Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2013

Ranking the Must-See NCAA Basketball Games This Weekend

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    Before all of the national attention shifts to the Super Bowl on Sunday, there are plenty of great college basketball games to be played on Saturday. 

    This weekend's slate of college basketball games is highlighted by a showdown in the Big 10 between two of the top three teams in the nation. 

    Also featuring in the top games to watch this weekend are showdowns in the ACC, SEC and MAC. 

    Here is the complete list of the 10 best games that college basketball has to offer this weekend. 


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    The first and easiest of the factors that play into the determination of the weekly rankings is a game between two teams in the AP Top 25. 

    While there are plenty of strong major conference matchups between ranked teams this week, one mid-major battle between two very strong conference foes makes the list as well. 

    As always, this list includes the brutal road trips into hostile environments that are made by the best teams in the nation.

    Also included in this week's list are games that feature teams like Illinois and Texas A&M who are desperately in need of a win and will have to succeed against strong conference rivals to break their recent losing spells.


10. George Mason at James Madison

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: No National Television 

    The CAA presents us with a strong mid-major matchup between two teams that are chasing the top spot in the league standings. 

    George Mason (12-9, 5-4) defeated James Madison (13-10, 7-3) earlier this season in Fairfax but now the Patriots will look to take down the Dukes on the road. 

    The Patriots failed to beat CAA leaders Northeastern in their two games with the Huskies this season, and a win over James Madison on Saturday will help them cement their spot in second place in the CAA. 

    The star of the George Mason team is junior guard Sherrod Wright, who leads the team in scoring with 18.1 points per game. 

    An away win over James Madison would add to the Patriots' resume, which is looking even better due to their success over Virginia, who the Patriots defeated in the opening game of the season.

    The Dukes faced a minor slip-up in CAA play during the middle of January with losses to George Mason and Towson. 

    However, the second-place team in the CAA standings has recovered with four consecutive victories, a streak that they will look to extend with a win at the JMU Convocation Center over the Patriots. 

    This will be a hotly-contested game but expect the home team to come out on top. 

9. Baylor at Iowa State

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    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPNU

    The race for second place in the Big 12 continues in Ames, Iowa when the Baylor Bears (14-6, 5-2) visit the Iowa State Cyclones (14-6, 4-3). 

    Baylor' suffered their second conference loss on Wednesday night to Oklahoma, a defeat that makes the Bears open for criticism. 

    The Bears have lost two conference games to two of the best teams in the Big 12 while all five of their wins have come against teams that are beneath them in the standings. 

    The Bears are one of the most underrated teams in the nation, and they possess a strong point guard in Pierre Jackson to compliment a trio of impressive big men including Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers. 

    Iowa State announced to the conference that they are for real when they took down Kansas State last weekend at home.

    The Cyclones can climb into second place in the Big 12 with a win over Baylor at home on Saturday. 

    Fred Hoiberg's team has developed into a deep, well-rounded group with five players now averaging over 10 points per game.

    That group of players is led by senior guard Will Clyburn, who unleashed a 24-point performance in the win over Kansas State. 

    Expect the Bears and Cyclones to leave everything on the floor but at the end of the game expect the Cyclones to come out on top.

8. St. John's at Georgetown

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: CBS

    A classic Big East clash takes place at the Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon between St. John's (14-7, 6-3) and Georgetown (15-4, 5-3).

    Since their loss at home to the Hoyas on January 12, Steve Lavin's Red Storm has pulled off a string of five straight wins.

    The five-game winning streak has boosted the Red Storm into third place in the Big East standings. 

    D'Angelo Harrison has emerged as the top player on the St. John's roster this season with 19.8 points per game. 

    However, Harrison only scored a combined 15 points in key games against Georgetown and Notre Dame in the middle of January. 

    The Hoyas stumbled out of the gates during Big East play with two straight losses before defeating the Red Storm in New York three weeks ago. 

    Since their first Big East win, the Hoyas have taken down two ranked teams, Notre Dame and Louisville. 

    For the Hoyas to pull off their second win of the season over St. John's, they will need strong performances from not only leading scorer Otto Porter but from Markel Starks as well. 

