How good is Louisville? Can Virginia win the ACC outright? Will Wichita State finish the regular season unbeaten? Those are three intriguing questions that will be answered this weekend. A look at the best matchups in college basketball on Saturday and Sunday:
Syracuse at Virginia (Saturday, 4 p.m. EST): If both Syracuse-Duke games will probably be the two most memorable ACC games of the season, Saturday's duel between the Orange and Virginia will surely be the most important. Syracuse can remain on track for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and move into a first-place tie in the ACC with a victory. Virginia can clinch its first ACC title since 2007 if it defeats the Orange. It will take Syracuse's best performance in weeks to win in Charlottesville. Though Virginia benefits from a schedule that included only one game apiece against Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina, the Cavaliers also own the ACC's best field goal and 3-point percentage and have surrendered the lowest percentage in both categories. Projected winner: Virginia.
Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9 p.m. EST): Just because this matchup doesn't have the Big 12 title implications we all expected before the season doesn't mean it isn't compelling. Kansas has already clinched the league title but needs a victory to stay in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. A seven-game losing streak sent Oklahoma State tumbling from the top 15 to the bubble, but the Cowboys have won two straight since Marcus Smart returned from suspension and have a chance to secure a signature victory Saturday night. One key will be whether Andrew Wiggins can continue to play with the aggressiveness that has helped him make a late run at Big 12 player of the year honors. Wiggins only scored three points on 1 of 5 shooting in Kansas' first matchup with the Cowboys but he has tallied 16 or more points in his last six games. Projected winner: Kansas.
Missouri State at Wichita State (Saturday, 2 p.m. EST): The last time a team finished the regular season with an unbeaten record, Jameer Nelson and Delonte West led St. Joseph's to a perfect regular season record in 2004. Wichita State is one win away from matching that feat. To complete the regular season 31-0, the Shockers will have to survive a home game against a Missouri State team that gave them their biggest scare in league play almost two months ago. The Bears led by as many as 19 points early in the second half before Wichita State rallied to force overtime and escape with a 72-69 win. Cleanthony Early had 22 points and 14 rebounds that day and Fred VanVleet scored 12 of his team's last 13 points, including a game-tying free throw with 8 seconds left in regulation. Projected winner: Wichita State.
Saint Louis at VCU (Saturday, 6 p.m. EST): Two days after losing in Atlantic 10 play for the first time in almost a year, Saint Louis could be in jeopardy of a suffering a second straight loss. The Billikens will visit an NCAA tournament-bound VCU team that lost by just two points when the two Atlantic 10 powers met a couple weeks ago in Saint Louis. These are two of the nation's best defensive teams, though their styles are polar opposites. VCU's swarming havoc defense thrives on forcing turnovers and turning them into fast-break opportunities. Saint Louis' structured, physical man-to-man defense wears opponents down and prevents them from getting good looks at the rim. The key will be whether VCU can parlay Saint Louis turnovers into easy buckets, something it struggled to do in the first meeting. Projected winner: Saint Louis.
Louisville at Memphis (Saturday, 2 p.m. EST): Two teams trending in opposite directions will meet Saturday in Memphis. Louisville has overcome the loss of Chane Behanan and some early doldrums to play its best basketball of the season in late February. The Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 games including last Saturday's victory at Cincinnati, continuing a recent trend of finishing with a flurry that has carried them to the Final Four in 2012 and a national title last season. Memphis actually won in Louisville in early January, but the Tigers haven't played as well recently. They've lost two of four and struggled with with Rutgers and Temple in the two victories. Starting guards Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson had more turnovers (8) than field goals (4) in a loss to Houston on Thursday. Projected winner: Louisville.
Others to watch this weekend:
Stanford at Arizona (Sunday, 8 p.m. EST): Stanford can all but wrap up an NCAA tournament bid were it to spring an upset in Tucson, but the Wildcats are playing better now than when they struggled with the Cardinal in Palo Alto. Arizona has demolished Colorado and Cal in its last two games, scoring efficiently in both to complement its always elite defense.
Creighton at Xavier (Saturday, 5 p.m. EST): The stakes are high for both teams in this Big East showdown. A win for Xavier will solidify an NCAA bid for the Musketeers. A win for Creighton will keep the Bluejays in first place in the Big East and on track for a potential top-two seed in the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary's (Saturday, 10 p.m. EST): Though Gonzaga has already clinched the WCC title and Saint Mary's will need to win the WCC tournament to reach March Madness, both teams still have a lot to play for in this rivalry game. The Zags need a win to bolster their chances of reaching the NCAA tournament should they get upset in the WCC tournament, while the Gaels would love to play spoiler for their biggest rival.
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