The week of the Harbaugh family’s conquest of the American sports culture isn’ t limited to Sunday night’s Super Bowl in New Orleans (6:30 PM ET, CBS). Nope, before Baltimore and San Francisco tee it up, the extended family gets into the act. The sister of the Brothers Harbaugh is married to Indiana basketball head coach Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers are not only in the spotlight on the weekend, but they have a Saturday night prime-time date with Michigan (9 PM ET, ESPN). You can block off about a 24-hour period where this entire extended family owns American TV sports.
Indiana-Michigan is a battle for the top of the Big Ten, and here at TheSportsNotebook we’re going to take a closer look at both teams on Friday, the same day the Super Bowl preview article will go up. (Heck, I may as well as get in on the Harbaugh craze and devote Friday on the website to them). But the Hoosiers-Wolverines is just part of what is a really good day in college basketball, with two more games that will significantly impact the races for major conference championships.
It all starts at 4 PM ET on CBS. Miami and N.C. State have each gotten their licks in on Duke in the early part of the ACC schedule but now, the Hurricanes and Wolfpack go head-to-head in Raleigh. Then at 7 PM ET, ESPN shows the Ole Miss-Florida game. Both are unbeaten in SEC play. It’s part of a big week for the Rebels, who host Kentucky on Tuesday night (9 PM ET, ESPN). Here at TheSportsNotebook, we’ll acknowledge the Rebels, with a feature on Ole Miss for Tuesday afternoon to get everyone up to speed on this darkhorse national title contender.
Therefore, the sports fan with a busy life can build his entire focus for the week to start late Saturday afternoon. Kick back and enjoy the weekend with a tripleheader of big college basketball games, with Miami-N.C. State, Ole Miss-Florida and Michigan-Indiana, then cap it off with the Super Bowl on Sunday.
LEBRON & LOUISVILLE
The Miami Heat lost a double-overtime thriller in Boston on Sunday, but they’re still atop the Eastern Conference. The Heat have two nationally televised games this week against competitive teams from the East. It starts Wednesday night with a trip to Brooklyn (8 PM ET, ESPN). The Nets are playing some very good basketball since P.J. Carleisimo took over the coaching reins, are up to #4 in the East and are on track to play Miami in the second round of the playoffs. The Heat are vulnerable to top post players, of which Brooklyn’s Brooke Lopez is one.
I don’t want to call a January game in the NBA “big” for anyone other than borderline playoff hopefuls, but Heat-Nets certainly qualifies as “interesting.” The same goes for Miami’s Friday night visit to Indiana( 7 PM ET, ESPN), a team they ousted in last year’s second round. The Pacers have done an admirable job keeping in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff outlook.
While LeBron’s boys occupy the middle of the week, slumping Louisville gets the TV cameras on the first and last days. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals have lost three in a row. Even though two of those were by just a basket, it’s still created an appropriate sense of urgency for Louisville. They’ll host Pitt on Monday (7 PM ET, ESPN) and then host Marquette as a Super Bowl appetizer on Sunday (2 PM ET, ESPN).
HOW GOOD IS OKLAHOMA?
Oklahoma basketball is having a nice year so far, and is hanging two games back of Kansas in the Big 12 race, and right in the mix with Baylor, Kansas State and others when it comes to being the challenger to Jayhawk reign. We find out this week what to expect from the Sooners the rest of the way. On Wednesday afternoon, TheSportsNotebook will feature them with an in-depth look, as they get set to visit Baylor that night (7 PM ET, ESPN) and then on Saturday it’s a home date with Kansas State (6 PM ET, ESPN2).
THE REST OF THE WEEK
Monday: Besides the Pitt-Louisville game, it’s dry tonight. Kansas visits West Virginia (9 PM ET, ESPN), but the Mountaineers aren’t doing much this year and it would take a lot more than even beating Kansas at home to make Bob Huggins’ team relevant for this year.
Tuesday: I mentioned Ole Miss’ game with Kentucky at 9 PM ET on ESPN. The first part of that doubleheader is Wisconsin-Ohio State at 7 PM. The Badgers have played two consecutive ugly games where neither team broke 50 points. However, the Badgers also currently lead the Big Ten in conference road wins (8 of the last 12 conference games), including a 63-60 win in Columbus last season. This is a big game for both UW and OSU, who are a game back of Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten and know that at least one of them will lose this week.
Wednesday: If you like hockey and aren’t into Miami-Brooklyn in the NBA, check out the Chicago-Minnesota NHL game (8 PM ET, NBC Sports Network). The Blackhawks have won their first six, good enough for their best start in their 86-year franchise history, and have some excellent skaters on the offensive end. And yesterday at TheSportsNotebook we featured Villanova’s revival. The Wildcats go to Notre Dame on Wednesday (6 PM ET, ESPN2).
Thursday: TNT has got a good NBA game from the Western Conference with Memphis-Oklahoma City (8 PM ET). I suppose you could say the same about Dallas-Golden State immediately following on the same network, although that requires a lot of unwarranted faith in the Mavericks’ ability to become relevant again this year.
Friday: If the Heat-Pacers don’t do it for you, forget about sports and spend some time with the spouse or significant other.
Saturday: At the top we covered the highlights, which are the three big games starting at 4 PM ET and also mentioned Oklahoma’s game with Kansas State. Some of the other watchable games include a pair of Big East games. Syracuse is atop the conference and goes to Pitt (Noon ET, ESPN) and St. John’s is coming on strong and pays a visit to Georgetown (4 PM ET, CBS with split coverage on the Miami-NC State game). Hockey fans get a good one on the NHL Network at 1 PM ET with New Jersey—out to a strong start after going to the Finals last June—paying a visit to preseason Eastern favorite Pittsburgh.
Sunday: The only other Super Bowl appetizer besides Marquette-Louisville is the LA Clippers-Boston game on NBA TV (1 PM ET). Although that might be my pro-Celtics bias coming out in even putting it that high. With Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL, you don’t get a Rondo-Chris Paul battle at the point and there’s no real hope for Boston elevating themselves past the playoff bubble. Forget I brought it up.
Then the week—and in fact the sports year—reaches an end with the Super Bowl. The winner will be the last team we officially recognize as a 2012 champion.