Remember last weekend when we got you all excited for Wichita State-Illinois State and it ended up being a horrible game? The odds of that happening again are pretty much zero because IT’S GONZAGA SAINT MARY’S WEEKEND BABY LET’S GO!
The greatest rivalry in all the land (don’t @ me) takes centerstage Saturday night as the GameDay crew stops by Moraga to cover the madness.
But that’s not all we have this weekend. Ever hear of Marcus Keene? Ever hear of the Nevada Wolf Pack? Ever hear of the NCAA releasing the top 16 teams, as it sees them, weeks before Selection Sunday?
Here’s everything you need to pay attention to:
5 Games to watch:
Old Dominion at UAB, Sat., 8 p.m., American Sports Network
If west coast thrillers don’t do it for you, give this game a look. KenPom says these two teams are just about equal, but they find success in different ways. UAB is efficient on offense, taking and making higher-percentage shots. Old Dominion likes to slow things way down and defends inside the arc as well as anyone in the league.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, Sat., 8:15 p.m., ESPN
The game of the weekend. The biggest roadblock standing between Gonzaga and an undefeated regular season. ESPN College GameDay is going to be at this one, so it gets primetime billing on the Worldwide Leader. The Bulldogs won the first meeting between these teams by 23, but that was in Spokane, and the Gaels haven’t lost since.
BYU at San Francisco, Sat., 11 p.m., ROOT Sports
When the Zags and Gaels are done, head over to ROOT Sports for another WCC game, this one between two teams tied for third in the conference. Neither has a shot at an at-large bid, but both have a chance to avoid facing Gonzaga in the conference tournament until the finals. BYU won the first matchup by 10.
Wichita State at Loyola-Chicago, Sun., 4 p.m., ESPNU
Wichita State hasn’t lost since mid-January and is a week removed from a 41-point rout of second-place Illinois State. The Shockers, in short, are the team to beat in the Missouri Valley. Loyola-Chicago is the only KenPom top 100 team in the Valley other than the Shockers and Redbirds, but the Ramblers have lost three straight games by a total of nine points.
Nevada at San Diego State, Sun., 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network
This is the toughest game remaining on Nevada’s schedule and one that the Wolf Pack need if they want any shot at an at-large bid. Their home win over the Aztecs earlier in the year is their best on their schedule, so adding one on the road can only help what is a weak resume. The Aztecs are having a mediocre year, but it is never easy to come out of Viejas Arena with a win.
4 more to stream:
Harvard at Yale, Sat., 7 p.m., ESPN3
New Mexico State at Grand Canyon, Sat., 9 p.m., ESPN3
Vermont at UMBC, Sun., 1 p.m., ESPN3
Northern Iowa at Missouri State, Sun., 4 p.m., ESPN3
4 Players to watch:
Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Well we had to give you someone from the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s game to watch, right? So how about Zach Collins? The 7-foot freshman is hard to miss, and ranks second in the WCC in offensive rating, first in defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage, and fourth in free throw percentage.
Milton Doyle, Loyola-Chicago
In a conference that’s been dominated this year by Wichita State and Illinois State, Doyle has not gotten enough recognition. That could change if the Ramblers take down the Shockers at home on Sunday. Doyle has scored in double figures in every game this year, including a 23-point, seven-rebound, eight-assist performance in their first game against the Shockers.
Siyani Chambers, Harvard
It’s been a while since we talked about Chambers, and frankly that is unacceptable. The Crimson have a big opportunity this weekend against Yale, but Chambers has been inconsistent. That said, he can still light it up or distribute when needed. He’s had three double-digit assist games this year, with nine games in double figures scoring.
Anthony Lamb, Vermont
There aren’t many freshmen in the country who have been as important to their team as Lamb has been to the Catamounts. Thursday, he scored 26 points on 9-16 shooting to go with 13 rebounds. He’s been the team’s KenPom MVP in three of Vermont’s last four games and is second in the America East in percentage of possessions used.
3 Storylines to follow:
The top 16
Saturday, for the first time ever during the regular season, the NCAA will release what it views as the top 16 teams in the nation. The equates to the top four NCAA Tournament seeds, if Saturday were Selection Sunday. Gonzaga will most definitely be on the No. 1 line, but who will join them? It’s not likely that Saint Mary’s will make the top 16, at least for now, but a win Saturday night could change that. We will be releasing our prediction Saturday morning.
Rivalry Week extends beyond Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s
Yeah, we’re all excited for the Bulldogs and Gaels. In fact, I’m counting down the hours. But there’s much more to Rivalry Week, and Saturday specifically, than just that game. I’m talking about Harvard-Yale. Sure, the rivalry is known better on the football field, but it takes on extra significance this season in basketball, as both the Crimson and Bulldogs are in the hunt for the Ivy regular season title and a spot in the inaugural conference tournament. Harvard needs a win badly, having lost two out of three, while the Bulldogs have won four straight.
Streaks on the line
One big winning streak was snapped Thursday night when Cal St. Bakersfield throttled New Mexico State, handing the Aggies their first loss since Nov. 18. But a few other big winning streaks remain: Gonzaga’s (obviously), Vermont’s, and Belmont’s. The Catamounts came back to beat New Hampshire Thursday night for their 14th straight victory and travel to UMBC Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile the Bruins will go for No. 14 in a row against Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
2 Questions we have:
Who is Middle Tennessee’s biggest challenger in Conference USA?
UTEP’s upset win over Middle Tennessee a week ago gave the rest of Conference USA a glimmer of hope at catching the Blue Raiders. Louisiana Tech sits in second place, two games back, and should be able to beat UTSA on the road. UAB and Old Dominion are in third and fourth place respectively, and face each other on Saturday.
How many points will Marcus Keene score this weekend?
We wrote about Marcus Keene last week and suddenly everyone wants to talk about him. Are we taking credit? No (yes). A mediocre Central Michigan team faces a bad Miami Ohio team on Saturday, the same team Keene lit up for 50 points earlier in the year.
1 more unbeaten:
With BYU in free fall, Saint Mary’s is the last real challenge on Gonzaga’s schedule. After that, KenPom gives the Bulldogs a 98 percent chance or better at winning each of its remaining games: at home against San Francisco, Pacific, and the Cougars, and on the road at San Diego. Remember, San Diego is the team that managed just 27 points against the Gaels earlier this week.
This weekend: at Saint Mary’s
KenPom’s unbeaten probability: 56.3%