College Basketball: 10 Must-Watch Games This Week

Oregon and UCLA face off in a top-10 showdown this week. Check out some other must-watch games this week.

With the college basketball season in full swing and March Madness just around the corner, there is no time like now to take in some of the most exciting matchups the NCAA has to offer.

Each week, we will bring you some of the most intriguing games to watch over the next seven days, with many of the squads being a force come March.


Game of the Day

(4) Louisville Cardinals at (12) Virginia Cavaliers, 7 PM ET, ESPN

The last time these two schools met, Virginia used their top-ranked defense -- in terms of points allowed -- to stifle the Cardinals attack, defeating Louisville 61-53 on their own floor. The Cavs limited them to 2-of-14 from beyond the arc, but the Cardinals' failure to sink free throws (13-of-22) ultimately did them in.

In the 10 games since, the Cavs have struggled a bit, going 6-4 while the Cardinals are 8-2. Despite the disparity in record as of late, the two schools are very similar. They both own a top-three defense in terms of adjusted defensive rating, with efficient but not explosive offenses. The Cavs should have the advantage in this one, as they are playing at home and Louisville will be without their point guard Quentin Snider, who is missing the game with a hip injury.


Game of the Day

Georgetown Hoyas at (2) Villanova Wildcats, 7 PM ET, FS1

With only seven regular season games remaining, the defending national champions are trying work out the kinks as they prepare to make their title defense. Even as they scored their third-most points all year, in Saturday's 92-79 win over St. John's, the Wildcats turned the ball over a season-high 23 times, an unusual feat for the sixth-best offense in terms of efficiency.

While the Hoyas have only an outside shot -- 36.9% probability, according to our algorithms -- of making the NCAA Tournament, a win over long-time Big East foe 'Nova would give them a tough case to argue as they already have wins over top-25 teams in Creighton, Butler, and Oregon.


Game of the Day

(6) Baylor Bears at Oklahoma State Cowboys, 7 PM ET, ESPNU

After a six-game losing streak to start 2017, the Cowboys have become one of the most dangerous teams to face in the Big 12. They are riding a five-game winning streak and are coming off their biggest victory of the year, where they knocked off the seventh-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown, 82-75. The Bears, on the other hand, are ice cold.

Once the number-one ranked team in the nation, Baylor owns a 5-3 record after starting the year 15-0. They have lost two consecutive games and are in real danger of making it three in a row as they make the trip to Stillwater, where they have won only three times in their last 10 games.


Game of the Day

(8) North Carolina Tar Heels at (18) Duke Blue Devils, 8 PM ET, ESPN

One of the classic rivalries in all of sports, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils face off for the 243rd time on Thursday. No matter the records, these two schools, separated by just 10 miles on Tobacco Road, always provide a riveting viewing experience. They split their meetings last year, with each road team winning by four points or less.

In the last 15 meetings, the Blue Devils have reigned supreme, winning 11 times and enter the game on a bit of a roll, winning their last three games. The Tar Heels, however, will be the Blue Devils' fiercest opponent they have faced in the last three weeks -- the 10th ranked Tar Heels will bring their ACC-leading 9-2 record and seventh-ranked offense with them.

Other Games to Watch

(5) Oregon Ducks at (10) UCLA Bruins, 10 PM ET, ESPN

In their first Pac-12 game of the season, the Oregon Ducks handed the Bruins their first defeat of the season on a Dillon Brooks last second basket. This last Saturday, they dismantled the other elite program in the conference, Arizona, to move into a tie for first in the conference. A win on Thursday in L.A. will go a long way to handing the Ducks their second consecutive regular season championship.

For UCLA, a win will not only exact a measure of revenge, it will add another quality win to their resume, which apart from an early-season win over the Kentucky Wildcats, is absent of one. They have faced only two ranked teams since (Oregon and Arizona) and lost both games.


Game of the Day

Dayton Flyers at Rhode Island Rams, 7 PM ET, ESPN2

The Atlantic 10 conference gets overlooked on a regular basis but has at least two, possibly three, teams making the NCAA Tournament. Friday's matchup between Dayton and Rhode Island pits two of the nation's top-50 teams in a battle for supremacy in the conference.

Under the eyes of a national TV audience, the Flyers will be able to show the nation how their top-notch defense will make them a threat come tourney time. Dayton owns the 11th-best defense in terms of adjusted defensive rating, according to and rank 31st in nERD rating. The last time they faced the Rams, it was an instant classic with the Flyers knocking off Rhode Island, 67-64. This time, they have to make the trip to New England, where the Rams own an 11-1 record at home.

While they may own only a 24.6% probability of making the field of 68, according to our models, Rhode Island may steal an at-large berth if they can add a win over Dayton to their resume. They are 1-1 against RPI top-25 teams, and are one of only two teams to beat 11th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats this season.


Game of the Day

(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs at (20) Saint Mary's Gaels, 8:15 ET, ESPN

The only undefeated team in the country, the Bulldogs are not only winning, but crushing opponents to the tune of a 23.7-point scoring margin. Playing in the weak West Coast Conference, the biggest obstacle in Gonzaga's way of finishing the regular season undefeated is the Gaels. In their last meeting, the Gaels did not provide much of a challenge, losing 79-56 in Spokane.

In the six games since, St. Mary's has been dominating in their own right, winning by 18.8 points while allowing only 52.3 points per game. That includes a 71-27 romp over San Diego, where they limited the Toreros to less than 20% shooting from the field.

Other Games to Watch

(14) Florida State Seminoles at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 6 PM ET, ESPN

The last two games for the Seminoles have highlighted their capabilities, as they have blown out Miami and Clemson, both top-40 teams regarding nERD rating, by an average of 33.0 points per game. Sitting in second place in the ACC with an 8-3 record, the Seminoles are looking to pile on to the Irish's recent struggles.

Losers of four straight, Notre Dame could definitely use a confidence builder as their usually explosive offense -- top 15 in offensive rating and averaging 79.7 points per game -- has been faltering. They have scored only 66.0 points per game during their losing streak.


Game of the Day

(11) Cincinnati Bearcats at (25) Southern Methodist Mustangs, 4 PM ET, ESPN

Cincinnati and SMU are the cream of the crop in the American Athletic Conference. While the Bearcats are a perfect 10-0, the Mustangs are right behind them at 10-1, with their only defeat coming at the hands of Cincinnati by only two points. This time, the Mustangs play host as they look to even the series and move into a tie at the top of the standings.

With the Bearcats sitting at 21-2, they are a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, no matter the outcome of this game -- they have a 95.7% probability of dancing in March according to our algorithms. However, with only two wins against a current top 25 ranked team (SMU and Xavier), the Bearcats need another quality mark on their resume if they want a top-four seed in the big dance.

Other Games to Watch

Northwestern Wildcats at (7) Wisconsin Badgers, 6:30 PM ET, Big 10 Network

Despite falling out of the AP top 25 this past week, the Wildcats are poised to break one of the longest droughts in college basketball by reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Coach Chris Collins has brought Northwestern from perennial doormat to fourth place in the Big 10. Wisconsin, for their part, has been the class of the Big 10, holding a two-game edge over the Wildcats in the standings.

They have been rolling too, winning seven straight and 16 of their last 17 games.