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Games to Watch: Week of Dec. 27

Several games to look out for this week. Yale visits Saint Mary’s Tuesday. Thursday features great match-ups, including Michigan at UCF, Dayton visiting Rhode Island and North Dakota State hosting South Dakota State.

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota State at Washington State
South Dakota State visits North Dakota State Thursday night in a match-up of the top two teams in the Summit League preseason poll.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

As we embark on the final week of 2021, some teams close out the non-conference portions of their schedules, while others dive into conference play. Here are some of the top mid-major contests to keep an eye on this week:

Yale @ Saint Mary’s Tuesday 10 p.m. ET

The Ivy League preseason favorite heads to the West Coast for a match-up with the Gaels. The Bulldogs sit at 6-7 and have dropped their last two games to Iona and Monmouth, the two best teams in the MAAC. In the 69-60 loss to Monmouth, Yale trailed by 20 at one point and stormed back to pull within three in the second half. Azar Swain netted 17 points and became the program’s career leader in 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s sits at 11-3 and poured it on in the second half to defeat Missouri State Wednesday. The Gaels outscored the Bears 44-24 in the second half to pull out a 75-58 victory. It was the fourth time this year that Saint Mary’s has outscored its opponent by at least 15 in the second half. Matthias Tass recorded a career-high 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting. He is averaging 15.9 points per game on 67.1% shooting over the last seven games.

Michigan @ UCF Thursday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2

UCF has won four-straight after dropping its only two games. The most impressive win in that stretch came at Temple 65-48 Dec. 15 in the AAC opener. The Knights sit at 8-2 and most recently defeated North Alabama. This game against Michigan is their final non-conference game of the season. Darin Green Jr. leads the team with 14.8 points per game.

Michigan, who was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season, is 7-4 this year. The Wolverines are 1-1 in the Big Ten with a win at Nebraska and a loss at home against Minnesota. This trip to Orlando is their last non-conference contest. Three players are averaging double figures: Hunter Dickinson (14.1), Isaiah Livers (13.1) and Franz Wagner (12.5).

Dayton @ Rhode Island Thursday 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

This game is the Atlantic-10 opener for both teams. Rhode Island has not played since Dec. 13 because its last two games have been canceled due to COVID protocols. The Rams sit at 8-3 with wins over Harvard and Boston College.

Dayton is 8-5 and has some impressive wins on its resume. The Flyers won the ESPN Events International by defeating Miami, Kansas and Belmont Thanksgiving weekend. The Flyers have also beaten Virginia Tech. However, it hasn’t been all sunshine for them as they suffered losses to UMass-Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay.

South Dakota State @ North Dakota State Thursday 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+

This game features the top two teams in the Summit League preseason poll. South Dakota State was tabbed to repeat as champion. The Jackrabbits have won at least a share of regular season championship in each of the last five seasons. This year, they are 11-4 and 2-0 in conference play. They topped Oral Roberts 82-76 in their most recent game behind 21 points from Douglas Wilson and 20 from Baylor Scheierman.

North Dakota State was picked second in the Summit League preseason poll. The Bison are 9-4 and 1-0 in league play. Winners of their last four, they defeated in-state rival North Dakota 86-76 in the conference opener Wednesday night. Freshman Grant Nelson netted a career-high 24 points, and Tyree Eady tallied 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.