Saturday's four matchups with the most tourney implications

Jeff Eisenberg
January 22, 2011

Whether it's Kansas-Texas, Villanova-Syracuse or Ohio State-Illinois, Saturday's slate is teeming with games pitting teams capable of making deep NCAA tournament runs. Here's a look at four below-the-radar games that may have greater significance in determining whether the participants are even invited to March Madness at all.

Cincinnati at St. John's

This matchup with slumping Cincinnati is a swing game for the Johnnies (11-6, 4-3) in their brutal eight-game gauntlet against nothing but ranked opponents. Win, and they'll guarantee themselves no worse than a 3-5 record with games left against Georgetown and Duke. Lose, and they'll be in NCAA tournament survival mode entering those two games.

Predicted winner: St. John's

Arizona at Washington State

The outcome of this game will tell us a lot about whether Arizona will comfortably make the NCAA tournament or will find itself in jeopardy of missing March Madness for the second year in a row. The trip from Seattle to Pullman is arduous, the change of styles from Washington to Washington State is mentally taxing and the improved Cougars are plenty good enough to pounce on the Wildcats if they experience any sort of post-Washington letdown.

Predicted winner: Washington State

New Mexico at UNLV

Because slumping New Mexico lost at Utah on Wednesday night and cold-shooting UNLV fell to Colorado State, both these teams have three Mountain West losses already and neither can afford another setback. The Rebels are rapidly offsetting all the good work they did in November and December when they defeated Kansas State, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, while the Lobos don't even have a good non-conference peformance to fall back on aside from a decent win over Colorado.

Predicted winner: UNLV

Saint Mary's at Vanderbilt

High-scoring Saint Mary's has cracked the top 25 after winning 11 straight games, but beating Vanderbilt on the road would solidify the Gaels' NCAA tournament hopes even if they didn't win the WCC tournament. While Saint Mary's has wins over St. John's and Mississippi State, they lack a victory over a sure-fire NCAA tournament team after losses at San Diego State by 14 and on a netural court to BYU by one.

Predicted winner: Saint Mary's