If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the men’s college basketball landscape thus far this season, it’s that, well, we really haven’t learned very much. No team is invincible, and no odds-on championship favorite has emerged with Selection Sunday less than eight weeks away.
Of course, what this also means is that there are a whole lot of meaningful games yet to be played with ample opportunities for memorable moments, fantastic finishes, buzzer-beaters – and any other alliterative phrases you might want to throw in there for good measure.
Such moments can happen just about anywhere to be sure, but we’ve tried to pick out the most compelling contests to help you plan your weekend viewing. Without further ado then, here’s this edition of the Starting Five.
No. 5 UCLA at No. 11 Arizona
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ABC
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The Bruins wrap up their road swing through the Grand Canyon State in Tucson, where the Wildcats find themselves in need of a top-tier win after some recent setbacks. With tourney-tested veterans like Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell setting the tone, UCLA is an experienced group, and its smallish lineup averages fewer than 10 turnovers a game. Arizona gets most of its production this year on the inside via Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, but they’re going to need help from the ball handlers who must beware of the Bruins’ perimeter pressure.
No. 13 TCU at No. 2 Kansas
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
As mentioned, no team is invincible, and in fact both these contenders in the stacked Big 12 are coming off road losses. The Jayhawks dropped a one-point nail biter in overtime at archrival Kansas State, while the Horned Frogs were upended at West Virginia for the Mountaineers’ first conference victory. TCU doesn’t figure to get much of a break at Allen Fieldhouse, where KU has yet to lose this season. Mike Miles and the Horned Frogs are at their best when they’re able to generate points in transition, something the physically imposing Mountaineers didn’t allow Wednesday. The Jayhawks could pose similar issues, and if Gradey Dick, a 45.3% three-point shooter is on target, Jalen Wilson becomes even harder to stop near the rim.
No. 4 Alabama at Missouri
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, SEC
The last week around the Alabama program has been challenging to say the least, but the Crimson Tide players have maintained their on-court focus. This weekend they pay a visit to the hot-and-cold Tigers, who are hot for the moment after rallying late to defeat Arkansas last time out. But it would be hard to match temperatures with Alabama, whose top three scorers – Brandon Miller, Mark Sears and Noah Clowney – are all threats from the arc. Kobe Brown does a little of everything for Mizzou, but the Tigers can struggle at times in halfcourt sets and can’t afford to fall behind again.
No. 10 Virginia at Wake Forest
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU
We’ll conclude with a couple of clashes in the jumbled ACC. The Cavaliers are the league’s highest ranked squad in the polls but are battling to maintain a share of second place in the actual standings. The Demon Deacons are also in that mix and are riding a four-game winning streak after handing Clemson its first conference loss. Virginia, as regular hoops observers might expect, is back to playing its signature game of setting a deliberate tempo and locking down on defense. But the Cavaliers often have difficulty putting teams away thanks to lengthy scoring droughts. Wake hasn’t lost on its home floor this season but will have to be sharp with its passes.
No. 16 Miami (Fla.) at Duke
Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
Kicking off the busy day around the conference is this key contest between teams that have decent resumes but have struggled of late. The Blue Devils have been off since last Saturday, a needed respite given the team’s health issues. The Hurricanes started strong in conference play but have taken some unexpected losses of late, including a particularly inexplicable one at Georgia Tech. Duke might not yet regain the services of point guard Jeremy Roach, and the team has struggled to knock down shots in his absence. Miami lead guard Isaiah Wong has takeover ability, but the smaller Hurricanes might have a hard time keeping Duke’s Kyle Filipowski out of the paint.