It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and if you can get a little bit of time away from your significant other, there is a great slate of college basketball games on tap for your viewing pleasure. The highlight this week is a rematch between Big 12 powers Kansas and Oklahoma, who participated in the best game we’ve seen so far this season in early January, a 109-106 Kansas victory in triple overtime at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. This time it’ll be in Norman, with Buddy Hield and the Sooners looking for revenge. The following is a preview of that game along with other big games happening this weekend.
#22 Kentucky @ South Carolina
When: Sat 2/13, 12:00 noon ESPN
Why: A big-time battle in the SEC, Kentucky enters having won two games in a row, while South Carolina is coming off of their two best wins of the season, a road triumph over Texas A&M and a home victory over previous SEC leader LSU. Those two wins have helped to bolster the Gamecocks’ tournament resume, but a win over Kentucky would do wonders.
Player to Watch: Kentucky PG Tyler Ulis – Ulis is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award for best point guard, and he is playing his best basketball right now. He is carrying this extremely talented team right now, improving his draft stock in the process. Look for Ulis to dominate this game.
Prediction: South Carolina is playing very well right now, but so is Kentucky. The Wildcats are the more talented team, and they should come out on top.
Georgetown @ #20 Providence
When: Sat 2/13, 12:00 noon FOX
Why: The Big East is a gauntlet this season, and these two teams are bearing the brunt of that gauntlet right now. Georgetown has lost five of their last eight, and have seen their tourney hopes dwindle, while Providence is on a three-game losing streak which includes losses to DePaul and Marquette.
Player to Watch: Providence F Ben Bentil – Bentil is one of the most talented forwards in the nation, but he is playing a little banged up after injuring his foot against DePaul. Despite the injury, he scored a career high 42 points against Marquette, and the Friars will look for another performance like that if they’re going to snap their losing streak.
Prediction: The Friars aren’t playing with much confidence right now, but they are the better team in this one. That should be enough to get them the victory.
#15 Texas A&M @ LSU
When: Sat 2/13, 1:00 pm CBS
Why: Two of the top teams in the SEC enter this game coming off of losses, three losses in the case of the Aggies. Both teams need this win, but probably more so LSU. Texas A&M has a great resume despite this three-game skid, while LSU is squarely on the bubble. A win in this one would improve their tourney hopes.
Player to Watch: Texas A&M F Tyler Davis – The freshman forward scored a career high-tying 18 points the last time these two teams met, but he has struggled during this losing streak. If he can get back on track, they’ll have a good chance to get the win.
Prediction: The Aggies won the last meeting 71-57, but they are struggling big time right now. LSU needs the victory, and I expect Ben Simmons to carry his team to the win.
#18 Purdue @ Michigan
When: Sat 2/13, 2:00 pm ESPN2
Why: The return of guard Caris LeVert couldn’t come at a better time for Michigan, who has lost two of their last three, with both losses coming on their home floor. On Saturday they host a Purdue team that is near the top of the conference, and is coming off a huge overtime win over Michigan State.
Player to Watch: Michigan G Caris LeVert – Should have predicted this one. LeVert has missed the last 11 games for the Wolverines, and he was their leading scorer at the time of his injury. He returns on Saturday, and I’ll be looking to see how effective he can be in his return.
Prediction: This would be a huge win for Michigan, but they are struggling right now, and they’ll need to integrate LeVert back into the lineup. Purdue is a really good team, and should be able to take advantage of Michigan getting LeVert back into the rotation.
#5 Xavier @ Butler
When: Sat 2/13, 2:30 pm FOX
Why: Another big battle in the Big East, Butler is on the Bubble and needs every win they can get. They also need to protect their home floor no matter who they face. Xavier is coming off a difficult loss to Creighton, but they are still one of the best teams in the country. I expect a shootout in this one.
Player to Watch: Butler G Kellen Dunham – Dunham is one of the best three-point shooters in the Big East. Xavier is hard to beat in the paint, so Butler will need Dunham to have a good game on the perimeter.
Prediction: I think Butler will play really well, but Xavier is coming off a loss, and they are trying to get a 1-seed in the tournament. I’ll take the Musketeers on the road.
#6 Kansas @ #3 Oklahoma
When: Sat 2/13, 2:30 pm ESPN
Why: A sequel to the best game we’ve seen this season. That’s more than enough of a reason to tune in for this one. The two top teams in the Big 12 go at it one more time. Kansas is looking for the season sweep, while Oklahoma looks for revenge on their home floor.
Player to Watch: Oklahoma G Buddy Hield – It’s easy to tell you to watch Hield, but in the previous meeting with Kansas, the favorite for National Player of the Year went for 46 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He did everything in his power to get Oklahoma the win, so look for him to do the same on Saturday.
Prediction: I personally don’t enjoy cheering for either of these teams, but I’m excited for this one. Oklahoma is too good to lose to Kansas again though. Give me the Sooners at home.
#13 Louisville @ Notre Dame
When: Sat 2/13, 4:00 pm ESPN2
Why: One of these teams is quickly improving their tournament resume while the other team announced last week that they are self-imposing a postseason ban for 2016. Notre Dame knocked off North Carolina last weekend, and now they’ll look for another big win over a Louisville team that is trying to keep their spirits up as they look for an ACC regular season championship.
