"I Know the Game Like I'm Reffing It"

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eye on the Tourney: Today's Games to Watch

A busy Saturday brings us a few marquee match-ups with high NCAA Tournament seed ramifications, as a number of crucial contests will go a long way towards determining whether some teams are lucky enough to be seeded at all. 

Let's take a look.

Xavier (14-7, 5-4) at Seton Hall (14-6, 4-4) 12PM, Newark, NJ, FS1

The cluttered and underrated Big East (2nd rated RPI conference) gets us started with a match-up of two teams currently in the NCAA field, but eager to secure a spot at the expense of the other. Both are coming off of big wins. Xavier finally got a big road win (at Georgetown), while the Hall snapped a three-game losing streak at Marquette. The Pirates have some good news in the form of freshman Isaiah Whitehead's return. Prediction: Seton Hall 66, Xavier 63.

Providence (16-5, 6-2) at St. John's (12-7, 2-5) 12PM, New York, NY, FOX

More Big East action here, as underrated Providence goes into The World's Most Famous Arena and attempts to avenge the sound defeat they suffered at the hands of the Red Storm a couple weeks ago. The Johnnies will need to get this game as well, since they have lost six of their last eight and are seeing their tournament hopes dim with each disappointing loss. The Friars are looking like solid tourney participants and will want to keep up their current momentum. Point guard Kris Dunn has been spectacular of late and is coming off a triple-double performance versus DePaul. Prediction: St. John's 73, Providence 71.

Arkansas (16-4, 5-2) at Florida (11-9, 4-3) 1PM, Gainesville, FL, CBS

On to the SEC where Florida is very down, but not completely out. Something tells me the Gators are primed to make a run at the dance, after their tough 2-point victory at fellow bubble resident Alabama, this week. The Razorbacks are currently looking like the second best in the league and about a 6 seed in the NCAAs, but that's a tenuous position at best. Prediction: Florida 74, Arkansas 69.

#11 North Carolina (17-4, 7-1) at #10 Louisville (17-3, 5-2) 4PM, Louisville, KY, ESPN

Enter the marquee match-ups and the top-heavy ACC. Despite the rankings and even the records, UNC has the far better resume between the two teams. Louisville has yet to beat an elite opponent, including their one-point loss in Chapel Hill earlier this month. If the Cardinals are going to live up to their projections, it will likely have to start today against the talented, but injury plagued Tar Heels. Prediction: Louisville 75, North Carolina 70.

#14 Wichita State (18-2, 9-0) at #16 Northern Iowa (19-2, 8-1) 4PM, Cedar Falls, IA, ESPN2

It's not often that the Missouri Valley presents a must-see match-up in late January, but that's the case today. Many wondered whether anyone in the MVC would step up and challenge Wichita State's supremacy and the Panthers have come out of nowhere to do just that this season. UNI, like the Shockers, look like NCAA Tournaments locks. Wichita State will look to make a statement versus the league up-start, while Northern Iowa will be eager to protect their home court. Prediction: Wichita State 68, Northern Iowa 65.

#18 Texas (14-6, 3-4) at #23 Baylor (14-5, 3-4) 6PM, Waco, TX, ESPN2

You can't have a Saturday Games to Watch this year without an appearance from the Big 12. Texas, though very much on the radar and tournament bound, has been a bit disappointing despite their abundance of talent. Good leagues can do that to teams and Baylor knows all about disappointment. The Bears, too, look like a sure fire tourney team, but their eventual seed is very much uncertain. Both teams want this game badly. Prediction: Texas 72, Baylor 69.

#4 Duke (17-3, 4-3) at #2 Virginia (19-0, 7-0) 7PM, Charlottesville, VA, ESPN

Back to the ACC for the unquestioned game of the day. This is big boy stuff here, with #1 seeds in the mix. Virginia has been as impressive as any team in the country this year, and yes, that includes that team in Lexington. It's offense versus defense, but also a lot of youth versus a lot of experience. Charlottesville will be rocking. Prediction: Virginia 67, Duke 61.

#20 Oklahoma (13-7, 4-4) at Oklahoma State (13-6, 4-4) 8PM, Stillwater, OK, ESPN2

We finish with another Big 12 match-up of virtual tourney locks. Add to that the in-state component and identical league records and you have what should be a knock-down, drag-out affair. Oklahoma has the higher ceiling of the two, but the Cowboys are home where they rarely lose. The Sooners, like Texas, have been slightly disappointing of late, but they are coming off a 45-point victory at Texas Tech. Prediction: Oklahoma 70, Oklahoma State 66.

Other games of note...

#5 Wisconsin (18-2, 6-1) at Iowa (13-7, 4-3) 12PM, Iowa City, IA, ESPN
Kansas State (12-9, 5-3) at #9 Kansas (17-3, 6-1) 2PM, Lawrence, KS, ESPN
George Washington (16-5, 6-2) at Rhode Island (13-5, 6-2) 4PM, Kingston, RI
Georgia (14-5, 5-2) at South Carolina (9-9, 1-6) 4PM, Columbia, SC, ESPNU

Other Top 25 games:

#8 Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1) at Pittsburgh (12-8, 3-5) 12PM, Pittsburgh, PA, ESPN3
Texas Tech (11-10, 1-7) at #21 West Virginia (17-3, 5-2) 12PM, Morgantown, WV, ESPNU
#19 Georgetown (14-6, 6-3) at Creighton (10-12, 1-8) 2PM, Omaha, NE, CBSS
#7 Villanova (18-2, 5-2) at DePaul (11-11, 5-4) 2PM, Rosemont, IL, FS1
TCU (14-6, 1-6) at #15 Iowa State (15-4, 5-2) 2PM, Ames, IA, ESPNU
#24 Butler (15-6, 5-3) at Marquette (10-10, 2-6) 2PM, Milwaukee, WI
Richmond (11-9, 4-3) at #13 VCU (18-3, 8-0) 2PM, Richmond, VA, ESPN2
Fresno State (8-11, 5-3) at #25 Colorado State (17-3, 5-3) 6PM, Fort Collins, CO, CBSS
Alabama (12-7, 3-4) at #1 Kentucky (20-0, 7-0) 7PM, Lexington, KY, SECN
UCF (8-11, 2-7) at #22 SMU (16-4, 8-1) 8PM, Dallas, TX, ESPNU
Memphis (13-7, 6-3) at #3 Gonzaga (20-1, 10-0) 10PM, Spokane, WA, ESPN2

Vegas pick (6-6): 

Georgetown -2.5 at Creighton

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