This Week in College Basketball: Tournament Picture Gets Clearer
It's certainly the time of year when teams are forced to play each game as if it were an elimination game. A lot of games this week will have major tournament implications, which always makes for exciting theater. All times ET.
10. Gonzaga (19-9, 9-3) at St. Mary's (22-6, 10-2), Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2
This one probably looked a whole lot better in October, but both teams sit precariously on the NCAA tournament bubble, so a loss here could push either team out. St. Mary's has the luxury of playing at home, and if the Gaels are able to pull it out they will all but guarantee themselves the regular season conference championship. St. Mary's has won in Spokane when these teams first met at the end of last month.
9. Cincinnati (21-6, 8-6) at No. 11 Georgetown (21-6, 10-5), Wednesday, 9 p.m.
The Bearcats answered the bell last week, beating Louisville in a must-win to keep their NCAA tournament chances afloat. Now, a stiffer task, as Cincy must go on the road and try to get a win at Georgetown. The Hoyas have won nine of 10 since losing three straight and sit alone in third place in the Big East. If Georgetown were to win out, including a visit from Syracuse and a return trip to Cincinnati, they would clinch the two-round bye in the conference tournament.
8. West Virginia (17-9, 8-6) at No. 4 Pittsburgh (24-3, 12-2), Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN
The Panthers have a tough week culminating with a Sunday trip to Louisville, so a win at home over WVU is paramount if they want to avoid a three-game losing streak. They still sit comfortably atop the Big East, but a lot can happen in the last two weeks, especially given that Pitt still has Villanova to play in addition to Louisville.
7. Tennessee (16-11, 6-6) at No. 18 Vanderbilt (20-6, 8-4), Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN
For Vanderbilt to hang on to second place in the SEC East, thus ensuring a first-round bye in the conference tournament, this is a game they must win. Kentucky is only a game back, and the Commodores and Wildcats play in Lexington next week. The Vols won the last time these two met in Knoxville, but recently UT has been in a drought, losing four of its last five.
6. No. 24 Temple (21-5, 11-2) at No. 1 Duke (25-2, 12-1), Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2
The Blue Devils are again atop the poll, but they have looked shaky at times since being blown out by St. John's. Still, Duke has looked like an elite team for the entire season, despite their losses and close calls. Temple is an interesting matchup, especially given that the Owls have beaten Georgetown and they gave Villanova all they could handle.
5. No. 13 Florida (21-5, 10-2) at No. 22 Kentucky (19-7, 7-5), Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
The Gators have all but locked up a No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament, but the Wildcats still have some work left to do. UK gets Florida and Vandy in back-to-back games in Rupp Arena -- where John Calipari hasn't lost -- so if the 'Cats are to make a move, now is the time. The Gators have a tough finishing stretch. On Thursday, they welcome Georgia, then they head to Lexington to face Kentucky, and they finish with a visit from Alabama and a road trip to Nashville to face the Commodores.
4. No. 1 Duke (25-2, 12-1) at Virginia Tech (17-8, 7-5), Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN
Though the Hokies have appeared to do just enough to get in the tournament, knocking off the Blue Devils in Blacksburg would remove all doubt. The Hokies have certainly struggled at times, and they certainly do not have a real quality win. If they're able to take down Duke, they would have some major momentum heading into the postseason.
3. No. 8 Purdue (22-5, 11-3) at Michigan State (15-11, 7-7), Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN
After showing signs of life against Ohio State in Columbus, the Spartans defeated Illinois and now face Minnesota and Purdue in back-to-back games. If MSU is able to get a win over the Gophers, the visit from the Boilermakers could be a play-in game to the NCAA tournament. Conventional wisdom says they have done just enough. But, given the way their season has gone, anything can happen in these last two weeks.
2. No. 4 Pittsburgh (24-3, 12-2) at No. 16 Louisville (20-7, 9-5), Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS
After falling to St. John's over the weekend, Pitt's once-firm grasp on the Big East has weakened significantly. And Louisville is a team that has a shot -- albeit a small one -- to sneak past the Panthers. They'll have to get the win Sunday at home, but the Cardinals can still make a late run at the crown. Pitt would really have to falter, however, and that seems unlikely.
1. No. 7 BYU (25-2, 11-1) at No. 6 San Diego State (27-1, 12-1), Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS
Finally, the rematch. Jimmer and company got the better of the Aztecs the first time these two met, but now the Cougars must make a return trip to San Diego. Both teams have looked strong since the first meeting, with BYU experiencing the only hiccup in a loss at New Mexico. If SDSU can hold court, they will be in the driver's seat to win the conference.