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Basketball

VIEWER’S GUIDE: The final weekend of the regular season

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Morning Block

A Good One: Syracuse at Florida State | 1:00 PM, ESPN2

The NCAA Tournament implications for these two teams are at the opposite ends of the spectrum but are equally as important. Syracuse can ill afford to finish the regular season 1-4 without any momentum heading into the ACC Tournament. Florida State? They need all the help they can get, and last weekend’s 22-point drubbing of Notre Dame is a decent start. Still, the Seminoles have lost five of six and need a miracle run, starting by avenging their 13-point loss to the Orange on Feb. 11, which began the slide.

KenPom Line: Seminoles by 3

MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Xavier Rathan-Mayes vs. Michael Gbinije

A Better One: Vanderbilt at Texas A&M | 11:00 AM, ESPN2

The term “squarely on the bubble” has always bugged me, but I’m having a hard time calling it anything else for Vanderbilt. The UNF Dance Card — as I referenced last week being the best resource out there for predicting the field of 68 — says that 99.5 percent of teams with Vandy’s current résumé have historically earned an automatic tournament bid, meaning a win should solidify things. But a loss? That could hurt. And that’s the definition of a bubble team. The Aggies and ‘Dores are a combined 11-1 since Feb. 13, but someone unfortunately has to lose here.

KenPom Line: Aggies by 4

Matchup to Watch: Jalen Jones vs. Damian Jones

The Best One: West Virginia at Baylor | 1:00 PM, ESPN

Let’s take a break from the NCAA Tournament talk (Drew and Huggie Bear are in, obviously) and instead focus on what this game means in terms of the Big 12. Should there be no surprises this weekend — let’s just say the favorite in each Big 12 game ends up winning — the Bears are locked into Thursday morning’s game in Kansas City as the 5-seed (in this scenario, against Texas). West Virginia will be hoping to catch them napping as a result because a win, incredibly, secures the Mountaineers the 2-seed and a bye. I actually like WVU here. 

KenPom Line: Bears by 1

Matchup to Watch: Rico Gathers vs. Devin Williams

Afternoon Block

A Good One: South Carolina at Arkansas | 4:00 PM, SEC Network

South Carolina is comfortably in with a win here (and maybe even without one). Arkansas’ tournament hopes were basically dashed when it lost seven of 10 between Jan. 16 and Feb. 17. The Razorbacks’ four-game win streak appears to have come too late, but it should be decent momentum going into an SEC Tournament that many believe could be won by 4-5 different teams. This is the Gamecocks’ first date with Arkansas since Mar. 5 of last year, when they lost by four in Columbia. This one will be decided in the paint and on the glass, both of which play to South Carolina’s strengths.

KenPom Line: Razorbacks by 3

Matchup to Watch: Moses Kingsley vs. Laimonas Chatkevicius

A Better One: Iowa State at Kansas | 3:00 PM, ESPN

Once again, with no other crazy developments on Saturday, this game may actually have no bearing on Big 12 Tournament seeding as long as Baylor beats West Virginia. And truthfully, it would be nice to watch Iowa State play Kansas in a manner that’s easy on the ol’ ticker for once. With one more win — whether it’s here or next week in Kansas City — the Jayhawks will likely show up on the 1-line on Selection Sunday. But nothing sounds sweeter than bookending Bill Self’s latest 10-game win streak with a couple of Cyclone victories. Ellis vs. Niang should be a delight to watch… one last time… maybe… 

KenPom Line: Jayhawks by 10

Matchup to Watch: Perry Ellis vs. Georges Niang — what else?

GAME OF THE DAY: North Carolina at Duke | 5:30 PM, ESPN

It was honestly difficult calling this my game of the day when there’s a perfectly good Kansas-Iowa State showdown at the Phog also on the docket. But you can’t really place the Duke-UNC rivalry high enough up on the pedestal in March, particularly this year — and especially after how things went down Feb. 17 in Chapel Hill. Brice Johnson has one final chance to state his case for National Player of the Year, and if he can duplicate his 29-point, 19-rebound performance against the Blue Devils two and a half weeks ago, I’d sure vote for him.

KenPom Line: Blue Devils by 1

Matchup to Watch: Grayson Allen vs. Justin Jackson

Evening Block

A Good One: VCU at Dayton | 7:00 PM, CBS Sports Network

VCU is the Atlantic 10 regular season champion (a hell of an accomplishment considering what it lost in the offseason) and has a 100 percent chance of earning an auto bid with its current résumé, per Dance Card. The Rams will spend their season finale in Dayton, who I’ve been hard on since they inexplicably earned votes in the AP Top 10 after starting the season 21-3 (what do you want me to say, they had a crappy schedule). The Flyers have dropped three of their last five but should still be firmly in the NCAA Tournament conversation with another win. Johnson and Cooke are two first team all-conference players in-waiting. Great matchup.

KenPom Line: Flyers by 2

MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Charles Cooke vs. Melvin Johnson

A Better One: Louisville at Virginia | 7:30 PM, ESPN

This might be the most intriguing season finale this week, as you can’t really find more differing postseason implications than what’s at stake Saturday night in Charlottesville. Louisville? This is it for them. The postseason ban, however wrong you think it may be, begins the second the buzzer sounds. Virginia? Lose this and a 1-seed in the big dance will likely have to ride on a deep conference tournament run. And, guys, the ACC is absolutely loaded with talent at the top. Nothing to lose vs. quite a bit to lose — should be a fun one, and a low-scoring affair.

KenPom Line: Cavaliers by 5

Matchup to Watch: Anthony Gill vs.Chinanu Onuaku

The Best One: Iowa at Michigan | 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network

Iowa is a train wreck these days, and Michigan needs a résumé building win in the worst way after losing by 11 at Wisconsin on Sunday. The Wolverines have now lost three of four — all difficult road tests, don’t get me wrong — but the Dance Card has them slotted into a dwindling “next four out” group, meaning they’ll need a win and quite a bit of help before Selection Sunday. The Hawkeyes have taken a massive step backward offensively over the last three weeks, but if there were ever a matchup for them to get things right, it’s against Michigan’s 144th ranked defensive efficiency.

KenPom Line: Hawkeyes by 1

Matchup to Watch: Zak Irvin vs. Peter Jok

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Austin Narber

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