One of the great things about college basketball is the unpredictability of it all. We knew last Saturday featured a great schedule and the day lived up the hype. But Wacky Wednesday caught us completely off guard.
Miami crushed No. 1 Duke. LaSalle upset Butler, Northwestern knocked off Minnesota. Drake beat Creighton. It was that type of week. Kansas State and Arizona lost important conference games at home. Virginia Commonwealth had a 13-game winning streak snapped at Richmond.
But guess what? Nobody’s season ended and, as a result, several teams have something to prove over the weekend. Some will try to bounce back after a tough loss. Others want to carry their momentum and build a winning streak. So, Maryland at Duke, Temple at Butler, Kansas State at Iowa State, Minnesota at Wisconsin, LaSalle at VCU, Creighton at Southern Illinois, and USC at Arizona are all worth watching.
And what does Miami do for an encore with rival Florida State coming to town? Great stuff. Any of those games could have made our list. But they didn’t.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
No. 13 Michigan State (17-3, 6-1 Big Ten) at No. 7 Indiana (17-2, 5-1 Big Ten)(Sunday 1 p.m., CBS)
Check out the Big Ten standings heading into the weekend. Michigan State is on top at 6-1. Michigan and Indiana are right behind at 5-1. Sunday’s game will drop one of these teams into the group of two-loss teams and right now that is limited to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan State has won six straight after losing at Minnesota on New Year’s Eve. Guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris find a way to get their points for the Spartans. Michigan State needs Derrick Nix (9.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) or Adreian Payne (9.0, 6.8) to get some points in the lane and around the basket if the Spartans are going to invade Bloomington and escape with a victory. Indiana bounced back from that home loss to Wisconsin with victories over Northwestern and Penn State but the Hoosiers are entering a stretch where three of the next five games are ranked in the Top 14 in the nation. The Hoosiers can survive that just by doing the things that serve them best. They are second in the nation, averaging 83.7 points, and sixth in the nation in field goal percentage at 50 percent. That’s hard to beat, especially when the Hoosiers hold opponents to 36.9 percent shooting (seventh in the nation).
North Carolina (13-5, 3-2 ACC) at No. 18 North Carolina State (15-4, 4-2 ACC)(Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
This is a momentum game in every sense of the word. And at the end of the regular season, either team could look back at this result and say it was a turning point. After losing to Virginia and Miami in their first two ACC games, the Tar Heels seem to be pulling things together with a three-game winning streak. On the other side, the Wolfpack made that big splash beating Duke and now have lost two of three since. Both of those losses were close games on the road, 51-50 at Maryland and 86-84 at Wake Forest. NC State led Wake by 16 in the first half and by 12 at halftime. Foul trouble didn’t help the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels will be without reserve Leslie McDonald, suspended for three games because of academic reasons. North Carolina win streak has come at the expense of Florida State, Maryland and Georgia Tech, so the Heels would benefit from a win over a ranked team. If Carolina’s guards can force the issue and take advantage of NC State’s recent defensive deficiencies, the Wolfpack could have a credibility issue again.
No. 15 New Mexico (17-2, 4-0 MWC) at San Diego State (15-4, 3-2 MWC)(Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
New Mexico’s 4-0 start in the Mountain West is impressive because of the conference’s depth and strength this season. But only one of those wins came on the road and that was a 79-74 battle at Boise State, one of the most underappreciated teams in the nation. A win Saturday would start to establish some space for the Lobos in the standings. They are coming off a 66-61 victory over Colorado State that pushed the Rams into a group of five teams with two conference losses. Both teams play well at the defensive end but it’s amazing New Mexico has only two losses shooting 41 percent from the field (260th in the nation) and averaging just 69.1 points. San Diego State lost consecutive games to UNLV and Wyoming to fall out of the Associated Press poll. But Aztecs’ fans might have a say in this game. Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds visited the student section last year to congratulate them on the atmosphere they created at the Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. If Jamaal Franklin (17.8 ppg) can get the crowd in the game early, the Lobos might have problems.
No. 3 Syracuse (18-1, 6-0 Big East) at Villanova (12-7, 3-3 Big East)(Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPNU)
Strange to have a rematch already, but that’s what this is. Villanova lost 72-61 at Syracuse on Jan. 12 and followed that up with losses against Pittsburgh and at Providence. That’s why Villanova’s 73-64 victory over No. 5 Louisville was shocking news in the Big East and nationally. And that’s why the Orange are on upset alert heading into the Wells Fargo Center for a late morning game. Is Jay Wright’s team finally finding its stride or did the Wildcats just get amped to play a team that had been ranked No. 1 the week before? In the first meeting, Syracuse freshmen Trevor Cooney, DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant responded to Jim Boeheim’s challenge with senior James Southerland serving the first game of his suspension. Villanova did lead that game 29-27 at halftime. Syracuse has won 28 of its last 29 Big East regular season games. But Villanova is 4-1 all-time against Top 5 opponents at the Wells Fargo Center after that win over Louisville. Who will answer the early wake up call?
|Louisville coach Rick Pitino|
No. 5 Louisville (16-3, 4-2 Big East) at Georgetown (13-4, 3-3 Big East)(Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPN)
Where once there were few doubts, there now are concerns about Louisville. The big question heading into this Big East game is how the Cardinals will bounce back from two consecutive losses. It doesn’t figure to be easy on the road against a team that had been ranked earlier in the season. Louisville lost its No. 1 ranking because the Cardinals didn’t execute and didn’t finish strong against Syracuse. Coming off that bummer, the Cardinals looked flat and unfocused against Villanova. The Wildcats closed with a 27-14 run and Louisville coach Rick Pitino was furious with his team’s poor free throw shooting (7 of 18, including missing five of final six). Georgetown is 2-1 against Top 25 teams this season, including a 63-47 win at No. 24 Notre Dame on Monday. Otto Porter scored 19 against the Irish. The Hoyas are 9-1 at home.