College Basketball: 10 Must-Watch Games This Week
We are only four weeks away from Selection Sunday, but there is still a ton to sort out this season.
Saturday, the selection committee gave us a sneak preview of the top 16 teams in the tournament, and just as fast as it was released, it was made null and void by pre-tournament madness.
Every day gives a team an opportunity to play themselves into or out of the tournament, in or out of the good graces of the selection committee. This week's action in the Big 12 and ACC is a perfect representation of how every game matters tremendously, whether a team is on the bubble or vying for top billing in the tournament.
Here are 10 games you need to watch this week.
Game of the Day
Kansas gets their chance at redemption when West Virginia travels to Lawrence on Monday night. Three weeks ago, the Mountaineers cruised to an 85-69 victory at home over Kansas, and now the Jayhawks have an opportunity to even the score.
Each team has dropped a home game to an unranked opponent since that game, but that is just life in a competitive Big 12. The Mountaineers trail Kansas by two games in the Big 12, and a season sweep over the Jayhawks would be very helpful in their effort of dethroning the king of the conference.
It is nearly impossible to beat Kansas in their own gym, but since it has already been done this year, this game is anything but a sure thing.
Other Games to Watch
The second place team in the Big 12 is also in action Monday night as Baylor faces off with a feisty Texas Tech squad looking for big wins.
Tech let an opportunity slip through their fingers this past Saturday, dropping a game to Kansas in the final seconds, 80-79. As time is running out in the season, the Red Raiders are in need of big wins to ensure they are not sweating it out on Selection Sunday.
Baylor has not been upset-prone this season, especially taking care of business on the road against unranked opponents. However, their last matchup with Texas Tech came down to the wire, and we can be in store for a similar game this time around.
Another potential bubble team, Syracuse, invites another highly ranked team into the Carrier Dome Monday when Louisville comes to town. The Orange have been strong at home during the ACC schedule, winning all six of their games in New York, including wins over Virginia and Florida State in the last couple weeks. A loss to Pittsburgh over the weekend may hurt their resume, but a win over Louisville would more than likely offset that loss.
The Cardinals are coming off a 1-1 week, with their loss coming at Virginia in a game where they suspended starters Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang for breaking curfew. Louisville has been a tough team to upset this year, with their worst loss coming on the road to ACC foe Notre Dame.
Game of the Day
(12) Duke at (14) Virginia, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN2
The ACC schedule is full of landmines, and another matchup versus a ranked opponent can be a momentum killer. Virginia dropped another tough conference game, this time at in-state rival Virginia Tech on Sunday night. Luckily for the Cavaliers, they return home on Wednesday night, but a date with Duke is anything but inviting.
The college basketball world is waiting for the Blue Devils to play up to the national title caliber that most people expected out of them this season, and while a five-game winning streak is encouraging, it has been anything but dominant. Duke was able to take care of business in their home matchup with North Carolina last week, but their single-digit home wins over conference bottom feeders Clemson and Pittsburgh will not be enough to get everyone excited in Durham.
A win in Charlottesville would be huge for Duke as they try to climb back into the ACC race.
Other Games to Watch
Northwestern's victory at Wisconsin Sunday night has opened up the Big Ten regular season conversation once again, and this matchup pins two teams trying to overtake first place. In addition to their similar standing in the conference, the Wildcats and Terrapins have similar resumes entering the home stretch of the season.
Northwestern's win over Wisconsin puts some separation between themselves and Maryland for now, but if they want to keep it that way, holding home court will be huge.
Likewise, Maryland is in need of more big wins. Their 21-4 record is impressive, but it is deceiving considering they do not have a victory over a team that is currently ranked. However, a road win over a Northwestern team that is likely going to be in the NCAA Tournament will help their resume.
These two games Wednesday night may not determine much in the Big 12 outside of seeding for the conference tournament, but they will be important when determining seeding in the NCAA Tournament. According to Bracket Matrix's composite rankings, all four of these teams would currently be in the tournament somewhere between an 8 and a 9 seed.
Being that the line is so thin between these four teams, these games will be hard-fought, even competitions, and that is exactly what we are looking for out of college basketball this time of year.
(11) Wisconsin at Michigan, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN
Wisconsin will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Northwestern on Sunday, and a trip to Ann Arbor will not be an easy place to do it. The Wolverines are in desperation mode to grab big wins entering March, and a win over Wisconsin can differentiate themselves from other teams on the bubble.
Their .500 record in a struggling Big Ten probably will not be enough to get them into the tournament, so opportunities like this are important for Michigan to take advantage of.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is looking to hold onto pole position in the conference and improve upon their current standing in the eyes of the selection committee. As of Saturday, no Big Ten teams were within the top 16 seeds in the tournament.
Game of the Day
(3) Kansas at (4) Baylor, 1:00 PM ET, CBS
The top two teams will clash in Waco when Kansas faces Baylor on Saturday. The Jayhawks took their home game in this series 73-68 back on February 1st and can all but lock up the Big 12 if they can sweep the Bears.
On the other hand, if Baylor wins, they would even up the series with Kansas, and assuming they can each win their games on Monday, the Big 12 would be knotted up with two weeks to go. The first matchup between these Final Four hopefuls lived up to expectations, and hopefully this one will not disappoint. This will likely be the game of the week and is definitely not one to miss.
Other Games to Watch
(14) Virginia at (10) North Carolina, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN
Virginia's tough week continues when they travel to Chapel Hill on Saturday night to face North Carolina. This will be the first of two meetings within a 10-day span for two of the ACC's top teams and is a matchup of completely different styles.
Virginia ranks second to last in the country in pace, while North Carolina is 31st in the nation. It will be an interesting game within the game to see which team can impose their style on the other and if they can maintain that throughout.
The second Final Four caliber matchup of the day will be a great way to end another exciting Saturday in college basketball.