Lots of stuff is at stake this weekend in college hoops: perfect records, intra-state rivalries and resume-builders and breakers. Here’s your look at the games on this weekend’s slate that matter.
1. Kentucky (8-0) at Indiana (8-0), Saturday, 5 p.m. EST, ESPN
What’s at stake: Sportswriters love games like this. A storied rivalry (Kentucky leads, 31-23, all time), two undefeated teams and two freshman opponents turning heads (Anthony Davis and Cody Zeller, namely). The Hoosiers will be hard-pressed to stop the Wildcats’ driving freshman and sophomores that have the third most efficient offense in basketball (1.17 ppp), and we may see Indiana switch to the zone early to keep the ball on the perimeter. Where Indiana will really struggle though is in the boards, and that could be the difference. Kentucky has more to lose, and Indiana everything to gain Saturday.
2. Ohio State (8-0) at Kansas (6-2), Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN
What’s at stake: Bill Self isn’t happy with how is team is handling the ball right now — they posted 22 turnovers in their 80-possession win over Long Beach State Tuesday, but their two losses have come against top ten (by KenPom ratings) teams: Duke and Kentucky. The Jayhawks will have to have those in check Saturday when Jared Sullinger and his friends visit Lawrence, because the Buckeyes are the fourth-most efficient turnover-inducing team around with one in 29.2 percent of their opponent’s possessions. Kansas’ 23rd-ranked offense (in efficiency) doesn’t matchup well against Ohio State’s second-ranked defense that is both disruptive and glass-cleaning. This game would be a resume-builder for either team, but OSU has a clear edge.
3. Michigan St. (7-1) at Gonzaga (5-1), Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2
What’s at stake: This is the first real road test for Tom Izzo’s re-configured Spartans. Although they beat non-opponent Eastern Michigan on the road, 72-40, the rest of their games have been either at home or on neutral courts or aircraft carriers. Gonzaga, coming off their first loss of the season, at Illinois, is looking for a signature resume-building win to go with their win over Notre Dame, and is actually favored by Pomeroy, 53 percent. Kevin Pangos and the Zags will look to take advantage of Izzo’s hodge-podge offense that is less efficient (1.08 to Gonzaga’s 1.12 ppp).
4. UNLV (9-1) at Wisconsin (7-2), Saturday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
What’s at stake: Is Mike Moser-led UNLV for real? I mean, they beat UNC already, and their only loss came on the road at a solid Wichita State squad. Wisconsin has losses against UNC and Marquette, is the worst team in the nation at getting to the charity stripe, but is wildly efficient in most every other way. UNLV plays fast, averaging 69.4 possessions/game, while the Badgers play super slow-mo at a D-I slowest 59.0 ppg. If the Rebels can speed things up they’ll see Wisconsin at their worst.
5. Murray State (9-0) at Memphis (5-2), Sunday, 6 p.m., Charter Sports Southeast
What’s at stake: Everybody loves an unbeaten mid-major, and Memphis is pretty much all that stands between the Racers and a perfect finish (the rest of Murray State’s opponents are ranked 194th or lower by KenPom), but the Tigers are formidable, if not previously overrated. Both these teams are in the top 50 in eFG%, but Murray State has a big advantage on the offensive boards that they need to make count. The Tigers are 37-6 over the last three seasons at home, so good luck Racers.
6. Old Dominion (5-3) vs. Fairfield (5-4), Friday, 9:30 p.m., SNY
What’s at stake: You may not see a more evenly matched mid-major shootout this season than the game that you probably won’t see tomorrow. They’re playing on a neutral court in Springfield, Massaschusetts, and Pomeroy has the game at 51 percent in ODU’s favor. There’s a chance that we could see Fairfield representing the MAAC and ODU representing the CAA come March, so this is important programming for the discerning basketball fan.
7. Iowa (5-4) at Iowa St. (6-3), Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN3
What’s at stake: At this point it’s pretty clear that Northern Iowa (who beat both Iowa and Iowa State by a combined 27 points already) is the best D-I team in the Hawkeye State. But the annual “Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series” just cannot be missed. Iowa State leads the seriers, 11-4, and the Cyclones will probably pick up another win while Fran McCaffery continues to experiment with (failing) rotations. Iowa has poor shot defense and Iowa State has the 24th-best eFG% (54.7 percent).
8. Villanova (5-3) at Temple (5-2), Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN2
What’s at stake: How many teams can the A-10 get into the NCAA tournament this March? They’ve sent three teams each of the past four years, but could make that four or five this season with Dayton and St. Louis both doing well. Pomeroy heavily favors Temple (71 percent), even without Michael Eric who’s gone for six weeks with a knee injury, over the Big East’s Villanova, and that’s another big win for the A-10.
9. Richmond (6-2) at Virginia Commonwealth (5-3), Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
What’s at stake: Shaka Smart’s cinderella team from last year’s tournament has all but left the spotlight, but still features the CAA’s most efficient offense (1.08 ppp). A win against equally efficient Richmond another A-10 powerhouse who’s looking for their third straight road win, would go a long way for VCU.
10. Harvard (8-0) at Boston University (4-5), Saturday, 4 p.m., NESN
What’s at stake: Harvard is having probably the best start in their school’s history, and are playing for their first time as a ranked (24th/25th) team. They face UConn tonight, and will be either looking to rebound or continue their dominance on Saturday. The Terriers just don’t stand much chance.