Eight of the game’s best remain, setting up a stellar weekend

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Welcome to the best weekend of the college basketball season.

Four games featuring eight of the game’s best teams with Final Four berths at stake. It’s a weekend where history is made, hearts are broken and the games rarely disappoint. How could they when there’s nothing but elite teams left?

Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina are all 1 seeds. Ohio State and Kansas are 2s. Baylor’s a 3, while Louisville’s a 4 seed, but won the Big East tournament. Florida’s the only real outlier, but considering this is the Gators’ second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight and began the season as a top 10 team, there’s little doubt about their ability.

In fact, you’re looking at eight teams pundits knew could reach this point. All eight were ranked among the top 13 in the preseason AP poll. North Carolina topped them all, while Kansas was 13. (More evidence that the preseason poll is an awfully good evaluator of teams.)

So where’s that leave us for Saturday and Sunday?

It starts with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals against Billy Donovan’s Gators (4:30 pm. ET). That’s mentor vs. mentee and the nation’s most efficient defense against one of its most efficient offenses. It’s two teams stocked with guards and one big guy in the middle on both sides.

Transition to Syracuse and Ohio State (7:05 p.m.). The Orange spent the season ignoring off-court distractions and turning in one of the best seasons of Jim Boeheim’s career (no small thing considering he’s won 890 games in his career). The Buckeyes endured an injury to star Jared Sullinger and a rough patch during Big Ten play only to be the last team from the nation’s best conference still playing.

Sunday features the tournament favorite (Kentucky) against the rising college hoops power (Baylor) that can nearly rival the Wildcats for NBA talent. The capped to it all? North Carolina vs. Kansas. One team might not have its starting point guard, while the other’s been winning without its usual bounty of talent.

These are your eight teams, ready to play four games that’ll set up college basketball’s final weekend. If they’re not the eight best, then they’re as close as it gets.

And that makes for a delightful weekend.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Thanksgiving Day Edition!

Kevin Ollie
(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.

For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.

The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.


1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.

2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.

3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.

4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.

5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?


  • No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
  • No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
  • No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.

VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun

Dan Hurley

No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.

Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.

But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.

It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:

After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: