Baylor gets its chance to prove it is worthy of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it hosts Kansas on Saturday as one of many important matchups on top over weekend.
It’s pretty clear Gonzaga, Kansas and defending national champion Villanova will be slotted as No. 1 seeds by the NCAA Tournament committee, barring massive slides down the stretch.
The fourth top seed is a bit tougher to determine, though.
Will one team from the Pac-12 trio of Oregon, Arizona or UCLA secure it? Can red-hot Duke get enough momentum to get the committee’s selection?
How about Baylor? The Bears were the committee’s choice when it revealed it’s early top four seeds in each region last Saturday, but roughly 48 hours later they lost to Texas Tech. After back-to-back first-round upsets as a No. 3 seed in 2015 and No. 5 seed last year, it’s natural to be hesitant in believing Baylor will be worthy of a top seed. Especially if you take the Texas Tech loss into account shortly after being given the early honor.
But this year’s version plans to use that heartbreak as fuel for a deep NCAA Tournament run. And the Bears can get closer to earning that No. 1 seed with a home win over Kansas on Saturday. Baylor led by six at halftime in the first meeting Feb. 1, but the Jayhawks dominated the final 20 minutes for a 73-68 win.
If the Bears can snap a nine-game losing streak in the series, they’ll be on their way to earning that fourth and final No. 1 seed.
Should Baylor falter, it’s becoming increasingly likely that one of the Pac-12’s top three teams will get that last top seed. Arizona (24-3) currently leads the conference with a 13-1 mark, followed by 12-2 Oregon (22-4) and 10-3 UCLA (23-3). They’ve all beaten each other up, with Oregon owning wins over both, but also blowing a big lead in a loss to UCLA, which lost the first meeting with Arizona.
The Wildcats have the easiest matchup Saturday as they visit Washington while Oregon hosts Colorado, but the Bruins are facing an opponent fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid. USC (21-5, 8-5), which beat UCLA in the first meeting Jan. 25, travels across town to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night for another showdown. The Trojans are coming off an 11-point loss to the Ducks last Saturday.
Duke’s six-game winning streak that includes three victories over ranked foes has vaulted it to the top of the national title favorites list in Vegas. It seems as if the Blue Devils finally are playing like the team that was No. 1 in the initial AP Top 25 after freshman Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in Wednesday’s win over Virginia.
They’ll try to extend their winning streak when they host Wake Forest on Saturday, which is just one of the ACC matchups to keep an eye on. Louisville hosts Virginia Tech without V.J. King, and Virginia visits North Carolina looking to bounce back from the loss to Duke.
Florida State, which plays at Pittsburgh, is tied with Duke and Louisville for second place in the ACC, one game behind the Tar Heels.
The Big Ten regular-season title race is heating up now that Wisconsin has dropped two in a row. The Badgers have fallen into a first-place tie with Purdue and Maryland following their loss to Michigan this week.
Now Wisconsin has to prepare for an important showdown Sunday against the visiting Terps, who got a career-high 32 points in Wednesdays win at Northwestern. Not only is a leg up in the conference race on the line, but so is a building block for seeding on the NCAA Tournament resume.
Speaking of resumes, Michigan State will be looking to boost its body of work by upsetting Purdue in West Lafayette on Saturday. The Boilermakers won by 11 in East Lansing earlier this season as Caleb Swanigan dominated, and the one-time Spartans commit will try to do it again in this matchup.
In this section each week I pick five games against the spread that I’d put smart money on. I then keep a running record throughout the season. These picks will consist of games taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s a look at what I have this week:
Season record: 25-27-3
Last week: 4-1
- Kansas (-4) over Texas Tech (L)
- Gonzaga (-3) over St. Mary’s (W)
- Villanova (-4) over Xavier (W)
- Creighton (-10) over DePaul (W)
- Minnesota (-6) over Rutgers (W)
- North Carolina (-3) over Virginia
- Villanova (-6.5) over Seton Hall
- Virginia Tech (+13.5) over Louisville
- Florida State (-5.5) over Pittsburgh
- Northwestern (-13.5) over Rutgers