Welcome to the second full weekend in February. The Winter Olympics will be full swing, but here at The Champaign Room our eyes are laser focused on the college basketball landscape. Here’s what we will be watching this weekend.
Can’t Miss College Basketball Games
Saturday, February 10
What a brutal stretch this has been for Butler. Two games in less than a week; two games against two opponents ranked in the top five. Butler lost to Xavier at home on Tuesday in overtime. Now the Bulldogs attention switches to this weekend where they travel to Philly to take on the No. 1 team in the land in Villanova. Butler already beat Villanova back in December in what was one of the best, most high scoring games of the year. A season sweep of the Wildcats puts Butler in the “lock” column when it comes to glancing ahead at the NCAA Tournament. ‘Nova is coming off of a painful, unexpected loss to un-ranked St. Johns.
Can Oklahoma State possibly do it again? Can they enter a hostile environment on the road on a Saturday and knock off one of the nation’s top teams like they did last week to Kansas? There’s one word used to describe West Virginia and their personality-to-personnel package: Brutish. This is a big, strong and physical team that thrives on ball pressure and relentless energy crashing the boards. Guard Jevon Carter and forward Sagaba Konate are so physically gifted, even on an off day they both can impact the game in a positive way.
Who’s up for a little rivalry game on Saturday evening? Virginia Tech could really use a W here, and it appears unlikely given what happened the last time these two teams played last month. In that game, the Cavaliers blew out the Hokies in Blacksburg by a score of 78-52. In the extremely competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, the Hokies could really use a signature win — and no, their home win against then-No. 10 North Carolina isn’t big enough to necessarily push the Hokies into the “lock” column. Not yet. There’s still a ton of work to do for Buzz Williams and his team, and it all starts with an opportunity against the No. 2 team in the nation on the road.
The Arizona Wildcats are in. The USC Trojans are likely in but a win in Tuscon would leave no doubt. This game features the top two teams in the Pacific 12 Conference. USC was so close to beating rivals UCLA last weekend and fell just short in the waning seconds. It seems so long ago Arizona lost three games in a row back when the season started: To NC State, SMU and Purdue all in the Battle for Atlantis Tournament. Since then, Arizona’s settled in and has won 16 of their last 18 games. Wildcats center DeAndre Ayton looks like a sure-fire top-3 NBA Draft pick. USC will struggle to stay in front of the 7-foot tall behemoth who moves around and shoots like a 2-guard.
Sunday, February 11
The Mick Cronin led Cincinnati Bearcats are steamrolling through their schedule and look ripe for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati hasn’t lost a game since early December (Florida Gators, neutral site) and currently sit at 22-2 and in first place in the American Athletic Conference. Guard Jacob Evans is the driving force of this team, scoring points and tirelessly getting his teammates involved in the game plan. SMU’s had a number of injuries all season long. They’ll be relying on the now healthy Shake Milton who can be as streaky of a shooter as there is in college basketball.