February 20, 2009

Viewer's guide: Time for some to impress

This has the look of an entertaining weekend for fans, especially Sunday, which has "showdown" games in the ACC, Big East and Big Ten.

Monday has – potentially – the biggest Big 12 game of the season.

There also are important games in the SEC and Pac-10 this weekend, as well as some intriguing BracketBuster affairs.

Here's a look at this weekend's best games.

Starting Wednesday, we'll give you a daily look at the best games.

This weekend's five to watch

Tennessee at Kentucky, Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS regional: The SEC East race is a jumbled mess, and these are two of the four teams tied for the division lead. Kentucky has lost four of its past six and has seen its RPI fall to 64th, meaning the Wildcats are squarely on the NCAA bubble. It would help UK considerably if big man Patrick Patterson, who has missed the past two games with an injured ankle, is able to play. Without Patterson, Kentucky becomes a one-man team. Granted, that one man, Jodie Meeks, is playing excellent basketball. But for UK to make the push it needs down the stretch, it needs Patterson in the lineup. The Vols have lost half of their past eight games but still have an RPI of 22nd. Their defensive intensity is inconsistent, as are their point guards. UK won by 18 in Knoxville last month, when Meeks poured in 54 points.

Illinois at Ohio State, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS regional: This should be close, but whether it's entertaining is another matter. Illinois scored 33 points in its most recent outing, the second time this season the Illini have scored fewer than 40. Illinois, obviously, isn't going to wow anyone with its offense, but the Illini play excellent defense. In fact, the Illini shut down the Buckeyes and won by 18 at home last month. Ohio State has lost two in a row and needs to win this to avoid falling to .500 in the Big Ten. Both these teams look good for NCAA bids, but they're looking to win to improve their seedings.

Villanova at Syracuse, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS regional: Syracuse has lost five of seven and six of nine, but still has an RPI in the low 20s. Villanova has won seven of eight, including a 17-point victory over the Orange earlier this month. Syracuse has been inconsistent on defense of late, which has to irk coach Jim Boeheim, who has used a lot of man-to-man rather than his preferred zone this season. Villanova forward Dante Cunningham tore up Syracuse in the first meeting, and the Orange's first priority has to be keeping him under wraps. Conversely, Villanova has to focus on stopping Syracuse guards Eric Devendorf and Jonny Flynn.

Wake Forest at Duke, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: These are two of the four teams tied for second in the ACC, behind North Carolina. Duke has lost four of its past six. The Blue Devils lack an inside presence, and other than Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson, their players have problems with consistency. Wake has lost four of eight, but one of the wins was a last-second two-pointer over Duke last month. Wake sophomore Jeff Teague has been one of the best guards in the nation, but the Demon Deacons have been sloppy with the ball in conference play - 34 more turnovers than assists. First- and second-round NCAA tournament games are in Greensboro, N.C., and both these teams would like to be there. But it's extremely doubtful the NCAA would send three ACC teams to Greensboro, and North Carolina has the inside track to one of those spots.

Kansas at Oklahoma, Monday, 9 p.m., ESPN: If both win Saturday – OU at Texas and KU at home against Nebraska – the Sooners have a chance to all but lock up the Big 12 regular-season title with a win in this one. OU big man Blake Griffin is the front-runner for national player of the year honors, and freshman guard Willie Warren has met high expectations. The Sooners lack depth, but it hasn't hurt. Kansas has been a surprise and heads into the weekend one game behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 race. Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins are a nice inside-outside combination. This is the only meeting between the teams this season.

Others to keep an eye on

Boston College at Miami, Saturday, noon, Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Florida/Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic/NESN/ESPN FullCourt: Miami has lost three in a row and six of its past seven, and is in danger of falling off the NCAA bubble. The Hurricanes' biggest problem is they have no consistent scorer other than Jack McClinton. BC has won six of eight and looks to be in OK shape for an NCAA spot; winning in Coral Gables would strengthen BC's case.

Butler at Davidson, Saturday, noon, ESPN: This BracketBusters game is important for both, but more so for Davidson. The Wildcats may be without star guard Stephen Curry, who has an injured ankle. Davidson doesn't have an impressive non-conference résumé, meaning it might not make the NCAA field unless it wins the Southern Conference tourney. A win over Butler would help. Butler has lost two in a row and three of its past six, and what was once a single-digit RPI now is in the high 20s. A loss in this one and Butler's NCAA seeding takes another hit.

Notre Dame at Providence, Saturday, noon, Big East syndication/ESPN FullCourt: This is basically a must-win for the Irish, but it's also important for the Friars as they attempt to play their way into the NCAA field.

