It's already been a crazy week...will the weekend be any different?
Connecticut at Notre Dame
After taking two straight poundings on the road, the Irish now limp back to South Bend only to see the Big East's best team (seed-wise at least) waiting for them. The Huskies, who might be the No. 1 overall seed in next week's field here with a victory, have won six straight conference games and are coming off a hard-fought win over Villanova on Wednesday night. The biggest storyline to come out of that game for UConn was the continued solid play of A.J. Price, who has now scored 52 points over his last two games and looks to have officially returned to pre-knee surgery form. He'll have to have another big game - and get some help from usually small-in-big-game big man Hasheem Thabeet if the Huskies are going to knock off ND at home, a place where the Irish have won a nation's-best 45 straight games. If they want to run that streak to 46, Luke Harangody will have to find more ways to score than he did against Syracuse, where he shot 9-of-28 from the field in a 19-point Orange win. An ND loss would drop them at least to the six line, and maybe the seven line, in next week's bracket.
Memphis at Tennessee
The Vols picked a good time to start playing a little defense. They held Vanderbilt to 63 points in a road win Tuesday night, 12 points fewer than they've allowed on average this season. Now they'll have to find a way to stop Tyreke Evans and the streaking Tigers, who avoided the look-ahead bug and destroyed Rice on Wednesday to run their current win streak to nine. Memphis has only been challenged once in that stretch (beating Tulsa at the buzzer) and if they are going to step up in class and win in Knoxville, they'll have to play better than they have against big conference opponents this season. If the Vols win here, these teams might flop seeds - Tennessee up to a 7, and Memphis down to a 9 - on Monday.
UCLA at Washington
Not too many people had this game determining the Pac-10 leader at the start of the season - or even a few weeks ago for that matter. But Washington's three-game conference winning streak, which includes a victory over USC on Thursday, has the Huskies sitting pretty at 5-1 and tied atop the Pac-10 standings with the overall disappointing but still 5-1 Bruins. UCLA checked in at a season-low six seed in this week's bracket because of their lack (still) of a big win. This would be the Bruins' biggest victory of the season by far, and give their upcoming schedule (they play four straight home games over the next two weeks) it could serve as a nice springboard. A win would also work wonders for Washington's resume and give them a little more cushion in the standings as they prep for a four game roadie starting next Thursday.
Wisconsin at Illinois
The Illini celebrated their new Top 25 ranking by pounding Ohio State at home on Tuesday. That win moved Illinois into a tie for second in the impossible-to-figure Big Ten, but Illini coach Bruce Weber said after the win that his team shouldn't be considered a conference contender until it wins a big road game. They won't get a shot at that until next week (they play at Minnesota), but they do have a chance to add to their impressive home resume here against the strugling Badgers. Wisconsin has lost three in a row, including a real head-scratcher Wednesday at Iowa, and if they don't turn things around soon, Penn State might pass them in the battle for the final Big Ten spot.
Utah at UNLV & San Diego State at BYU
The MWC has gone from a clear two-bid league, with BYU and UNLV as its likely representatives, to an absolute mess over the last two weeks. In a convenient scheduling quirk, all four of the MWC contenders (sorry TCU), face off today with the winners of these two games likely to find themselves in the field on Monday. UNLV, fresh off its impressive come-from-behind win at BYU on Wednesday hosts Lunardi's boys - Utah - in Vegas. The Rebels have the best OOC resume of these four by far, but a loss here would drop them to 3-3 in conference and might temporarily cost them a bid. BYU hosts San Diego State, and needs a win to stop its two-game skid. It will be interesting to see what other bracketologists - some of whom have the Cougars as a single-digit seed still - do with BYU if they lose. They have no at-large resume at all and SDSU would clearly be in over them with a win.
Xavier at LSU
This intriguing non-conference match-up comes at a perfect time for both teams. The Musketeers have been on the brink of a three seed for a while now, and with Clemson, Syracuse, and Georgetown all losing already this week, a win here will finally get them up to the three line. LSU, on the other hand, could care less about its seed - the Tigers just want to be in next week's field. They certainly looked like a tourney team in dismantling fellow SEC bubble boy Mississippi State Wednesday night, but overall, they don't have a real quality win to speak of. That could very well change this afternoon.
Texas A&M at Texas
At 1-3 in the Big XII, the Aggies are playing for ther bracket lives against the Longhorns. A&M looked awful against Kansas on Monday night, losing by 20 - just two days removed from almost knocking off Oklahoma. Their non-conference resume is looking worse and worse lately too, thanks to the recent struggles of Arizona and Alabama, and a loss here would knock them even further behind fellow Big XII bubble boys Missouri (who's very safe at this point) and Oklahoma State. Texas, meanwhile, could use a quality conference win themselves after getting smacked around against Oklahoma and with a trip to Baylor looming on Tuesday.
Louisville at Syracuse
The 'Ville is looking to maintain their perfect Big East record and establish themselves as the team to beat in the conference. If they can pull of the road victory they would have to be viewed as the Big East favorite with the schedule they have left. The Cardinals will have 4 of their 9 Big East road games behind them and they only get UConn once and that game is down at Louisville. The Orange need the win to stay relevant in the hunt for a Big East title. Their schedule doesn't get any easier from here with 3 of the next 4 on the road and 5 of 6 against current Big East tourney teams.
Florida at Vanderbilt
Just when we thought the Gators were the top SEC school and upgraded them to a 6 seed they got shocked at South Carolina this week on a buzzer-beating layup. They look to get back on track against a Vanderbilt team who has disappointed so far this year. The Commodores were a preseason tournament team but the are currently far from the bubble and a loss here would pretty much eliminate them from the SEC East race. The Gators need a win to avoid falling down to a double digit seed.
Michigan State at Ohio State
We considered the Spartans for a 1 seed last week, but then they went out and got shocked at home against Northwestern. Now they travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes who look to stay above .500 in conference and split the season series with the Spartans. If the Buckeyes can pick up a win they have a great chance to climb back into the thick of the Big Ten race with 3 of their next 4 coming at home against a few teams ahead of them in the standings. The loser will likely fall a few seed lines in tomorrow night's bracket.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia
West Virginia proved themselves this week with a blowout road win against Georgetown. A win against Pitt would skyrocket them up the bracket to a top 5 seed. The Panthers recovered nicely this week from their loss at Louisville by taking care of Syracuse at home. A win for them here would probably get them back on the 1 line to replace Wake Forest.
Virginia Tech at Miami
The Hokies pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season at Wake Forest this week and now look for another big road win at Miami. Suddenly the Hokies are one of the hottest teams in the ACC having won 8 of 9. Another win will give them a 4-1 ACC mark and would ensure their first appearance in the bracket since the preseason. Miami also picked up a nice win this week over FSU and continue to be a team who wins the games that they should win. A win for them Sunday would clearly make them the fifth best team in the league.
Also receiving votes: Maryland at Duke, Florida State at Virginia, Baylor at Oklahoma, Texas Tech at Missouri, Kansas at Iowa State, Oklahoma State at Nebraska, Northwestern at Michigan, Auburn at Arkansas, Kentucky at Alabama, Houston at Arizona, USC at Washington State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Butler, George Mason at VCU, Minnesota at Indiana, Northern Iowa at Missouri State