GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
If you want to know how wild the Big 12 has been this season, this game is the only example that you need to know. The last two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the country — Kansas and the current No. 1, Oklahoma — are both members of the league, but entering this weekend, the team that currently sits all alone at the top of the league table is Baylor.
Yes, that Baylor. The one that is coached by Scott Drew, a running internet joke for bad coaching. The one that was ruthlessly embarrassed by Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in the conference opener, a game that the Bears lost by 28 and trailed by 20 just seven minutes into the game. But if they can take care of business against the Sooners at home, the Bears will be 6-1 in league play and destined for a top ten ranking come Monday morning.
In a conference that includes the Sooners, the Jayhawks, Iowa State, West Virginia and Shaka Smart, we’re a third of the way through league play and Baylor is one win away from sitting in the driver’s seat.
This season, man.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Maryland at No. 11 Michigan State, Sat. 6:30 p.m.
The Big 12 isn’t the only league that’s whacked.
The Big Ten is, too.
Iowa is sitting in first place, Michigan State has lost three straight and already has four league losses, and Maryland took a loss at Michigan, needed a buzzer-beater at Wisconsin and got taken to overtime by Northwestern. In a weekend where the top four teams in the conference are all squaring off — more on that in a second — this is the game with the most intrigue. Can Maryland get back to playing like a national title contender? Will Michigan State get back to playing like … a tournament team?
THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 22 Purdue at No. 9 Iowa, Sun. 1:00 p.m.
Maryland-Michigan State might get all the hype, but the best game in the Big Ten this weekend might actually be No. 22 Purdue paying a visit to No. 9 Iowa on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The Hawkeyes are the most surprising team in the conference, having already swept the Spartans and erased a 19-point deficit in a win at Purdue. The Boilermakers, who may have the best front line in college basketball, will be out for revenge this weekend. The key story line here: Iowa, the last couple of years, has earned the reputation of being choke artists that are better off shooting themselves with Papa Doc’s handgun. It looks like they’ve kicked that habit, and a win on Saturday would give them a sweep of both Michigan State and Purdue.
THESE WILL BE GOOD, TOO
- There’s another great game this weekend, as the best team in the Big East — No. 4 Villanova — will host No. 16 Providence and the best player in the Big East — Kris Dunn. One thing to keep an eye on: The massive storm that is expected to pound the east coast this weekend. Providence will be flying in on Thursday to beat the snow, but there could be as much as two feet of snow dumped on the city. It’s already been rescheduled until Sunday afternoon. How many fans will make it to the game?
- No. 21 USC fell at Oregon on Thursday night, and it wasn’t really all that close. On Sunday afternoon, the team that has looked like the Pac-12’s biggest challenger to Arizona will look to right the ship at Oregon State. Dunk City West will be squaring off with a team that features Gary Payton II. There will be highlights.
- On Wednesday, No. 6 West Virginia found out what happens when their press doesn’t work, as they lost at home to Texas in spectacularly ugly fashion. On Saturday, the Mountaineers will look to bounce back from that loss at Texas Tech, which has been a tough place for visitors to get a win this season.
- No. 8 SMU will put their perfect record on the line at Temple on Saturday night in an 8:00 p.m. tip. The Owls have been a tough out in AAC play, having swept Cincinnati, won at UConn and lost at Memphis by two points. This will be one of the toughest stops left on SMU’s slate.
- N.C. State snapped a four-game losing streak in ACC play this week as they went into Pittsburgh and blew out the Panthers. No. 20 Duke, on the other hand, is still skidding, as they lost their third straight game on Monday night to Syracuse. On Saturday, the Blue Devils will head to Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack, a game that both teams desperately need to win.
- There will be two games shown on NBCSN and the NBC Live Extra App on Saturday, as Davidson visits Richmond at 12:30 p.m. and St. Bonaventure heads down to VCU at 2:30 p.m.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 18 Butler at Creighton, Sat. 7:30 p.m.
Creighton has proven to be a tough out this season. They beat Georgetown. They won at Seton Hall. They came within one banked-home jumper of taking Providence to overtime. They’re a team that still has an outside chance of making a run at the NCAA tournament, but they desperately need some quality wins on their résumé. Butler would qualify as that, and the Bulldogs have been anything but impressive through Big East play. They’re 2-4 in league play, but all five of their losses this season have come against quality competition. Creighton needs this, but Butler needs it, too.
WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: I have absolutely no idea.
I could guess — we’ll probably end up talking about Iowa and Villanova and why Baylor is for real and if Michigan State is even a Final Four team these days — but I don’t even know if it would be an educated guess at this point. That’s the way this season has been. West Virginia looked like the best team in the Big 12 … then they lost at home to Texas. Duke and Kentucky are barely top 25 teams. Providence and Michigan State were both ranked in the top ten with a National Player of the Year candidate, and neither has played well since it became 2016.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that this season makes absolutely no sense, and that’s what makes this season so much fun.
When I recorded a podcast with Mark Titus of Club Trillion fame, he said he loved watching this year’s Ohio State team because, good or bad, he had no idea what was going to happen on a given night. It’s like that from a national perspective as well. You have to pay attention every night because, at this point, nothing is a given.
And that’s fun.