Photo Credit: Sporting News
With just two weeks until conference play, most teams play their last real test this weekend. Here is your guide of what to watch this weekend.
Villanova at Kansas
To get the weekend started on Saturday, #17 Villanova travels to face top-ranked Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. Villanova has had a rough start to the season with losses to Penn, Michigan, and Furman. This game is not only big for Villanova, but the whole Big East. A loss and the Big East better hope that Villanova does not dominate a weak conference again. A loss for Villanova will signal a down year in the Big East and if Nova wins the conference, the champion will have lost almost every big showdown outside the conference. A win for Villanova, however, will give the Big East a huge head to head win over the Big 12 and could help teams get more credit when upsetting Nova and hurt less when they lose to the Wild Cats. For Kansas, this is just another test in a tough non-conference schedule. To this date, Kansas has yet to fall, but Grimes recent struggles and close wins over NMSU and Stanford have people questioning how good Kansas really is. This matchup will have a big effect not just now, but when the committee meets in March to look at seeding and the strength of each conference.
Prediction: Kansas 88 Villanova 71
Photo Credit: Inside the Hall
Indiana vs Butler
If that wasn’t enough, after the showdown in Kansas, turn your TV to CBS for the second game of the Crossroads Classic between Indiana and Butler. Indiana has been tough to judge in the early season, with great wins over Louisville and Marquette, but losing to a soft Arkansas team, and getting absolutely railed in Cameron Indoor by the Blue Devils. Indiana finished the past two weeks with huge wins over Penn State and Northwestern before beating Louisville and climbing back into the rankings, they are currently finding their groove behind Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. Romeo is a natural scorer who is starting to figure out his role in the Archie Miller offense, as he gets better Indiana will rise. Butler has been similar to Indiana in the unpredictability of their play. They have fallen twice to A-10 foes Dayton and Saint Louis but took down Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Butler, like Villanova, will need a good showing for more than just themselves. The Big East has already watched Marquette get stomped by Indiana if another mid-tier Big East team falls to the Big Ten the committee will know which conference should win the bubble battles. This weekend will decide the fate of the Big East, Indiana likely just has too much firepower for Butler.
Prediction: Indiana 75 Butler 62
Photo Credit: SI
Gonzaga at North Carolina
This is easily the matchup of the day. This will be Gonzaga’s last real test of the season, while UNC will be trying to get ready for one of the most brutal ACC seasons in recent memory. With a blowout loss to Michigan and a bad loss to Texas, North Carolina will be pushing to turn things around before moving to ACC. Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson will be the key tonight, both will need to find a groove and get going if UNC is going to be great. Luke Maye is always solid but will need help on the perimeter if they will be true contenders. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has looked strong in the non-conference and has the best win of any team, beating Duke. They did take a loss recently to Tennessee and another loss to UNC could cost them a one seed entering March.
Prediction: North Carolina 85 Gonzaga 82
Nevada vs South Dakota State
The last matchup on Saturday features Nevada at home against South Dakota State. This might seem like something you could miss, but it is likely Nevada’s last real chance to lose, before going into a weak Mountain West schedule. Mike Daum is one of the best players in the country and will not lay down easily, but Nevada has one of the most high powered offenses in the NCAA. The Wolfpack is must watch tv, and this is the last big game you can do it.
Prediction: Nevada 84 South Dakota State 68
Games that just missed the cut:
Tennessee at Memphis: Any other weekend, this could be the must-see game, and might be a better game than Kansas vs Villanova. Tennessee is possibly the toughest team in the country, and Memphis is a team on the rise, but slowly. This is a huge rival in Memphis and the perfect game for them to make a statement. Prepare for a physical low scoring brawl in a game that likely will get very heated.
Purdue vs Notre Dame: The first game of the Crossroads Classic, between Notre Dame and Purdue, should be a strong reminder of how much these teams have lost since the past year. Purdue will hold an edge only because of Carsen Edwards. He has been playing close to one on five for the majority of the season, and Purdue likely will be on the wrong side of the bubble unless others step up, this is the game where they have to get Eric Hunter, Matt Haarms, and Evan Boudreaux involved.