Sat. 3:00 pm: No. 10 Syracuse @ Marquette: It’s too early to say Marquette is desperate. They have wins over Notre Dame and West Virginia in their back pocket. Their “bad loss” is to Gonzaga. They even have a better-than-you-think non-conference win over Bucknell. They may have dropped eight games this season, but each of those eight games have come by eight points or less. Andy Glocker earlier this week tweeted about how Marquette was the third “unluckiest” team in the country.
If you remember, the same thing happened to Marquette last season. They dropped close game after close game until this same weekend. On January 30th, Jimmy Butler scored with 2.4 seconds left as Marquette knocked off UConn on the road, sparking a strong finish to the season and, eventually, a six seed in the NCAA Tournament. Could Syracuse be Marquette’s 2011 UConn?
The Orange are reeling right now. They have lost three games in a row, the last two coming to teams that took advantage of good looks from the perimeter against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Marquette has plenty of perimeter talent, they have a couple of versatile forwards in Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler, and while their backs aren’t quite up against the wall yet, they are getting closer and closer.
The one area where Syracuse can really take advantage is up front. Led by Rick Jackson, Syracuse has a big and athletic front line that is capable of dominating the offensive glass. If Marquette’s shots are falling and they are limiting the Orange to one shot a possession, they should be able to land another marquee Big East win at home.
Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 9 BYU @ New Mexico: I know, its blasphemy to pick against The Jimmer Show. I don’t want to say New Mexico is better than their 2-4 mark in the MWC would indicate, but they are definitely more talented. They are playing what amounts to a do-or-die game in terms of their at-large bid, and they are doing it in front of one of the toughest home crowds in the country. The Cougars are coming off of an emotional high, knocking off San Diego State at home in what may be the most hyped game in the history of the conference. Without question, this has all the makings of a let-down game for BYU. Can the Lobos take advantage?
Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 15 Wisconsin @ Penn State: This has been a different Penn State team the past five games. After knocking off both Michigan State and Illinois at home, the Nittany Lions nearly pulled off upsets at both Ohio State and Purdue. Jeff Brooks has developed into a nice compliment for the talented Talor Battle and the all-important home court advantage will be in the Nits favor. Can Penn State do it again?
Sat. 4:00 pm: Georgia @ No. 16 Kentucky: The Bulldogs have already beaten Kentucky once this season, notching a 77-70 win in Athens in which Trey Thompkins dominated the Wildcat front line. Georgia has lost a couple of tough home games in a row to Tennessee and Florida, and is really in need of a bounce back victory. Don’t be fooled by the names, either. These two teams are much closer in talent level than Kentucky and Georgia have been in quite some time. If Thompkins once again has a big game, and Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson play as well as they are capable of, a sweep of the Wildcats is very possible.
Sat. 7:00 pm: Kansas State @ No. 6 Kansas: Kansas State has been a conundrum this season. They’ve lost games they aren’t supposed to be losing, they haven’t gotten the performance out of Jacob Pullen that we all expected, and they seemingly have a new suspension — either announced or unannounced — every other game. That said, there is still some talent on this team. Whether or not Thomas Robinson is back in uniform, there is no doubt that this past week has been emotionally and physically draining on this team. After flying to Colorado for a game against the Buffaloes, the Jayhawks headed to DC for the funeral of Robinson’s mother. K-State has a chance to take advantage here.
Sun. 10:00 pm: No. 17 Washington @ Washington State: You would be hard-pressed to find anyone playing the point better than Isaiah Thomas right now, and his play has lifted the play of the Huskies. But don’t be fooled by the lack of hype, this game is an intense rivalry, and Washington State is probably more talented than you think they are. Between Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore, and Faisal Aden, this Cougars have a number of scorers on their perimeter while DeAngelo Casto can matchup with Matthew Bryan-Amaning inside.
Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 19 Louisville @ No. 5 UConn: Louisville is a dangerous team, both to play and to bet on. They rely heavily on the three pointer, and when they are going down, the Cardinals are a difficult team to beat. UConn, however, has looked better than they have all season. Kemba Walker has come back to earth since his hot start — mainly since defenses have begun keying in on him. But with the emergence of Jeremy Lamb as a secondary scorer, Shabazz Napier as a second ball handler, and Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi inside, the Huskies have become more balanced with each passing game. The funny part? This may not even be the best noon tip in the Big East …
Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 20 Georgetown @ No. 7 Villanova: I had written off the Hoyas two weeks ago, but after winning three straight games — including a beat down of a St. John’s team that already owns a win over the Hoyas — Georgetown has bounced back quite nicely. Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are still a bit too inconsistent, but Jason Clark rediscovered his stroke while Hollis Thompson was terrific coming off the bench on Wednesday. Villanova, however, was embarrassed at Providence just four days after a statement win at Syracuse. The Wildcats are a tough team to figure out, but they may be the only team in the country than can go back court star for back court star with the Hoyas.
