This weekend is a big weekend in college basketball as there are only 2 weeks left in the regular season and we are just 1 week from March. Selection Sunday is just 23 days away on March 15th. So here are the big games this weekend.
The top 5/6 games:
1. Arizona (18-8) @ #14 Arizona St. (20-5)-10pm-No TV-Sunday
It is a shame that the best game of this great weekend in college hoops is not on TV and is late Sunday night when a lot of the country will be going to sleep. This game matches up two of the hottest teams in the country right now. Arizona has been on a roll since their comeback win over Houston (the game that had the Chase Budinger being stomped on incident). They have won 7 straight starting with that game. They have already beat Gonzaga and Kansas this year and win over ASU could virtually guarantee them an at-large bid. Arizona St. is the highest ranked team in the PAC-10 and has won 4 straight including a sweep of UCLA last week. This game has a lot of star power as well as the wing match-ups of Budinger (ARZ) and James Harden (ASU) along with the frontcourt match-up of Jordan Hill (ARZ) and Jeff Pendergraph will be key. Harden is the likely conference player of the year in the PAC-10.
2. #8 Wake Forest (20-4) @ #9 Duke (21-5)-7:45pm-No TV-Sunday
This is a battle of two very good teams that are struggling. Both teams have been very inconsistent (2-3 in their last 5 games) and Wake is 0-3 on the road in those games. As we all know Cameron Indoor is a tough place to play and the Cameron Crazies know that Duke needs this one. This game could also be a battle for a number 2 seed and more importantly a near home game in the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney in Greensboro, NC.
3. #2 Oklahoma (25-1) @ Texas (17-8)-9pm-ESPN-Saturday
On paper this is a battle of two teams going in different directions. It's simple for Oklahoma, if they win they will be #1 in the nation next week. Texas on the other hand might need a big win like this to save their season/save tourney hopes. The question will be if anyone on Texas can come close to stopping Blake Griffin. Even if Texas still had Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin who would both be Juniors' this year, I still think the game would be close. Now that would be a game, hey a basketball fan can dream. Anyway on paper, Oklahoma should blow out Texas. But this is college basketball and the game is in Texas, so anything can happen.
4. Tennessee (16-9) @ Kentucky (18-8)-1pm-CBS-Saturday
I don't know who will win. I don't know who to pick. As a Gator fan I don't know who to root for. What I do know is this game will be a hard fought, athletic, physical battle between SEC rivals. Both are coming off of losses early in the week and both are on the bubble. The last time they met Kentucky star Jodie Meeks went into Tennessee and lit it up for 54 points in Kentucky's 90-72 win. That might not happen this time but Kentucky will need another huge game from its star with F/C Patrick Patterson out. Tennessee's RPI is 22 while Kentucky's is 65 so Kentucky needs this game much more, but Tennessee will have revenge on its mind.
5. #12 Villanova (21-5) @ #24 Syracuse (19-7) or #18 Illinois (21-6) @ Ohio St (17-7)-1pm-BCS-Sunday
Depending on where you live you will get one of these two games on Sunday. The match-ups in both games are similar though. They both pit second tier teams from their respective conferences. Both of these games are rematches from a couple of weeks ago where the home team won. Now those two teams, who are also the higher ranked teams, must go on the road against a team that needs the win more. Syracuse and Ohio St. each need one or two more wins to feel 100% safe that they will get in the tournament as an at-large.
Now on to the BracketBuster Games-About a month ago it looked like Butler, Davidson, and St. Mary's looked like they were on their way to the dance easily. Now every team playing in a BracketBuster game needs a win to keep their bubble hopes alive. Their might be some scenario's where a team could lose their BracketBuster game and still get in as an at-large but it is highly and I mean highly unlikely. Also with the BracketBuster games it is not just what your team does but what you conference does as a whole that can affect you.
Now here are the games to watch:
1. #21 Butler-Horizon-(22-4, RPI-27) @ Davidson-SoCon-(22-5, RPI-55)-Noon-ESPN-Saturday
This game has become big with Butler's recent struggles losing 2 straight. Now they must go to Davidson and beat injured star Stephen Curry. Curry didn't play on Wednesday at The Citadel and Davidson lost by 18. So this game is huge. Curry will be back but how effective will he be. If Butler wins then they will feel pretty safe with a high RPI and a key win @Xavier. But don't get the wrong picture, this is a must win for both teams.
