MBB: On the 12th Day of December ...

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On the 12th day of the 12th month of the year, 12 teams will collide with one common goal in mind: March. Like many other programs around the nation, an NCAA Tournament berth has been the target for collegiate hopefuls since the first day of practice; but for some perennial favorites there is a lot more riding on the objective for this season - tradition. Whether you are Indiana with one of the richest ledgers in NCAA history or a budding Minnesota program with a proven leader at the helm, the cluster of teams that decorate this weekend's slate are looking to stamp their indelible mark on the national scene before entering conference play. And while the integrity of the conference season remains intact, the time to make a statement is now.

Saturday's schedule highlights six teams, including four Big Ten squads, looking to return to the NCAA bracket after earning championship bids last season. Beginning the weekend slate, No. 13/15 Ohio State will travel to face No. 22/20 Butler for a Noon matchup on ESPN. The Buckeyes will look to seal its final contest of a four-game series against the Bulldogs with a win in Indianapolis, as they continue to prove themselves a main contender in the aftermath of Evan Turner's devastating injury. Later that evening on the Deuce, No. 20/23 Wisconsin will look to rebound from a heartbreaking loss to Green Bay as they welcome another in-state rival, Marquette, to the Kohl Center for a 5 p.m. showdown. Meanwhile in Minneapolis, Tubby Smith's Gophers are set to entertain St. Joseph's in a 4 p.m. contest to be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Fifth-ranked and undefeated Purdue will face its first true road test of the season as it takes on Alabama on Saturday. The game, which is set to tipoff at 9 p.m., will mark the first-ever meeting between the two programs as the Boilermakers look to keep the Crimson Tide from rolling over their 8-0 record.

Indiana also prepares to welcome one of the 15 remaining unblemished teams in fourth-ranked Kentucky (9-0) to Assembly Hall for the annual border-rivalry showdown Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers will look to disrupt a Wildcat squad that comes packed with a fast-paced offense and potent freshman class as both teams are tasked with restoring their respective championship traditions.

Defending NIT Champion Penn State will also take to the court this Saturday as the Nittany Lions entertain Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. (ESPN2). After falling just short of the NCAA tournament last season, Penn State joins the Big Ten contingent with its sights set on the field of 65.

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