Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012
Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.
West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)
The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.
#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)
Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.
#22 Louisville @ #2 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (****)
A Syracuse win would give the Orange their second straight against Louisville after losing the seven games prior to last month’s meeting in Kentucky. An Orange victory would give them a 17-1 Big East record, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the 1995-96 Connecticut Huskies did the same. Syracuse is pretty much a lock for a #1 seed regardless of what happens here or in the Big East Tournament. The Orange faithful will bid farewell to Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph on Senior Day at the Carrier Dome. As for Louisville, the Cardinals have lost three of their last five games after a six game winning streak. A loss would leave Louisville with a 10-8 Big East record but they’ve done enough to warrant selection into the tournament. The Cardinals are locked into the #7 seed for the conference tournament no matter what happens in this game.
#5 North Carolina @ #7 Duke – 7:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)
It’s Duke and North Carolina for all the ACC marbles in the last regular season game of the year. Could you ask for anything more? The winner of this one will take the ACC crown and could have eventual #1 seed implications in the big dance. Duke was able to come back with a bunch of threes (none bigger than Austin Rivers’ game-winner) but the Blue Devils have to be careful not to pressure Kendall Marshall too much. Marshall is a fabulous ball handler and UNC excels in transition. Against the soft Duke perimeter defense, the Tar Heels may actually have the advantage on the road. How North Carolina adjusts from the first game with regards to three point defense could decide this game.
#12 Baylor @ Iowa State – 7:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)
With a sweep of Kansas State and a victory over Kansas, we think Iowa State has probably done enough to move off the bubble and into the field of 68. Beating Baylor would just be icing on the cake and an opportunity for the Cyclones to improve their seed. Iowa State has just four top 100 wins all season and two sub-100 losses but this team passes the eye test and is 11-6 in one of the better conferences in the land. As for Baylor, it has won three games in a row after losing three of four in a ten day span. Iowa State can shoot the three ball and that’s what has to worry Scott Drew on the road in this game. It could turn out to be a battle between Scott Christopherson (and Iowa State making threes) and Baylor dominating in the paint against the Cyclones’’ soft interior defense.
Texas @ #3 Kansas – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (***)
It’s a real long shot to think Texas can win this game but it is nonetheless an opportunity for the Longhorns to punch their ticket. In what could very well be Thomas Robinson’s final home game (and Tyshawn Taylor’s Senior Day), it would be a total shock to see a young Texas team go into Lawrence and come out with a victory. The best course of action for Texas is to hope J’Covan Brown goes off and make a good impression to the committee, even in a loss. Texas is just 4-9 against the RPI top 100 and will finish .500 in conference play with a loss here. The Longhorns have been competitive with top teams all season long (including Kansas in Austin), but they’re going to have some work to do at the Big 12 Tournament next week.
#1 Kentucky @ #17 Florida – 12:00 PM EST Sunday on CBS (****)
Kentucky has gone undefeated in SEC play in 1996 and 2003 but this might be the most impressive run if the Wildcats can beat Florida on Sunday afternoon in Gainesville. Kentucky would be 30-1 (16-0) and a Christian Watford buzzer-beater away from finishing the regular season undefeated. Kentucky smashed Florida in the first meeting a few weeks ago, but the Gators should be ready to play at the O Dome. Florida can really stroke the three and that’s where Kentucky is vulnerable defensively. The Wildcats are seventh out of 12 SEC teams in defending the arc in conference play. This is a battle between two of the three most efficient offenses in the nation but Kentucky’s defense is a whole lot better across the board. Florida rarely looks to Patric Young anyway but it would be a surprise if he was able to do anything against Anthony Davis. If Florida is going to win, it must make a lot of threes.
