What to watch: Hunter Dickinson vs. Donovan Clingan leads the weekend highlights

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Sunday, December 3, 2023

Name, image and likeness (NIL) rules aren't perfect.

You could make the case that regulation might be necessary in the future. But NIL opportunities have also enhanced college basketball by allowing talented players to return to school and make the best decisions for their futures.

In a different world, Hunter Dickinson and Donovan Clingan might have entered the NBA draft after strong seasons a year ago. Instead, both returned. And now, UConn and Kansas will play one of the biggest nonconference matchups in recent years, when the Huskies travel to face the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday.

Marquette's Oso Ighodaro continues to boost his draft stock with an impressive start to his 2023-24 season.

And with USC, which will face Gonzaga in Las Vegas this weekend, Isaiah Collier, the top freshman in the 2023 recruiting class, per ESPN, will be the star on the Strip in this battle. Without NIL chances, he might have picked the Overtime Elite or G League route. Instead, he's in Los Angeles, making good money and leading Andy Enfield's squad.

Sure, NIL has its challenges and the concerns are valid. But the benefits shouldn't be ignored.

Here's why you should watch all of these players this weekend.

All odds from ESPN BET

No. 4 UConn (7-0) at No. 5 Kansas (6-1)

Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The most impressive element of the extended success for the team that has established an NCAA record with 24 consecutive nonconference wins by double digits is that the Huskies have done part of this without Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins, two key players in last year's national title run. This season's group which extended and broke the record is different. In a multitude of metrics -- adjusted defensive efficiency and shooting percentage inside the arc (65.9%, No. 1 in the nation) -- they're even better than their national title-winning predecessors.

Kansas has also found a new identity with Hunter Dickinson, who is leading an offensive unit that has connected on 38.2% of its 3-point attempts and 59.8% of its shots inside the arc. Dickinson and the top-10 Jayhawks defense will have to keep Donovan Clingan and Samson Johnson at bay in the paint. But Connecticut has the big bodies to give Dickinson trouble for 40 minutes.

Kansas is always a major challenge at home. And UConn has not yet been pushed by a team that could expose its challenges from the perimeter (30.9% from the 3-point line). Still, here's one more thing to consider: The Huskies might be the best team in America, regardless of the venue.

Medcalf's pick: UConn, 80-76. Against the spread: UConn (+2.5)

No. 3 Marquette (6-1) at Wisconsin (5-2)

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, FOX

The only blemish on Marquette's record is its three-point loss against No. 1 Purdue in the Maui Invitational last week. But the Golden Eagles have otherwise looked like a Final Four team in wins over Illinois, Kansas and UCLA. Wisconsin already has a pair of double-digit losses to Tennessee and Providence. The Badgers also can't match the trio of Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones and Oso Ighodaro, although AJ Storr leads a squad with four players who are averaging double figures. So, if this appears to be such a mismatch, why even analyze it? Because Wisconsin -- 306th in adjusted tempo on KenPom -- has historically been a problem for Shaka Smart, who is 0-2 against his team's in-state rivals. And you can't pass up this in-state rivalry game.

Medcalf's pick: Marquette, 75-69. Against the spread: Marquette (-2.5)

USC (4-2) vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (5-1)

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

While the timetable for Bronny James' return is unknown -- he is back with the team and going through pregame warmups but it has yet to be announced when he'll check into a game -- the most decorated freshman at USC has been remarkable. Isaiah Collier is averaging 18.2 PPG and connecting on 41% of his 3-point attempts. But his turnovers continue to plague him and his team. His six turnovers in a 72-70 loss to Oklahoma last Friday brought his season total to 32 in just six games.

But the Zags have their own issues. Mark Few has commanded some of the top offensive units in America during his career, but this squad's 30.7% clip from the 3-point line is among the worst of his time with the program.

This is a battle between two programs searching for chemistry, under the bright lights of Vegas.

Medcalf's pick: Gonzaga, 78-73. Against the spread: Gonzaga (-3.5)


Medcalf's picks straight up: 9-2

Against the spread: 6-5