Carrier Dome nostalgia leads a packed weekend
>Editor's note: Rece Davis is the host of "College GameDay," which will be in Lexington, Ky., for Saturday night's Missouri-Kentucky game. Check out the video above as six of our writers preview six of the weekend's top games. There are times when my pragmatic, self-determination viewpoint clashes with my sentimental side. As a core value, I believe every school should determine what's best for their athletics program. I have no qualm whatsoever with Syracuse going to the ACC. But I hate what those same decisions are doing to the rivalries we look forward to every year. So I plan to savor every moment of the last two regular-season Big East meetings between Georgetown and Syracuse. College GameDay will be in D.C. for the regular-season finale, but Saturday's matchup at the Carrier Dome will be played against a nostalgic backdrop.
Predictions for the best of BracketBusters
The 11th and final BracketBusters event begins Friday night and continues over the weekend all around the country. Here's my take (along with some predictions) on what I feel are the seven best matchups:Friday North Dakota State at Akron, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Akron possesses the nation's top winning streak at 17 in a row. That run has placed the Zips on the soft NCAA tournament bubble. Zeke Marshall, who is fifth in the nation with 3.48 blocks per game, leads a group that's ranked 50th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. North Dakota State was rising in the Summit League before Taylor Braun, their leading scorer at 15.2 PPG, suffered a foot injury last month. The Bison have lost four of their last eight games and are third in the league. The good news is that Braun will probably return soon. The bad news is that he'll probably miss the trip to Akron. Prediction: Akron 76, NDSU 65 Saturday Iona at Indiana State, 11 a.m. ET, ESPNU: Remember when Indiana State was the sexy bubble team? That's no longer the case. ISU has lost three in a row and four of its last six. The Sycamores are in a can't-lose situation in this matchup with Iona. They have wins over Miami, Ole Miss and Wichita State, which helps. But they also have losses to the four teams in the bottom of the conference (Bradley, Drake, Missouri State and Southern Illinois). Figure that one out. Iona boasts one of the nation's most potent offenses (19th in adjusted offensive efficiency) but has lost five of six. Few teams have caught as many bad breaks as Iona. Three of those losses were sealed after regulation (one in overtime, two in double-overtime). The other two defeats were by three points or fewer. Iona is one or two stops away from being the MAAC's best team. Prediction: Iona 76, Indiana State 74
All times ET:
7 p.m.: Saint Louis at Butler (ESPNU)
7 p.m.: North Dakota State at Akron (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Stephen F. Austin at LBSU (ESPNU)
10 a.m.: "College GameDay" from UK (ESPNU)
11 a.m.: "College GameDay" from UK (ESPN)
11 a.m.: Iona at Indiana State (ESPNU)
12 p.m.: Seton Hall at Louisville (ESPN3)
12 p.m.: Clemson at Maryland (ESPN2)
1 p.m.: Miami at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
1 p.m.: Southern Miss at Memphis (FSN)
2 p.m.: Oklahoma State at West Virginia (ESPN2)
2 p.m.: VCU at Xavier (CBSS)
3 p.m.: Montana at Davidson (ESPNU)
4 p.m.: Georgetown at Syracuse (CBS)
4 p.m.: NC State at North Carolina (ESPN)
4 p.m.: New Mexico at Colorado State (NBCSN)
4 p.m.: TCU at Kansas (ESPN3)
4 p.m.: Detroit at Wichita State (ESPN2)
5 p.m.: Baylor at Oklahoma (ESPNU)
6 p.m.: Creighton at Saint Mary's (ESPN)
6 p.m.: Marquette at Villanova (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Arkansas at Florida (ESPNU)
7 p.m.: San Diego at Gonzaga (ROOT)
8 p.m.: Kansas State at Texas (LHN)
8 p.m.: Stanford at Oregon (PACN)
8 p.m.: South Dakota St. at Murray St. (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Missouri at Kentucky (ESPN)
10 p.m.: Ohio at Belmont (ESPN2)
11 p.m.: Washington at Arizona State (ESPNU)
12 p.m.: Pittsburgh at St. John's (ESPN3)
1 p.m.: Illinois at Michigan (ESPN)
2 p.m.: Cincinnati at Notre Dame (CBS)
2 p.m.: Boston College at Duke (ESPN3)
3:30 p.m.: UCLA at USC (FSN)
4 p.m.: Michigan State at Ohio State (CBS)
I Can't Wait To See
Colorado State and New Mexico. Whatever combination of factors has conspired to get us where we currently are in the Mountain West -- good recruiting, great coaching, massive decade-old surges of interest from San Diego to Fort Collins -- we are in a very good place. Most every game is tight, well-played, hard-fought, and in front of thousands of screaming maniacs, which is all we can ever really ask from college basketball. So it is this weekend, when the Rams, fresh off a heartbreaker at UNLV, host the league-leading Lobos in arguably the biggest MWC game of the season. It's a matchup of the nation's best two-way rebounding squad (CSU) with a New Mexico group that doesn't crash its own boards but prevents defensive rebounds as well as anyone in the country. But mostly it's another exciting game in a league built on them this season, and I can't wait.
