Here is a conference by conference summary of what’s going down in college basketball this weekend…
BIG EAST: Syracuse’s loss last Saturday at Notre Dame has opened this race up, with several teams just one back of the Orange. One of them is Marquette, putting together an under-the-radar 17-4 season and going to Villanova today (Noon ET, ESPN). Another is Georgetown who visits Pitt (4 PM ET, ESPN). The home teams in both cases are struggling badly, so this is the kind of road game that the Golden Eagles and Hoyas can’t slip up on if they want to win the Big East. Syracuse will host West Virginia today (1 PM ET, ESPNU). Louisville-Seton Hall is another good game among NCAA Tournament contenders, and the same can said for tomorrow’s Notre Dame-UConn battle in Storrs.
PAC-12: It’s a good weekend out west too. Washington-Arizona gets some prime-time love (7 PM ET, ESPN). The Huskies are tied for first with Cal at 6-2, while the Wildcats are a game back. Colorado-UCLA is another battle between one contender (the Buffs are 6-2) and one hoping to survive (the Bruins are 4-4). Then on Sunday a good Stanford team goes to Cal. All three of these games are better than a lot of what’s on the ESPN and ESPN2 marathons today.
BIG TEN: Wait until Sunday for the biggest game here, as Michigan and Ohio State, each tied for first meet in Columbus (1 PM ET, CBS). The best of today is a bubble battle with Purdue-Northwestern (4 PM ET, ESPN2)
ATLANTIC 10: What’s more surprising, that six teams in this league are tied in the loss column at two apiece, or that none of them is named “Xavier.” The Musketeers were a top-heavy favorite at the start of the season, but are at 4-3 in the league, meaning the biggest game of today is St. Louis-UMass, a matchup that will winnow one of the co-leaders away. Interesting game in Philly where St. Joe’s, at 3-3, takes on 3-2 Temple. Add that game to Marquette-Villanova and it’s a great day for college basketball in Philadelphia (and the first-place 76ers are also at home Saturday night against the Pistons).
BIG 12: Kansas is still undefeated in league play at 7-0, but has a tough road test today in Ames when they play Iowa State (2 PM ET, ESPN). Baylor also faces a big game at home against Texas (1 PM ET, CBS). The Bears missed an opportunity at home last Saturday against Missouri and can’t let the same happen against a rebuilding, but talented Longhorn squad.
ACC: It’s a dry weekend in this conference. Duke, Florida State and North Carolina are tied for first. The Blue Devils have a non-conference date with St. John’s, the Seminoles are off, and the Tar Heels aren’t going to lose at Georgia Tech on Sunday. The best game is tonight when Virginia plays N.C. State in Raleigh (8 PM ET, ESPN2). The winner leaves with viable hopes of challenging the leaders.
SEC: Auburn-Tennessee tips off at 6 PM ET on ESPN2, and I have to ask who it was that looked at this game in preseason and figured it would be a good one to inflict on a national audience? The teams have combined for a 21-19 record overall and that’s not a surprise. Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s visit to Florida, which actually impacts the league race won’t be found on any national cable outlet.
MOUNTAIN WEST: San Diego State and UNLV both take to the road on Saturday, with the Aztecs at Colorado State, while the Rebs go to Air Force. Not likely either contender is going to lose, but Colorado State has played respectable basketball this year and a game like this is a great statement opportunity.
The best game in the midmajors is St. Mary’s-BYU (9 PM ET, ESPNU). The Gaels are in the Top 25, but don’t rule out that they’re going to need this win to make the NCAAs if they don’t beat Gonzaga in the WCC tournament for the automatic bid. BYU is also looking like an NCAA squad.