By the time this weekend is over, Selection Sunday will be less than three weeks away. With the men’s college basketball season officially in its home stretch, the coming tournament looks to be as wide open as ever, as the sport’s landscape has a slew of very good teams but seemingly no clear favorites.
We therefore offer these recommendations for your weekend viewing with the caveat, which we emphasize even more so than usual, that there will almost certainly be surprising and meaningful results well beyond these highlighted contests. With all that out of the way then, here’s this week’s edition of the Starting Five, headlined by a top-10 showdown hosted by one of the game’s most storied venues.
No. 9 Baylor at No. 7 Kansas
TIME/TV: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Allen Fieldhouse might not have a roof by the time this one is over. OK, we exaggerate, but those in attendance may want to have earplugs handy. The winner will maintain at least a share of first place in the hyper-competitive Big 12 and pick up another high-end victory to enhance its case for a No. 1 NCAA regional seed. The Bears took the first meeting with the Jayhawks in Waco, 75-69 on Jan. 23, but KU has won five of six since. Baylor is even hotter, however, entering Lawrence on a four-game streak and having gone 10-1 since an overtime loss to Kansas State. Watch and enjoy as Baylor’s deep backcourt, featuring Adam Flagler and Keyonte George, trade shots with KU’s Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick.
Follow every game: Latest NCAA Men’s College Basketball Scores and Schedules
No. 11 Tennessee at Kentucky
TIME/TV: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Wildcats got a much needed road win Wednesday night at Mississippi State, taking a major step toward the correct side of the bubble. They’ll try to strengthen their position even further by completing a season sweep of the Volunteers. Tennessee snapped a mini slump, handing top-ranked Alabama its first SEC loss in the process, and now hopes to continue that momentum in the positive direction. The Vols’ shooting can still be spotty, but Santiago Vescovi has been picking his spots better of late. The Wildcats’ ball handlers must deal with the Vols’ perimeter pressure as they try to generate close-in opportunities for Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin.
Illinois at No. 15 Indiana
TIME/TV: Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
The Hoosiers return home after becoming Northwestern’s latest upset victims. They face a Fighting Illini squad that is also in need of a win after losing to Penn State for a second time. Though Indiana’s rally on the road came up short, mainstay Trayce Jackson-Davis did nothing to hurt his All-America candidacy. Illinois likely won’t be able to match him up individually, but Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja will do their best to keep him from dominating the glass.
Villanova at No. 21 Providence
TIME/TV: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Don’t look now – well OK, go ahead and look –, but Villanova is starting to resemble Villanova again. The Wildcats have won three in a row, admittedly against the lower echelon of the Big East, but has also shown signs of being able to compete with the upper-tier squads since finally getting Justin Moore back on the floor. In short, you might not want to see them in the conference tournament. The Friars are coming off one of their best wins of the season, surviving a double-overtime thriller against Creighton Tuesday night, but they can’t afford a slip here with games against Connecticut and Xavier still on the slate.
Memphis at No. 2 Houston
TIME/TV: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN
Memphis finds itself hovering around bubble territory with limited opportunities to snag Quad 1 wins in the American Athletic Conference. They have one here in their first of two dates with the Cougars down the stretch. This one on the road will be more difficult, of course, but it also presents a chance for dynamic lead guard Kendric Davis to show what he can do. Solving Houston’s stingy defense, however, is easier said than done, and Marcus Sasser also has takeover ability.