Not every college basketball weekend is a great weekend, I admit. But this one is. We've got Duke and Michigan trying to avenge lopsided losses, a matchup between two present and future coaching stars, and a Missouri Valley Conference title up for grabs. I thought about attending each of those games at different times but ultimately settled on a trip to Los Angeles. So I'll be at Arizona-UCLA late Saturday. But, like you, I'll be in front of a television for most of the day watching a loaded slate of contests.
Top game: Saturday's showdown between No. 3 Duke and No. 5 Miami has long been considered this weekend's marquee game -- at least since the Hurricanes dealt the Blue Devils a 27-point loss at the BankUnited Center. And it still is this weekend's marquee game, I guess. But Miami is no longer undefeated in the ACC, and Duke is coming off Thursday's loss at Virginia. So the stakes are lower than they could've otherwise been. But that won't make the Cameron Crazies any less crazy come tipoff, will it?
Another interesting matchup: Arizona spent November and December undefeated while UCLA lost two transfers (not to mention a game to California Polytechnic State University). And yet it's the Bruins who are now tied for first in the loss column with Oregon in the Pac-12 standings while No. 11 Arizona has slipped into a tie for third with California. Consequently, the Wildcats can't possibly earn the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament without winning Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. So the pressure is on Sean Miller to steal a road game from Ben Howland like Howland stole a road game from him in January.
Yet another interesting matchup: Yes, there's still another week left in the regular season ... but not in the Missouri Valley Conference's regular season. That league wraps Saturday, and special shoutout to the schedule-makers for ending with Wichita State at Creighton. The Shockers and Bluejays are both 12-5 in the MVC, meaning this game will quite literally decide the regular-season title. And how good is that? If I weren't headed to Los Angeles, I'd like to be in Omaha watching Greg McDermott attempt to win his first league title as a coach since he coached Wayne State to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship in 2000.
Probably will be a blowout: Gonzaga is ranked second and in position to move to No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll on Monday for the first time in school history provided the Zags handle Portland on Saturday. They should and will do that -- and it almost certainly won't be close, at which point Gonzaga will conclude its first perfect season in the WCC since 2008-09 and enter its league tournament on a 12-game winning streak.
Definitely could be an upset: Michigan is ranked higher, at home and presumably motivated because the Wolverines A) have already been blown out by Michigan State, and B) are coming off a loss at Penn State. But don't be surprised if the ninth-ranked Spartans still figure out a way to complete the regular-season sweep of the fourth-ranked Wolverines on Sunday. If it happens, it'll represent Michigan's fifth loss in eight outings, this from a team that started the season 16-0.
Player trying to keep rolling: Rodney McGruder is Kansas State's best player and leading scorer, but can I give Thomas Gipson some attention? The 6-foot-7 sophomore only averages 8.1 points per game, but he's averaging 13.7 in KSU's past three wins while shooting 72.7 percent from the field. Keep that up, and the 13th-ranked Wildcats might be able to win Saturday at Baylor in what amounts to a coinflip of a game.
Player trying to get rolling: Florida has lost five games for lots of reasons. But one constant is that Kenny Boynton has stunk in them all. He was 2-of-10 from the field in the loss to Arizona, 4-of-11 in the loss to Kansas State, 4-of-11 in the loss to Arkansas, 4-of-13 in the loss to Missouri and 1-of-7 in the loss to Tennessee. Add it up, and the four-year starter for the eighth-ranked Gators is 15-of-52 (28.8 percent) from the field in Florida's losses heading into Saturday's game with Alabama.
Three things you should know before you go
- I explained earlier this week what it'll mean if West Virginia loses one more Big 12 game. The Mountaineers are at sixth-ranked Kansas on Saturday. So that one more Big 12 loss is on tap barring a major, major, major surprise.
- Syracuse is ranked 12th but on a two-game losing streak that might become a three-game losing streak Saturday, when No. 10 Louisville visits the Carrier Dome. The Orange won the first meeting, sparking Louisville's three-game slide in January. Now the Cards could return the favor and drop Syracuse to 10-6 in the Big East.
- Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are two of the sport's brightest coaches, and it was cool when they ended up working alongside each other in the Atlantic 10 this season. As we now know, that arrangement that began in November is set to end this month because Butler is headed to a new league that'll be called the Big East while VCU likely remains in the A-10. So now Stevens and Smart aren't guaranteed to meet at least once per season going forward, which makes Saturday's game in Richmond between the 20th-ranked Bulldogs and Rams all the more compelling.
Final thought: I spent last Friday in New York, at the CBS Broadcast Center, taking part in a discussion alongside Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg, Seth Davis, Mateen Cleaves and Wally Szczerbiak that produced a fun television show that'll air Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network.
It's part of our 75 Years of NCAA March Madness series.
It's called The Ultimate Bracket.
The two-hour show tries to identify which NCAA national championship team would prevail in a hypothetical field featuring all 74 past winners. The results were determined by a computer simulation of each game -- 50,000 times. Variables considered included each team's average margin of victory, pace-adjusted team and player stats and strength of schedule. So a lot of work and thought went into this, and it's worth your time.
Want to see the bracket?
Now print it out, fill it out and see how you do Saturday.
And watchout for the 1941 Wisconsin Badgers.
Those dudes are scrappier than I could've ever imagined.