#9 Ohio State @ #4 Michigan State – 4:00 PM EST Sunday on CBS (*****)
These two teams will battle it out for the Big Ten regular season crown in East Lansing. Ohio State can grab a share of the title with a win while Michigan State can win it outright if it emerges victorious. Sparty won the first meeting in Columbus as Tom Izzo’s rugged squad beat up Jared Sullinger and held the Buckeyes to a season-low 48 points. This will be another slugfest between the top teams in the Big Ten and the two best defenses in the nation according to the efficiency metrics. Michigan State has more balanced scoring from outside to inside than does Ohio State, led by do-it-all senior Draymond Green.
Purdue @ #21 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST Sunday on Big Ten Network (***)
Now with six top 50 wins on its resume after winning at Michigan last Saturday, Purdue is going to be in the NCAA Tournament. Although three of those wins are against Northwestern (twice, RPI 49) and Miami (50), the Boilermakers have done enough to warrant inclusion in this bubble climate. Winning at Assembly Hall, a place where Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan have fallen this season, would be the cherry on top for Matt Painter. Purdue has won five of its last six games but did lose to Indiana a month ago in West Lafayette. The Boilers are highly vulnerable to the deep ball and that’s something they’ll have to control against an Indiana team that ranks third nationally in three point percentage. Purdue has not been good defensively in conference play but limited Michigan to 61 points in its own building last week. If Purdue can do a good job defending the three and containing Cody Zeller inside, it will have a chance to add another marquee win to its resume for seeding purposes.
“Can’t lose games:” Bubble team in CAPS.
- HARVARD @ Columbia (7:00 PM EST Friday) – This is the first of back to back Friday/Saturday road games for Harvard. The Crimson are tied with Pennsylvania in the loss column in a league that doesn’t have a tournament. If both teams win out, another Ivy playoff will be in store.
- Pittsburgh @ CONNECTICUT (12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN) – Although the Selection Committee says conference record doesn’t matter, we have a hard time seeing how a 7-11 team in a down Big East can get into the field. That’s the record Connecticut would have if it loses to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Huskies have a number of quality wins but need this game to stay in NCAA contention, barring a big run at Madison Square Garden next week.
- George Washington @ DAYTON (12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS Sports Network) – The Flyers haven’t done enough and are likely going to end up on the outside of the bubble picture no matter what happens here. To keep hope alive though, Dayton absolutely has to win this game.
- CINCINNATI @ Villanova (2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN) – This is a tricky game for Cincinnati. We believe the Bearcats are a tournament team but the numbers still say otherwise. Despite a 6-3 record against the RPI top 50, Cincinnati’s RPI is a porous 65 thanks to an awful non-conference schedule and performance. The Bearcats don’t want to create any more doubt by slipping up in a game they should win.
- SOUTHERN MISS @ Marshall (2:00 PM EST Saturday on FSN) – The Golden Eagles’ RPI hasn’t changed much all year and remains in the top 20 as of this writing despite three sub-100 losses on the season and a lack of quality wins. One glance at the numbers and you’d say this team should easily be in but Larry Eustachy’s team would be well advised to pick up another top 100 win against a Marshall team that has lost its last two games. Southern Miss’s win at Colorado State way back on November 19 looks huge right now.
- Charlotte @ XAVIER (2:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS Sports Network) – Xavier is just 5-6 in its last 11 games with the best win being an overtime squeaker over a mediocre Dayton team. A win here would not put the Musketeers in the field but a loss would certainly take them out of it. Xavier is only 6-10 against the RPI top 100 with just two of those wins against top 50 competition. X has to do major damage in the A-10 tournament.
- WASHINGTON @ UCLA (2:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS) – Washington is going to be a really interesting case. The Huskies have exactly three top 100 wins (two coming against Arizona) but have won 10 of their last 11 games and 16 of 19 since starting the season 5-5. Washington has a 3-8 top 100 record but no loss has come to a team ranked below 76 in the RPI. UCLA is #130 so that wouldn’t be something Lorenzo Romar wants to add to the resume at this point.
