By Steve Silverman
Saturday, March 3
Notre Dame (18-12, 8-9) at No. 1 Virginia (27-2, 16-1), 4 p.m. ET, ACCNE
This has been an injury-riddled year for the Irish and they have become a middle-of-the-pack ACC team after being closer to the top in recent years. Still, head coach Mike Brey always finds a way to get the most out of his team, and a victory here could go a long way towards securing an NCAA berth.
It will be difficult to come up with a win here against the No. 1 team in the nation on the road, but the Irish have bounced back in recent weeks to go 5-2 after losing seven in a row. Star Bonzie Colson is back after missing two months with a broken bone in his left foot, and he had 12 points and nine rebounds in Notre Dame’s 73-56 win over Pittsburgh Wednesday.
Colson has played 15 games this season and is averaging 20.7 points per game, while senior guard Matt Farrell is averaging 17.1 points per night.
Virginia found itself down by 10 points Thursday night against Louisville, but the Cavs staged a remarkable comeback and picked up a 67-66 victory. Kyle Guy averages 14.3 points per game, while Devon Hall and Ty Jerome are both averaging in double figures. Virginia is never out of a game because of its rock-ribbed defense and its ability to come through with big shots down the stretch.
Georgetown (15-13, 5-12) at No. 4 Villanova (26-4, 13-4), 5 p.m. ET, FOX
The Georgetown Hoyas still have a magical name around college basketball, but only because of their history under former head coach John Thompson and the brilliant teams he had during the Hoyas’ memorable run in the 1980s.
Georgetown is no longer a power, and this game is not likely to be overly competitive. However, it’s important to examine Villanova at this point in the year. The Wildcats are a potential championship team in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but Jay Wright’s team is just 4-3 in its last seven games.
It’s time for Villanova to turn it up a couple of notches and prepare for a long postseason run. That means taking care of business against a team they should dominate.
Jalen Brunson is a strong candidate for player of the year, and he is averaging 19.1 points per game and connecting on 52.6 percent of his shots from the field for the Wildcats. Mikal Bridges is contributing 17.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. The Wildcats have plenty of depth with Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth and Omari Spellman, and that’s why they could win their second NCAA title in three years.
Georgetown is led by center Jesse Govan, who is averaging 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
No. 9 North Carolina (22-8, 11-6) at No. 5 Duke (24-6, 12-5), 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
While this version of one of college basketball’s best matchups is not a battle for the No. 1 position in the nation or the ACC, both of these teams want this game for psychological purposes as they prepare for the postseason.
North Carolina defeated Duke at Chapel Hill by an 82-78 score earlier this season, and now Duke will try to win on its homecourt.
Neither of these teams have asserted themselves this season. While they have looked good in their wins, both have let winnable games slip through their grasp. North Carolina has had problems on the defensive end as opponents have had some excellent shooting games against them. Miami shot 55 percent from the floor, and that’s not what is usually expected from this team.
Duke’s problems are on the offensive side, and while college basketball fans are used to seeing a smooth-functioning machine, the Blue Devils have not reached that level this season.
Joel Berry II and Luke Maye are averaging 18.2 and 17.9 ppg, respectively for North Carolina, while Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III is averaging 20.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Grayson Allen is averaging 15.5 points per game and is not afraid to take the last shot for the Blue Devils.
Sunday, March 4
No. 10 Cincinnati (26-4, 15-2) at No. 11 Wichita State (24-5, 14-3), 12 noon ET, CBS
The Cincinnati Bearcats and the Wichita State Shockers are atop the American Athletic Conference and this appears to be one of the best games of the final weekend of the regular season.
Neither of these teams generally get the respect they deserve. They don’t come from one of the nation’s glamour conferences, and that’s a double-edged sword. The lack of attention means they will be able to play in the tournament without the burden of heavy expectations.
The Bearcats have won three games in a row since losing to Wichita State 76-72 at home, and they are led by Jacob Evans and Gary Clark. Those two are averaging 13.3 and 12.8 points respectively.
The Shockers have reeled off seven straight victories, and they also have a solid one-two scoring punch. Landry Shamet is averaging 14.5 points and connecting on 48.7 percent of his shots from the field, while Shaquille Morris is scoring 14.2 ppg and hitting 56.2 percent of his shots.