The Top 15 “Must Watch” College Hoops Games This Week
What You Need To Watch In College Basketball This Week
When the clock struck triple zeros at Super Bowl 47, the football season ended and the nation’s attention now has turned to college hoops. Fortunately, we’ve got quite a slate this week to whet your appetite with battles in the power six conferences, Missouri Valley and Mountain West conferences.
Most of the country has also reached the midway point in their conference seasons and we’re starting to see some separation among the contenders and pretenders. However, the parity we see across college basketball this year isn’t going anywhere. There are really at least a dozen teams that could cut down the nets in Atlanta in April. It’s going to be a quite a sprint to the finish. The time to get on board is now!
If you’re a fan of one of the many bubble teams, you’re in luck. The tourney field is going to be super soft from around the 9 seed line down. You’ll have teams that have NO business playing in the NCAA tournament getting in. Someone has to fill those slots after all!
Good wins are now even a greater commodity. Everyone has a couple of bad losses it seems and that means the committee has started to discount them. Look at last year if you need any convincing. A prime example this season is Villanova. The Wildcats have two great wins over Louisville and Syracuse but lost to Columbia (Ivy League!) and Providence twice. Most so-called “experts” still have them in the field as of today. What a crazy season. It’s not necessarily filled with a lot of quality but the drama is there nevertheless.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.
#15- No. 10 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan, ESPN, Tuesday, 9 PM Eastern
This should be a fascinating match up in Ann Arbor. It's not exactly the same rivalry we see yearly on the gridiron but the Wolverines certainly still have a bad taste in their mouths. That's not only because they are coming off a loss to Indiana in a top 5 battle but the Buckeyes dealt them their first loss in Columbus a few weeks ago.
The key battle I'll be watching is Deshaun Thomas against Glenn Robinson III. I know most of you are probably looking at the Craft-Burke back court battle but Thomas is the only proven scoring threat on the Buckeyes. Robinson might be listed as a power forward but he's really a small forward physically. Can he keep up with the Big Ten's leading scorer?
#14- No. 18 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State, Big Ten Network, Wednesday, 7 PM Eastern
Minnesota finally is back on track with two straight wins and Michigan State is back as real contender to win a Big Ten title. Sparty has a pretty manageable schedule the 2nd half of their conference slate. Meanwhile, Minnesota was in the running for a 2 seed just weeks ago. A nice sustained run could get them back within the first 4 seed lines which give them a "regionally favorable" match up closest to the Twin Cities. Tubby's teams have had issues in the tourney so every little bit helps.
Match up wise I want to see the front courts in this game. Who is going to give Trevor Mbakwe help? Rodney Williams is the "x-factor". He's been in a bit of a slump but needs to become a force once again. We know he can.
#13- Baylor at No. 22 Oklahoma State, ESPN, Wednesday, 7 PM Eastern
Oklahoma State arguably had the win of the year by going into Allen Fieldhouse and knocking off Kansas. Just think where the Cowboys would be seed wise had they finished off Gonzaga at home! Marcus Smart is probably the front runner for Big 12 player of the year after his outstanding effort beating the Jayhawks.
Baylor confuses me. They have top talent yet seem to play down to their competition. A win in Stillwater would almost certainly punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Isaiah Austin must have a big game in this one. Philip Jurick did a decent job against Kansas's Jeff Withey but Austin is much more athletic and has a perimeter game.
#12- No. 16 Creighton at Indiana State, ESPN3 (Online Only), Wednesday, 7:05 PM Eastern
The "letdown game". Three words most college basketball fans know very well. Indiana State has to be kick themselves right now. They have a really nice resume including wins over Ole Miss, Miami and now Wichita State. Problem is they just lost to Drake. They need to get back on track at home.
The committee won't give the same benefit of the doubt to a non-powerhouse midmajor. If you can grab this one against the Blue Jays they can't leave you out. Four wins of this quality won't be matched by any other bubble team in the country.
#11- Air Force at No. 15 New Mexico, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain (Channel 683 on DirecTV), Wednesday, 9 PM Eastern
Mountain West action! Air Force grabbed a big win at home over San Diego State on Saturday and they are a real contender for the conference title. This up-tempo, Princeton team is also a heck of a lot of fun to watch!
Playing on the road is a different story though and they don't really have that signature victory just yet. Going into "the Pit" and winning would do just that. They'd probably only need one more "good win" then to join the March Madness party.
#10- Boise State at San Diego State, Time Warner Cable Sports Net (Channel 691 on DirecTV), Wednesday, 11 PM Eastern
No this isn't a football game I'm previewing. It's Mountain West action (part two)! Boise State is right on the cusp of getting serious NCAA tournament consideration.
They have one of the best wins of the season as they took down Creighton in Omaha. It really stinks they couldn't finish off Michigan State in East Lansing because those two might have been enough to get them in already.