- NORTHWESTERN @ Iowa (2:30 PM EST Saturday on Big Ten Network) – The Wildcats are projected to be barely in the field by most experts but their resume is really lacking. After the signature win over Michigan State, Northwestern’s best win is a neutral court November 20 triumph over Seton Hall. Northwestern has lost four of its last six games and absolutely needs a win here to stay in the field. A loss would leave the Wildcats at 7-11 in Big Ten play and that simply should not get the job done. Iowa has been tough at home all year and could easily win this game.
- Boston College @ MIAMI (2:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – Miami will be off the bubble with a loss here, it’s as simple as that. The Hurricanes are barely hanging on as it is thanks to a road win at Duke. Miami has lost four of its last six games and now faces an RPI killer game against #230 BC. Miami is 3-10 against the RPI top 100.
- COLORADO STATE @ Air Force (4:00 PM EST Saturday on The Mtn.) – The Rams worked their Moby Arena magic on Wednesday against UNLV, rallying in the second half to earn a huge victory. However, Colorado State is 0-6 on the road in Mountain West play and just can’t afford a loss to a bad Air Force team. Colorado State has been riding strong computer numbers all season but that won’t matter much if they can’t win this game. What was Colorado State’s best road win? RPI #148 UTEP on December 28. The Rams are 2-9 in true road games.
- Arkansas @ MISSISSIPPI STATE (5:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – After an escape at South Carolina thanks to Brian Bryant’s game winner, the Bulldogs are staying afloat despite losing five of their last six. Arkansas is a must-win because Mississippi State can’t make a strong case with a 7-9 SEC record and a resume very light on quality wins.
- Utah @ OREGON (6:00 PM EST Saturday on FSN) – This is like the Miami/BC game. Oregon simply can’t lose against the worst power-six team in America. The Ducks have zero top 50 wins and this game is going to kill their RPI (currently 48). Oregon may have to get to the Pac-12 finals to have a good chance.
- SETON HALL @ DePaul (6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – Seton Hall is generally considered to be at least comfortably in by many experts but a loss to DePaul would put the Pirates on very shaky ground. That would slaughter their RPI and drop them to 8-10 in a so-so Big East, needing to do work in New York next week. The Hall boasts two RPI top 50 wins but is a respectable 8-8 against the top 100. Seton Hall has won four of its last six games after a six game losing streak that nearly derailed its season.
- HARVARD @ Cornell (7:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN3.com) – The second of two must-wins for Harvard in order to keep pace with Pennsylvania in the Ivy League race. Harvard is 7-3 against the top 100 and could actually make a pretty good at-large case if it doesn’t win the Ivy. However, that’s not something Tommy Amaker wants to risk.
- UAB @ UCF (7:00 PM EST Saturday) – UCF already has three sub-100 RPI losses and a fourth would put the Knights in dire straits. UCF has stumbled down the stretch, losing three of its last five games.
- VIRGINIA @ Maryland (2:00 PM EST Sunday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – All of a sudden, Virginia might be in a little danger. Although Virginia has 21 wins, only one has come against the RPI top 25 and that was against Michigan way back on November 29. With Oregon (48) and Miami (50) primed to drop out of the RPI top 50, Virginia could be looking at only one top 50 win heading into ACC Tournament play. With two ugly losses to Virginia Tech and Clemson on their resume, the Cavaliers might not be as safe as you would think on first glance. Virginia has lost five of its last eight games and needs a win here to stabilize the situation.
- ARIZONA @ Arizona State (3:30 PM EST Sunday on FSN) – NCAA Tournament teams don’t lose games like this and fringe candidate Arizona must take care of business just to avoid a loss. A win over Arizona State gets you nothing and the Wildcats still have plenty of work to do in Los Angeles.
- NC STATE @ Virginia Tech (6:00 PM EST Sunday on ESPNU) – The Wolfpack are another fringe team with just two top 50 wins, both coming against #50 Miami. NC State has three sub-100 losses on its resume and a fourth would eliminate it from NCAA contention. NC State missed back-to-back-to-back opportunities to notch quality wins against Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina in late February.
The Official RTC Star System
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2014
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game