7. Wisconsin at Illinois

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    When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: Big Ten Network 

    One of the final games of the weekend takes place at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois.

    Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3) and Illinois (15-7, 2-6) are both suffering from rough patches in Big 10 play, and both teams desperately need a victory.

    The Badgers have lost three of the last four games including Tuesday's loss to Ohio State in Columbus.

    Bo Ryan's team also fell to Iowa and Michigan State over the last 10 days with a one-point win over Minnesota mixed into their putrid spell of results.

    The Badgers will now look to replicate their January 12 win against Illinois on Sunday to get back on track in conference play.

    John Groce's Fighting Illini team has had a more than disappointing start to conference play.

    Not only have the Illini lost to ranked teams like Michigan and Minnesota, but they have also lost to Purdue and Northwestern, two teams that they should have easily beat.

    There is no doubt that Illinois needs a victory on Sunday more than their visitors.

    For the Illini to win, they will need a career performance from Brandon Paul, who has scored over 20 points in eight games this season.

6. Kentucky at Texas A&M

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    When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    One of the most surprising results from the college basketball season took place in the first game between Kentucky (14-6, 5-2) and Texas A&M (13-7, 3-4) when the Aggies went into Rupp Arena and defeated the defending champions. 

    Since losing to the Aggies, John Calipari's Wildcats have won four of their last five games including a big win over Ole Miss on Tuesday night. 

    In the last five games, Kyle Wiltjer has emerged as a true leader on the court with four double-digit point performances including a season-high 26 against Ole Miss. 

    Nerlens Noel has also evolved into a strong defensive presence for the Wildcats after the freshman recorded 12 blocks against Ole Miss and 13 rebounds against Alabama in the past few weeks. 

    The Aggies have plummeted down the SEC standings since defeating the Wildcats in Lexington. 

    After falling to beat quality teams in Florida and Alabama, the Aggies lost to Georgia and LSU to see their conference record plummet. 

    Luckily for the Aggies, they rebounded on Wednesday night with a win over Mississippi State. 

    While the Aggies are looking to pull off another upset to resurrect their season, Kentucky are on a mission to prove themselves to the nation.

    Expect Kentucky to pull off the win in College Station and continue their track towards the top of the SEC standings. 

5. No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Louisville

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    When: Sunday, 2 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN 

    The Big East provides us with a very intriguing matchup on Sunday between two teams that are headed in different directions.

    No. 25 Marquette (15-4, 6-1) are in search of their second win over ranked opposition in the Big East this season while No. 12 Louisville (17-4, 5-3) are trying to recover from a brutal stretch of losses.

    The Golden Eagles have surged up the Big East standings by beating the teams that they are supposed to beat.

    Now, Buzz Williams' team will face a tough test as they visit the KFC Yum! Arena to play the Cardinals.

    Vander Blue has turned into the main provider of points for the Golden Eagles during conference play with his 11 against Seton Hall being the lowest point total he has achieved in seven Big East games.

    Louisville suffered through a three-game losing streak over the past 10 days but recovered from their losing ways on Monday with a win over Pittsburgh.

    With a rough patch seemingly out of their way, the Cardinals will now have to focus on reclaiming their spot in the top two of the conference standings.

    For that to happen, the Cardinals must receive a strong performance from senior guard Peyton Siva, who has been non-existent in recent weeks.

    If Marquette take the same game plan that Syracuse took into the KFC Yum! Arena, they will be able to banish the Cardinals into the mediocrity that is the middle of the pack in the Big East.  

4. Ohio at Akron

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    When: Saturday, 5 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPNU

    The MAC gets thrown into the national spotlight on Saturday night when its two best teams square off in Akron, Ohio.

    Saturday's clash between the Ohio Bobcats (15-5, 6-0) and the Akron Zips (16-4, 7-0) will most likely be a matchup that we see in the conference tournament final to determine who advances to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. 

    Neither team had a spectacular performance in nonconference play but they have both stepped up their play since MAC action began. 

    The Bobcats are led by senior guard D.J. Cooper who leads the team in points (14.6) and assists (8.2) per game. 