#9- No. 1 Indiana at Illinois, ESPN, Thursday, 7 PM Eastern
Illinois fans must be having some serious "deja vu" after they started off the season hot yet again only to have fallen flat come conference season. While the Fighting Illini have three of the best wins of any team in the country, you can't just bottom off and expect to make the tourney.
A rivalry game like this is the best way to reboot your Big Ten season. The Illini want to play fast anyways and that's Indiana's style. However, the Hoosiers are a totally different team on the road. How to contain Cody Zeller though? Nnanna Egwu better bring his best effort of the season defensively.
#8- NC State at No. 4 Duke, ESPN3 (Online Only), Thursday, 9 PM Eastern
How valuable is Ryan Kelly? Apparently very. The Dukies looked lost without him in the lineup until their most recent stomping of Florida State in Tallahassee.
It doesn't sound like he's going to return this season until the conference tournament, at the very earliest, so this will be a good challenge to play without him.
The major key for me is the play of the Duke guards. NC State's Lorenzo Brown is hobbled and that's forced Tyler Lewis into the starting lineup. Exploit him on the defensive end. That's a must for Curry and Cook.
#7- No. 3 Michigan at Wisconsin, ESPN, Saturday, 12 PM Eastern
Oh Wisconsin, I apologize for underestimating you. I thought this would be the season Bo's Badgers finally didn't make the NCAA tournament, mainly due to their lack of a true point guard. Enter Traevon Jackson. Jim's son has adjusted well to his new roll and therefore Wisconsin is back on track.
Michigan's lack of size still concerns me, especially on the road. I can't wait to see how Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford do against Jared Berggren. I'd start running some plays for the fifth year season and see if he can "school" some of these youngsters.
#6- Ole Miss at No. 21 Missouri, CBS, Saturday, 1 PM Eastern
Talk about two teams it's tough to get a read on. Ole Miss hasn't really beaten anyone of stature except Missouri which has been in a pretty prolonged slump.
Oh and don't give me it's' just because Lawrence Bowers was out. The Tigers were trending downward before he got hurt. A lot of that has to do with the increased reliance on Phil Pressey to score. I love his game but apparently he can't dish and put up points. It takes away from his threat on the defensive end.
#5- North Carolina at No. 8 Miami, ESPN, Saturday, 2 PM Eastern
Miami as the fourth number one seed? That's a real possibility actually but they'll need to win this one to keep those hopes alive. In their first meeting they dominated the glass which was the difference in the Hurricanes coming out on top.
I don't see that changing much this time and I have a feeling North Carolina won't shoot as well as they did from three in the earlier meeting.
The Tar Heels are running out of chances to impress the committee. A win here would do wonders. Don't count on it.
#4- No. 5 Kansas at Oklahoma, ESPN, Saturday, 4 PM Eastern
Oklahoma isn't a real NCAA tourney contender in my mind. However, they do have a nice wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor. If they could have beaten Kansas State, I'd be on board, but they didn't. This is a major opportunity for Lon Kruger's bunch.
The Sooners must keep down the pace. You can't let Kansas get in transition. A score in the 50's is what you want to see. Texas nearly did that just a few weeks ago in Austin.
#3- No. 23 Pittsburgh at No. 17 Cincinnati, ESPN3 (Online Only), Saturday, 6 PM Eastern
Avert your eyes if you like offensive basketball. This game has slobber knocker written all over it and frankly I'd be surprised if it got out of the 50's. The only reason the first match up did was thanks to free throws.
The maturation of the Pitt bigs is very intriguing to me. If Steven Adams can become a threat offensively they might have a real shot at reaching the Sweet 16. Right now I'm not exactly on the bandwagon like others are. Cincy gets virtually nothing from their front court.
#2- No. 15 New Mexico at UNLV, NBC Sports Network, Saturday, 9 PM Eastern
Prime time in the Mountain West Conference. Now we're talking! This game is also super intriguing because of the contrasting styles.
UNLV wants to push the pace and play small. Meanwhile, New Mexico wants to slow it down to a half-court battle and hurt you with their size. Which playing style will triumph?
I'd probably pick UNLV in this one since they are at home and need it more for their resume. However, come NCAA tournament time? It's a no-brainer. Steve Alford's crew is ready to a make a run to the Final Four.
#1- No. 11 Louisville at No. 25 Notre Dame, ESPN, Saturday, 9 PM Eastern
The "game of the week", at least according to the four letter network. Although this actually should be a fun one. Notre Dame is going to try and bully you while working their burn offense. Can Louisville actually speed up the game though on the road?
I can't wait to see the match up inside with Gorgei Dieng and Montrezl Harrell going up against Jack Cooley and Tom Knight. That's such an old school battle with these "hustle players" on each team.
Will a 3rd guard step up for the Irish to help out Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins? Pat Connaughton should be that guy but he's been in a bit of slump recently.