GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m.
From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.
The rematch we’ve all been waiting for will happen on Saturday.
A little more than a month after Buddy Hield burst onto the national scene with 46 points in a triple-overtime thriller — thriller doesn’t do it justice, that was one of the best college basketball games of all time — the Jayhawks will may their return trip to Norman to take of the Sooners. Only the circumstances of Saturday’s showdown will be a little bit different than what they were on that Monday night in January, when the No. 1 team in the AP poll squared off with the No. 1 team in the Coaches poll.
Oklahoma is no longer the No. 1 team in the country, as they’ve gone just 3-2 in their last five games while needing last-second game-winners to hang on against LSU and Texas during that stretch. But Kansas is not longer ranked at the top of the polls either, as the Jayhawks have managed just a 2-3 record in the Big 12 away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, with those two wins coming against TCU and Texas Tech. They needed to beat West Virginia on Tuesday night just to ensure that this game would feature two teams sitting at the top of the Big 12 standings.
And that, at the end of the day, is going to be the most important takeaway from this game. Kansas plays four of their last seven Big 12 games on the road, and three of those road trips are against top 25 teams. Oklahoma? They have four road trips left as well, but they will be paying visits to Texas Tech and TCU during that stretch. That’s what makes the result of this one so important. Oklahoma, with a win, would put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title race, and with a (road) game left against West Virginia — the third team tied for first in the league — they would control their own title destiny.
Before I move on, there’s one other interesting point that needs to be made here. When these two teams last played, Hield and Kansas guard Wayne Selden both looked like Big 12 Player of the Year candidates. Since then, Hield has emerged as the clear favorite for National Player of the Year, Selden has fallen off the map. It’s been 10 games since these two last faced off. Selden blew up for 33 in the win over Kentucky, but in the other nine games, he’s averaging just 9.9 points; he’s scored a total of 21 points in three games since beating Kentucky.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 24 Texas at No. 14 Iowa State, 8:30 p.m.
The Longhorns are suddenly looking like a legitimate Big 12 contender, which was not exactly expected to happen during Shaka Smart’s first season in Austin. The Cyclones, on the other hand, are trending in the opposite direction. They just lost at Texas Tech, they’re starting center (Jameel McKay) has been suspended for two games stemming from the way he’s behaved in practice and, even with McKay in the lineup, Iowa State is working with, essentially, a six-man rotation. So here’s the question: Will this game be the turning point in Iowa State’s season, or will Texas continue their assault on the top of the conference?
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Duke seems to have righted the ship when it comes to their season. The Blue Devils have won three straight and four of their last five, including Monday’s win over No. 13 Louisville. They get a visit from a streaking No. 7 Virginia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, a team that has gone from being atrocious on the road to blowing out Louisville and Pitt in their own buildings.
2. No. 5 Xavier was mollywhopped by Creighton on the road on Tuesday. Butler? They picked up a critical win for their bubble profile at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The two will square off in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
3. We’re going to find out a lot about the SEC power structure this weekend. At noon on Saturday, No. 22 Kentucky will travel up to Columbia to take on South Carolina, both of whom are sitting in a tie for first in the league standings. Just an hour later, No. 15 Texas A&M — who was the best team in the SEC but now sits a game out of first place — will trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Tigers? They’re right there with Kentucky and South Carolina, tied for first in the conference.
4. The bottom-line is this: Gonzaga will not be receiving an at-large bid to the tournament if they do not win at No. 16 SMU on Saturday. Tip is at 10:00 p.m.
5. There are two games that will be featured on NBCSN on Saturday: James Madison at UNC-Wilmington (3:00 p.m.), Hofstra at Delaware (5:00 p.m.).
CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.
OTHER TOP 25 GAMES
- St. John’s at No. 1 Villanova, 8:00 p.m.
- Wisconsin at No. 2 Maryland, 6:30 p.m.
- TCU at No. 10 West Virginia, 12:00 p.m.
- No. 11 Oregon at Stanford, 4:00 p.m.
- No. 13 Louisville at Notre Dame, 4:00 p.m.
- No. 15 Texas A&M at LSU, 1:00 p.m.
- No. 18 Purdue at Michigan, 2:00 p.m.
- Georgetown at No. 20 Providence, 12:00 p.m.
- Texas Tech at No. 21 Baylor, 8:00 p.m.
- Northern Iowa at No. 25 Wichita State, 12:00 p.m.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- Wake Forest at N.C. State, 12:00 p.m.
- Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 p.m.
- Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:00 p.m.
- Georgia Tech at Clemson, 2:00 p.m.
- Washington at Colorado, 2:00 p.m.
- Tennessee at Missouri, 2:00 p.m.
- East Carolina at Cincinnati, 4:00 p.m.
- Ohio State at Rutgers, 4:00 p.m.
- Alabama at Florida, 5:30 p.m.
- Vanderbilt at Auburn, 6:00 p.m.
- Saint Louis at VCU, 6:00 p.m.
- Oregon State at Cal, 6:30 p.m.
- Georgia at Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.
- Tulsa at UConn, 8:00 p.m.
- Illinois at Northwestern, 8:00 p.m.
- Creighton at Marquette, 8:00 p.m.