Friday, March 2, 2012
Breaking down this weekend's top games
By Andy Katz
Editor’s note: Eamonn Brennan breaks down North Carolina-Duke in today’s Weekend Watch. Andy Katz offers a dozen more games to keep an eye on this weekend.
West Virginia at South Florida (Noon ET, ESPN3): Tell me again why West Virginia is a lock for the NCAA tournament? The Mountaineers are sliding toward the Big East tournament, losing seven of their past 10 games. Meanwhile, South Florida has won seven of nine and picked up its most important victory of the season by beating Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday. Winning 12 in the Big East didn’t put the Bulls in by itself, but which school got the Bulls to 12 probably did the trick.
Georgetown at Marquette (2 ET, ESPN3): Georgetown humbled Notre Dame and beat down Villanova in its final two home games. The Hoyas can draw even with Marquette in second place with a win in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles should be good to go at home, but which squad will show? Marquette looked like an Elite Eight team in last week's second-half comeback at West Virginia. But its performance at Cincinnati on Wednesday was more worthy of a first-round exit. Regardless, this could be a preview of a Big East tourney semifinal.
Ohio Valley title game (2 ET, ESPN2): The Ohio Valley could be the first bid thief of Championship Week. Murray State enters the OVC tournament with one loss and is playing for a high NCAA seed. Coach Steve Prohm is hopeful that an OVC win will equate to a top-four seed to protect the Racers. Putting Murray in Nashville might not be as much of a reach if it wins.
Washington at UCLA (2 ET, CBS): The Huskies have emerged as the class of the Pac-12. UCLA is trying to ensure that it still has class. The Bruins need some sort of momentum going into the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles. Washington has a chance to improve its NCAA seeding with a strong performance in L.A. and then next week at the Staples Center.
Louisville at Syracuse (4 ET, CBS): The Orange are the Big East No. 1 seed and a lock for a No. 1 NCAA seed. The question in this game is whether Louisville can find its offensive flow after a disheartening performance against South Florida. The Cardinals won’t get healthy at Syracuse but need to find an offensive identity before the Big East tournament.
Baylor at Iowa State (7 ET, ESPN3): Iowa State had Missouri on the ropes in Columbia earlier in the week; Baylor is finally starting to find its mojo at the right time of the season. Forgive the Bears if they drop this game in Ames — this is much more about Iowa State. The Cyclones are going to make the NCAA tournament and could be a spoiler in the Big 12 tourney. Don’t dismiss this team's chances stealing the Big 12 tournament.
Yale at Penn (7 ET): Penn has to sweep Brown and Yale to set up a possible showdown with Princeton that could hand the Ivy League title to Harvard with a Quakers loss (assuming Harvard wins at Columbia and Cornell) or set up a possible playoff game with the Crimson for the Ivy automatic bid.
Texas at Kansas (9 ET, ESPN): Texas passes a number of eye tests — except that the Longhorns haven’t taken down one of the Big 12's big three this season in Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. The Longhorns probably won’t get this one, but the game might be more about their ability to be competitive going into the Big 12 tournament.
Kentucky at Florida (Noon ET, CBS): Kentucky is hoping to lock up an undefeated SEC season and ensure itself the No. 1 overall seed ahead of Syracuse. The Gators, meanwhile, have been a bit of an enigma. Florida needs some momentum going into the SEC tournament. The Gators will need to make 3s and Patric Young must stay on the court to be an effective post player.
Missouri Valley title game (2 ET, CBS): The OVC is the first bid thief possibility. Sunday’s MVC title game could be the second of the weekend. If Creighton and Wichita State are in this game, there isn’t a problem. But if a third team sneaks in there and wins, suddenly the MVC will get three bids. If it’s a Creighton-Wichita final Sunday, expect a great atmosphere and a highly competitive affair yet again.
Ohio State at Michigan State (4 ET, CBS): The Spartans are vying to win the Big Ten title outright, something that seemed like a bit of a reach when they started 0-2 and then Ohio State destroyed Duke. But the Spartans’ Feb. 11 victory at Ohio State might go down as one of the most significant in a conference this season. It shifted the power and put the Spartans in position possibly to get a No. 1 seed. Look for the Spartans to win on Draymond Green’s senior night, capping off a great career that should end with him grabbing a Big Ten player-of-the-year trophy over Jared Sullinger.
Purdue at Indiana (6 ET, BTN): The Hoosiers have been one of the best home-court teams in the country. But they rocked the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena by 17. Purdue doesn’t forget. This is a great chance for payback by Purdue, which has been on a high of late. These two teams are both going to be in the NCAA tournament, with legit chances to win a game.