Another night and another opportunity for bubble teams throughout the nation to add a solid victory to their resumes. Florida and Louisville have opportunities at home to just that and it's fitting that the coach of one school (Billy Donovan) was coached by the head coach of the other (Rick Pitino). The Gators are coming off of a crucial win at Ole Miss on Saturday in a game that likely was an "elimination match" for the loser.
Control of the Pac-10 race was on the line in Berkeley Thursday night with Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies needing to shake their road woes in order to declare themselves a factor. But all they did was show exactly why they're currently a longshot to make the NCAA Tournament, failing to defend in the first half as California got whatever they wanted in building a 48-34 halftime lead on the way to a 93-81 triumph.
For fans of schools in a number of non-BCS conferences Monday was a big day with the announcement of the eleven televised games in the ESPNU BracketBusters event. And the masses received their wish in regards to the headline contest with Siena visiting Butler on February 20th (11 AM on ESPN2). With both teams still undefeated in their respective conferences at this time it could possibly match up ranked teams if both continue on their current runs.
If either Connecticut or Louisville shows up at Freedom Hall not understanding the magnitude of the game they should be eliminated from at-large consideration. Hate to be so harsh but both teams are essentially at the point where they need to go on a run if they're to make the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies, who have been without head coach Jim Calhoun for the last four games due to health reasons, own just one Top 25 win (Texas) and they've yet to beat anyone of consequence on the road (as a matter of fact they've yet to win a true road game).
The first "Big Monday" of the season delivers a pair of undefeated teams (in conference play) in the Big East followed by "Bedlam" in the Big 12. Villanova visits Louisville in a game that should prove to be entertaining given the deep backcourts. Villanova will have to deal with a Louisville defense that pressured full-court only to fall into an active 2-3 zone. But they've got plenty of playmakers and perimeter shooters with Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher leading the way. The key for the Cardinals will be to turn the Wildcats over while limiting their own miscues.
Saturday will feature one of the game's biggest rivalries when Louisville visits Kentucky in Lexington. The two fan bases are at each other's throats for 365 days a year with the winners owning bragging rights for the following year. Expect Rick Pitino, who's been a polarizing figure in the state ever since he took the Louisville job following a tough time with the Celtics which was preceded by an outstanding run in Lexington, to get an earful at Rupp Arena.
After two days of lean schedules and fodder for major-conference teams we've finally got some games on the schedule that can hold one's interest for more than a half. A game that will likely have long-lasting effects is UTEP taking on Ole Miss at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss. The Miners will have Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter for his second game and you've got to wonder how this will pay off for head coach Tony Barbee when it comes to team chemistry.
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