There’s a little more than two weeks remaining for college basketball teams to distinguish themselves and earn their way into the NCAA tournament’s field of 68.
The edge of the field is fluid, so there’s plenty of relevant games to look in on this weekend. Few teams will seal their fate one way or another Saturday or Sunday, but at least a bit more clarity is on its way.
Marquette (16-11, 7-8 Big East) at DePaul, Saturday, noon, MASN2 (in D.C. area): Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to lose to DePaul. That’s especially true for a team hovering around the cut line like the Golden Eagles, who can ill-afford a misstep on a two-games-in-three-days road trip that also takes them to Georgetown on Monday.
Providence (17-11, 8-7 Big East) at Georgetown, Saturday, noon, CBS Sports Network: Since knocking off Villanova, the visiting Friars have dropped back-to-back games. A loss wouldn’t crush Providence, but it would make its life a little dicier heading into a trip to Xavier next week.
Baylor (17-11, 7-8 Big 12) at TCU (19-9,7-8), Saturday, noon, ESPN2: Both teams are in the hunt, with the host Horned Frogs in better shape for postseason purposes. A road triumph would boost the Bears, who fell to TCU, 81-78, in Waco, Tex., on Jan. 2.
Louisville (18-10, 8-7 ACC) at Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6), Saturday, 1, CBS: Virginia Tech is one of the teams dealing with a crummy nonconference schedule strength (No. 325 through Thursday’s games) and needs to create separation from other borderline teams. Beating fading Louisville, which has dropped five of its last seven, represents a twofer for the Hokies.
Boston College at Miami (19-8, 8-7 ACC), Saturday, 2, NBC Sports Washington: The Hurricanes are in preservation mode, which means if they do the things expected of them — win their final two home games (against Boston College and Virginia Tech) and then win a game in the ACC tournament — they should enjoy a relatively stress-free Selection Sunday.
Oklahoma State (16-12, 6-9 Big 12) at Texas (16-12, 6-9), Saturday, 2, Longhorn Network: In the NCAA’s new quadrant system, Texas is 5-9 in Quadrant 1 games and 3-3 against Quadrant 2, while Oklahoma State is 4-10 and 2-2, respectively. So why is Texas in better shape for selection purposes? Schedule strength. That said, this is a game the Longhorns shouldn’t let slip away.
Southern Cal at Utah (18-9, 10-6 Pac-12), Saturday, 2:30, Pac-12 Networks: The Utes are suddenly plenty relevant thanks to a five-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch since Jan. 18. Utah handled UCLA on Thursday, and a sweep of the Pac-12’s Los Angeles schools would make for a productive weekend.
Notre Dame (16-12, 6-9 ACC) at Wake Forest, Saturday, 3, ACC Network: No one is going to want to play the Fighting Irish in the ACC tournament, when center Bonzie Colson should be at full strength. He could make his return from injury this weekend, but Coach Mike Brey has hinted at a more cautious approach, which is probably a good idea. Not a good idea? Losing to sub-.500 Wake Forest while chasing an at-large bid.
South Carolina at Mississippi State (20-8, 8-7 SEC), Saturday, 3:30, SEC Network: The Bulldogs must answer for their poor nonconference schedule, and it will probably keep them out of the field when all is said and done. But they did win at Texas A&M this week to claim only their second victory outside state lines. A win wouldn’t help Mississippi State much, but a loss would hurt.
Washington (18-10, 8-7 Pac-12) at California, Saturday, 4:30, Pac-12 Networks: The Huskies may have peaked with their sweep of Arizona and Arizona State this month. Since then, they’ve dropped four of five. They absolutely cannot afford a loss to last-place Cal.
Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) at Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9), Saturday, 6, ESPN2: There’s a lot to dive into for both teams. Kansas State has a dreadful nonconference schedule and is 0-6 against the top three in the Big 12, but is 20-2 against everyone else. If the Wildcats keep beating up on the middle of the Big 12 pack down the stretch (Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor), they’ll be fine. Oklahoma has dropped six in a row, and while it’s not in immediate danger of missing the field, it can’t expect to survive a complete collapse, either.
Syracuse (18-10, 7-8 ACC) at Duke, Saturday, 6:15, ESPN: The Orange’s overall profile is pretty solid, and there isn’t a lack of road victories (like last year). But winning in Durham would provide a lot of relief for a team that still has to go to Boston College and host Clemson.
St. Bonaventure (21-6, 11-4 Atlantic 10) at Virginia Commonwealth, Saturday, 8, CBS Sports Network: The Bonnies have won nine in a row but still don’t have much margin for error. This is one of a few chances remaining to slip up for Mark Schmidt’s team, which also faces Davidson and Saint Louis in dangerous games next week.
Auburn at Florida (17-11, 8-7 SEC), Saturday, 8:30, SEC Network: The RPI is unkind to Florida in large part because it has dropped five games in Gainesville and the formula is punitive to teams that don’t defend their home floors. Other metrics are more favorable for the Gators, who have acquitted themselves well against high-end competition. A victory over the SEC-leading Tigers would soothe some concerns in the Sunshine State.
UCLA (19-9, 10-6 Pac-12) at Colorado, Sunday, 4, ESPNU: The Bruins aren’t teetering at the edge of the field just yet, and claiming this sort of road game is exactly how they can avoid that fate. Colorado isn’t great but it is 6-2 in conference home games despite losing to USC on Wednesday.
Florida State at N.C. State (19-9, 9-6 ACC), Sunday, 6, ESPNU: The Wolfpack is another team trying to create separation from the last few teams in the field, and its sparkly array of quality victories (Arizona, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina) goes a long way. They’ve won three in a row, and a strong finish against Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville could answer N.C. State’s questions before it heads to the ACC tournament.
Penn State (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) at Nebraska (21-9, 12-5), Sunday, 6:15, BTN: Both teams have a ton of work to do next week in the Big Ten tournament, and neither is an overwhelming at-large candidate (Penn State might not even be one at all). But if there’s a single game broadcast most likely to be devoted to the NCAA-worthiness of both teams this weekend, this is it.
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