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Saturday Preview: Wichita State and resurgent UNI lead off a packed day

Also: Conference leaders face off all over the South.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Northern Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Saturday, and at least where I’m at, it’s beautiful outside.

But that doesn’t mean a significant portion of the day shouldn’t be dedicated to college basketball. So let’s try to optimize our time. Here are the games, story lines and watching/streaming information to know:

Northern Iowa at Wichita State | 12:00 PM ET | ESPN2

For the second season in a row, Ben Jacobson has worked a revival. UNI looked dead at 5-11, and 0-5 in the MVC. But it’s just over a month later, and the Panthers have won nine out of ten games to make the “UNI crashes Arch Madness” narrative start to take form. Big man Bennett Koch has been great over that stretch, scoring in double figures in each of UNI’s nine wins. The Panthers get the ultimate test today in Wichita. Of the Shockers’ slew of quality players, Shaq Morris may be one to especially watch. The junior has dominated the paint in MVC play, averaging 9.9 points per game and posting the second best defensive rebounding rate in the league (27.9%).

Liberty at Winthrop | 2:00 PM ET | American Sports Network

Much of the Big South attention on this site has been focused on UNC Asheville and Winthrop. And for good reason. But it’d be a disservice to forget about the Flames. Liberty is tied atop the league with UNCA at 13-2, and has been dangerously balanced in conference play, posting the second-best offensive and defensive efficiency. The 12-3 Eagles can pull even with a win, and won the first game between the teams on Jan. 21.

UT-Arlington at Georgia State | 2:15 PM ET | ESPN3

Remember when Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Arkansas State were running away with the Sun Belt? Remember when UT-Arlington was off to a mildly-disappointing league start? Times have changed. Recent chaos at the top has the former front-runners all holding four losses, and the Mavericks leading the way at 9-3. The two teams’ only regular season meeting takes place in Atlanta. Can the Panthers get back on track after back-to-back losses, or will Kevin Hervey and the Mavericks continue their ascension?

Other plan-cancelling-worthy games:

  • KenPom gives Gonzaga a 99.9 percent chance (literally) of beating Pacific at home. But hey, there’s always that 0.1 percent. (Pacific at Gonzaga | 4:00 PM ET | CampusInsiders.com)
  • There’s a SoCon bonanza today as the top four teams all play each other. (UNC Greensboro at Furman | 4:00 PM ET | ESPN3) (ETSU at Chattanooga | 5:00 PM ET | ESPN3)
  • Georgia Southern is 2-4 after its 7-0 Sun Belt start (sorry Eagles), but still very much in the mix. Texas State’s KenPom rating is north of 200, but the Bobcats are right there as well at 8-4. (Texas State at Georgia Southern | 5:00 PM ET | ESPN3).
  • Middle Tennessee is running away with CUSA at 13-1 but gets its toughest remaining regular season test at up-tempo Marshall (MTSU at Marshall | 6:00 PM ET | American Sports Network)
  • New Mexico State’s 20-game winning streak is done, twice over. The Aggies try to get on track against a Vaqueros’ team that has a dynamic scoring duo in Nick Dixon and Antonio Green, but has only beaten Chicago State in WAC play. (NMSU at UTRGV | 8:00 PM ET | Spectrum Sports Texas)
  • Try as it might, BYU was not able to get Saint Mary’s out of its plodding pace the first time the teams met in a Gaels win. The return game is in Provo, where the Cougars can boost what seems like a slightly underwhelming season. (Saint Mary’s at BYU | 10:00 PM ET | ESPN2)