champion and looks like a strong bet to be in the mix for the title once more, clearly one of the top two teams along with the Duke Blue Devils.

The Cavaliers aren’t an offensive juggernaut, ranking 123rd in the country with 70.6 points per game. However, Virginia is one of college’s best defensive squads, limiting opponents to a ridiculous, video game-like 48.3 points/game, checking in second nationally. At 12-0, Virginia has yet to beat any top teams, save a 76-65 victory over the No. 12 Maryland Terrapins on Dec. 3 at College Park.

Virginia has 15/1 odds to win the National Championship, per Vegas Insider.

Miami will be a nice test for the Cavaliers in the ACC opener. The Hurricanes are 10-3 (5-2 at home) and are well-coached by Jim Larranaga, but have been extremely uneven thus far. Miami has shown the ability to beat tournament-level teams, toppling the Florida Gators and Illinois Fighting Illini. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Hurricanes have lost to Eastern Kentucky and Green Bay by 41 combined points.

If the “good” Miami shows up, this could be a fun contest in the early going of January.

No. 6 Villanova at Seton Hall

The Villanova Wildcats are the class of the Big East. Under Jay Wright, Villanova looks poised to be a championship contender come the madness of March. Off to a 13-0 start, the Wildcats are a complete team led by guards Darrun Hilliard II and Dylan Ennis. Combined, the dynamic duo goes for 23.5 points per game.

Villanova began conference play with a 67-55 win over Butler, featuring Ryan Arcidiacono leading the charge with 15 points and Daniel Ochefu with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Villanova has 25/1 odds to win the National Championship, per Vegas Insider.

Seton Hall comes in with an 11-2 record following a 78-67 victory over the No. 15 St. John’s Red Storm. The Pirates were not looked at by many as a serious postseason contender, but Seton Hall is off to a terrific beginning. A win against Villanova would start to convert some who are on the fence about the Pirates, a school which notched 12 votes to be ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

To beat the Wildcats, junior guard Sterling Gibbs will need to take control. Gibbs leads Seton Hall with 16.3 points/game, including 25 points against St. John’s.

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