Great games abound this weekend as the countdown continues toward postseason conference tournaments and Selection Sunday.
The main stage, however, will be Saturday in Waco, Texas, for college basketball’s game of the year – No. 1 Baylor against No. 3 Kansas, the upstart program against the Big 12’s perennial big dog.
Kansas at Baylor, Saturday at noon, ESPN
The Bears (24-1, 13-0 Big 12) established a conference record Tuesday night with their 23rd straight victory. One of those wins was a 67-55 decision over the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 11. Since that date, Kansas (23-3, 12-1) has won 11 in a row.
It’s been a historic year for Baylor. Its 13-0 start in the conference is tied for second-best all-time in the Big 12 behind the 2001-02 Kansas team that finished a perfect 16-0. A win Saturday would put the Bears two games ahead of the Jayhawks with four games left in the regular season.
The contest matches up two of the best point guards in the nation in Baylor’s Jared Butler and Kansas’ Devon Dotson. Butler has scored 43 points in his last two games while knocking down 10 three-pointers. Dotson has averaged 19 points in his last 10 games including 29, his most in a conference game this season, Monday night against Iowa State.
MaCio Teague, the Bears’ second-leading scorer, has missed the last two games with a wrist injury and his status for Saturday is uncertain.
Florida at No. 10 Kentucky, Saturday at 6 p.m., ESPN
With a 79-76 win Wednesday night over Louisiana State, the Wildcats (21-5, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) have positioned themselves nicely in the SEC. Their lead is at two games thanks to back-to-back losses by No. 13 Auburn against two opponents in the lower half of the conference.
LSU and Florida (17-9, 9-4) are also in that second-place deadlock with Auburn. The Gators, winners of their last three, are coming off a victory over Arkansas behind Keyontae Johnson’s third double-double in his last four games.
No. 2 Gonzaga at No. 23 BYU, Saturday at 10 p.m., ESPN2
The top two teams in the West Coast Conference meet in Provo, Utah, where the Cougars (22-7, 11-3 WCC) sport a 13-1 record. The Bulldogs (27-1, 13-0) have won 19 consecutive games, one of them a 92-69 win over BYU on Jan. 18.
Both sides have put up dynamic numbers on offense. Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring (88.6 points per game) while BYU is 13th (80.0). The two teams rank 2-3 (Zags 51.6%, Cougars 50.2%) in field-goal percentage, and BYU is No. 1 nationally in three-point percentage (.426).
No. 8 Florida State at North Carolina State, Saturday at 4 p.m., ACC Network
The Wolfpack (17-9, 8-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) are sky-high following their surprisingly easy 88-66 victory over No. 6 Duke, the Blue Devils’ largest margin of defeat to an unranked team in the Mike Krzyzewski era. More importantly, it gave their NCAA Tournament hopes a tremendous boost. They can help their postseason resume even more against the Seminoles (22-4, 12-3), who are tied for second in the ACC with Duke, a half-game behind Louisville.
No. 14 Oregon at No. 24 Arizona, Saturday at 9 p.m., ESPN
The Pac-12 regular-season race is crazy. The Ducks (20-7, 9-5) lost Thursday night to fall one game behind Colorado. The Wildcats (19-7, 9-4) defeated Oregon State and are tied with Arizona State for second place, a half-game behind the Buffaloes. Arizona guard Max Hazzard, who scored 15 points in 19 minutes against Oregon State, is the grandson of former Overbrook High School and UCLA star Walt Hazzard.
Rutgers at Wisconsin, Sunday at 1 p.m., Big Ten Network
The Scarlet Knights (18-9, 9-7 Big Ten) have been an inspiring story seeking their first NCAA bid since 1991. But they’ve had one road win all season, standing at 1-8 going into the game against the Badgers (16-10, 9-6), and CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm says no team since 1994 has made the tournament field with fewer than three wins away from home. The Knights should be good since they’re 17-1 at home, but their seed is sinking. After Sunday, their final two regular-season road games are Penn State and Purdue.
What else is happening?
The Big Ten has two other attractive games Sunday. No. 9 Penn State (20-6, 10-5), now two games out of first, attempts to bounce back from its loss to Illinois facing Indiana (17-9, 7-8), which is fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. Later in the day, conference pacesetter Maryland (22-4, 12-3) takes its nine-game winning streak into Columbus against Ohio State (17-8, 7-7).
In the Big East, No. 15 Creighton (20-6, 10-4) continues its pursuit of first-place Seton Hall against visiting No. 21 Butler (19-8, 7-7), which lost Wednesday night on a buzzer-beater against the Pirates. The Bluejays are closing out their regular season with three of their four remaining games at home.
Expatriate of the week