Weekend Preview: Two rivalries renew out west, and a huge game for Texas

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Gonzaga at St. Mary’s, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

Let’s start with the obvious: If St. Mary’s is going to have any chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, they are going to have to win this game. Even with a win, the Gaels are still going to have a lot of work left to do, but that should reinforce just how dire their circumstances currently are. This is a must-win game if there has ever been one.

And it just so happens to come against the Zags, a favorite to reach the Final Four and, as it happens, the biggest rivals of the Gaels. It doesn’t matter where the game is played — Spokane or Moraga — when these two programs get together, it’s must-see TV. Gonzaga won the first installment back in January, and you better believe Randy Bennett will have his team hungry to get some revenge.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 14 Iowa State at Texas, Sat. 2:00 p.m

Texas is flirting with disaster here. The Longhorns don’t have a strong enough profile to keep losing games, but they just can’t seem to get on the kind of roll that will change the course of their season. The Longhorns are 6-7 in Big 12 play and haven’t beaten one of the league’s six other tournament teams since Jan. 17th. Their next two games? At West Virginia and at Kansas. Texas is playing with fire if they cannot beat Iowa State in Austin.

FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • UCLA at No. 7 Arizona, Sat. 9:00 p.m.: UCLA really, really, REALLY needs this win. It’s their last shot at a marquee win in the regular season.
  • No. 23 West Virginia at No. 22 Oklahoma State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: West Virginia landed a key win over Kansas on Monday, and Oklahoma State lost a tough one to Iowa State on Wednesday. IT seems like every game in the Big 12 is a big one, and this game is no different.
  • No. 9 Utah at Oregon, Sun. 3:00 p.m.: Utah struggled with Oregon State on Thursday night, and Oregon is actually more talented that the Beavers. The Ducks also have their backs against the wall when it comes to getting an NCAA tournament berth.
  • Michigan State at Illinois, Sun. 7:30 p.m.: Two of the better teams in the Big Ten square off in a game with some real bubble implications. The Spartans are streaking at the right time.
  • Auburn at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: Bruce Pearl will be making his first trip to Rupp Arena as the head coach of Auburn. Oh, and the Wildcats are, like, 26-0 or whatever.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 19 Butler at Xavier, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

The Bulldogs came within a Darrun Hilliard three of knocking off Big East power Villanova last Saturday, a win that would have put them in a tie atop the Big East standings. As it is, Butler is still two games off the pace, a deficit that they’re likely not going to be able to makeup. A road trip to Xavier is never easy, especially when the Musketeers are coming off of a win at arch rival Cincinnati. This game has become one of the better rivalries in the midwest thanks to a couple of thrillers between Chris Mack and Brad Stevens.

UPSET WATCH

  • No. 24 Ohio State at Michigan, Sun. 1:00 p.m.: Rivalry games. You never know what will happen.
  • Miami at No. 12 Louisville, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Chris Jones has been reinstated, but that doesn’t mean that the Cardinals have solved their problems. This is still a flawed basketball team that is seemingly coming apart at the worst possible time.
  • No. 10 Notre Dame at Boston College, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Don’t let the record deceive you: BC has been a tough out in Conte Forum this season.
  • UMass at No. 25 VCU, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: VCU is as tough as anyone at home, but UMass is desperate. Losing this game might eliminate them from bubble contention.
  • No. 17 Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: I still think that Oklahoma can be a Final Four team, but they’ve been inconsistent on the road and Texas Tech has already landed a couple of upsets.

FIVE MORE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. There are four games on NBCSN and streaming on NBC Sports Live Extra this weekend:

  • Dayton at Duquesne, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Drexel at Northeastern, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • La Salle at Saint Louis, Sun. 2:30 p.m.
  • William & Mary at Hofstra, Sun. 4:30 p.m.

2. Five more top ten teams will be playing this weekend:

  • Florida State at No. 2 Virginia, Sun. 6:30 p.m.
  • Minnesota at No. 5 Wisconsin, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 6 Villanova at Marquette, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
  • TCU at No. 8 Kansas, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at No. 4 Duke, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

3. Both of the Valley’s elite will be playing at home this weekend:

  • Evansville at No. 13 Wichita State, Sun. 4:00 p.m.
  • Bradley at No. 11 Northern Iowa, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

4. Tennessee at Ole Miss, Sat. 7:30 p.m.: The Rebels are one of the hottest teams in the country, having bounced back from a loss at home to Arkansas to knock off Mississippi State on Thursday.

5. Cal at Stanford, Sat. 6:30 p.m.: The Mike Montgomery rivalry suddenly has real meaning. Stanford is much closer to the bubble than they were a month ago, but so is Cal, who shook off a 1-6 start in league play to win five in a row.