College Basketball: 8 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 week, many of the squads being a force come March.
Let's dive in!
Game of the Day
Not too long ago, the Gamecocks were sitting pretty in first place in the Southeastern Conference. However, after losing two games in a row and three of their last four, the Gamecocks find themselves in third place, two full games behind the Kentucky Wildcats and their opponent on Tuesday, the Florida Gators. With only four games left in the regular season, the Gamecocks need a win to stop the bleeding, and another victory over the Gators would do just the trick.
In their last meeting, it was a battle of defenses with South Carolina's third-ranked unit, according to kenpom.com, coming out on top, 57-53. This time, however, the battle will be in Gainesville, where the Gators are 14-3 this season. Florida is also coming in hot as they are currently on a season-high eight-game winning streak, winning by an average of 21.6 points per game in that span.
Game of the Day
With only four games left and North Carolina holding a slim one-game lead over the Cardinals, this one could be for the regular-season crown in the ACC and a shot at a 1 seed in the big dance.
Louisville enters the game with a top-seven defense, according to our algorithms, but they are coming off a terrible showing where they allowed a season-high 90 points to Virginia Tech. The Hokies shot nearly 60% from the field and over 65% from three, a far cry from the 39.3% the Cardinals have allowed opponents to shoot this season.
The Tar Heels, for their part, have come back from a loss to the Duke Blue Devils by crushing their last two opponents, including 18th-ranked Virginia, by 24 points each. North Carolina boasts the best offense in the ACC, scoring 84.2 points per game, while the Louisville gives up only 67.2 points in an intriguing clash of strength versus strength.
Other Game to Watch
The last time these two Big East powerhouses squared off, the Bulldogs handed the Wildcats their first defeat of the season. Butler was able to slow down Nova's third-ranked offense, per efficiency, limiting them to 58 points on 37.3% shooting.
Since their big win, the Bulldogs have stumbled, going 3-3 in their last six games. The Wildcats, on the other hand, have continued to dominate. They have won 12 of their last 13 games and enter the rematch on a seven-game win streak. The 'Cats wrapped up a three-game road trip with a 22-point stomping of Seton Hall. Villanova will be looking to take care of business at home and extract a bit of revenge versus Butler.
Game of the Day
After losing to the SMU Mustangs and relinquishing first place in the American Athletic Conference for the first time this season, the Bearcats have torn up the competition, winning their last two games by an average of 17.0 points per game. Their defense has been superb, limiting South Florida and Tulsa to an average of 57.0 points. However, on Thursday they will have their hands full with the Tigers' Dedric Lawson, the second-leading scorer in Conference USA at 19.5 points per night.
The Memphis sophomore has been the best player in the conference as he leads the league in rebounds per game (10.1) and player efficiency rating (28.0). Lawson has the ability to take over games -- as he did last year versus Cincinnati when he scored 20 points with 11 rebounds in a 63-59 Memphis victory.
Game of the Day
If you catch only one college basketball game this week, this is the one you won't want to miss. This battle of Pac-12 elites not only pits two of the top five teams in the nation against one another, it is a showdown of two of the best freshmen in all of college basketball.
The Bruins' Lonzo Ball has transformed what was a sluggish offense last season into the nation's best offense. UCLA ranks first in points per game (92.3), offensive rating (126.1), field goal percentage (53.3%), and assists per game (21.7).
The Wildcats' Lauri Markkanen is no slouch either.
The Finnish forward leads Arizona with 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.1 three-pointers per game as he ranks in the top five of the nation with a 135.1 offensive rating. An exceptional two-way player, he typifies the more balanced style of Arizona as they rank in the 92nd percentile in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
In the previous meeting, Arizona had the upper hand, winning 96-85 on UCLA's home court.
Other Games to Watch
(13) Florida Gators at (11) Kentucky Wildcats, 2 PM ET, CBS
Talk about a revenge game. Not only do the Wildcats want to avenge the 22-point defeat they suffered at the hands of the Gators a little over two weeks ago, but this matchup could also be for the SEC regular-season crown as the two schools are currently tied for first place. In another classic case of strength versus strength, Kentucky and their 88.8-points-per-game offense will clash with Florida's elite defense, which ranks first in the SEC with 66.6 points allowed per game and fifth overall in defensive efficiency.
While Michigan looks likely to make the NCAA Tournament -- we give them a 62.5% chance -- their resume could use another signature win. Knocking off the Big 10 co-leaders in Purdue would definitely count as one. It won't be an easy task, though, especially with National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan crashing the glass for the Boilermakers. The Wolverines rank 343rd out of 351 Division I schools with 29.3 boards per game while Swanigan averages 13.0 by himself.
Game of the Day
After suffering their first losing streak of the year, the Badgers got back on track, knocking off the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday. Now in a tie with Purdue for first place in the Big 10, Wisconsin is looking to keep pace in the race for a regular-season title. Standing in their way is a Michigan State squad wrought with injuries.
In Sunday's loss to Purdue, the Spartans lost their third-leading scorer, Eron Harris, for the year to a knee injury. His loss leaves an already weak offense undermanned as they fight an uphill battle to make the NCAA Tournament for the 20th consecutive season. With a 16-11 record, Tom Izzo's squad desperately needs another quality win on their resume to keep the streak going.