Ohio State is in a hostile environment for the second straight weekend, and Pittsburgh has another tough road game, too. Will Kansas get back on track after a tough loss at Kansas State? Will Kendall Marshall continue to be a difference-maker? Will Billy White take a shot?
Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead.
|Pittsburgh should get a boost from Ashton Gibbs. (US Presswire)|
Another interesting matchup: Most schools have zero road wins over top 25 RPI teams. Some have one. Georgetown and Syracuse have two. But Pittsburgh is the only team with three, which means the No. 4 Panthers can reasonably be called the nation's best road team -- with or without Ashton Gibbs, who missed last week's road wins over West Virginia and Villanova while recovering from a partially torn MCL. Gibbs is recovered now. So he'll be available for Saturday's game against St. John's at Madison Square Garden, otherwise known as the World's Most Famous Arena ... and the place where Duke got its britches beat last month.
Yet another interesting matchup: Utah State and Saint Mary's have 46 combined wins, but just two of those are against top 100 RPI teams, and both of those belong to the Gaels. In other words, Utah State needs to win at Saint Mary's late Saturday to bolster its résumé. Is it a must-win game? No. But it's undeniably a would-be-really-nice-to-get-this-win game, because without it Stew Morrill's 25th-ranked Aggies will likely head into Selection Sunday with zero quality wins, and that could -- not necessarily would, but definitely could -- put them on the wrong side of the bubble despite a big win total if they happen to fall in the WAC tournament.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: An oak tree on the Auburn campus, the plumber who had to visit the Jersey Shore house Thursday night, and the team required to visit Allen Fieldhouse five days after No. 1 Kansas was routed by Kansas State on national television are among the things I would rather not be this week. I'm sure Colorado coach Tad Boyle agrees on all three counts, especially the last one. But the Big 12 schedule is the Big 12 schedule. So he'll be in Lawrence for a Saturday tip.
Guaranteed to be an upset: Can an unranked team that has lost three of its past four games beat a top 10 team on a seven-game winning streak? If I say it can, then yes it can. So don't be surprised when unranked West Virginia catches No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday. Do be surprised if Bob Huggins wears anything other than a pullover.
Player trying to keep rolling: North Carolina freshman Kendall Marshall's eight assists in this week's win over Wake Forest have him now averaging 5.1 assists per game on the season and 6.3 assists per game since becoming the starting point guard. To put this in perspective, consider that Duke's Nolan Smith leads the ACC with 5.4 assists per game. To further put this in perspective, consider that Marshall is assisting on 41.3 percent of UNC's field goals while he's on the court (according to KenPom.com), meaning he's very clearly the main reason behind the 19th-ranked Tar Heels' improved play heading into Saturday's game with Boston College. In a related note, I'll no longer criticize Larry Drew for quitting rather than choosing to "fight" to regain his starting job from Marshall. He was never getting that thing back.
Player trying to get rolling: One of the strangest stat lines from this week belonged to San Diego State's Billy White, who played 25 minutes in the Aztecs' 68-62 win over New Mexico but took zero shots and scored zero points. Looking at it, I was obviously confused ... until I realized White injured his shooting hand during Wednesday's game and thus opted not to shoot. The good news? A subsequent X-ray showed no damage. White returned to practice Thursday. "He's fine," coach Steve Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. So now it's time to get back to shooting and scoring, preferably Saturday when the No. 6 Aztecs play at Air Force.
Three things you need to know
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1. Texas remains the nation's only power-conference school with a perfect league record. Rick Barnes' No. 3 Longhorns are 23-3 overall and 11-0 in the Big 12 heading into Saturday's game at Nebraska. Considering they have a two-game lead on Kansas (plus the head-to-head tiebreaker), a Big 12 banner will be heading to Austin barring a collapse.
2. Florida should take another step toward an SEC East title Sunday when it plays at LSU, which has dropped nine straight games. Assuming the 14th-ranked Gators win, they'll be 10-2 in the SEC and maintain at least a two-game lead in the league standings.
3. There is a rare Friday night tilt featuring two ranked teams. No. 13 Connecticut is at No. 16 Louisville for a game that tips at 9 ET. Both schools are 8-5 in the Big East and thus tied with Villanova and St. John's for fourth in the league standings.
Final thought: Various media members have spent the past two days in Indianapolis assembling a mock bracket with the NCAA, and they've been tweeting the results like crazy. What I found most interesting is that 15 of the top 16 seeded schools -- i.e., the top four seeds in each region -- are in the top 16 of my latest Top 25 (and one) rankings, and all 16 are in the top 19.
So what does this mean?
It means the mock bracket won't get Poll Attacked.
It also means I'm basically a one-man selection committee.
In fact, that might be my new nickname: Gary Parrish -- the One-Man Selection Committee.
(I just like the way it rolls off the tongue.)