Player to Watch: Notre Dame F Zach Auguste – Auguste has double-doubles in four of ND’s last seven games. Louisville plays great interior defense, so if Auguste has a good game, the Irish have a chance to win this one.
Prediction: This is a battle between a great offensive team and a great defensive team, so it’ll come down to the opposite. I think Louisville’s offense is better than Notre Dame’s defense, so I think Louisville will be able to get the victory in this one.
#7 Virginia @ Duke
When: Sat 2/13, 4:30 pm ESPN
Why: Virginia has been one of the hottest teams in the country, but they have struggled on the road this season. Duke has won three straight games after losing four of five, and next week, they’ll make trips to North Carolina and Louisville, so they could use this home win over Virginia.
Player to Watch: Duke G Grayson Allen – Allen is under fire after he appeared to intentionally trip a Louisville player during their last game. People are saying he’s the next in a long line of universally hated Duke players. I’m interested to see how Allen plays given the criticism.
Prediction: This will be one of the best defensive teams that Duke has faced this year, and Virginia is a veteran-laden team that won’t be intimidated by the Cameron Crazies. I like Virginia to get the win in this one.
#24 Texas @ #14 Iowa State
When: Sat 2/13, 8:30 pm ESPN
Why: The co-main event in Big 12 action on Saturday will see the surging Texas Longhorns try to become just the 4th different team in the last four seasons to win at Hilton Coliseum. Shaka Smart’s Longhorns nearly knocked off Oklahoma in Norman this past week, and they will be a tough test for the Cyclones.
Player to Watch: Iowa State F Jameel McKay – McKay is returning from a 2-game suspension stemming from an incident at practice, and he’ll have a difficult test going up against Texas C Prince Ibeh. McKay’s return should have an impact on this game.
Prediction: Iowa State lost a tough one in overtime to Texas Tech this week, and they’re looking to bounce-back on their home floor. I think Texas is the better team right now, but Hilton Magic is a strange thing, and I think it will help Iowa State get the victory.
Gonzaga @ #16 SMU
When: Sat 2/13, 10:00 pm ESPN2
Why: A huge non-conference battle in Dallas will see SMU try to avoid a losing streak, after they fell to American Conference foe Tulsa on Wednesday night. Gonzaga is battling with Saint Mary’s for the WCC crown, but their at-large profile is a little suspect. They could really use a road victory over a Top-25 team.
Player to Watch: SMU PG Nic Moore – Moore is one of the best point guards in the country, and he is the favorite for American Conference Player of the Year. I’m not sure if Gonzaga has a guard talented enough to guard Moore, and I think he could take over this game.
Prediction: The worst thing that could have happened for Gonzaga was SMU losing to Tulsa. SMU lost to Tulsa. I can’t see the Mustangs losing two in a row, and I think they are better than the Bulldogs. SMU should win this one.
Pittsburgh @ #9 North Carolina
When: Sun 2/14, 1:00 pm ESPN3
Why: North Carolina is not playing like North Carolina right now. They lost back-to-back games to Louisville and Notre Dame, and then followed that by just barely squeaking past Boston College, who is winless in ACC play. They will face a tough Pitt team who has struggled in ACC play. The Tar Heels hope to get back on track in their return home.
Player to Watch: North Carolina PG Marcus Paige – Paige’s shooting struggles this season are well-documented, but he is 8-14 from three-point range in UNC’s last two games. He’ll need to shoot well again if the Tar Heels are going to win this one.
Prediction: North Carolina is too talented for their struggles to continue, and I don’t think Pitt is a good enough team to go into Chapel Hill and get the win.
Indiana @ #8 Michigan State
When: Sun 2/14, 1:00 pm CBS
Why: Indiana got a huge win last night over #4 Iowa, as their success at home against ranked teams continued. They’ll hit the road on Sunday to face a Michigan State team that made a furious comeback in West Lafayette against Purdue, only to come up one point short in overtime.
Player to Watch: Indiana PG Yogi Ferrell – Ferrell is the straw that stirs the drink for the Hoosiers, and Michigan State is playing without their starting point guard TumTum Nairn. Nairn would have given Ferrell some defensive fits, but I’ll look for him to have a big game with Nairn on the shelf.
Prediction: Indiana will give Michigan State a good game, but the Spartans should get the win at home coming off a loss. Their three-game losing streak earlier in the season was a fluke, as this is a national title contender.
#23 USC @ #17 Arizona
When: Sun 2/14, 8:00 pm FS1
Why: The biggest game in the Pac-12 this weekend will see the Arizona Wildcats host the surprising USC Trojans on Sunday night in a rematch of a quadruple-overtime epic in early January that saw the Trojans get the 103-101 victory, their best win to date. These are two tournament teams looking to jockey for position in the Pac-12.
Player to Watch: USC G Elijah Stewart – Stewart led the way for USC in the first meeting, scoring 27 points off the bench, which included 5-8 shooting from three-point range. Stewart has scored in double-figures in five straight, and they’ll look for another big performance from him in this one.
Prediction: The first meeting was a barn-burner, and I hope that this one is no different. But Arizona is playing great basketball right now, and at home, I like them to get the win.
That’s it for the weekend preview. I hope you all get a chance to watch some of these games this weekend, and I hope you spread the love this Valentine’s Day!