- There may not be any ranked match-ups scheduled for this weekend, as Super Bowl 52 takes center stage, but the games played over the next 48 hours will definitely have an impact on NCAA tournament resumés.
This is the final weekend before college basketball takes center stage in the sports world. This is a good one to burn during Super Bowl week, with exactly zero games featuring two ranked teams. But that doesn’t mean the weekend is completely devoid of intriguing matchups. From a game Saturday afternoon in Texas all the way through to an early Sunday tipoff in Philadelphia, tournament resumés will be bolstered and damaged over the next 48 hours.
Notre Dame at NC State
Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
Notre Dame’s season isn’t yet a lost cause. Yes, the Irish have lost six straight games, but if they get Bonzie Colson back before the ACC tournament, the selection committee will look at how the team played with Colson healthy. Still, the only way that’s relevant is if they at least win a few quality games without him and a victory in Raleigh on Saturday would qualify. The Irish will do what they can to slow it down, but that, of course, is dependent on them finding an offensive consistency that has evaded them since Colson went down with the foot injury. The Wolfpack are on a roll, with their only losses in the last month coming to Virginia and Miami. They have wins over Duke, Clemson and North Carolina in that time.
NC State 79, Notre Dame 70
No. 10 Texas Tech at TCU
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU
This is the start of a brutal four-game stretch for TCU, during which it will play Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas and West Virginia in a matter of nine days. The Horned Frogs are no sure thing for the NCAA tournament and a bad run over the next couple of weeks could have them in trouble heading into March. They’ve been able to keep their offense rolling without Jaylen Fisher, but the Red Raiders will present a unique challenge. They’re ranked third in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 89.7 points per 100 possessions. Given their upcoming schedule, the Horned Frogs cannot afford to drop a home game, even against a quality opponent like Texas Tech.
Texas Tech 72, TCU 70
No. 21 Kentucky at Missouri
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
There’s an episode of Seinfeld in which the famously bespectacled George Costanza loses his glasses. He takes a bite out of an onion thinking it’s an apple, but then he also spots a dime on the floor on the opposite side of the room. That’s basically Kentucky. One day, they’re going to Morgantown and knocking off West Virginia. The next, they need overtime to take care of lowly Vanderbilt at home. What is this team? I think the answer is some mix of impossibly athletic and maddeningly inconsistent, with latent talent up and down the roster that doesn’t always find the right outlet. The Wildcats will have their hands full against a Missouri team that has knocked off Georgia and Tennessee at home and excels at grinding games to a halt. It’s that style of team that can really give Kentucky issues.
Missouri 68, Kentucky 65
Miami at Virginia Tech
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Virginia Tech is starting to resemble a safe NCAA tournament team but its resumé isn’t quite there yet. The Hokies beat North Carolina at home, but their next best win was at a short-handed Notre Dame team playing without Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and D.J. Harvey. They don’t have any other wins against at-large quality teams. That makes Saturday’s tilt with Miami huge. Everyone on the perimeter for Virignia Tech can shoot it from deep, driving the team to the third-best effective field goal percentage in the country. Miami, however, holds teams to a 31% success rate from behind the arc, 15th best in the country. With Bruce Brown out for the Hurricanes, however, all the defense in the world might not make up for his offensive presence.
Virginia Tech 73, Miami 66
South Carolina at Texas A&M
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
When it comes down to it, there might not be enough room in the dance for both of these teams. Neither has done enough to command a spot, and there likely isn’t enough time left for both to do so, unless they go on unlikely runs. That makes this a huge game on both sides. South Carolina’s offensive profile is so terrible, and yet it has found ways to beat Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. The Aggies are quietly getting back on track after taking care of Missouri and Arkansas at home and holding their own at Kansas. It’s amazing what having your whole roster available will do for you.
Texas A&M 72, South Carolina 61
Providence at Marquette
Saturday, 2:30 p.m., FS1
These teams are both coming off big losses earlier this week. Providence fell at Seton Hall by 16, while Marquette got run out of its own gym, losing to Butler by 20. The Golden Eagles have now lost three straight games, and could be in real trouble if they lose at home again on Saturday. They have just three resumé-building opportunities after Saturday, and two of those are in tough spots at Seton Hall and Creighton. Marquette won the first game between these teams, a 95-90 thriller in Providence. That was the game in which Markus Howard scored 52 points on just 29 shots. He and Andrew Rousey form one of the most dynamic scoring duos in the country and that should be enough to protect home floor this weekend.
Marquette 83, Providence 76
Kansas State at No. 15 West Virginia
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Something is seriously wrong with the Mountaineers. Not only have they lost five of their last six games, they’ve allowed at least 82 points in their last three. They surrendered 1.26 points per possession to Kentucky and a whopping 1.45 points per possession earlier this week to an Iowa State team that entered the game last in the Big 12. The defense is broken, and that’s a big problem for Bob Huggins’s squad. Kansas State is still without Kamau Stokes, whose ball-handling ability could be crucial against a team like West Virginia. He had just two turnovers the first time these teams met—a 77-69 West Virginia win—while Barry Brown had seven. The Mountaineers are desperate for a win on Saturday and need to find a way to get Esa Ahmad more consistent offense.