When we promote the BracketBusters event, we end up hyping games that appear to be the most significant at the time. The problem is, there's still plenty of time in between the announcement of the matchups and the actual event. The Creighton-Saint Mary's game is still one of the most anticipated, but it might not be the most significant. The Detroit-Wichita State game has now taken on much more significance. If the Titans can come up with a road victory, they suddenly have to be considered a viable candidate for an at-large bid, in my opinion. Detroit came back and beat Valparaiso on the road and could end up winning the Horizon League. Wichita has won back-to-back tricky road games and is a viable threat to unseat Creighton and claim the Missouri Valley Conference title. Detroit-WSU has become appointment viewing for Saturday; these two teams could bust a bracket in March.
I can't wait to see if Marquette can keep it going. The fact that the Golden Eagles are in first place in the Big East race is one of the more underrated story lines in college basketball right now. Think about it. Marquette lost leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder and didn't really replace them with anything. I keep waiting for Buzz Williams' squad to take a slide, and it hasn't happened. I'm not sure any coach in America has maximized what he can get out of a team quite like Williams has this season. If Marquette wins the Big East, I may consider voting him national coach of the year over Miami's Jim Larranaga. Williams isn't working with nearly as much talent, and the Big East is a considerably tougher league than the ACC. Marquette (18-6 overall, 10-3 in the Big East) plays at Villanova on Saturday night.
I can't wait to see how the mid-majors that are on or near the bubble perform during this weekend's BracketBusters. Akron, a team that leads the nation with a 17-game winning streak, can't afford a loss to a North Dakota State squad that won't have its best player (Taylor Braun). Wichita State is back on top of the Missouri Valley Conference after a rough stretch a few weeks ago, but a loss to a second-place Horizon League squad (Detroit) would not help its cause. Indiana State has wins over Miami and Ole Miss, but a loss to Iona would only increase the confusion about ISU's postseason status (Indiana State has lost to the bottom four teams in the MVC). Saint Mary's won't get a better résumé-boosting opportunity than its home game against Creighton on Saturday. The Gaels have already been swept by Gonzaga, and their upcoming matchup against BYU won't do much for its at-large hopes. Creighton seems safe, but what if the Bluejays stumble even more down the stretch? They've already lost three of their last five games.
File this under "I can't wait to see" and "I wish I didn't have to see," all at the same time. Georgetown and Syracuse tango on Saturday for what will be their last official meeting at the Carrier Dome as Big East members. There's plenty at stake -- like a piece of first place in the league standings. But this one is about much more than the moment. It's about a heated and fierce rivalry that has included some of the conference's (if not the sport's) most iconic figures. The Dome will be packed -- Syracuse already has announced a sellout that will set a record -- so it will be a great environment and I'm excited to be there. I just wish it didn't have to end.
I can't wait to see how the ACC tournament seeding starts to play out. Right now, NC State, North Carolina and Virginia are tied for third (and fourth and fifth) place in the league at 8-5 -- a precarious position, considering only the top four seeds get a Thursday bye in the conference tournament next month (and no ACC team has ever won four games to win the event). With only a little more than two weeks left in the regular season, jockeying begins in earnest this weekend, when the Wolfpack meet the rival Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Saturday, and the Cavs face Georgia Tech at home Sunday.