Daily Word: Time to cement a bid
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Which bubble team has the best chance to secure its position Saturday?
Andy Katz: Providence. Win and the Friars are in the field. If they have a good showing, that might do it, as well, even without winning.
Dana O'Neil: Providence is likely in the tourney, but the Friars can send a resounding message on where the team stands this year and as a program against Creighton on Saturday. Ed Cooley has done a remarkable job resurrecting this program. A Big East title would be a huge feather in his cap.
C.L. Brown: NC State's win over Syracuse brought it into the conversation of bubble teams. If the Wolfpack can add Duke to their résumé of wins, that might be enough to sneak them into the tournament.
2. Which player do you see single-handedly winning a game for his team Saturday?
Katz: The American final could go either way with Louisville's Russ Smith and Shabazz Napier, so I will go with Creighton's Doug McDermott in the Big East. He will go for 30-plus and deliver the big East title and a 4-seed in the NCAA tournament. McDermott will add to his trophy collection with an MVP award.
O'Neil: I'll go with Russ Smith, whose 42 essentially did the same for the Cardinals against Houston. There is always a chance Smith could revert to Pass-First Russ, but, in a game like this, I doubt it.
Brown: Russ Smith has been doing a little bit of everything for Louisville the past few games, from 12 assists on senior night to his 42-point outburst against Houston on Friday. If need be against UConn, I don't think there's any doubt he'll make the plays to win the game.
3. What's your ideal Big Ten championship game?
Katz: Wisconsin against Michigan would be ideal. The winner will get the fourth No. 1 seed in the tourney. That will make the selection committee sweat because it will have to wait to finish the bracket.
O'Neil: Michigan-Michigan State. No disrespect to Wisconsin, but I still think the Wolverines and Spartans are the best of the bunch. I'd like to see the Spartans at full strength against the Wolverines at full throttle.
Brown: Andy's right on this one. Losses from teams that had a shot of claiming the fourth No. 1 seed, such as Villanova and Kansas, paved the way for Wisconsin or Michigan to have more than just a league title at stake.
Looking for Cinderella? It is that time of year. Perhaps it's St. Bonaventure, which pulled the stunner of the day by knocking off top-seeded Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.
Can the 18-14 Bonnies keep going and be March bid-stealers? Next up in the semifinals is bubble team Saint Joseph's.
Games To Watch
The last time these two teams met, Pitt came up just short in a defensive scrum on its home floor. Expect more of the same Saturday in Greensboro from two teams that allow fewer than 65 points per game.
John Calipari made a "tweak" to his Kentucky team but refused to reveal what it was. Regardless, the Wildcats were much improved Friday against LSU, especially in the second half. Another win likely will mean Round 3 with Florida.
Somehow, the No. 4 and No. 7 seeds are playing for all the Big 12's glory in Kansas City. Iowa State got there by playing perhaps its most complete game against Kansas on Friday, and Baylor topped TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.