Game of the Day: No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Louisville has won three straight games after losing three in a row as part of a bad stretch in late January. In hand with that turnaround has been Peyton Siva reemerging after struggling during the Cardinals’ losing streak. Since Pitino’s team has bounced back, Siva has affected the game either by scoring or working for others, including a 10-assist game in a win over Pitt and a 14-point game in a win over Marquette.
That Siva/Russ Smith backcourt meets its match Saturday against Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, two guards who average over 20 points and 10 assists between them. On the interior, Louisville will need to contain Big East Player of the Year candidate Jack Cooley, who has had a double-double in five of his last six games.
Who’s Getting Upset?: Dayton (-4) vs. Temple (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)
Dayton has the advantage of being at home, but we the viewing audience will have the treat of a solid point guard matchup for brunch Saturday. Khalif Wyatt vs. Kevin Dillard is one of the better ones to follow not just among mid-majors, but in the country. Wyatt has had a flair for the dramatic this season, having put together stellar outings in a win over Syracuse and nearly pulling off an upset of Kansas.
Dillard, too, has had his moments. His 23 points against St. Joe’s lifted the Flyers to a key 60-54 win just this past Wednesday. Who would I take? It’s close, but I’ll take Wyatt and the Owls in the upset.
Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
The best non-BCS matchups somehow always happen to be in the Mountain West. We are gifted with another gem Saturday. The Lobos have bounced back with three straight wins after an embarrassing loss to San Diego State on Jan. 26. The three-point ball has been key in New Mexico’s last two wins and they will likely highlight that again Saturday.
For UNLV, they will need to look to Anthony Bennett, their talented Freshman of the Year candidate. If he gets into foul trouble, it could spell trouble for the Rebels. A loss to New Mexico on Jan. 9 saw Bennett score just 10 points and pick up four fouls. No Bennett likely means no key conference win for coach Dave Rice’s team.
Five Things to Watch For
1) Coming off perhaps the biggest upset loss of the season, No. 5 Kansas needs to turn things around–and fast. There are legitimate concerns about how the Jayhawks will handle their lack of a true, reliable point guard. Does that mean freshman Ben McLemore shifts it into another gear? Does it mean center Jeff Withey steps it up on both ends of the floor? We’ll see Saturday when Kansas meets Oklahoma.
2) Jim Larranaga is a real contender for National Coach of the Year. The Hurricanes are rolling and undefeated in ACC play. After North Carolina on Saturday, there is only a matchup with Duke remaining where they likely won’t be favored. Otherwise, this is beginning to look like Miami’s conference for the taking.
3) No. 19 Oregon has been without freshman point guard Dominic Artis as he sits with a foot injury. In that span, the Ducks are 1-3 and have struggled to control turnovers. There is reportedly no definitive timeline for his return, meaning he likely won’t be in the lineup when Dana Altman’s team meets Utah Saturday.
4) National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott was held to just eight points in Creighton’s loss to Indiana State on Wednesday. With that loss, the Bluejays fell to within one game of Wichita State and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley race. McDermott & Co. has a chance to get back on track Saturday vs. Illinois State.
5) Speaking of the Missouri Valley, Wichita State, a team that once climbed as high as No. 15 in the national polls, is on a bad losing skid in Missouri Valley play. The Shockers have lost three in a row and need Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early to step up as the scoring threats that they are in WSU wants to regain traction atop a crowded MVC. They take on Missouri State on Saturday.
The Top 25
No. 2 Florida vs. Mississippi State (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 3 Michigan vs. Wisconsin (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 5 Kansas vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 6 Gonzaga vs. Loyola Marymount (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)
No. 8 Miami vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 12 Michigan State vs. Purdue (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
No. 13 Kansas State vs. Iowa State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 14 Butler vs. George Washington (2:00 p.m. ET)
No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
No. 16 Creighton vs. Illinois State (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 17 Cincinnati vs. No. 23 Pittsburgh (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (8:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
No. 20 Georgetown vs. Rutgers (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 21 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 22 Oklahoma State vs. Texas (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 24 Marquette vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Other Notable Games
Temple vs. Dayton (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)
Akron vs. Miami (OH) (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
St. Joseph’s vs. UMass (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Auburn vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Stanford vs. Arizona State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Virginia Commonwealth vs. Charlotte (7:00 p.m. ET)
Wichita State vs. Missouri State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Wyoming vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)
Washington State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
Saint Mary’s vs. San Diego (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)