***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 7:00 pm on ESPN (***)
This game will be absolutely crucial to the tournament stock of both teams. If UConn gets in the tournament this year, it will be by the skin of their teeth, and if Notre Dame is actually dancing in March, they will likely be one of the last teams in. Both of these teams are dangerous right now, as the Huskies have recently beaten Villanova and West Virginia, while the Irish are coming off victories against Pitt and Georgetown. What is ironic about Notre Dame is that their recent run has come without superstar Luke Harangody. If the Irish win their last two contests and win a game in the Big East tournament, how will the NCAA selection committee view his absence? The more that ND wins without him, the less it seems they will be punished come selection time. Tim Abromaitis, who has been Harangody’s sidekick this year, scored 53 points in the first two games Harangody was out (both games were losses), but when his point totals and shooting percentages dropped in his team’s last two games, the Irish won. The team has only had seven bench points in their last two games, but every other starter has stepped up at times to take the weight off of Abromaitis. In the previous matchup of these teams early in the year, Harangody scored 31 points and the bench did not score at all in a 12-point loss for the Irish. If they can get double figure efforts from at least three starters and keep up their 1.7:1 assist to turnover ratio, they have an excellent shot of moving into one of those last spots in the field.
#5 Kansas St. @ #2 Kansas – 8:00 pm on ESPN 360 (*****)
KSU coach Frank Martin has already built up the game to be one of the biggest in school history, and nobody can blame him. With a win tonight, Kansas State would make a huge jump in their bid for a top seed. Unfortunately, the viewing for this game could be tricky. It is being broadcast on the Big 12 network, which is not accessible to many fans across the country, and ESPN360 is available intermittently. Fans can try to access channelsurfing.net and atdhe.net in order to view this game, because almost everybody can agree it is worth watching. When these teams met earlier in Manhattan, Sherron Collins came up with a huge three-point play at the end of overtime to give Kansas the key victory. The Jayhawks were unable to pull away earlier because they missed 11 free throws in the game. Kansas actually shoots below 70% from the line on the year, and if the game goes down to the wire again, their free throw shooting could become a factor. Kansas State has won seven consecutive games, and their wins have become increasingly more impressive, with solid victories at Texas Tech and against Missouri in their last two contests. Now that some of KSU’s former opponents are now struggling, the Wildcats are still looking for a win against a great team, and if they can keep up their outstanding defensive efforts like they had against the Red Raiders and Tigers, they will have a great chance to win tonight. Still, Kansas has an even better defense (the Jayhawks rank third in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive rankings), and with 58 consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks should likely win again in a highly entertaining matchup.