Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 21 Missouri @ Kansas State: This is it. This is the game where Kansas State, the preseason top five team that was, at one point, 4-6 in the Big 12, can officially punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
On paper, this doesn't look like the best matchup for the Wildcats. They don't have a ton of ball handlers, and Missouri thrives on forcing turnovers and scoring quickly. The place where K-State would, presumably, have the biggest advantage -- on the glass -- does not appear to be that great of an advantage anymore. The Wildcat front court has been disappointing, as Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels continue to underachieve and Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla have left the program, while Missouri's bigs, namely Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe, are coming off of an impressive performance against Baylor's big front line.
But, as Luke Winn showed us in his Power Rankings on Thursday, both Missouri and Kansas State are much better teams at home. Throw in Jacob Pullen's return to his all-american form the past three games (he's averaging 30.5 ppg in K-State's recent three game winning streak) and the desperation of a team playing for the NCAA Tournament lives, and I think the Wildcats pull this one out.
Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 10 Arizona @ UCLA: There's a large faction of those in the know that believe Arizona, based on the national polls, is one of the most overrated teams in the country. I can buy that, especially after seeing the Wildcats get beaten on Thursday by a very ho-hum USC team. The loss drops the Wildcats to just one game in front of the Bruins atop the Pac-10 standings. this will definitely be one of the most intriguing games on Saturday's slate.
Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 1 Duke @ Virginia Tech: The Hokies are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives on Saturday. Without a marquee win to their name or another chance to get one before the ACC Tournament begins, this may be Seth Greenberg's final chance at avoiding the wrong side of the bubble for the fourth straight season. It would be a shame if Malcolm Delaney never got to play in the NCAA Tournament. What will be interesting is to see how he plays knowing that may be on the line.
Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 17 Texas A&M @ Baylor: I've never been high on Texas A&M this season, and while Baylor looked like they were throwing in the towel against Missouri on Wednesday, the Bears are still one of the most talented teams -- on paper -- in the country. When LaceDarius Dunn and Perry Jones are both playing well, they are a team that can overcome subpar point guard play. The question is whether or not those two show up on a nightly bases.
Sun. 12:00 pm: No. 15 UConn @ Cincinnati: These are two teams headed in opposite directions. UConn started out the year as hot as anyone in the country, but as Kemba Walker dominates possession of the ball, the Huskies continue to lose in Big East play. Cincy had their season turned around by the benching of Yancy Gates. The past three games, he's been a different player, and the Bearcats have been a different team.
Sun. 12:00 pm: West Virginia @ Rutgers: Rutgers is a scrappy, physical team that has found themselves down the stretch of the season under new head coach Mike Rice. They just knocked off Villanova at home and took Syracuse to overtime in the Carrier Dome. West Virginia is not as talented as those two teams, but they can be as physical as Rutgers. With UConn and Louisville to close out the season next week, the 'Eers better not look past this game.
Sun. 12:00 pm: Xavier @ Dayton: Dayton has been the biggest disappoint in the Atlantic 10 this year. They are clearly missing the leadership they lost in the back court last season while Chris Wright still has not developed into the player everyone wants him to be. That said, the Flyers are talented and they are physical and they will be playing in front of their terrific home crowd. If the Flyers are to pull off this upset, they'll need to stop Tu Holloway, who was one rebound away from back-to-back triple doubles.
Sun. 1:00 pm: No. 8 Purdue @ Michigan State: The Spartans picked up a big road win against Minnesota on Wednesday, getting them yet another step closer to overcoming their horrific start the the season. This game, however, may be the most important game Sparty has played all season. With their other two remaining games, the Spartans should have no problem getting to 10 wins in the Big Ten, but 11-7 with an extra win over Purdue can help make the committee forget about losses to Iowa and Michigan.
Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 20 Syracuse @ No. 11 Georgetown: This game changed on Wednesday night. Chris Wright, the Georgetown point guard, fell awkwardly and broke a bone in his left hand. Wright is the Hoya's best penetrator and their best passer. They are a different team against a zone when he isn't on the court. Regardless, this is Syracuse-Georgetown. Its the rivalry that the Big East was built on, and always a must-watch game.
Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 7 BYU @ No. 4 SDSU: The rematch doesn't have the same amount of hype as the first meeting in Provo back in January, but that doesn't diminish the importance of this game. With both teams sitting with one loss in Mountain West play, this could easily turn into the conference's regular season title game. Jimmer has been struggling lately, but his reputation is that of a big game player. He also has posted better numbers on the road than at home, meaning you can expect a big game out of him. But the Aztecs have been getting rowdy home crowds thanks to their success this season, and with BYU coming to town you should expect no different. As it was the first time, the key to this game is going to be how BYU's front line handles SDSU's big men.
Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 25 St. John's @ No. 14 Villanova: St. John's is the new darling of the Big East, but they've done the majority of their heavy lifting at home. The Johnnies only have two road wins on the season, but both of those wins have come in recent weeks, at Marquette and at Cincy. Villanova, on the other hand, has been struggling of late, losing five of their last nine games to fall off of the pace for one of the Big East's top four seeds. If St. John's wins, they put themselves into the driver's seat for one of the double-byes, as their last two games come against Seton Hall and South Florida.
Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 13 Florida @ No. 22 Kentucky: Florida has continued to win games, earning an 11-2 mark in the SEC and a three game lead in the SEC East. One win in their last three games, and the Gators will clinch the top seed in the East. That said, Florida has a tough schedule down the stretch, as they also host Alabama and travel to Vanderbilt. Kentucky is one of the most talented teams in the country, but they only play like it when they are at home, where John Calipari's team is undefeated this season. If the Gators pull out this win, its time to start discussing them as a potential No. 2 seed.
Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 6 Pitt @ No. 16 Louisville: I like this matchup for Louisville. Pitt is susceptible to being pressed. As good as Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs, and Travon Woodall are, none of them are really known as terrific ball handlers. Forcing tempo and forcing turnovers are Louisville's bread and butter. It will be key for the Cardinal's big men Gorgui Dieng and Terrence Jennings to box out on the defensive end of the floor, but if Louisville's press is working and they are hitting their threes, they are a tough team to beat.
Friday, February 25, 2011