March Madness: 25 key Saturday games that could shape NCAA tournament field
Bids, titles and momentum are all at stake Saturday. Let’s get you prepared for the 25 games that may have the most meaning on Saturday, Feb. 10 (all times Eastern):
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Oklahoma State goes to West Virginia (12 p.m., ESPN2) with a chance to pull off a rare back-to-back Saturday sweep of the two toughest homecourts in the Big 12 after winning at Kansas last Saturday. That would signal to the committee that this team is in the field, even if they haven’t been as consistent in league play.
Northwestern still fancies itself as a possible NCAA tournament team, and if that’s the case, then the Wildcats must win at Maryland (12 p.m., ESPN2).
Florida can’t afford a season sweep to South Carolina (12 p.m., CBS) and getting a win/split of the series at Columbia would actually help the Gators' cause, since road wins matter more.
Temple is on the fringe of the bubble, but winning road games will draw the attention of the committee, even if it comes against a lower-level AAC team like South Florida (12 p.m., ESPNU).
Marquette got the attention of all bubble watchers by winning at Seton Hall (who boasts a road win at Providence). Knocking off a suddenly hot St. John’s (wins over Duke and at Nova) on Saturday would be a bid changer.
Baylor has been a bit of a spoiler and did play Kansas quite well in Lawrence. But the Jayhawks have a record 14th-straight Big 12 title to still claim and can’t afford another loss — even in Waco (2 p.m., CBS) — if Texas Tech continues to stay in step.
Iowa State has been a spoiler at times too (see win over Texas Tech), but Trae Young and company need to show up on the road after struggling of late, meaning Oklahoma could really use a win in Ames (2 p.m., ESPN).
NC State is going for the sweep of North Carolina (2 p.m., ACC Network), which would do wonders for its bid hopes and seeding. But the Tar Heels are confident again and players like Joel Berry III and Kenny Williams said after the Duke win Thursday that they think a deep March run is within reach again.
Missouri is in the field in my latest bubble breakdown but losing home games, including to Mississippi State (2 p.m., ESPN2), would possibly offer pause. I’ve got the Tigers in the field barring a complete face plant.
TCU is still hanging around but can't take any additional home losses if it wants to be taken as a serious candidate, which means the Horned Frogs better knock off Texas (2 p.m., ESPNU).
Creighton’s Marcus Foster is a closer, as was evident against DePaul in Chicago. He’ll have to be locked in to take down an Xavier team (2:30 p.m., ET, FOX) that won at Butler.
Auburn’s grasp on the SEC title is a bit more tenuous after a loss to Texas A&M, putting added emphasis on Saturday's road game at Georgia (3:30 p.m., SEC Network).
Purdue had a chance to possibly wrap up the Big Ten title before Keita Bates-Diop converted a second shot and stunned the Boilermakers. Now Purdue is chasing the Buckeyes and may need to beat Michigan State in East Lansing (4 p.m., ESPN) to do so. The Spartans could use an elite win for its own NCAA tournament seeding. Rebounding will be the difference, a sore spot for Purdue, even with its size.
Florida State has shown flashes of being a tough out, but then reverts to being rather pedestrian. Winning at a scrappy, depleted Notre Dame (4 p.m., ESPN2) would help the perception.
Nebraska doesn’t have any more high-profile regular-season games left, meaning winning out could erase any doubt. But Rutgers has been a pest, regardless of venue. This one is in Lincoln (4 p.m., BTN), where the Huskers have been impressive.
Ohio State has a chance to win the Big Ten regular-season title but the Buckeyes can’t take anything for granted. Their margin for error has always been thin. The win at Purdue has certainly buoyed this team’s confidence, so losing to Iowa at home (6 p.m., BTN) is likely not going to happen. This team should get a rousing reception in Columbus.
Tennessee can catch Auburn since the Tigers have the tougher slate of games in the SEC, but the Vols need to get past Alabama (6 p.m., SEC Network), which has the potential to be a spoiler for the league title. Oh, and the Tide have the goods to be a threat to win games in the NCAA tournament.
Virginia’s win at Florida State should signal that the Cavs could run the table for the ACC regular-season title. And the Cavaliers' rival Virginia Tech (6:15 p.m., ESPN) will be walking into what should be a hostile house in Charlottesville.
Arizona State had to go the final possession to knock off USC at home but the Sun Devils haven’t yet won two in a row in 2018. Meanwhile, UCLA picked up a stunning road win at Arizona and could go for a rare state of Arizona sweep with a win in Tempe (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Kansas State desperately needs to string together a few key wins to prove it is bid-worthy, and the Wildcats have a golden chance by hosting the possible Big 12 champ Texas Tech Red Raiders (8 p.m., ESPNU).
Nevada took a double hit when the Wolf Pack lost at home to rival UNLV while dealing with Caleb Martin’s foot injury. Now comes a critical game against San Diego State in Reno (8 p.m., ESPN2), which could have ramifications for the MWC title if Boise State keeps winning.
Texas A&M is making a late push for a bid and, believe it or not, a decent seed. Beating Kentucky at home would do wonders for the profile. Expect College Station to be lit for the Wildcats' arrival (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
The showdown in the WCC is in Moraga (10 p.m., ESPN2) as Gonzaga hopes to get the season split with Saint Mary’s after the Gaels won in Spokane. Lose this game and Saint Mary’s will win the WCC regular-season title. The bandbox called McKeon Pavilion will be dripping with sweat as this place heats up for a highly anticipated game.
Arizona is trying to avoid the home loss sweep to the L.A. schools when USC comes calling (10:15 p.m., ESPN2). Two home losses would be stunning for the Wildcats, who looked like they could cruise to the Pac-12 title a week ago. But the UCLA loss has suddenly made that less of a lock. USC and Washington missed chances to catch the Wildcats by losing Thursday (the Huskies lost at Oregon). Still, Arizona needs to re-establish its league dominance with a resounding bounce back win. That won’t be easy against a relentless Trojans team that — even in the late loss to ASU — has been playing its best basketball of the season lately.