The way this week has gone in college basketball, you can’t afford to look away. There have been dramatic shots and exciting finishes. Strange things have happened, including Connecticut and Marquette lined up in the wrong direction for overtime. Then the officials admitted they got it wrong and took a basket away from the Huskies. And after Thursday night, we know Colorado coach Tad Boyle is not a fan of replay. Who can blame him after the Buffs were robbed of a winning shot at the end of regulation at Arizona? So, take a break from the NFL playoffs this weekend – and watch.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
Memphis (9-3) at Tennessee (8-3) (Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN2)
The game going on off the court brings even more interest to this matchup. The Tigers and Vols have played 24 times in basketball and Friday’s game is the eighth straight season the two have met. But the contract ends with Friday’s game in Knoxville and it seems Memphis coach Josh Pastner wants the series to end for good. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Pastner and Memphis AD Tom Bowen were seeing “eye to eye” on the matter. But then Bowen said Thursday that he and Tennessee AD Dave Hart are in discussions to continue the series and Pastner changed his tune, saying everything would be re-evaluated. Bowen says uncertainty with the Big East and future dates are a problem. No kidding. On the court, keep your eye on Memphis guard Joe Jackson as he goes against Trae Golden of the Vols. Should be a good game, contract or no contract.
No. 22 Oklahoma State (10-2) at No. 25 Kansas State (11-2) (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3)
This is the Big 12 opener for both of these ranked teams, so it’s too early to be a critical game. But it is important, because the winner could actually claim to be the most serious challenger to conference favorite Kansas. The Cowboys moved into the rankings when they crushed North Carolina State back on Nov. 18. Since then they have lost at Virginia Tech and fell at home to Gonzaga 69-68 on New Year’s Eve. No disgrace in either loss. Guard Marcus Smart and wing Le’Bryan Nash lead the scoring attack and the Cowboys are extremely stingy on defense. Kansas State upset Florida to get noticed nationally. The Wildcats put the emphasis on defense as well, so this could be a low scoring game. A little offense from Jordan Henriquez, a 6-11, 250-pound senior forward, would make K-State a more dangerous team. Senior guard Rodney McGruder is the most consistent offensive threat but he needs help.
|Otto Porter of the Hoyas|
No. 15 Georgetown (10-1, 0-0 Big East) at Marquette (10-3, 1-0 Big East) (Saturday, 2 pm., ESPN3)
Marquette has a 17-game winning streak at home after that 82-76 overtime victory over Connecticut on Tuesday. Everyone has seen the highlights from that one, right? Junior Cadougan hit a 25-footer at the buzzer to force overtime. It was the first three-pointer of the game for Marquette. Then there was the whole thing with the players going the wrong direction at the start of the OT. The refs admitted after the game they made a mistake, taking a basket away from the Huskies on the first possession. That was on a goaltending call that might not have been goaltending, so it was a major mess. After missing all that fun, Marquette coach Buzz Williams will be back for the Georgetown game after serving a one-game suspension for the program’s violation of recruiting rules. Georgetown will be playing its first true road game and the Hoyas haven’t even had a game since a victory over American on Dec. 22. Marquette will have to deal with Otto Porter, one of the best all-around players in the country. And Vander Blue and Davante Gardner could find scoring difficult against Georgetown’s unyielding defense, which allows only 54.7 points a game.
No. 8 Ohio State (11-2, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 11 Illinois (13-2, 0-1 Big Ten) (Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Strap yourself into your seat belt. With so many ranked teams in the Big Ten, there is going to be one of these games every few days. This one is extremely interesting, given the fact that Michigan and Indiana have established themselves as the teams to beat in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Illinois are on the next shelf down from the top, along with Minnesota. The records for the Buckeyes and Illini are impressive but questions remain about both squads. Ohio State has had trouble scoring, especially against ranked teams such as Duke and Kansas – the two teams that have defeated the Buckeyes. But at least Ohio State is shooting 46 percent from the field. Illinois is at 43.9 percent (153rd in the nation). The Illini depend too much on the outside shooting of Brandon Paul. If either team can find someone to score in the post, it could be the deciding factor.
Temple (10-2) at No. 6 Kansas (11-1) (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS)
The Jayhawks have won 10 consecutive games since falling to Michigan State on Nov. 13. This will be the final tuneup for Bill Self’s Jayhawks before Big 12 conference play begins and the game is at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, where they have a 29-game winning streak – second longest in the nation. In 10 years under Self, this is the 12th time the Jayhawks have had a 10-game winning streak. Kansas is playing its typical tough defense while averaging 78.4 points a game and winning with a plus-19.4 scoring margin. The Jayhawks have trailed in only four games this season and Kansas has shot 50 percent or better from the field in each of its last six games. Temple has won four of its last five, including an upset of previously unbeaten Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22. The Owls, led by senior guard Khalif Wyatt, shoot 22.3 three-pointers per game, hitting 31 percent. Kansas has wins over two Atlantic 10 teams (Saint Louis and Richmond) this season. Temple has proven it doesn’t mind a challenge. This is a big one.