By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Yesterday I posted what I felt would be the NCAA Tournament bracket if it were revealed yesterday. A lot of those teams have some pretty big games this weekend, for one reason or another. Some who are on both sides of the cut line have opportunities to help their stock with some big wins. Below is a quick guide to the most important games this weekend with a brief summary of what each game means to the teams involved.
California at Stanford – Friday, 10pm Fox Sports 1
I had Cal as a 9 seed in the Midwest region as of yesterday. I’ve looked at some other brackets that are out there, and I feel like I am high on Cal compared to others. Cal would be wise to avoid a pretty bad loss this late in the season in conference play. Cal beat Stanford at home 66-55 at the end of January, but we all know conference road games don’t always go according to plan.
Clemson at Miami – Saturday, Noon ACC Network
Both of these teams sit squarely on the bubble. A big road win against a fellow bubble team would be big for Clemson. A loss doesn’t kill Clemson, but this is the first of 3 games against teams that could help their resume. They finish the season with NC State and BC at home. Neither of those games will help Clemson. They need to win at least 2 of their next 3 (@Virginia Tech, Florida State) to stay in the hunt. Winning this home game would be a good first step for Miami as they have a very tough schedule down the stretch (@Virginia, Duke, @Virginia Tech, Florida State).
Northern Iowa at Wichita State – Saturday, Noon ESPN2
Wichita State very well could win their conference and all this bubble talk might be a moot point in the end. In the case that they don’t take home the conference crown in a few weeks, games like this will prove to be big. It’s a home game, and Wichita State is the better team. But these two teams have become pretty big rivals over the past few seasons as the class of the Missouri Valley. Northern Iowa is having a down year by their standards, but they also come in to this game having won 9 of their last 10 and have made it all the way up to 3rd in the conference standings.
Villanova at Seton Hall – Saturday, 12:30pm Fox
Seton Hall would like to erase the memory from their embarrassing 30 point loss at Villanova just over a month ago. Since then, Seton Hall has been treading water a bit. Although beating Creighton at home on Wednesday night was a big help. Beating the reigning champs would definitely go a long way.
Wake Forest at Duke – Saturday, 1pm ACC Network
Duke has won 6 straight games and all the talk about their dysfunction seems to be a thing of the distant past. The win that started this streak? A 2 point win at Wake Forest 85-83. Wake’s overall profile is solid, but one thing they do lack is a signature win. Beating a red hot Duke team on the road would be just that.
Virginia Tech at Louisville – Saturday, 1pm ACC Network
Virginia Tech’s out of conference profile is solid. They have a road win against Michigan in their back pocket that will continue to help them out as time goes on. They also have a few good conference wins as well against Duke and Virginia. They’ve been testing fate lately with their wins however. Their last five wins have come by a combined 13 points. Louisville is one of the strongest teams in the country and this would be a very big win for the Hokies.
Kansas State at Texas – Saturday, 2pm
Kansas State is sitting right on the cut line. They were one of my last 4 teams in as of yesterday. This was after a home loss to Iowa State knocked them back a few spots. They’ve currently lost 6 of their last 7 games. The one win was a very big one at Baylor however. That, along with nice wins against Oklahoma State and West Virginia, are keeping their slim hopes alive. They desperately need to avoid a loss on the road to a Texas team that is not playing all that well this season.
Michigan State at Purdue – Saturday 4pm, ESPN
Michigan State is gaining some momentum having won 4 of their last 5 games. But aside from Michigan, none of the wins come against teams projected to be in the field as of right now. The Spartans have a very tricky, if not extremely tough, schedule to finish the season. I could see them going 4-1, and I could also see them going 2-3. Beating the team that is considered to be the best team in the conference on the road would be a big boost.
Rhode Island at George Mason – Saturday, 4pm NBCSN
Rhode Island desperately needs to bounce back after an ugly 10 point loss at home to Fordham on Wednesday night where they only scored 43 points. Their next two games are on the road against tough teams, but they are both winnable. George Mason is having a very nice year and a few wins for the Patriots down the stretch could propel them into bubble territory. Rhode Island has the better roster though. This should be a fun game to watch.
Ole Miss at Arkansas – Saturday, 6pm SECN
Arkansas needs to ride the momentum of their nice road win against South Carolina on Wednesday night which was their first signature win of the season and evens out their ugly loss to Missouri two weeks ago. Their profile is strong, but they don’t have a ton of good wins either. Their next two games are at home and Arkansas will be the favorite in both games, but don’t sleep on Ole Miss either. They can make their bubble case as well and have won 4 out of their last 5 games and are 3-2 on the road in conference this season. A win here and the Rebels will probably make my Tournament Watch next week.
TCU at Iowa State – Saturday, 6pm ESPNN
Both of these teams have identical records (16-9) and very similar resume’s. TCU won this match up at home, but that was over a month ago. Iowa State has won 3 of their last 4 including sweeping the Kansas schools on the road. Meanwhile TCU has lost 6 of their last 9 games since the last meeting with Iowa State. TCU follows this game with a trip to Kansas to face the Jayhawks so it would be best to get this win out of the way or else TCU could be looking at 8 losses out of their last 11 with a game against West Virginia at home staring them in the face in their return to Fort Worth. Not exactly the situation you want to see yourself in down the stretch.
Georgetown at Creighton – Sunday, 3:30 Fox Sports 1
I include Georgetown with all of these other teams because even though they already have 12 losses, their profile is decent and they have the opportunity for some big wins to finish the season. This game against Creighton is one of them. I fully expect Creighton to win but Georgetown has already beat the Blue Jays once this season and surprised Bulter on the road a few weeks ago as well. If Georgetown wins this one and avoids bad losses to DePaul and St. John’s before finishing the season against Seton Hall and Villanova, you just never know.
Syracuse at Georgia Tech – Sunday, 6:30 ESPNU
Georgia Tech is in the same boat as Georgetown. After back to back wins against Notre Dame and Florida State a few weeks ago, everything was looking bright for the Yellow Jackets. Since then they have lost 3 out of 4 and all 3 losses have come to teams (Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Miami) that are also trying to fight their way in to the tournament field. 3 of their last 5 games are at home and they don’t have to face the elite of the conference again this season. Syracuse has two games against Georgia Tech left with games against Duke and Louisville in the middle.
Michigan at Minnesota – Sunday, 7pm Big Ten Network
Michigan comes in to this game having won 4 of their last 6 with wins coming against Indiana twice, Wisconsin and Michigan State. They are definitely trending in the right direction at the right time. Their schedule is relatively soft down the stretch so a big road win against a fellow bubble team would be nice. As for Minnesota, they’ve been all over the place this year. They started the season 15-2 before losing 5 straight, and now they have won 4 in a row. They have 2 very good conference road wins this season against Purdue and Northwestern. They still have Maryland and Wisconsin on their schedule so taking down Michigan at home will pay dividends in the end.
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