Sat. 12:00 pm: Xavier @ Richmond: This is the most important Atlantic 10 game to date. Xavier comes in undefeated in the conference while the Spiders are sitting just a game back. Tu Holloway and Kevin Anderson will provide us with arguably the best individual matchup of the day, but my concern for Xavier is how they will matchup with Justin Harper. Harper is a 6’10” power forward with a faceup game and a deadly three point stroke. Who can matchup with him on Xavier?
Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 18 Minnesota @ No. 12 Purdue: Minnesota will get their first real test without a point guard on the roster against Purdue after a tune up this week against Iowa. Tubby went with three bigs in the starting lineup on Wednesday, and it worked out pretty well. While Purdue has barely on big with the strength to matchup with Minnesota, the Boilermakers will create their own matchup problems. Can Blake Hoffarber stay in front of Lewis Jackson? Will anyone be able to guard JaJuan Johnson?
Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 13 Missouri @ No. 8 Texas: This could very well be the best game of the day, and its a game that is going to come down to the defenses. Missouri, as you all should be well aware, runs a system known as the fastest 40 minutes in basketball. They press, the attack in transition, they force turnovers, and they look to score before you can set up your defense. Texas, on the other hand, runs a typical, physical man-to-man in the half court. The key for Texas? Forcing Missouri to play against a set defense. If they don’t turn the ball over and prevent fast breaks — by scoring and by getting to the foul line — they will make it that much more difficult for Missouri to win in Austin.
Sun. 8:00 pm: Northern Iowa @ Missouri State: The MVC is always good for a quality game or three, but this is the best of the bunch this weekend. Missouri State is all alone in first place in the league, but the Panthers have come on strong after a slow start in conference play. A win for the Panthers would keep them within a game of first place and in striking distance for a regular season title. If the Bears win, they can all but eliminate UNI from the race.
- 11:00 am: Temple @ St. Joe’s: It wasn’t long ago that this was one of the most anticipated games of the entire A-10 season? Seems like a long time ago, right?
- 1:00 pm: No. 23 Florida @ Mississippi State: Florida State’s win at Georgia was nice. It would be even nicer if they could follow that up with a win in Starkville.
- 1:30 pm: Colorado @ Baylor: Everyone gets excited about the upsets of top 25 teams, but games like this — between two bubble dwellers — are also quite important to the NCAA Tournament.
- 2:00 pm: NC State @ UNC: The Tar Heels, despite all the issues they have had this season, are 4-1 in the ACC. NC State? Not so much.
- 2:00 pm: No. 11 Texas A&M @ Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have been a tough out on their home court this season, which means that A&M better not be looking ahead to their Big Monday game against Texas.
- 2:00 pm: Butler @ Valpo: This is a huge game in the Horizon League standings. Believe it or not, Butler is third in the Horizon right now. Valpo is tied for first in the loss column.
- 6:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ Northwestern: I’m done trying to predict when Northwestern will win a big game. It doesn’t help that John Shurna apparently suffered a concussion against Minnesota.
- 6:00 pm: Arkansas @ No. 22 Vanderbilt: Can we cancel the game and just have a three point shooting contest between Rotnei Clarke and John Jenkins?
- 6:00 pm: North Texas @ Denver: First place in the Western Division of the Sun Belt is on the line as the Mean Green visit the Pioneers. Its game like these that piqued Tony Mitchell’s interest.
- 6:30 pm: Mississippi Valley State @ Jackson State: Three teams are tied for first in the SWAC. These are two of them.
- 7:00 pm: No. 24 St. Mary’s @ Portland: If you like three point shooting there will be plenty of it in this game.
- 7:00 pm: Memphis @ Marshall: How long can this Tiger winning streak last? Its currently at five, and started with a win over Marshall.
- 8:00 pm: No. 2 Pitt @ Rutgers: Read this story from Adam Zagoria about a Rutgers assistant whose son is battling epilepsy, and see if you can avoid rooting for the Scarlett Knights.
- 8:00 pm: West Virginia @ Cincinnati: A huge bubble matchup in the middle of the Big East. It will be interesting to see if Casey Mitchell is in uniform for this one. With Cincy’s size inside, his shooting could be the difference.
- 10:00 pm: Wyoming @ No. 4 San Diego State: Does anyone else expect the Aztecs to make a statement on poor Wyoming after getting Jimmered?
- 12:00 am: No. 25 Utah State @ Hawaii: If you are up, and sober, when this game comes on, why not? The Aggies are really good! I promise!
- 1:00 pm: No. 3 Duke @ St. John’s: I know that St. John’s is having a better year this year than usual, but it will be interesting to see if Madison Square Garden has more Duke fans or Johnnie’s fans.
- 2:00 pm: Dayton @ Duquesne: Duquesne is undefeated and currently one of the favorites to win the Atlantic 10. Dayton was one of the favorites to win the league in the preseason. Can the Flyers turn it around?
- 5:30 pm: Miami FL @ Virginia Tech: Simply put, Virginia Tech cannot afford a loss in the middle of the ACC, especially not one to a 1-5 team.
- 6:00 pm: Indiana @ Michigan State: Two great programs playing a fairly meaningless game. How much farther will the Spartans fall?
- 7:45 pm: Georgia Tech @ Maryland: Did you see what I said about Virginia Tech?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.