A fairly mellow Friday sets the scene for a busy weekend in the sports world. If college basketball doesn’t sate your sports sweet tooth, there is the Super Bowl on Sunday. But I digress.
Saturday boasts more than 150 games for your viewing pleasure. In the interest of breaking down what can be a daunting schedule of games, here are RPI Scoreboard‘s Games To Watch this weekend.
The games get going early on Saturday with a huge ACC matchup between Virginia and Florida State. When Florida State took down North Carolina (RPI No. 10) three weeks ago, some people wrote off the team’s big win as an anomaly. Less were so inclined when a buzzer-beating three dropped Duke (RPI No. 2) in Durham, N.C. So there is no use questioning this Seminoles team anymore. Nevertheless, both teams in this matchup are eager to make a statement. What bodes well for this Virginia team is its ability to make free throws late in games, which was definitely the team’s saving grace against Clemson (RPI No. 168) earlier in the week. On the Cavaliers’ side of the ball, Mike Scott will be key. He creates matchup nightmares for defenses and will not be a liability at the free throw line, just ask the Tigers.
Ohio State and Wisconsin each come into this game clicking on all cylinders. Michigan had its shot at the top dog in the conference and now Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers will take theirs, but this meeting will be at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. The Buckeyes continue to get production from their starters, but their ability to get ancillary production off the bench has been the difference. When Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott — among others — give Thad Matta positive minutes, Ohio State is tough to contend with. For Wisconsin, Jordan Taylor’s ability to dictate the pace of the game will be key. Aaron Craft has given Big Ten point guards fits, but Taylor’s size should allow him to keep Craft at bay. One winning streak will come to an end on Saturday, but unfortunately we will have until Saturday to find out whose.
A heavyweight bout in the Sun Belt conference between Middle Tennessee and Denver will get the benefit of some cable airtime on Saturday. Middle Tennessee gave Vanderbilt (RPI No. 24) a good fight last weekend, and will hope to carry that same energy into its matchup with Denver. On the other side of the ball, the Pioneers come in having lost two straight including a heartbreaker at Louisiana-Lafayette (RPI No. 158). However, I expect Chris Udofia and the rest of the Pioneers to be on their game for Saturday’s contest with the Blue Raiders. We will see what these two NCAA tournament hopefuls have in store come Saturday.
Two straight road wins in conference for UNLV definitely bodes well for a team currently riding a five-game win streak. However, a tie for first place certainly enhances the importance of this meeting with Wyoming. For the Cowboys, an 0-2 record against the teams above them is not a good sign coming into this battle with the Rebels. Look for UNLV’s ability to run up the score to give Wyoming trouble, especially considering UNLV’s depth on its bench. If Chace Stanback and Mike Moser get going on the road, it could be a rough day for the Cowboys.
A claim to the top spot in the MAAC standings will be on the line when Iona meets Manhattan. What else is there to say for this Jaspers team? They took down the Gaels on the road in their first meeting a few weeks back, and have since continued their winning ways to the tune of an 8-game winning streak. Nevertheless, the pressure will be on the home team Saturday at Draddy Gymnasium. This battle looms even larger for Iona considering the team will play second place Loyola-Maryland (RPI No. 87) in its next game. Scott Machado and the Gaels will look to take care of business against the Jaspers. Similarly, a 43-point outburst by Lamont “MoMo” Jones against Canisius has got to have this Iona team feeling confident about its ability to score the basketball.
An upset at the hands of Iowa State (RPI No. 41) did little to deter Kansas from getting back to its normal ways in a defeat of Oklahoma (RPI No. 68). Nevertheless, this premier matchup in the Big 12 is sure to please every college basketball fan. Missouri comes in off a win at Texas (RPI No. 67), but will hope for the benefits of some home cooking when the team faces off against its arch-rival from Kansas. I am looking for the big man matchup between Ricardo Ratliffe and Thomas Robinson to be an important facet of the game. However, as we saw against Baylor (RPI No. 3), Mr. Robinson has no problem putting up big numbers (27 pts and 14 rebs). If the Tigers’ guards make some noise, we could be in for a shootout at Mizzou Arena.
Villanova (10-12; 3-7 Big East, RPI No. 93) @ Pittsburgh (14-9; 3-7 Big East, RPI No. 66) – Sunday 2/5 2:00 PM ET, ESPN
2/4 — Seton Hall vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
2/4 — Vanderbilt vs. Florida (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
2/4 — Xavier vs. Memphis (1:00 p.m. ET)
2/4 — North Carolina vs. Maryland (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
2/4 — Dayton vs. Saint Louis (5:00 p.m. ET, FCS)
2/4 — Iowa State vs. Oklahoma (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
2/4 — Indiana vs. Purdue (7:00 p.m. ET, BTN)
2/4 — Indiana State vs. Wichita State (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
2/5 — Northwestern vs. Illinois (3:00 p.m. ET, BTN)