1. The NCAA’s first Selection Show preview will happen this weekend: At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, we will officially get the first early unveiling of the bracket in the history of the NCAA tournament.
It’s not going to be the entire bracket. The reveal is only going to be the top 16 teams in the bracket – seeds 1-4 in each of the four regions – but it will give us a glimpse of just what the committee is thinking when it comes to where the likes of Kansas, Baylor, Duke and Kentucky are currently slotted in the bracket.
This decision was somewhat controversial when it was made, but, as of now, it’s only a one-time deal; we are not going to get weekly reveals like we do in college football. It will also turn all eyes on college hoops for the day, and it’s never a bad thing to have the sport sit center stage in the American sports landscape. Overall, this is a net-positive, even if it is something that many people, including me, don’t like.
2. Is this the last chance to end Gonzaga’s undefeated regular season?: The Zags will head to Moraga on Saturday night to pay a visit to No. 20 Saint Mary’s for Gameday. The Gaels are 22-2 on the season and 12-1 in the WCC, but they took a 23-point loss earlier this year when they paid a visit to Spokane for a game. Gonzaga still will have four more games left on their schedule after Saturday, but considering that they’ve won every league game they’ve played this year by double-figures, it’s hard to see them falling to anyone, especially when three of their last four games are at home.
Which leaves Saint Mary’s to carry the burden of ending the streak.
The game comes at an interesting time as well. One of the major talking points with Gonzaga is whether or not this team is “legit”. Can a team from a league like the WCC really be considered a title contender? (Yes, they can.) And, to that point, do they deserve a No. 1 seed? (Yes, they do.) We’ll find out eight hours before their tip-off if they are a No. 1 seed as of today, and, if they lose, we’ll spend the next month wondering whether or not they can do enough to hold onto that seed.
3. Will Kentucky’s “three-hour practice” be enough to get them out of their funk?: Kentucky has been bad for the last three weeks. They’re 2-3 during that stretch, with both of their wins coming at home, one in overtime against Georgia and one by seven points over a bad LSU team. The issue? Well, as I wrote on Wednesday, there’s a lot going on there.
But the main problem is on the defensive side of the ball. They’re not getting stops they need to be able to get to make their transition game work, and, as a result, the issues that they have running half court offense are becoming glaringly obvious. Coach Cal was not happy about this after the game on Tuesday night. He ran the Wildcats through a three-hour practice on Wednesday that was “90 percent defense”. He threatened to shorten the rotation if there are guys that cannot or will not defend.
Will it work? Alabama is 7-4 in the SEC and coming off of a win at South Carolina on Tuesday. That’s a pretty good team. Kentucky needs to show up if they want to win.
4. Louisville will get Quentin Snider back: The Cardinals have played without a point guard for the last month as they’ve dealt with Quentin Snider’s hip injury and the broken hand that Tony Hicks suffered. In their stead, Donovan Mitchell has adopted the primary guard duties, and he’s been, for the most part, awesome. There are two things to watch for with Louisville this weekend: Can Mitchell keep playing this way with Snider back, and will that allow Louisville to solve some of the perimeter scoring issues they’ve had all season long?
5. The Pac-12 race will take an interesting turn on Saturday night: After UCLA landed a come-from-behind win over Oregon on Thursday, the top of the Pac-12 looks like this: Arizona sits all alone in first place, Oregon is a game behind them and UCLA, along with Cal, sits a game out of second play. On Saturday night, Cal, who desperately needs to add an elite win to their tournament résumé, plays at Arizona while Oregon is in LA to face USC, a tournament team in their own right.
With the Wildcats still getting a chance to host UCLA later on this season, losses from the league’s top two teams would make the final month of the regular season very interesting.