We’re finally here – the last weekend of the regular season. Some teams have led up to this by playing their way onto the bubble (Penn State, Oklahoma State), others have tried their best to burst their own bubble (Kentucky, Florida). But whatever the case, this weekend should be filled with some great basketball, as teams try to end the season on a positive note. Here’s some games to keep an eye on.
Saturday, March 7
12 p.m. CBS #1 UConn at #4 Pitt
The battle for the Big East comes down to this. UConn currently holds a half-game lead over Pitt and is tied with Louisville for first. Both teams are still in line for #1 seeds, and you can bet UConn will be anxious to get revenge after Pitt beat them in mid-February on their home court. With Levance Fields questionable for the game, UConn holds a big advantage in the backcourt, as AJ Price and Kemba Walker have been spectacular lately. Look for the Huskies to get the big road win and lock up a top seed. Check out CHN’s in-depth preview of UCONN-Pitt.
2 p.m. #25 Syracuse at #15 Marquette
Both teams are squarely in the tournament, and are just looking to improve their seeds at this point. The Eagles are still adjusting to life without Dominic James, and there’s no better test than to go against one of the country’s best in Jonny Flynn. Even without James, the Eagles still boast a ton of firepower from the perimeter with Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. On an emotional Senior Day where the fans will honor a terrific class, look for Marquette to get the victory.
2 p.m. CBS Kentucky at Florida
Both teams, thought to be locks for the tournament a couple weeks ago, have played themselves nearly out of it. The Cats have dropped three straight and four of their last five, including a shocking home loss to lowly Georgia on Wednesday. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson continue to get very little in the way of consistent help, and the Cats continue to struggle to find any offensive flow. The Gators have also dropped three in a row, and they continue to depend way too much on Nick Calathes, who needs help. The Gators are undersized in the post, and if they’re not hitting from the perimeter, they become a very average team. Both teams have plenty to play for, so the intensity level should be high throughout. It’s tough to call a winner since both teams have been so Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde all year, but I’ll pick the Gators to get the win at home.
2 p.m. Cal at #21 Arizona State
Again, this one features two teams just looking to add to their resumes. The Bears have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, led by Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle on the outside. The Bears shoot it well from the perimeter, but their defense is very inconsistent. The Sun Devils are coming off a shocking loss to Stanford, so they should be fired up in what is possibly the last home game for James Harden. Look for the Devils to get the win.
3:30 ABC Oklahoma State at #5 Oklahoma
The Cowboys have put themselves in the NCAA discussion, and a win here would almost certainly put them in the field. Although undersized, the Cowboys play a scrambling style that allows them to confuse opponents, with Byron Eaton serving as the catalyst. With Blake Griffin back, the Sooners should end up with a #1 seed, despite their setback to Missouri this week. Willie Warren has been great all year, and Griffin’s brother Taylor has been solid as well. The Sooners simply have too much inside for the Cowboys, and should win comfortably in what promises to be Blake’s last game at home.
5:30 p.m. Washington State at #13 Washington
It might be a stretch to say the Cougars are on the bubble at 16-13 overall, but no one can argue they’ve been hot as of late with wins over UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. A win here and a solid run through the Pac 10 Tournament and they could find themselves in the field. The Huskies have locked up at least a share of the conference title, and will be fired up to win it outright on Senior Day. Washington likely won’t get a #1 seed, but they’re certainly still in the hunt to get a #2, so they should have plenty of motivation. Look for the Huskies to knock off their rivals at home.
Sunday, March 8
12 p.m. CBS #20 Purdue at #8 Michigan State
Although the Spartans have already clinched the Big 10, they’ll have plenty of fire for this one, after the Boilermakers throttled them earlier this year. The Spartans are peaking at the right time, with a balanced and deep attack led by Kalin Lucas. Goran Sutton has been huge inside as well. Purdue doesn’t have a flashy offense, but they defend and play terrific team basketball. JuJuan Johnson continues to develop down low, and he could turn into an NBA prospect with another year of growth like this. Purdue will play hard, but Michigan State is tough to beat on their home floor, and they’ll get the win.
4 p.m. CBS #7 Duke at #2 North Carolina
What can you say about this one that hasn’t been said? Two great teams, two great programs, two great coaches…the list goes forever. Home court hasn’t meant much in this rivalry lately, with both teams having the poise to tune out the crowd. The Devils have been a different team since inserting Elliot Williams into the line-up, allowing them to turn up the defensive pressure. Gerald Henderson has been spectacular as well. The Heels will be sending out one of the all-time greats in Tyler Hansbrough on Senior Day, and you can bet they’ll be fired up. However, the emotion may not mean much once the ball is thrown up; Hansbrough can attest to that. It was his freshman year that he led the Heels to a huge upset win at Cameron, spoiling Senior Day for All-Americans JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams. As always, this should be a hotly-contested game. Look for UNC to use their superior inside play to pull out a tough victory.
6 p.m. FSN #19 Clemson at #10 Wake Forest
The Tigers can pull into a tie for third place in the ACC with a win here, but it won’t be easy. The Deacons have won three straight, with James Johnson and Jeff Teague forming one of the league’s best duos. The Deacons have been tough on their home floor all season, having knocked off Duke and UNC there. The Tigers have been up and down, but they’ve got the ability to explode at any time, as they showed with a 27-point plastering of Duke earlier. Although Trevor Booker has been a beast for the Tigers all year, Wake probably has too much inside for them. Look for the Deacons to get win.