SI.com's Seth Davis weighs in on the five hottest topics in college hoops.
Saturday, Feb. 4
2 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 3 Ohio State (19-3, 7-2 Big Ten) at No. 19 Wisconsin (18-5, 7-3) I love the Badgers, but I can't say I like them. I love how hard they play, how smart they are, how disciplined they are. But I think their talent ceiling is lower than it has been the past few years. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, can fly as high as they want. The Craft-Buford-Sullinger troika is as good as there is in college hoops, but they also have a few X-factor types who can totally change a game -- like sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith, who went for 17 points and 12 rebounds in last weekend's win over Michigan. I also like that Ohio State hasn't played in eight days, which means it will be primed to go into a tough road environment and grind out a win.
9 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1 Big 12) at No. 4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2) Missouri fans must be wondering who that strange person is running around wearing Marcus Denmon's jersey. The Tigers' 6-foot-3 senior guard, who has been one of the deadliest shooters in college basketball the last three years, has shot 33.3 percent from the field and 28.3 percent from three-point range over his last 12 games. Mizzou was somehow able to eke out a one-point win at Texas on Monday night despite Denmon shooting 3-for-12 from the floor. He doesn't have to shoot it great for Missouri to beat Kansas, he just has to shoot it better. Since this is the last time he'll play the Jayhawks in Columbia -- and possibly the last time any Missouri player will play Kansas at home, given Mizzou's pending move to the SEC -- I think Denmon will come in ready to fire.
4 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 5 North Carolina (19-3, 6-1 ACC) at Maryland (13-8, 3-4) This would be the perfect game to predict the Tar Heels will get trapped. They're on the road against a team desperate for a win, and they'll be in classic look-ahead mode with the Duke game coming up on Wednesday. However, after getting humiliated at Florida State, I think North Carolina doesn't look past anyone. Maryland, meanwhile, has lost four of its last five games because it has become a one-trick pony. Wednesday night's double-overtime loss at Miami was typical. Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin needed 26 shots to score 33 points, but only one other player (Alex Len) was in double figures, and he had 11. That's not how you get Capone.
1 p.m. (CBS)
No. 25 Vanderbilt (16-6, 5-2 SEC) at No. 12 Florida (18-4, 6-1) I'm not gonna get fooled again. I've pumped up Vanderbilt several times this season, only to have Lucy pull the football away just as I'm about to fire my kick. I thought the Commodores would beat Mississippi State at home two weeks ago and vault to the middle of the Top 25, but they blew a second-half lead and lost in overtime. On Tuesday night, Vandy's vaunted perimeter shooting game came up empty (6-for-21 from three), and the lack of a Plan B cost the Commodores the game. It's not their defense that is hurting them so much as their suspect point guard play, but any team that can shoot it like Vandy can has a chance to win. However, you may have heard that Florida has a few guys who can make outside shots as well. The Gators also have an enigmatic big man in Patric Young, whose energy has been inconsistent, but who knows how to get up for the big games.
1 p.m. (CBS)
No. 15 Marquette (19-4, 8-2 Big East) at Notre Dame (14-8, 6-3) Mike Brey has won some much-deserved praise for keeping the Irish in the hunt after losing his leading scorer, Tim Abromaitis, to a knee injury in November. But is anyone paying attention to the incredible work Buzz Williams is doing in Milwaukee? After hitting a rough patch during which they lost four out of six, the Golden Eagles are riding a seven-game winning streak -- and all without their starting center, Chris Otule, who blew out his knee on Dec. 6. Unfortunately, the Eagles will likely have to play this one without their best remaining big man, 6-8 sophomore Davante Gardner, who tweaked his knee in the comeback win over Villanova and is listed as day-to-day. If Gardner were playing or this game were in Milwaukee, I'd go with Marquette. I don't think the Eagles will be able to overcome that twofer, but I'm looking forward to watching them try.