2. Utah St.-WAC-(25-2,RPI-32) @ St. Mary's-WCC-(21-5, RPI-64)-5pm-ESPN2-Saturday
Utah St. has good record but their best win is a 2 point home win vs. Utah. They also have a SOS-170 and play in the #12 Conf. RPI the WAC. So a road win against a good or decent team, whatever you want to call St. Mary's would be huge. St. Mary's injured star PG Patty Mills might be the second best player in the country behind Blake Griffin because St. Mary's was a very good team with him (18-2 in games he played) and are terrible since he got hurt (3-3 since). If St. Mary's losses I think they will need to win the WCC tournament (in other words beat Gonzaga), to get in. I know the tourney committee will take Mills' injury into account but it still won't be enough if their RPI is in the 70s or 80s.
3. Northern Iowa-MVC-(18-9, RPI-86) @ Siena-MAAC-(21-6, RPI-31)-3pm-ESPN2-Saturday
Siena has the most to lose this weekend while No. Iowa has the most to gain this weekend. The game is at Siena which is a big advantage for the Saints who last year won their first round NCAA tournament game as a 13 seed. A win for No. Iowa puts them back into bubble discussion despite their low RPI. It is a good contrast in styles as No. Iowa will try to slow it down against the more athletic higher scoring Saints.
4. George Mason-CAA-(18-8, RPI-54) @ Creighton-MVC-(22-6, RPI-52)-9:30-ESPNU-Saturday
This not the George Mason team that went to the Final Four in 2006 and this is not the Creighton team of years past that had Kyle Korver and company. However these are still two good programs who have RPI's in the high 50's. Both teams have very good guard play so the game will be won and lost on the perimeter.
5. Illinois St.-MVC-(22-5, RPI-60) @ Niagara-MAAC-(21-7, RPI-69)-7pm-ESPN2-Friday
The only game worth seeing before Saturday pits two teams with RPI's in the 60's. It will be a good match-up to start the BracketBuster weekend pitting teams from the MVC-Conf. RPI-10 vs. MAAC-Conf. RPI-13.
There are also a bunch of key games that have a bubble team trying to upset a ranked team in their conference:
#10 Marquette (22-4) @ Georgetown (14-10, RPI-37)-2pm-ESPN-Saturday
#7 Louisville (20-5) @ Cincinnati (17-9, RPI-49)-2pm-ESPN360-Saturday
#3 UNC (24-2) @ Maryland (16-9, RPI-62)-3:30-ABC-Saturday
#5 Memphis (23-3) @ UTEP (16-9, RPI-77)-4pm-ESPN-Saturday
Nebraska (16-8, RPI-66) @ #15 Kansas (21-5)-4pm-ESPN360-Saturday
#22 Washington (19-7) @ USC (16-9, RPI-41)-7pm-No TV-Saturday
Auburn (17-9, RPI-89) @ #23 LSU (22-4)-8pm-No TV-Saturday
Wisconsin (17-9, RPI-29) @ #6 Michigan St. (20-5)-3pm-ESPN-Sunday
My likelihood of an upset rankings:
Now if you haven't had enough and live for college basketball, here are some "Critical Bubble Games" for this weekend. Their is a lot of "bubble variety" with high bubble teams like FSU and BYU. Then their are some teams whose bubble is likely burst with a loss like Notre Dame, Vandy, Miami, and Providence.
Here are those games:
Notre Dame (14-11, RPI-75) @ Providence (16-10, RPI-70)-Noon-ESPN360-Saturday
Boston Coll. (19-8, RPI-51) @ Miami (15-10, RPI-50)-Noon-No TV-Saturday
Baylor (16-9, RPI-53) @ OK St. (16-9, RPI-33)-1:45-ESPN360-Saturday
Vanderbilt (16-9, RPI-91) @ Florida (20-6, RPI-45)-3pm-ESPN360-Saturday
FSU (20-6, RPI-18) @ Virginia Tech (16-9, RPI-56)-8pm-No TV-Saturday
BYU (20-5, RPI-30) @ UNLV (19-7, RPI-57)-11pm-No TV-Saturday
So their you have it, 25 great games this weekend for the die hard college basketball fan.