    Accompanying Cooper as stars in the Ohio lineup are two other seniors, forward Reggie Keely and guard Walter Offutt, two players who both average over 11 points per game. 

    The Zips also possess an effective senior leader on their roster in forward Zeke Marshall. 

    Marshall, who averages 12.6 points per game, does have a knack for getting into foul trouble during conference play.

    In three conference games this season, foul trouble has hurt the performance of Marshall.

    The latest occurrence of Marshall's foul trouble came on Saturday against Buffalo where he was limited to just eight points in the Zips' victory. 

    If the Bobcats are able to shut down the productivity of Marshall, they should come out of Akron with a win. 

    If Marshall stays out of foul trouble, expect Akron to take the first of the two MAC showdowns this year between the two teams. 

3. No. 14 Miami (FL) at No. 19 NC State

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    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: CBS

    The biggest game in the ACC this weekend comes to us from the PNC Arena where the conference's best team squares off against the most inconsistent team in the nation.

    No. 14 Miami (FL) (16-3, 7-0) proved their worth to the country with a blowout win over Duke last week at home.

    Now, the Hurricanes face a difficult road trip to Raleigh to take on the No. 19 NC State Wolfpack (16-5, 5-3). 

    The Hurricanes boast five players who are averaging over 10 points per game. 

    Since the return of senior center Reggie Johnson to the lineup, Jim Larranaga's team has been unstoppable.

    The Wolfpack once again solidified their status as the nation's most inconsistent team with a loss at Virginia on Tuesday night. 

    Mark Gottfried's team has also lost road games in ACC play to Maryland and Wake Forest.

    At home, NC State defeated their two biggest conference rivals, Duke and North Carolina. 

    If recent trends hold, the Wolfpack will be ready and raring to go at home against the Hurricanes and they could knock the Hurricanes off the post as the lone conference unbeaten. 

2. No. 16 Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida

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    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPNU

    The O'Connell Center will be rocking on Saturday night as the No. 4 Florida Gators (17-2, 7-0) look to remain undefeated in the SEC.

    Their visitors on Saturday will be the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (17-3, 6-1) who lost their spot on top of the SEC standings on Tuesday night when they fell to Kentucky at home.

    The Rebels contain of the most polarizing characters in college basketball in guard Marshall Henderson. 

    The junior guard is one of the top scorers in the conference with 19.3 points per game but he also possesses a mean temper. 

    Billy Donovan's Gators are one of the most complete teams in the nation, and they have proved themselves as the top class of the SEC with seven blowout wins in conference play. 

    The deep Gators roster is led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, who is the team's leading scorer with 13.6 points per game. 

    However, the Gators possess plenty of other talented contributors like center Patric Young and forward Erik Murphy, who have both developed into reliable scoring machines.

    The most important player on the Gators roster may be Will Yeguete, who is one of the best defenders in the nation.

    If the Rebels want to shock the Gators at home, they will need Henderson to score at least 25 points, and they will have to hold the Gators to under 70 points.

1. No. 1 Michigan at No. 3 Indiana

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    When: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

    Where to Watch: ESPN

    There is no doubt that the game of the week comes to us from Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana as the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines (20-1, 7-1) visit the No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers (19-2, 7-1).

    The Wolverines are in possession of the number one position in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1992, and they are looking to hold on to the position for more than a week.

    Since losing to Ohio State on January 13, John Beilein's team has responded well with four dominant wins over Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois and Northwestern. 

    Beilein has a solid group of six players that he can rely on to score points; that group is led by guard Trey Burke, who averages a team-leading 17.9 points per game.

    The Hoosiers suffered a tough loss to Wisconsin at home on January 15 and just like their visitors on Saturday, they have responded well with four consecutive wins. 

    Tom Crean's team also possesses plenty of scoring options that include leading scorer Cody Zeller and sharpshooter Jordan Hulls. 

    Another player who has developed into a star of late has been Victor Oladipo, who has delivered a double digit point performance in all but one of the Hoosiers' Big 10 games. 

    This is game is too close to predict, and it will most likely come down to the wire and become one of the best games of the season. 

    What do you think is the best game of the weekend?

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.