West Virginia 75, Kansas State 68
Florida State at Louisville
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network
These teams met about a month ago in Tallahassee, with Louisville picking up a big, 73-69 road win. Florida State took a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime and led for most of the game, but its offense went dormant in the second half. That hasn’t typically been an issue for the Seminoles this year, which speaks to what Louisville can do defensively when it is at its best. These are two of the many teams in the great middle of the ACC this year, likely tournament-bound, but not major threats to do a whole lot of damage. Both teams like to get up and down the floor, so expect a fun, fast-paced game. For what it’s worth, Florida State could use a road victory after losing games to Boston College and Wake Forest away from home.
Louisville 82, Florida State 76
No. 2 Virginia at Syracuse
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Get ready for the slowest game of the season—this one might not reach 100 combined points. Virginia ranks 351st in kenpom.com’s adjusted tempo, while Syracuse ranks 342rd. (In case you forgot, there are 351 Division I basketball teams.) The Orange may be comfortable playing Virginia’s pace but that doesn’t mean they can hang with their visitors. The Cavaliers aren’t just a defensive powerhouse. With Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall—all of whom shoot at least 41.5% from behind the arc—leading the offense, the Cavaliers make the most of their long possessions. This is a stifling defense with an efficient offense, and that’s what makes this team potentially Tony Bennett’s best during his tenure in Charlottesville.
Virginia 62, Syracuse 48
Alabama at No. 23 Florida
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Alabama has taken a hit over the last 10 days, losing at Mississippi and at home to Missouri. A road trip to Florida represents a real chance to get a signature road win, something that has eluded the Tide, but it won’t be easy. Collin Sexton has a real size advantage he can exploit in this game, so he’ll have to be the primary source of offense, even more than he typically is for the Tide. If Florida is hitting from three, it could be a long afternoon for the visitors. Herbert Jones’s ability to lock down Jalen Hudson will be big.
Florida 70, Alabama 68
USC at UCLA
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
It’s another down year for the Pac-12. The Los Angeles schools are unquestionably two of the better teams in the conference and yet neither is a sure thing to make the big dance. USC is 8-2 in the Pac-12 and not one of those wins is against an at-large quality team. In fact, the only likely tournament teams they’ve beaten this season are Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State, powerhouses in Conference USA and the WAC, respectively. UCLA, meanwhile, just got swept out of Oregon by a pair of teams that are 8-10 in conference. Bennie Boatwright has missed two straight games for USC with a foot injury and his potential absence could leave the Trojans shorthanded against UCLA’s big frontcourt, but the Trojans are still the better team here.
USC 78, UCLA 76
No. 12 Oklahoma at Texas
Saturday, 6:15 p.m., ET ESPN
Oklahoma’s offense against Texas’s defense—that’s the story here. This game also features likely high lottery picks Trae Young and Mo Bamba, the anchors of their respective teams. Young’s long-range shooting gets all the attention, but his ability to thread his way through a defense and make smart, crisp passes to open shooters is equally responsible for Oklahoma’s strong offense. Will that part of his game be as effective with Bamba in the paint for Texas? Will either team be able to get the game to the extreme tempo—Oklahoma on the fast side, Texas on the slow side—that it wants? This should be one of the best games of the weekend.
Texas 78, Oklahoma 77
No. 9 Arizona at Washington
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Look, it’s not easy to go on a 16-1 run in college basketball, no matter your schedule, so no one should be looking down their nose at the Wildcats. Still, it’s worth at least mentioning that their best wins in this run were over Arizona State (at home), Texas A&M (at the Phoenix Suns’ arena) and at Utah. Arizona looks like the Arizona we expected it to be at the start of the season, but the Pac-12 isn’t going to give the team many tests before the NCAA tournament. Washington can see its path to the big dance right before its eyes. If it can add a win over Arizona to the one it already has over Kansas and avoid bad losses the rest of the way, it might pull out an at-large bid. Can the Huskies slow down Arizona’s big three of DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Dusan Ristic, especially with Ayton figuring out this whole college basketball thing? The bet here is a resounding no.
Arizona 81, Washington 70
Seton Hall at No. 1 Villanova
Sunday, noon ET, FOX
There’s a big game happening Sunday with a team from Philadelphia that will have the entire sports world rapt in attention. I am, of course, talking about Seton Hall at Villanova, what else could I be referencing? In all seriousness, this should be a nice appetizer for the Super Bowl (and all of the other pre-game munchies). The Big East may not be as strong top to bottom as it has been in recent years, but Villanova’s ability to steamroll everyone is remarkable. It will be fun to see if the challenge presented by Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado will at all change the script for the Wildcats. The bet here? It almost certainly won’t.
Villanova 93, Seton Hall 75