Next weekend begins a very important time in all of our lives: March! The final days of February are among us. Winter turns to spring. Despair turns to hope, and despite that giant rodent seeing his shadow a few weeks ago, the ice thaw coincides with superior college basketball in bars and living rooms throughout the country.
Games To Watch This Weekend
*All Times CST
Saturday, February 24
Seton Hall Pirates @ St. John’s Red Storm at 11 on FOX
This isn’t your ordinary rematch game between two schools separated by just 40 miles. Seton Hall won Round 1 in ‘Jersey by five points, however, this game on Saturday in New York is must-win for the Pirates. Seton Hall has struggled this month of February, losing four straight at one point to Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown and Xavier. Blame it on the ultra-competitive Big East. Blame it on fatigue. It’s hard to imagine Seton Hall earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament if they were to lose to a feisty, close-to-last-place St. John’s Red Storm team.
No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks @ No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders at 3:15 on ESPN
For the first time ever, ESPN’s College Gameday is headed to Lubbock, Texas to cover the Kansas vs Texas Tech game. What’s at stake? A potential Big 12 title is on the line as the top two teams from the conference square off against one another. Kansas has won at least a share of the last 12 straight Big 12 titles. Texas Tech has never won a Big 12 (regular season or conference tournament) basketball title. This is the best Red Raiders team since 2005. It’s already been a tremendously successful season for Texas Tech knowing they are going to the NCAA Tournament, but to win a conference title by beating the torchbearers at home — that would be the ultimate cap on a memorable season. Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans is banged up and that’s a story to keep an eye on as the game edges closer to tip-off.
Missouri Tigers @ Kentucky Wildcats at 7:15 on ESPN
This is a game with bubble implications stamped all over it. Usually it’s Kentucky with the star power and beautiful basketball flow we’ve come to expect from John Calipari coached teams. This season it’s been disjointed and ugly for Big Blue Nation. The Wildcats lost four straight in the month of February and really have just one signature non-conference win (at No. 7 West Virginia). Missouri has played much better basketball as of late compared to Kentucky and already beat them earlier this year by nine points back in Columbia. Missouri last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
Sunday, February 25
No. 2 Michigan State Spartans @ Wisconsin Badgers at Noon on CBS
Michigan State with a win would be outright Big Ten Conference champions for the first time since 2009. Earning that win won’t be easy, even against the worst Wisconsin Badgers team of this millennium. After beating the Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday, Michigan State is riding an 11-game winning streak heading into the Kohl Center on Sunday in Madison. The venue is still hell to play in. Just ask the Purdue Boilermakers.
Penn State Nittany Lions @ Nebraska Cornhuskers at 4:15 on BTN
If you’ve been paying attention to The Champaign Room’s Big Ten Bracketology breakdowns these past few weeks, you know there’s really just two teams on the bubble: Penn State and Nebraska. It’s as if the college basketball gods are smiling upon the Big Ten and its fans at just the right time. Simply put, Penn State cannot lose this game if it wants to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2011. Penn State beat Nebraska by two points in overtime in their first meeting in State College over a month ago. The Nittany Lions have the better team, but as we’ve seen, especially on the road — the better team doesn’t always win.