March Madness 2017: Saturday slate is enticing
This time of year, any college basketball fan is blocking off a good portion of their Saturday afternoon to watch some hoops. This weekend should be no different, with a bevy of good games on throughout the day.
Perhaps the best contest of the early slate is between a pair of SEC rivals in the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators. The two are the strongest teams in the conference, and with Rupp Arena sure to be jumping, it’s a must-watch. No. 11 Kentucky is led by guard Malik Monk, averaging more than 21 points per game. Meanwhile, the visiting Gators have a more balance lineup, but one that presents problems both in the back and frontcourts.
How even are Kentucky and No. 13 Florida? They both have overall records of 23-5 while being 13-2 in SEC play.
While the Gators and Wildcats know they will be dancing come March Madness, the same can’t be said for the TCU Horned Frogs. Their bid to the NCAA Tournament is on life support at the moment, sitting 6-9 in Big 12 play. However, they have a huge chance to get back into the fold with a home game against the No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers. While a victory wouldn’t put them in the field of 68, the Horned Frogs would at least have a chance to get there with a strong finish to the season. Another loss here and TCU is done for the duration.
Another team that needs a win to vault into strong standing is Michigan. The Wolverines have a chance to land a major victory over the No. 14 Purdue Boilermakers at Crisler Center, something that might be the difference between the NCAA’s and the NIT. Michigan is in better shape than TCU, sitting 18-10 overall but just 8-7 in the weak Big Ten. A win and the Wolverines are all but holding a punched ticket. A loss, and things get messy.
Finally, the night gives us one of the best games this season. Out west, it will be the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats hosting the No.5 UCLA Bruins. Neither of these teams is getting the hype they deserve, especially an under-the-radar UCLA with an astounding six players scoring in double figures. Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are forming one of the best duos the game has to offer, while Arizona continues to be a Final Four contender under head coach Sean Miller. Whoever wins this game will be in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed in the tourney. With a win here, Arizona would get to 16-1 in Pac-12 play, something that says plenty with two other Pac-12 teams ranked in the top six nationally.