1 p.m. (ACC Network)
No. 16 Virginia (18-3, 5-2 ACC) at No. 21 Florida State (15-6, 6-1) The Cavaliers have acquitted themselves reasonably well in the four games they've played without 7-foot senior center Assane Sene, who suffered a severe ankle injury in a win over Georgia Tech. They lost the following game at home to Virginia Tech, but they won their next three over Boston College, North Carolina State and Clemson. However, the competition is taking a major step up in this one. The Seminoles have been playing some inspired basketball as they've reeled off six straight wins, including the two big ones over North Carolina and Duke. Their defense is superb as usual, but the real reason for their surge is the improvement of 6-5 senior point guard Luke Loucks, who has had 29 assists and 15 turnovers during this win streak. Florida State is also one of the few ACC teams with the personnel up front to bother Virginia senior forward Mike Scott.
7 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
No. 20 Indiana (17-6, 5-6 Big Ten) at Purdue (15-7, 5-4) Something tells me this one won't be pretty. Indiana is having a terrible time winning on the road again (the Hoosiers have lost five of their last seven, and four of those losses have come away from Assembly Hall). And Purdue is having to grind out games even more than in the recent past. The Boilermakers lead the nation in turnover percentage (14.6) but they're 233rd in tempo. So you really have no choice but to play their style -- especially when you're in their building. That's going to spell trouble for an Indiana squad whose subpar point guard play has been exposed these last few weeks.
1 p.m. (SportSouth)
Xavier (15-7, 6-3 A-10) at Memphis (15-7, 6-2 C-USA) When the Musketeers went into their swoon in late December, the conventional wisdom was that they lost their competitive edge because of the blowback to their fight with Cincinnati. However, maybe the real explanation is that this team isn't as good as we thought. Before the Cincinnati game, the Musketeers' best win came on the road against a Vanderbilt team that was still without its starting center. Its other three significant wins were over Purdue, Butler and Cincinnati -- three teams that could miss the NCAA tournament. Xavier looked good while beating Saint Joseph's at home on Jan. 18, but it lost its next two (at Dayton, vs. St. Louis) and was fortunate to beat Charlotte and George Washington on the road by a total of five points. Memphis, meanwhile, played its best game of the season while losing at Southern Miss by three points on Wednesday night despite having two starters out with injury. The Tigers are developing a tougher, more cohesive identity, but they need this win at home to bank a little more house money for their at-large resume.
Seton Hall (15-7, 4-6 Big East) at Connecticut (14-7, 4-5) My goodness, what is going on with UConn? These once-proud Huskies, who began the season ranked fourth in the AP poll, have now lost four straight games -- and they've looked ugly in doing so. Jim Calhoun shook up his lineup for Wednesday night's game at Georgetown, and Shabazz Napier responded to his new role as a reserve by missing all nine of his field goal attempts in a 14-point loss. Ryan Boatright was worse as a starter, going scoreless in 19 minutes. Now with Calhoun taking an indefinite medical leave of absence, the road to the NCAAs doesn't look to get any smoother for the Huskies. The only solace for UConn in this game is that it will be at home and going up against a team that is actually playing worse, having lost five in a row. If UConn can't win this game, then the Huskies are not an NCAA tournament team. And I am not ready to concede that UConn will not play in the NCAA tournament.
Sunday, Feb. 5
1 p.m. (CBS)
No. 23 Michigan (17-6, 7-3 Big Ten) at No. 9 Michigan State (17-5, 6-3) Officially, Michigan State forward Draymond Green is listed as questionable because of the knee sprain he suffered during Tuesday night's loss at Illinois. Unofficially, unless Green has his leg amputated between now and Sunday, I expect him to play. This entire team has a bitter memory from having lost by one point in Ann Arbor two weeks ago. The Spartans committed 14 turnovers in that defeat, which is extremely high considering how low-scoring the game was, so their top priority is obviously to take better care of the ball. Michigan has been workmanlike and effective in Big Ten games this season -- no matter how poorly Trey Burke performs, he always makes the big plays in the end -- but the Wolverines are playing with house money in this one, and they know it.
Last Pickoff: 8-2 Overall: 64-26
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