GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Duke, 9:30 p.m. (ACC Network/ESPN)
These two teams have met twice this season, and the games could not have been any more different. Notre Dame won the first meeting, with Jerian Grant taking control of the game down the stretch in South Bend. The Blue Devils took the rematch in dominant fashion, winning by 30 at Cameron. Jahlil Okafor scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Justise Winslow contributed 19 and 11 in that win, and the Blue Devils limited the Fighting Irish to 39.7 percent shooting. A win for Notre Dame can give them a boost when it comes to NCAA tournament seeding, and in order to do so they’ll need to do a better job defensively than they did in the second meeting (Duke shot nearly 61 percent).
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 15 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Iowa State, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Sooners and Cyclones have played two highly entertaining games this season, with the home team taking both contests. Of course the second meeting featured a wild comeback, as Iowa State trailed by as much as 21 before coming back to win 77-70. The key for Fred Hoiberg’s team is to keep the offensive flow that can make them so difficult to defend. That was an issue for most of the first half against Texas, and it was also a problem in the comeback win noted above. As for Oklahoma, Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield and fellow guard Isaiah Cousins can attack the Iowa State defense from the perimeter, but they’re going to need more from TaShawn Thomas than the six points he scored in Ames.
WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: No. 3 Virginia (vs. No. 19 North Carolina, 7:00 p.m. ACC Network/ESPN)
Virginia won the lone regular season meeting between the two, beating the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill back in early February thanks to a balanced offensive attack and some solid defense in the second half. The Cavaliers were able to prevent North Carolina from getting out in transition, and that will likely be the case tonight. While it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect UNC to match Virginia stop for stop, they’ve held each of their two ACC tournament opponents below 40 percent shooting. A similar effort against the Cavaliers will give the Tar Heels a shot at the win.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. There are some bubble teams in search of another big win to add to their resume and one of them is UCLA, which takes on No. 5 Arizona (9:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. The question for the Bruins is whether or not Kevon Looney, who left yesterday’s win over USC with a facial injury, can go. Shot selection will also be key for UCLA, and they’ll have a tougher time finding quality looks than they did against the Trojans.
2. No. 1 Kentucky takes the floor for the first time at this year’s SEC tournament, and they’ll take on Florida in Nashville (1:00 p.m., SEC Network). John Calipari’s Wildcats are three wins away from duplicating Florida’s feat of a season ago, running the table in the SEC regular season and conference tournament.
3. Also making its conference tournament debut is No. 6 Wisconsin, and the Badgers will face a Michigan (Noon, ESPN) team brimming with confidence following their whipping of Illinois. Zak Irvin scored 14 points and dished out six assists, and freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman combined for 33 points against the Fighting Illini.
4. An NCAA tournament bid will be decided tonight, and it won’t even occur in a tournament final. Texas Southern takes on Prairie View A&M (9:30 p.m.) in a SWAC semifinal, and the winner gets the automatic bid. Why? The other semifinal matchup pits two teams ineligible for postseason play in Southern and Alabama State.
5. No. 9 Kansas looks to pick up its first-ever Big 12 tournament win over No. 16 Baylor (7:00 p.m., ESPN2), as the Bears have won both prior meetings. Kansas won both regular season meetings but that was with Perry Ellis on the floor; his status for tonight’s game has yet to be determined. Whether or not Ellis plays, the Jayhawks will need to keep Rico Gathers Sr. and his teammates off the offensive glass.
6. No. 4 Villanova looks to keep rolling after their decisive win over Marquette, as they take on Providence in the Big East semis. The Friars, after a slow start, rolled past St. John’s on Thursday and a win over the Wildcats would help improve their NCAA tournament seeding. And the two players picked for Big East Co-Player of the Year, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono and Providence’s Kris Dunn, will be on the court along with two others (Nova’s Darrun Hilliard and Providence’s LaDontae Henton) who had solid arguments themselves.
CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
ACC Semis: No. 19 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Virginia, No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Duke
American Quarters: No. 20 SMU vs. East Carolina, Temple vs. Memphis, Tulsa vs. Houston, Cincinnati vs. UConn
Atlantic 10 Quarters (on NBCSN): No. 24 Davidson vs. La Salle, Richmond vs. VCU, Dayton vs. St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island vs. George Washington
Big 12 Semis: No. 9 Kansas vs. No. 16 Baylor, No. 13 Iowa State vs. No. 15 Oklahoma
Big East Semis: No. 4 Villanova vs. Providence, Georgetown vs. Xavier
Big Sky Semis: Eastern Washington vs. Sacramento State, Northern Arizona at Montana
Big Ten Quarters: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. Michigan, Purdue vs. Penn State, No. 8 Maryland vs. Indiana, Michigan State vs. Ohio State
Big West Semis: UC Davis vs. Hawaii, UCSB vs. UC Irvine
Conference USA Semis: UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech vs. UAB
MEAC Semis: North Carolina Central vs. Delaware State, Norfolk State vs. Hampton
MAC Semis: Central Michigan vs. Toledo, Buffalo vs. Akron
Mountain West Semis: No. 25 Boise State vs. Wyoming, San Diego State vs. Colorado State
Pac-12 Semis: No. 5 Arizona vs. UCLA, No. 17 Utah vs. Oregon
SEC Quarters: No. 1 Kentucky vs. Florida, LSU vs. Auburn, No. 21 Arkansas vs. Tennessee, Georgia vs. South Carolina
Southland Semis: Stephen F. Austin vs. Northwestern State, Sam Houston State vs. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi
Sun Belt Quarters: Louisiana vs. Texas State, ULM vs. South Alabama
SWAC Semis: Alabama State vs. Southern, Texas Southern vs. Prairie View A&M
WAC Semis: New Mexico State vs. Bakersfield, Kansas City vs. Seattle