The final two days of the regular season are almost here and every power-conference title (except for the SEC title) remains undetermined. So the stakes are high this Saturday and Sunday. Let's get ready with the Weekend Look Ahead.
Top game: Indiana entered the last week of the regular season needing only to win one of its final two regular-season games to assure itself of an outright Big Ten title. Then the second-ranked Hoosiers slipped at home against Ohio State and lost, awkwardly cut nets anyway, and now they're headed for a Sunday showdown at No. 7 Michigan that's huge for real and perceptional reasons. Win, and Indiana will (finally) get that outright league title and (probably) secure a top seed in the NCAA tournament. Lose, and the Hoosiers will have gone from the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the country to losers of three of their past four games in a span of just 13 days, and they'll suddenly need to do real work next week at the Big Ten tournament in Chicago to earn the top seed in the Field of 68 that they seemed to have on lock as recently as three days ago.
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Another interesting matchup: A win at home over Clemson early Saturday will earn sixth-ranked Miami the ACC's outright regular-season title, so third-ranked Duke probably won't be playing for a share of things when it tips at North Carolina late Saturday. But that won't make the game any less intense. It's still Duke vs. UNC, still Coach K vs. 'Ol Roy, still Mason Plumlee vs. James Michael McAdoo, and it should be noted that the Tar Heels have won six consecutive games since losing at Cameron Indoor thanks to a small-ball lineup that UNC probably wishes it would've implemented back in November.
Yet another interesting matchup: Kentucky started the regular season ranked third but will spend the final weekend of the regular season on the wrong side of the bubble thanks to four months of uninspired basketball. Few have been better over the past decade than John Calipari at getting kids to play hard and together, but he still hasn't figured out a way to push the right buttons with this group. The players look lost -- most recently in Thursday's loss at Georgia. But the bubble is soft. And the selection committee must still put 68 schools in the NCAA tournament. So a win Saturday over No. 11 Florida at Rupp might just be enough to put the Wildcats back in a good position, crazy as that sounds.
Probably will be a blowout: Did you see what Michigan State did to Wisconsin on Thursday? If so, you know there's no reason to think the 10th-ranked Spartans won't do the same thing to Northwestern on Sunday, which is to say overwhelm the Wildcats and beat them by at least 15 points.
Definitely could be an upset: I realize Syracuse has lost three of its past four games and six of its past 11, including a double-digit loss at the Carrier Dome to Georgetown. But college basketball is silly and often makes no sense. So I won't be surprised if the 17th-ranked Orange beat the fifth-ranked Hoyas and repay Georgetown for that demoralizing loss two weekends ago.
Player trying to keep rolling: Ohio State is a completely different team -- one capable of beating somebody like Indiana on the road -- when Aaron Craft is a threat on the offensive end. Granted, that's not always the case. But it was the case Tuesday in that 67-58 upset at Assembly Hall in which Craft finished 7 of 10 from the field for 15 points, and if it's the case again Sunday when the 14th-ranked Buckeyes host Illinois then Ohio State will move to 13-5 in the Big Ten and be in a position to earn at least a share of the Big Ten title for the fourth consecutive season.
Player trying to get rolling: Baylor came into this season with high expectations, Pierre Jackson with All-America hopes. Now Baylor is on the wrong side of the bubble and Jackson is struggling, and those two things are related. The 5-foot-10 guard has missed 42 of his past 65 field goal attempts and 24 of his past 35 3-point attempts while the Bears have dropped three of their past four games. Unless he's drastically better, Baylor won't have much of a chance Saturday when No. 4 Kansas visits the Ferrell Center.
Three things you should know before you go
- No. 23 UCLA still has a shot to claim at least a share of the Pac-12 title even after a loss at Washington State because No. 19 Oregon subsequently lost at Colorado. So now the Bruins and Ducks both have 12-5 Pac-12 records. UCLA plays Saturday at Washington. Oregon plays Saturday at Utah.
- No. 24 Notre Dame at No. 8 Louisville on Saturday represents a rematch of that five-overtime classic from last month that the Irish won in South Bend. By the time the game tips, the Cards should know whether they're playing for a share of the Big East title or an outright Big East title. Such will be determined by what Georgetown and Marquette do earlier in the day.
- No. 25 Memphis has a chance Saturday to join Gonzaga and Norfolk State and become the third conference champion this season to finish with a perfect league record. All that stands between the Tigers and a 16-0 mark in C-USA is a win over UAB at FedExForum.
Final thought: Illinois fired Bruce Weber on March 9, 2012. And yet on March 9, 2013, he'll coach with a chance to win a Big 12 title, and do people grasp just how crazy and unusual this bounce-back story really is?
From fired to a (possible) Big 12 title in the span of a year?
Among the biggest challenges in college athletics is trying to get a good basketball job immediately after losing one. It almost never happens. But it happened for Weber, and he's taken advantage of the opportunity by leading Kansas State to a 25-5 record that includes a 14-3 league mark. Consequently, the Wildcats are ranked ninth and tied atop the Big 12 with Kansas heading into Saturday's game at No. 13 Oklahoma State.
Will KSU win at Gallagher-Iba Arena?
But the idea that it's even possible for Weber to win a power-conference championship exactly a year after getting fired from a power-conference job is a remarkable development, regardless of how it turns out. So good for Bruce Weber. And good for Kansas State. They both needed something, and they seem to have found it in each other.