The second-to-last weekend of the regular season offers a ton of great games as teams try to add to their March resumes. With nearly every conference race yet to be decided, this weekend could go a long way toward determining seedings. Here’s a look at some of the best to watch for this weekend.
Saturday, Feb. 28
2 p.m. CBS Notre Dame at #2 UConn
All together now – this is a must win for the Irish, just like many of their games over the pas month. They’ve won four of their last five to pull within one game of .500 in the conference, and a road win over the #2 team in the country certainly would give their tournament hopes a boost. Luke Harangody played well against Hasheem Thabeet in the last matchup of these two teams, but he’ll need help this time if the Irish are going to pull off a huge upset. UConn misses Jerome Dyson, but AJ Price and Stanley Robinson have stepped up their games lately, as has freshman Kemba Walker. The Huskies are in line for a #1 seed in the tournament, and they won’t let that slip away. Look for UConn to get the home win.
2 p.m. #13 Clemson at #25 Florida State
The Seminoles are probably already in the tournament, but a win over the Tigers wouldn’t hurt their case. The ‘Noles are young and athletic on the front line, and follow the lead of veteran guard Toney Douglas in the backcourt. Clemson has been a tough to figure out the year, but there’s no doubt they have talent. Trevor Booker is a load in the post, and KC Rivers and Terrence Oglesby can light it up in a hurry from the perimeter. The Tigers have solid depth, but they’ve been up and down since they hit conference play after starting the year 14-0. This should be a great game, with two teams fighting to improve their NCAA seeds. Look for the ‘Noles to eke out a win at home.
3 p.m. Arizona at #21 Washington
After an inspiring winning streak, the Wildcats are suddenly sliding at the wrong time, having dropped two tough road games to Arizona State and Washington State. They’re squarely on the bubble as they enter the final week of the regular season, and a win over the Pac-10 frontrunner would almost certainly place them in the field. Washington has been solid all year, thanks to the energy provided by freshman PG Isaiah Thomas. If Arizona’s Nic Wise can contain Thomas, the Wildcats could pull off the upset on the road. But Washington is still shooting for a top seed in the tourney, and they’ll be fired up. Look for the Huskies to get the win.
3:30 ABC #7 Duke at Virginia Tech
The Hokies are hanging onto the slimmest of hopes for an NCAA bid, having picked up a huge win over Clemson last time out to end a three-game skid. Malcolm Delaney and AD Vassallo get lost in the shuffle of ACC guards, but they form as fine of a backcourt as you’ll find in the conference, Duke has added more athleticism to the lineup in the form of freshman Elliot Williams, but they’re still undersized down low, and their perimeter depth is questionable with Nolan Smith having suffered a concussion against Maryland on Wednesday. The Hokies always seem to play Duke tough, and they’re certainly going to be playing inspired ball as they try to get another marquee win, but Duke has regained their swagger. Look for the Devils to get the road win.
4 p.m. CBS #18 LSU at Kentucky
The wild SEC roller-coaster continues with what should be a fun game. LSU has thrived under Trent Johnson, who has brought much-needed discipline to balance out the Tigers’ talent. Marcus Thornton is a dangerous scorer from the point, and Tasmin Mitchell, Chris Johnson and Bo Spencer all have the potential to take over a game. Kentucky, as it has been noted, is essentially the Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson show. When those two are on, the Cats are capable of beating almost anyone. But if one or both is off, the result isn’t pretty…as evidenced by the throttling South Carolina handed them on Wednesday. Watching Meeks go against LSU defensive specialist Garrett Temple should be a blast. Look for UK to get the home win.
Sunday, March 1
12 p.m. CBS #10Marquette at #6 Louisville
There’s never a good time to lose a senior PG to injury, but you certainly don’t want to do it right before you go against the pressure and ball-hawking of Louisville. The Eagles still have plenty of firepower with Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, but losing James’ veteran leadership will hurt what wasn’t a deep team to begin with. The Cards have been playing well lately, with Terrence Williams and Earl Clark giving opponents nightmares with their versatility. Look for Louisville, who is still hunting for a top seed, to get the home win.
2 p.m. CBS #8 Missouri at #15 Kansas
The surprising Tigers are still in the hunt for the Big 12 title, only one game behind their hated rivals in Lawrence. DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons form one of the best frontcourts in the conference, and the Tigers have embraced Mike Anderson’s fast-paced style. Kansas had to reload their roster this year, and all they’ve done is go 23-5 behind the leadership of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. The Jayhawks aren’t always pretty, but they play hard and they’ve got enough depth to push the pace to Bill Self’s liking. This will be an up-and-down game, but the key will be Aldrich against Carroll and Lyons down low. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the Jayhawks should get the home win.
TBA CBS #9 Michigan State at #20 Illinois
Although it features two of the best teams in the conference, this one might be brutal to watch. Despite a plethora of talent for both teams, the slow-it-down style of the conference has produced some crime-against-basketball scores, including the 38-33 loss by Illinois to Penn State a couple weeks ago. But the Illini do boast one of the deepest backcourts in the country, and forward Mike Davis has had a breakout season. The Spartans have a ton of depth, but haven’t seemed to have found a consistent rhythm on offense. However, Tom Izzo’s clubs always defend and crash the board hard, and this squad is no different. Look for the Spartans to pick up the road win.