Saturday Morning Block: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
A Good One: (18) Arkansas vs. LSU | 1:00 PM, ESPN
Mike Anderson is at the pinnacle of his time at Arkansas, and beating LSU on senior night with a decent run in the SEC Tournament should go a long way in securing a 4-seed for the Razorbacks. A loss at Rupp Arena last weekend squashed a seven-game win streak, but they rebounded with a victory over South Carolina on Thursday. LSU had strung three together before a puzzling senior night loss to Tennessee. The Tigers, ranked 262nd in turnover percentage, will need to protect the ball against a feisty Hogs defense. One hundred fifty points could be a safe over.
The Matchup: Bobby Portis vs. Jarell Martin.
The Pick: Arkansas.
A Better One: (20) West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State | 1:00 PM, ESPN News
Short of Texas Tech, it’s kind of hard to identify “bad losses” in the Big 12 this season, but West Virginia doesn’t have many of them (44, 17, 22, 12, 9, 17, 9, and 11 in KenPom ratings — none more gut-wrenching than that last one). The Mountaineers will go for a season sweep of Oklahoma State who, for my money, is firmly in the NCAA Tournament despite losing four of five. The Cowboys were -14 in the rebound column and turned the ball over 15 times against WVU in Stillwater. With or without Juwan Staten and/or Gary Browne, Press Virginia is still something Travis Ford & Co. will need to figure out.
The Matchup: Jevon Carter/Juwan Staten vs. Anthony Hickey.
The Pick: West Virginia.
The Best One: (24) Providence vs. (21) Butler | 11:00 AM, FSN
Though a distant second to the Big 12, the Big East was actually surprisingly strong this season. Providence and Butler meet Saturday to hash out second place behind Villanova. Point guard Kris Dunn and swingman LaDontae Henton headline a potent offense for Ed Cooley’s best Friar team in his four years. But Butler is 5-2 in its last seven road games and is looking to avenge a 66-62 home loss to Providence on Jan. 6. The Friars are long and tend to shoot a ton of threes, though not great at it; Butler’s knack for defending those threes (34th nationally) could be key.
The Matchup: Kris Dunn vs. Roosevelt Jones.
The Pick: Providence.
Saturday Afternoon Block: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
A Good One: (5) Arizona vs. Stanford | 3:00 PM, CBS
Arizona needs no introduction. Winners of seven straight and 27-3 overall, the Wildcats are Pac-12 champions; and, though beating a team (Utah) three times in one season is tough, they shouldn’t have a soul to worry about in the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford is likely NIT-bound without a win in Tucson and a deep run to follow, but you have to start somewhere. They’ll have to control the paint, or this will be over before it starts — and that’s a tall order when you visit the McKale Center. The first matchup in Palo Alto was an 89-82 barnburner in which point guard Chasson Randle went for 26 points.
The Matchup: Stanley Johnson vs. Anthony Brown.
The Pick: Arizona.
A Better One: (16) Louisville vs. (2) Virginia | 5:30 PM, ESPN
Louisville is 24-6 in its last 30 February and March regular season games. Rick Pitino knows how to win late, and hosting a powerhouse like Virginia to wrap up conference play makes this one a must-watch. If there are 110 points scored in this game, I’ll be floored. The first matchup in Charlottesville was a 52-47 scorcher in favor of UVA, in which just four players — four — put points on the board for the Cardinals. Shot selection will be paramount in this game, as the Cavaliers boast the nation’s 2nd best effective FG% defense. This isn’t a pound-for-pound matchup Virginia likes very much, so look for a close game on Louisville’s senior night.
The Matchup: Montrezl Harrell vs. Anthony Gill.
The Pick: Virginia
The Best One: (15) Oklahoma vs. (9) Kansas | 3:00 PM, ESPN
Certainly we all wish the implications for this game could be far direr than they actually are. But Oklahoma, like Iowa State, still has second place to play for (and don’t tell Scott Drew, but Baylor can still get it too). Perry Ellis is out until next week after injuring his knee early against West Virginia, and yet again, Cliff Alexander will be in warmups with rumors now swirling of improper benefits. Vegas will like OU in this game and should. I think TaShawn Thomas shines bright and makes up for a paltry four-point performance in Lawrence. Kansas nearly gave that game away late, won 85-78, and will have 29 of those points sitting on the bench for the Saturday rematch in Norman.
The Matchup: TaShawn Thomas vs. Kelly Oubre.
The Pick: Oklahoma.
Saturday Evening Block: 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
A Good One: Mississippi vs. Vanderbilt | 8:00 PM, SEC Network
Mississippi draws Vanderbilt for its season finale yet again and will look to elongate a winning streak over the Commodores dating back to Feb. 16, 2012. Vandy is out of the NCAA Tournament picture without an SEC Championship, while Ole Miss looks to separate itself from a four-team logjam for the 3rd and 4th double-byes behind Kentucky and Arkansas. Neither team here gets enough credit for having a tremendously efficient offense, both top 35 nationally. The Rebels are scrappy and quick and could have the ‘Dores on their heels most of the evening.
The Matchup: Stefan Moody vs. Wade Baldwin.
The Pick: Mississippi.
A Better One: TCU vs. (17) Iowa State | 7:30 PM, ESPN News
I’ve never wanted to watch ESPN News on a Saturday night so badly in my life. This is a game all along I thought could leave Iowa State most vulnerable, given the magnitude of the situation we allthought the Cyclones might be in at this point. TCU has won its last three home games, and played both Oklahoma and Kansas tough there before that. ISU is either out of gas after the OU miracle or keeps its foot on the gas in Fort Worth straight through to Kansas City. Either way, the Horned Frogs have next to nothing to play for, and that’s sometimes a very scary situation to be a part of. Pace of play is the aspect of this game that will decide everything.
The Matchup: Kyan Anderson vs. Monte Morris.
The Pick: Come onnnnnnnnnnnn.
The Best One: (19) North Carolina vs. (3) Duke | 8:00 PM, ESPN
North Carolina-Duke in Chapel Hill is the perfect bow to tie around this regular season. But you’ll be hard pressed to match the entertainment value we got in the first go-around at Cameron Indoor. It’s still a wonder how UNC came out less than 72 hours later and throttled a decent Georgia Tech team by 29. Duke is vying for the top line at the big dance and likely gets it with a win Saturday and a decent showing in the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels appear to be a lock for a 4/5 and need this win for the coveted double-bye.
The Matchup: J.P. Tokoto vs. Quinn Cook.
The Pick: Duke.
Your Sunday Best
1. (23) Ohio State vs. (6) Wisconsin | 3:30 PM, CBS
2. Nebraska vs. (10) Maryland | 6:30 PM, BTN
3. (22) SMU vs. Tulsa | 2:00 PM, ESPNU