Weekend College Hoops
News flash: This final regular-season weekend for a bunch of College Basketball "name" teams will be a real litmus test of what's straight ahead when the NCAA Tournament begins later this month ... the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State and Houston all play in high-profile games this weekend and should we at all be surprised if one or more of 'em appear in next month's Final Four in Minneapolis?
Of course not, should be your response!
There's plenty of big-time games out-and-about this weekend including the likes of #5 Tennessee at Auburn, Florida at #6 Kentucky and Louisville at #2 Virginia on Saturday along with a Sunday showdown between #21 Wisconsin at Ohio State but in today's weekend edition we'll concentrate on the three biggest blockbuster games on the docket. So here goes ...
On Saturday, it's ...
#4 DUKE (26-4, 14-3) at #3 NORTH CAROLINA (25-5, 15-2) - 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Put an "X" next to the name of Duke freshman phenom Zion Williamson ... he won't be playing in this titanic Tobacco Road showdown as he continues to rehab his injured ankle that he suffered in the first Carolina / Duke game back on Feb. 20th. No one will forget the start of that game when Williamson's Nike sneaker busted and down he went - truth of the matter is the Blue Devils have not been the same since and there are more than a few folks with raised eyebrows believing the hunky lefty is "playing it safe" because his lucrative pro career is just months away. So, without Williamson you can expect Duke - a 3-point underdog here in Chapel Hill -- to ask more from freshman RJ Barrett (23.3 ppg) and a rather shallow bench that could be coach Mike Krzyzewski's "Waterloo" this 2018-19 season.
P.S., the UNC Tar Heels zoom into this tilt on a six-game winning streak and currently share first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Virginia - consider if Carolina wins here and then wins the ACC Tournament, you can bet your bottom dollar that Roy Williams' squad will be a #1 seed and maybe even THE #1 seed overall in the "Big Dance".
Spread Stats - North Carolina has covered nine of its last 14 games overall while Duke has failed to cover five of its last seven games.
#7 MICHIGAN (26-4, 15-4) at #9 MICHIGAN STATE (24-6, 15-4) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Just like in the Duke vs. Carolina game up above, there's injury news at the forefront of this Big 10 clash in East Lansing as Michigan PG Charles Matthews (sprained ankle back on Feb. 24th) is a question mark for this prime-time game. The difference being that, while the absence of Duke's Williamson has caused major havoc for that Durham club, the maize-and-blue have marched in lock-step since Matthews went down with recent back-to-back wins/covers against Maryland and Nebraska. Go ahead and credit Michigan head coach John Beilein - yes, he's still on our short list of best coaches in the country though right now we'd have to place a vote for Houston boss Kelvin Sampson as National Coach of the Year - but if the visiting/ 4.5-point underdog Wolverines are gonna get revenge for that 77-70 home loss to Michigan State back on Feb.24th, then G Jordan Poole must be a stat-sheet stuffer and Michigan must board better and tighten up the paint area.
Spread Stats - Michigan State is an electric 21-9 versus the vig overall this year while Michigan's a solid 17-13 against the odds.
On Sunday, it's ...
#12 HOUSTON (28-2, 15-2) at #20 CINCINNATI (25-5, 14-3) - 12 p.m. ET, CBS
Here's the lowdown: The Houston Cougars sport the country's 12th-best defense - that goes right along with the #12 current ranking in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll - and all the talk is where the Coogs will be seeded in the upcoming NCAA Tournament (we say they're a #3 seed but it could be upgraded to a #2).
Houston's Corey Davis, Jr. (16.2 ppg) and Armoni Brooks (13.7 ppg) are the only double-digit per-game scorers for aforementioned boss-man Sampson but it says here that if Cincinnati shoots 35 percent or less from the floor, then Houston will win by more than a handful.
Spread Stats - Houston enters this C-USA clash at 18-10-2 ATS (against the spread) though the Coogs are facing the possibility of their first three-game spread losing streak this year; Cincinnati has stumbled badly with a current seven-game spread losing skein.
Here's more NCAA hoops news ...
There's a handful of teams that head into this weekend's action needing two - or more - wins between now and Selection Sunday or else they're not even gonna be in the "conversation" for an invite. Here's the teams in question:
N.C. State (20-10) - Let's face it, the Wolfpack have not exactly won many big-time games save for a mid-February triumph over Syracuse. The Pack better win at 2.5-point dog Boston College and then at least one ACC Tournament tilt ... or else.
Creighton (17-13) - There's a whole lot of confusion as to whether or not the Big East Conference deserves more than just a couple of teams into the NCAA Tournament but we say these Bluejays are still alive providing they beat DePaul and then at least one mini-tourney foe.
Indiana (16-14) - We touched on the Hoosiers in yesterday's Jim Sez following their runaway win at Illinois on Thursday night and now we'll reiterate: Indy needs to beat Rutgers on Sunday and then snag at least one Big 10 Tourney triumph to get into the mix even though IU owns recent wins against Michigan State and Wisconsin.
San Diego State (19-11) - No reason to give up on the SDSU Aztecs just yet despite that two-point home loss against Fresno State this past Wednesday. If San Diego State can win at Nevada - or two games in this week's Mountain West Conference Tourney - they'll have an NCAA Tourney berth.
Oregon (18-12) - The Pac-12 detractors out there buried the Ducks long ago but this club's won three in a row and we say two more "W's" will get 'em a bid though the final regular-season game is Saturday's tilt at Washington ... so maybe Oregon's gonna have to win two Pac-10 Tourney games.