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College Basketball Insider

Look Ahead: The Carrier Dome will be rocking Saturday


NEW YORK -- The player who led Syracuse to the 2003 national title will be a part of the record crowd at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. So will I. Should be a fun weekend. Let's get ready with the Look Ahead.

Top game: I have watched games at Allen Fieldhouse, Cameron Indoor, Assembly Hall, Pauley Pavilion and pretty much every other notable college basketball arena -- except the Carrier Dome. Seriously, I've never been to the Carrier Dome. I'm not sure why. Seems stupid now that I'm typing the words. But I guess it doesn't matter why anymore because I'm scratching that off my to-do list this weekend and attending Georgetown's final scheduled road game against its longtime (but not for much longer) Big East rival. The Hoyas are 20-4 overall, 10-3 in the Big East and ranked 11th. The Orange are 22-4 overall, 10-3 in the Big East and ranked eighth. A record crowd of 35,012 is expected to surround the court Saturday afternoon, watch Carmelo Anthony get his jersey retired, witness history and, hopefully, a compelling game that'll break a three-way tie for first atop the Big East standings regardless of whether it's compelling or not.

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Another interesting matchup: Georgetown and Syracuse aren't the only schools playing Saturday with first place in their league at stake. Same goes for New Mexico and Colorado State. If the 16th-ranked Lobos win, they'll have a two-game lead in the Mountain West standings with just four games remaining. But there will be a two-way tie for first between New Mexico and Colorado State if the 22nd-ranked Rams rebound from their midweek loss at UNLV and become just the third team to beat the Lobos since the calendar turned.

Yet another interesting matchup: It's hard to avoid fun games when a league has eight schools ranked in the top 30 at KenPom.com. The Big Ten has taught us that this season, and it'll remind us of that again Sunday when No. 4 Michigan State visits No. 18 Ohio State for a game the Spartans must win to remain a game back of top-ranked Indiana, which is on a four-game winning streak and off until Tuesday's visit to Minnesota.

Probably will be a blowout: Kansas went to TCU earlier this month and lost to the Horned Frogs in a game that still makes about as much sense as the NCAA charging Miami with lack of institutional control less than 24 hours after the NCAA essentially acknowledged a lack of institutional control. TCU had lost all eight of its Big 12 games before that upset and has lost every Big 12 game its played since that upset. In other words, the Horned Frogs are now 1-12 in the Big 12 heading into Saturday's rematch with the ninth-ranked Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, and anything less than a 20-point win by KU that drops TCU to 1-13 in the league will qualify as another surprise.

Definitely could be an upset: Xavier isn't great, I admit. But the Musketeers are solid enough to create an issue Saturday for No. 24 VCU inside Cintas Center. Remember, Butler, La Salle, Temple and Dayton have already lost there this season. So don't be surprised if the Rams are the next to fall, which would have them taking a two-game losing streak into next week's showdown with Brad Stevens' 15th-ranked Butler Bulldogs.

Player trying to keep rolling: Kelly Olynyk has gone from a 7-foot redshirt junior few people outside of Gonzaga really knew to a possible First Team All-American in a span of three months by averaging 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds for the third-ranked Zags. He's made 20 of his past 26 shots heading into Saturday's game with San Diego.

Player trying to get rolling: Marcus Smart is great but wasn't so good in Wednesday's loss to Kansas. The dynamic freshman took 14 shots, missed 12 and fouled out on the big stage. Can he rebound Saturday at West Virginia? He'd better. Because if he doesn't, the 14th-ranked Cowboys might get caught considering they're the same Oklahoma State team that lost at Virginia Tech (and WVU isn't as bad as Virginia Tech).

Three things you should know before you go

  1. Florida, even with this week's loss to Missouri, is ranked No. 1 at KenPom.com thanks in part to an offense and defense that each rank second. The Gators are fifth in the Associated Press Poll, fourth in the coaches poll and fifth in our Top 25 (and one). They host Arkansas on Saturday.
  2. Mike Krzyzewski said late Thursday that he's optimistic Ryan Kelly will play again this season but that he's still not sure when that might happen. So the questions will continue. But, either way, know this: Kelly won't play Sunday when the sixth-ranked Blue Devils host Boston College.
  3. It's true that Cincinnati has dropped four of five heading into Sunday's game at No. 25 Notre Dame, and that's not ideal. But the Bearcats are still ranked 41st in the RPI and in possession of wins over No. 17 Marquette, No. 20 Pittsburgh, No. 23 Oregon and Iowa State. So don't put Mick Cronin's team on the bubble just yet. Cincinnati's body of work is still plenty good enough, at the moment, to earn an at-large bid.

Final thought: Saturday's marquee game is Syracuse-Georgetown because those two teams both have 10-3 Big East records. But guess who else is 10-3? Answer: Marquette. And has anybody done a better job recently of overachieving than Buzz Williams?

Marquette was picked sixth in the Big East last season.

They went 14-4 and finished second.

Marquette was picked seventh in the Big East this season.

They're now 10-3 and tied for first.

So Louisville's Rick Pitino and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim are undeniably great, and Georgetown's John Thompson III and Villanova's Jay Wright have both been to Final Fours. But any list of the Big East's top coaches probably needs to also include the Texas native who has established a consistently competitive program in Milwaukee. Williams has made four straight NCAA tournaments and two straight Sweet 16s. I'm not sure where this team will end up, exactly. But I know it's already done things almost nobody predicted.

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