It’s not a great weekend for Top 25 matchups, but there is a common theme at this time of the season. Conference standings become so important. Every team is jostling for position, trying to get the best seed in the conference tournaments to find the path to the NCAA tournament.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
No. 13 Ohio State (18-6, 8-4 Big Ten) at No. 20 Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten) (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
The Big Ten has been the toughest conference in the nation this season and it’s not even close. Indiana is No. 1 in the nation. Michigan State is getting better and perhaps exceeding preseason expectations after the big win over Michigan this week. Next in line, serving as spoilers, are Ohio State and Wisconsin. On any given night, these teams can be outstanding or average. This is a classic, old-school rivalry and the Badgers simply own opponents at the Kohl Center. Ohio State could play a near-perfect game and still lose – as the Buckeyes did at Michigan on Feb. 5.
No. 16 Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 Big East) at Marquette (17-6, 8-3 Big East) (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
This is a huge game in the Big East. Just look at the standings. Georgetown goes into Saturday on top at 9-3 with Syracuse and Marquette just behind at 8-3. Next is a trio of Notre Dame, Louisville and Pitt at 8-4. Barely enough room to slide a piece of paper between that bunch. Pitt was our preseason Big East sleeper and the Panthers have awakened, winning seven of their last eight. This is a team that is improving each game, just at the right time. Marquette will be trying to bounce back from a 63-55loss to Georgetown.
No. 2 Duke (22-2, 9-2 ACC) at Maryland (17-7, 5-6 ACC) (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
The Blue Devils rarely have an enjoyable trip to College Park and the Comcast Center will be rocking when Duke invades Saturday night. Forget the recent 84-64 Duke win over the Terps at Cameron, this will be a different environment and the Maryland fans always make it difficult on Coach K’s team. Duke has won six in a row, but the last two – over Boston College and North Carolina – haven’t come easy. A win would be a huge boost for Maryland’s NCAA resume.
Baylor (16-8, 7-4 Big 12) at No. 10 Kansas State (19-5, 8-3 Big 12) (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Kansas State rolled off four straight wins, moved into the Associated Press Top 10 and into first place in the Big 12. Not so fast. The Wildcats then had to visit Allen Fieldhouse and lost for the second time this season to Kansas, getting blown out 83-62. So how will K-State bounce back? They get a talented Baylor team at home, so maybe that will help. So much depends on the play of Rodney McGruder.Baylor will counter with Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Austin.
Oklahoma at No. 17 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3)
Once again, we head to the standings. In the Big 12, the day begins with Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State at 8-3, with Oklahoma and Baylor at 7-4. With Kansas at home against Texas it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out. In a one-week span, both of these teams defeated Kansas to get in the mix. The Sooners will have their hands full with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown playing at home. But in a rivalry like this, expect the unexpected.