Mid-major matchups: Sat. St. Mary’s @ San Francisco, 11 p.m. (Comcast Sports Net)
St. Mary’s has a chance to do something that no one has done is well over a decade — win the WCC’s outright regular season title and be named something other than “Gonzaga”. All the Gaels have to do is go into San Francisco and knock off the Dons. Simple enough, right? Ask the Zags. They lost at San Francisco last week. BYU can vouch for them as well. The week before that, the Cougars needed a last-second bucket from Matt Carlino to beat USF. The Gaels looked like they may have gotten past their losing streak with a 70-43 win at Portland on Thursday night, but there are no guarantees on the road in college basketball.
Five more mid-major games to keep an eye on
Fri. Butler @ Valparaiso, 7 p.m. (ESPNU): Valpo is the Horizon League champ, but they have been playing less-than-perfect basketball down the stretch. With Cleveland State looking like a different team without D’Aundray Brown, the surging Bulldogs are all of a sudden a trendy pick to win the league’s automatic bid, which they will need if they want to go dancing.
Fri. Fairfield @ Iona 9 p.m. (ESPNU): Fairfield and Iona were the two overwhelming favorites in the MAAC heading into the season, so it makes sense that the Stags will be the team that can keep the Gaels from winning the outright MAAC title. Iona currently holds a one game lead over both Fairfield and Manhattan. A win all but locks up the regular season title, assuming they can beat St. Peter’s at home. A loss and things get interesting. Both of these teams are talented enough to win a game in the NCAA Tournament should they get that far.
Sat. George Mason @ VCU, 6 p.m. (ESPN2): I’m mad at George Mason. I really am. The Patriots had to go and lose on Wednesday, which means that this game is nearly meaningless; the winner gets the two seed in the CAA Tournament and the loser gets the three seed. If Mason had won, they would have had a shot at winning the CAA regular season title as current leader Drexel is playing at Old Dominion on Saturday. Throw in the fact that the last time these two teams got together we had one of the best games of the college basketball season, and we were all set for a classic. It should still be a good one, but without everything at stake, it becomes less dramatic.
Sat. Penn @ Harvard, 7 p.m. (ESPN3): Harvard will all but lock-up the Ivy’s automatic bid with a win over Penn at home on Saturday night. Penn currently sits a game behind them in the loss column. If the Quakers lose, they will be tied with Princeton and Yale two games behind the Crimson without anyone that can knock off Harvard left on their schedule. If you have yet to see Penn’s point guard Zack Rosen play, check this game out. He’s the real deal.
Sat. No. 14 Murray State @ Tennessee Tech, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3): Murray State has already locked up the Ohio Valley Conference title, but playing in the conference they play in, the Racers cannot afford to take a game off to rest up for the conference tournament. A loss here and failing to win the league’s automatic bid would only give the committee an excuse to do the unthinkable. Tennessee Tech has a player by the name of Kevin Murphy, who scored 50 in a game this season. I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Isaiah Canaan trade buckets for 40 minutes.