College Basketball Weekend Watch
Who’s No. 2?, Jimmer alert, and an SEC showdown.
by Aaron Torres / @Aaron_Torres
Here are some things to keep an eye on heading into this weekend’s college basketball schedule…
Apparently the football Gods have once again gotten the last laugh, as for the second time in a couple weeks, the college basketball slate is dry. Not quite as dry as the brownies my sister baked last night, but pretty close.
The only game pitting ranked teams against each other is an interesting one though, as Kentucky travels to Florida Saturday night to take on the Gators.
For the Wildcats, this one might be the most important regular season game of the John Calipari era. After Calipari walked on water last year, his team is struggling right now, as they’re just 4-3 in SEC play, with all three losses coming on the road, all to unranked teams. The most recent came on Tuesday, when the Wildcats lost to an Ole Miss team that entered the evening just 2-5 in SEC play. Needless to say, losing in Oxford didn’t go over too well in Big Blue Nation.
Which is why Saturday’s game is so important. The Wildcats are already 1.5 games behind Florida in the loss column in the SEC East race, and losing Saturday would all but send their SEC East title hopes to the grave, especially with two games remaining against both Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and a return game from Florida.
Truthfully, Kentucky is the better team entering this game. But right now, they’re just not playing like it.
Don’t let the mainstream college basketball media fool you with their big conference malarkey; because of every game this weekend, UNLV-BYU is one that you absolutely need to keep your eyes on.
Entering this Mountain West matchup, we all know the story is Jimmer Fredette. Simply put, he’s the biggest thing to hit Utah since, well, maybe since Brigham Young entered the state’s borders himself. But for all the Jimmer talk, don’t sleep on Vegas. The Rebels have high-end talent (Chace Stanback, Tre’Von Willis and Derek Jasper transferred from UCLA, Memphis and Kentucky respectively), and are amongst the nation’s best defensive teams. They rank in the Top 35 in both scoring defense, and defensive field goal percentage.
If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you can’t stop Jimmer. But if anyone can contain him, the Rebels seem like the team.
Who’s No. 2?
Either way, both are playing out of their minds right now, and should cruise to victories Saturday. Kansas travels to Nebraska, and Texas welcomes Texas Tech.
For Kansas, they seem to be re-energized after that loss to Texas, as they’re 3-0 since, and have beaten their last two opponents by a combined 46 points. The Jayhawks are deep, smart and efficient on both ends of the court. And don’t look now, but Josh Selby has quietly put together three good games in a row. The freshman guard is averaging 14 points over his that stretch, which makes us wonder, could he finally be the perimeter scoring threat this team has been looking for?
As for Texas, well to quote Verne Lundquist, “My GOODNESS,” are the Longhorns playing well. To point out one star player on the Longhorns would be to take away from another, but right now there isn’t a team that’s getting more quality play, from more quality guys than Texas is. And having had close to a week off since Monday’s win over Texas A&M, the Longhorns should come into this game with extra focus and energy.
So who’s No. 2? Who cares. Both these teams are locked and loaded, and ready to take on anyone.
Team To Keep Your Eye On: North Carolina Tar Heels
Truth be told, by the time the Tar Heels tip-off their game Sunday at 2:00 p.m., you’ll already be two beers deep and have a pound of chicken wings swirling around in your stomach (It’s ok, I’ll probably have the same). But if you are following the hoops scene over the course of the afternoon, keep an eye out for North Carolina. The Heels are 16-5, 6-1 in conference, and getting ready to play some team called Duke on Wednesday.
Still, they better not look ahead here. That’s because the team they play this weekend, Florida State, isn’t just good on defense, they’re literally the best defensive team in the country. On the season, the Seminoles are allowing opponents to shoot just 35.5 percent from the field, which is No. 1 in all of college basketball.
North Carolina is the second best team in the ACC, and you better darn well believe they can pull the upset Wednesday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Arena. But first they’ve got business to take care of with the Seminoles.
More Games From Around The Country:
West Virginia at No. 12 Villanova, Saturday 12:00 p.m.: Villanova will win here, but watch this game if only because it’s a matchup of the best dressed coach in college basketball (Jay Wright) against the worst (Bob Huggins). Look, Coach Huggins, I know you just coached in a Final Four 10 months ago, but would a collared shirt kill you?
St. Johns at UCLA, Saturday 1:00 p.m.: The story entering this one will be Steve Lavin’s return to UCLA. Which is cute, it really is. But what the story should be is that with each of these teams “good but not great,” a win here could go a long way in each getting an NCAA Tournament bid. A loss here could be crippling.
What? Too soon?
No. 7 UConn at Seton Hall: Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Don’t look now, but all of a sudden, UConn’s on a two-game losing streak. The last team they need to face here is an underachieving but abundantly talented Seton Hall squad that can score points in bunches.
Who ever thought we’d see the day where we saw “Michigan State vs. Wisconsin,” and wish they were playing in football instead of basketball?
No. 1 Ohio State at Minnesota, Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: A week ago, I thought the Gophers could pull the upset here. But after back-to-back losses, including one to Indiana Wednesday, I’m not nearly as sure.