Mississippi State, who hasn't done enough to sew up an NCAA bid to this point in the season, has a great opportunity to do so in Starkville on Tuesday night. Kentucky comes calling on ESPN in a game that matches up likely lottery pick big men in DeMarcus Cousins and Jarvis Varnado. With an RPI of 58 and an overall strength of schedule of 118 (numbers courtesy of realtimerpi.com) they need at the least a solid effort if they're to be a part of the NCAA Tournament. Rick Stansbury's team has three Top 50 wins and two came against in-state rival Ole Miss (the other came against Old Dominion on a neutral court). And with just one more Top 50 opportunity (regular season finale against Tennessee), the Bulldogs could sew up an at-large berth on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings in the series but to say the least these aren't the same Wildcats. John Wall and Eric Bledsoe led the way in Kentucky's win over Tennessee on Saturday night, and Patrick Patterson isn't lacking for talent either. The key for State: the play of Dee Bost and Barry Stewart on the perimeter. If they struggle to contain the Kentucky freshmen it will be a long night at The Hump. As for Kentucky, they'll need a consistent night from Cousins in front of a raucous crowd. He didn't play at the same level against Tennessee that he had in prior games, and while a tantalizing talent he's also shown the ability to drift in and out of games. The presence of a top-level talent like Varnado should have the freshman from Birmingham ready to go.
The ACC and Big East will also feature important games with NCAA implications on Tuesday night. Wake Forest, who looks to be a safe bet right now, visits a Virginia Tech squad in needs to wins to make up for one of the worst non-conference strength of schedule rankings in the nation. Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson take care of things for Seth Greenberg on the perimeter but the key against the Wake Forest frontcourt will be Jeff Allen. He's got to be ready to go from the start and avoid foul trouble if the Hokies are to defend their home court. And Cincinnati visits USF in a game that could be considered an "elimination game", especially for the Bulls. But this is the kind of game that turns due to the play of a star, especially one the caliber of Dominique Jones. Keep an eye on this one as it could feature one of the night's better finishes.
7p ESPN Michigan State at Indiana
7p ESPN2 Wake Forest at Virginia Tech
7p ESPNU Cincinnati at USF
7p ESPN+/MASN/CST William & Mary at George Mason
9p ESPN Kentucky at Mississippi State
9p ESPNU Rutgers at DePaul
9p BTN Michigan at Iowa
9p Raycom North Carolina at Georgia Tech
7p Drexel at VCU
7p Radford at Liberty
8p Texas Tech at Baylor
8p Cleveland St at Green Bay
8:05p Creighton at Northern Iowa
Virginia Tech over Wake Forest: The pick here is Virginia Tech due to their backcourt and a rowdy crowd at Cassell Coliseum. Delaney and Hudson have done a better job this season of taking care of the basketball than the Wake Forest guards although Ish Smith is one of the nation's fastest guards. The Hokies will need to neutralize Al-Farouq Aminu but they can get it done; Hokies by six.