As the Cleveland Cavaliers become less watchable by the game, we’d like to offer you some alternative viewing experiences. The Cavs will almost assuredly be picking at the top of the 2019 NBA Draft, and it’ll be important to keep tabs on all of the top prospects this winter. That might be a challenge this year, as the class could have a lot of fluctuation during the season, especially outside of the top five. That can make it difficult to keep track of everyone.
But never fear — we will be here to provide your weekly watch guide to all of the top prospects. Each week, we will break out the best games of the week for NBA Draft interest, including who will be matching up and where to find the week’s top games in college basketball and Europe.
This week’s headlining games will mostly come from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which has paired the major prospects from Duke, UNC, and Virginia against three very strong challengers from the Big Ten. We also get a packed Saturday, with most of the ACC and Big 12 playing marquee games, and a headliner featuring one of the hottest NBA Draft names against college basketball’s bell of the ball, Nevada. Also, there’s a slate of Big Ten Conference games! That means that we get a matchup between two of the conference’s best teams in early December amongst a slew of marquee out of conference matchups. This is happening because Jim Delaney thinks that the Midwest’s premier basketball conference needs to play their conference tournament a week before Selection Sunday in the Midwestern strong hold of [checks notes] New York City!
College basketball! It’s definitely not a corrupt money laundering scheme!
Murray State vs. Alabama - 8:00PM ET, ESPN+
Murray State: Ja Morant; Alabama: Donta Hall, Herb Jones
Morant has far and away been the best non-Gonzaga midmajor prospect this year - he’s an explosive combo guard who is incredibly poised and skilled as a ball-handler and shooter. This will be a good test for him, as the Crimson Tide boast a threatening deterrent at the rim in Hall, and a skilled perimeter defender in the lanky Herb Jones. Alabama may not be able to score with Murray, but they are the best shot we’ll probably get this year at someone shutting down Morant.
Virginia Tech vs. Penn State - 7:00PM ET, ESPN2
Virginia Tech: Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Penn State: Josh Reaves, Myles Dread
The first important ACC-Big Ten Challenge game features a matchup of two upperclassmen in pursuit of lottery projection. Nickeil Alexander-Walker looks like a completely different player than he did as a freshman, averaging 19.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, and putting up 54/40/92 shooting splits. He’s advanced significantly as a finisher and playmaker, and could play his way into the top 10 if he keeps this up. Josh Reaves, meanwhile, is one of college basketball’s best perimeter defenders, creating a fascinating matchup between the two, with Reaves likely drawing direct matchup with Alexander-Walker on many occasions.
Indiana vs. Duke - 9:30PM ET, ESPN
Indiana: Romeo Langford; Duke: R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones
Obviously a must-watch game, as we will get to see R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish have to try to defend Langford, and vice-versa. How Langford does keeping track of Reddish off-ball is going to be particularly important, as Langford hasn’t looked particularly good defending off-ball, and Reddish is one of college basketball’s better off-ball threats. On the other side, Langford and Juwan Morgan’s driving might give Barrett issues in their matchups, as that’s an area where he has struggled. Meanwhile, Zion Williamson faces Indiana’s Evan Fitzner, who has looked really good so far, but also weighs 215 and is going to get run over multiple times on Zion’s brisk strolls to the rim. This should be a fun one.
Virginia vs. Maryland - 7:30PM ET, ESPN
Virginia: DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome; Maryland: Jalen Smith
This is the first must-watch game for Virginia, who boasts potential top-ten pick DeAndre Hunter. The sophomore is in play for the Cavaliers if they end up in the back half of the top ten, and he’s a pretty safe option as a potentially valuable secondary playmaker. He’s one of the best spot-up shooters in college basketball, hitting 46.7 percent from three, and he’s a very skilled finisher and perimeter defender. Jerome also is an interesting second-round prospect as a shooter and defensive player. They’ll face Maryland, who has a pair of potential second-round project big men in Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando.
Purdue vs. Florida State - 9:15PM ET, ESPN2
Purdue: Carsen Edwards, Matt Haarms; Florida State: Terance Mann, Trent Forrest
A fun matchup between legitimate draft prospects at point guard (Dynamic shooter Carsen Edwards vs. athletic playmaker Trent Forrest) is supplemented by two fringe draft options at center (The large Matt Haarms vs. the very large Christ Koumadje).
North Carolina vs. Michigan - 9:30PM ET, ESPN
North Carolina: Nassir Little, Coby White; Michigan - Jordan Poole, Charles Matthews
UNC is 6-1 but it hasn’t looked very pretty so far, as White and Little have struggled to make an impact defensively, and the team’s offense hasn’t looked incredibly cohesive. Meanwhile, Michigan looks even better than they did last year, thanks to the emergence of Matthews as a legitimate first-round prospect. Little is going to have to guard him, which could be a potential problem for the top-five pick. How he deals with Matthews’ little isolation tricks and strength is going to be a very valuable data point for him.
Saint Johns vs. Georgia Tech - 12:00PM ET, ESPNU
Saint Johns: Shamorie Ponds; Georgia Tech: Mike Devoe
Devoe’s still a potential draft prospect thanks to his athleticism and defense, even if he doesn’t earn starter’s minutes. This would be a good chance for him to show that, as he’ll likely draw assignment on Shamorie Ponds, who has made a very strong All-American case early this season with a very strong shooting performance.
Kansas State vs. Marquette - 2:30PM ET, ESPN3
Kansas State: Dean Wade; Marquette: Markus Howard
This is a good chance to see another player who has worked himself into first-round conversation in Dean Wade. Wade is a skilled defender who can switch across multiple positions with a strong 6-8 frame, and he has all of the ancillary skills to be a complimentary offensive player. He’ll get a test defending Sam Hauser of Marquette, and this should be a good introduction to him as he continues to rise.
Purdue vs. Michigan - 3:30PM ET, ESPN
Purdue: Carsen Edwards, Matt Haarms; Michigan: Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole
The two players most likely to win Big Ten Player of the Year will show down with Edwards facing Matthews. There sneakily might be three first round picks playing here with those two and Poole around.
Nevada vs. USC - 4:30PM ET, PAC 12 Network
Nevada: Caleb Martin, Cody Martin; USC: Kevin Porter Jr, Nikola Rackocevic
The first big test for Nevada and their pair of prospect wings in the Martin twins: Porter, one of the best rising prospects in the draft class. How he does defending both Martins, and how Nevada is able to keep USC away from the rim on offense, should be great information for where the prospects on these two teams are going.
Stetson vs. Duke - 7:00PM ET, ESPN2
Duke: R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones
Congrats to the Hatters on making a national TV appearance!
Illinois vs. Nebraska - 5:00PM ET, Big Ten Network
Illinois: Ayo Dosunmo; Nebraska: Isaiah Roby
A big matchup between two of the Big Ten’s more hipster draft prospects. It’ll be nice to see if Dosunmo can score consistently on a good Nebraska defense anchored by the 6-9 Roby.