Ohio State-Michigan State?
March Madness is officially here, huh?
Let's get ready for Saturday and Sunday with the Weekend Look Ahead.
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Top game: This season's first meeting was one of the best -- or at least one of the wildest -- games I've ever attended, and that one wasn't even for the ACC title. So Saturday night's showdown between the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils and No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium should be off-the-charts good. It could decide a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. It will decide the outright league champion. I have no idea who will win, but let me say this: If Austin Rivers gets the ball on the wing in the closing seconds of a tight game, North Carolina would be wise to step out and guard him.
Another interesting matchup: A Michigan State win over Ohio State on Sunday will secure an outright Big Ten title for the fifth-ranked Spartans while a loss will make them share it with Ohio State and possibly Michigan, too. And who wants to share a Big Ten title with Michigan? Answer: Not Michigan State. So Tom Izzo's team needs to go ahead and knock this out.
Yet another interesting matchup: John Calipari promised after his top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats dominated Florida last month that the second meeting between the two schools in Gainesville would be "different." And I agreed. Because it stood to reason that the 13th-ranked Gators would be more competitive at home, if only because they couldn't possibly miss 21 of 27 3-point shots again. But now Florida has dropped two straight to unranked Georgia and unranked Vanderbilt. So who knows? Maybe UK will win by 20 again Sunday and finish with a perfect SEC record.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: Illinois has dropped its past two road games by an average of 19.5 points and generally been terrible the past month. That's why Southern Illinois is already targeting Bruce Weber to be its next coach, because most assume he'll be available around this time next week. That's also why the Illini stand little chance at No. 14 Wisconsin on Sunday, because Illinois has stood little chance against anybody anywhere lately.
Guaranteed to be an upset: Baylor is ranked ninth nationally. Iowa State is unranked. Those two teams play Saturday in Ames. The one ranked ninth will lose to the one that isn't ranked at all.
Player trying to keep rolling: Robbie Hummel has been terrific down the stretch, and I bet Matt Painter will forever wonder what would've happened had he had Hummel with JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore the past two postseasons. A Final Four? Two Final Fours? The sad thing is we'll never know. But what I do know is this: No. 18 Indiana will have its hands full Sunday when Purdue visits Assembly Hall. Hummel is averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds in his past four outings. He's balling out and capable of leading the Boilermakers to an upset in a place where Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State have lost.
Player trying to get rolling: Louisville lost to South Florida this week while Russ Smith took and missed eight shots from various spots on the floor. Yes, he missed every single shot he took. That's hard to do. But he did it. And if he does it again Saturday at No. 2 Syracuse, the 19th-ranked Cardinals will lose for the third time in four games and finish 10-8 in the Big East.
Three things you need to know
1. Memphis will clinch the outright Conference USA title Saturday with a win at Tulsa or a Southern Miss loss at Marshall. Neither Adonis Thomas nor Antonio Barton are expected to play for the Tigers, but both should return in time for next week's C-USA Tournament.
2. Jim Calhoun reportedly attended Connecticut's practice Friday but it remains unclear whether he'll try to coach the Huskies in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh. The Hall of Famer hasn't coached since Feb. 1. He had a two-hour surgery on his back last Monday in New York City. 3. Wake Forest dismissed troubled forward Ty Walker from its basketball program Friday. Now the question is whether coach Jeff Bzdelik will be next out the door. He's 5-26 in ACC games the past two seasons heading into Saturday's game at Georgia Tech.
Final thought: I remember when Chris Lowery reached an extension with Southern Illinois.
It was 2007.
I was at the Final Four.
I bumped into the Salukis coach in the lobby of a hotel. He was coming off his third straight NCAA tournament and had just agreed to a seven-year extension worth $750,000 annually, meaning Lowery was suddenly a millionaire coaching basketball at his alma mater. Life was good. Life was perfect.
And now he's unemployed.
The man who was five years ago considered one of college basketball's future stars was fired Friday after a fifth straight season that didn't produce a trip to the NCAA tournament, and let this be a lesson to young coaches with seemingly bright futures. Nothing is guaranteed. You're in a tough business. Things can turn on you pretty quickly, and it's not always simple to get things turned around. So make as much money as you can while you can and save some of it, because there aren't many professions where you can go from being someone somebody will pay millions not to leave to someone somebody will play millions to go away in a span of five years.
Chris Lowery didn't get dumb, you know?
He didn't forget how to coach.
He just got eaten up by the business.
It happens to lots of people in this sport.
And though it's difficult to predict the next victim, rest assured there will be a next one.