Baylor at Oklahoma State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication/ESPN FullCourt: A big game in the Big 12 between two bubble-dwellers. Baylor won by six in OT in Waco last month. Both want a fast pace, so expect a game in the 80s and maybe even the 90s.

Louisville at Cincinnati, Saturday, 2 p.m., Big East syndication/Fox Sports Ohio/MSG Network/ESPN FullCourt: Cincinnati is on the NCAA bubble and can help itself with a win over the Cardinals. Cincinnati has seven Big East wins – but none have come against teams with a winning conference record. Louisville is playing for a "good" seed in the field of 65.

Marquette at Georgetown, Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN: A huge game for Georgetown as it tries to play its way into the NCAA field. The Hoyas have lost seven of their past nine, including a 12-point loss at Marquette last month. Marquette still is hoping for a No. 2 seed.

Holy Cross at American, Saturday, 2 p.m.: If American wins, it all but sews up the Patriot League regular-season title. That's important because the regular-season champ gets to host in each round of the Patriot League tourney. Holy Cross won the earlier meeting.

San Diego State at New Mexico, Saturday, 3 p.m., Versus: San Diego State is in the hunt for the Mountain West regular-season title and an NCAA bid, but would be hard-pressed to win the league if it loses this one. The Aztecs' NCAA hopes obviously would take a hit, too. San Diego State has won five of six, and it beat the Lobos by five at home last month.

Vanderbilt at Florida, Saturday, 3 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Florida has been shaky, losing three of its past five, and can't afford a loss to a Vandy team it beat handily in Nashville last month. Vandy, though, is coming off a 13-point win over Kentucky.

North Carolina at Maryland, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC: Three of Maryland's next four games are at home, against North Carolina, Duke and Wake. To be taken seriously as an NCAA contender, the Terps need to win at least two of those. UNC is in good shape to be a No. 1 seed.

Nebraska at Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: Nebraska has won four of its past five, but still has some work to do to get into any discussion about an at-large bid. Winning in Lawrence would get the Huskers in the discussion. KU beat the Huskers by six in Lincoln last month.

Utah State at Saint Mary's, Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN2: This BracketBuster game would have more appeal if Saint Mary's guard Patrick Mills were healthy. Still, this is an important game for Utah State, which is running away with the WAC regular-season title but might not make the NCAA field if it loses in the conference tourney because of a weak non-conference schedule.

Washington at USC, Saturday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Northwest/Fox Sports Prime Ticket/Fox Sports Arizona: USC has lost three in a row and its NCAA hopes are fading. Those hopes would be burnished by a victory over the Huskies, who have a half-game lead in the Pac-10 and are playing for a good seed in the NCAA tourney.

Florida State at Virginia Tech, Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports South/Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic: Florida State looks poised to get back to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1998, but the Seminoles are in the midst of a tough seven-game streak to end the season. First was a loss to Wake Forest, then a win over Miami, followed by this game, at Boston College, vs. Clemson, at Duke and vs. Virginia Tech. The Hokies have lost four of six and are wobbling. They are coming off back-to-back losses to Maryland and Virginia and close out the regular season vs. Florida State, at Clemson, vs. Duke, vs. North Carolina and at Florida State.

Oklahoma at Texas, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN: Texas is fading, having lost four of its past six, and what had been an RPI in the high teens now is in the mid-40s. And what had been a sure NCAA berth has become iffy. A win over the Sooners, though, and everything would be right in the Longhorns' world. OU won by 15 in Norman last month.

George Mason at Creighton, Saturday, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU: Creighton is in good shape to win the Missouri Valley regular-season title, and a win over the Patriots in this BracketBuster game would help Creighton's long-shot case for an at-large bid should it falter in the MVC tourney.

BYU at UNLV, Saturday, 11 p.m., CBS College Sports: UNLV has dropped three in a row, and despite some big wins (at BYU, Louisville, Utah), its NCAA hopes are becoming iffier. A season sweep of the Cougars – who have won five in a row – would be nice.

Wisconsin at Michigan State, Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN: Wisconsin has won five in a row and the Badgers suddenly are in a position to finish third in the Big Ten – assuming they win this game, that is. Michigan State is the Big Ten leader and trying to get a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA tourney.

Arizona at Arizona State, Sunday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports Net: One of the nastier rivalries in the country has extra intrigue this time around. Arizona has won seven in a row since its last loss – at home to the Sun Devils – to put itself back in the NCAA discussion. Arizona State has won four in a row and is going for its second consecutive season sweep of its archrival.

Louisville at Georgetown, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN: If Georgetown wins Saturday against Marquette, this game takes on added meaning, as it would be another opportunity for Georgetown to play itself into the NCAA field.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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