GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Florida at No. 14 Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN)
Here’s Kentucky’s chance to prove themselves. Here’s their chance to say that they are more than just a talented group of wimps. Florida is as good of a defensive team as you are going to find in the country, largely because they are so versatile in how they can defend. They’ll press. They’ll man. They’ll zone, playing 2-3 or a 1-3-1. They have size. They have tough on-ball defenders in the back court. They have versatile forwards that allow them to switch ball-screens.
Florida is legit. How will Kentucky handle that? They lost at Arkansas. They got beat up at LSU in a game where they could never truly answer the punches the Tigers were throwing. They came much closer to losing at Auburn that Kentucky ever should. Any chance of winning a league title will be on the line here. How will the Wildcats respond?
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 20 Memphis at No. 24 UConn, (12:00 p.m., ESPN) :
Memphis lost the last time these two teams tangled in Memphis. Deandre Daniels is the x-factor for UConn, but watching Shabazz Napier deal with Mike Dixon and Joe Jackson will be fun. This one could be huge if either one of these teams wants to emerge from the middle of the American pack and challenge Cincinnati for the league title.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? West Virginia at No. 19 Texas, (8:00 p.m., LHN):
West Virginia has been one of the most surprising teams in the country. If Jonathan Holmes doesn’t play for Texas, the Mountaineers have a shot. Juwan Staten is the best player in the country you haven’t heard of and Bob Huggins has the Mountaineers playing great ball since Big 12 play began. Does Texas potentially have enough without Holmes?
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Green Bay at Cleveland State (4 p.m., ESPN2)
The top two teams in the Horizon League square off as league No. 1 Green Bay (20-5, 10-2) travels to league No. 2 Cleveland State (18-9, 9-3). Both of these teams are having solid seasons and Green Bay got the best of this matchup when these two teams played in Wisconsin in January. Can Cleveland State get a big win?
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) This will be the last time in the foreseeable future that Maryland and Duke will square off when the two teams face at 6 p.m. In the early 2000s, this was one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball.
2) When VCU travels to No. 12 Saint Louis on Saturday is it two of the best teams in the Atlantic 10? Two of the top ten defenses in the country? It’s probably not going to be pretty. But it will be good. VCU needs a win if they want any chance of winning the A-10 regular season title.
3) Saturday’s game at North Carolina is the last chance that Pitt is going to have before the ACC tournament to land a quality win. They need a quality win.
4) Clemson and Virginia are both grind-it-out teams built around their defense. This may not be a high-scoring game, and that’s better for the Tigers. They’re looking to secure positioning as an at-large candidate.
5) TCU at No. 7 Kansas wouldn’t normally be a must watch game, but Joel Embiid’s health will be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- N.C. State at No. 1 Syracuse, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3
- Air Force at No. 5 San Diego State, 8:05 p.m., CBSSN
- Houston at No. 10 Cincinnati, 3:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Texas Tech at No. 11 Iowa State, 1:45 p.m., ESPN3
- No. 16 Iowa at Penn State, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
- No. 22 Ohio State at Illinois, 8:00 p.m., BTN
- Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, 2:00 p.m., ESPN
- Southern Miss at Middle Tennessee State, 2:00 p.m.
- UMass at George Washington, 2:00 p.m.
- Cal at Washington, 3:00 p.m., PAC12
- Xavier at Marquette, 4:00 p.m., FS1
- Tennessee at Missouri, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2
- Ole Miss at Georgia, 4:00 p.m. ESPN3
- Indiana at Purdue, 4:00 p.m., ESPN
- LSU at Arkansas, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Kansas State at Baylor, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
- BYU at Saint Mary’s, 8:00 p.m., ESPN2