With Selection Sunday now just over a month away, every college basketball game gets the microscope treatment. There are, as always, plenty of choices when it comes to prioritizing your weekend court viewing. We’re here to help. Here are the five most notable contests on tap this weekend.
No. 1 Tennessee at No. 5 Kentucky
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The first of two – and possibly three – encounters between the SEC’s primary title contenders this year will give both squads a good opportunity for self-assessment as they strive for championship-level execution. For the Vols, the game is their toughest test to date since their current 19-game winning streak began. The Wildcats’ pursuit of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament took a minor hit with Tuesday night’s loss to LSU, but a victory here would balance the equation. Grant Williams (19.4 ppg) has the capability to take over a game for Tennessee, but it speaks well of the Vols’ depth that he hasn’t needed to do so of late. The youthful Wildcats have figured many things out since they first took the court in November, but they can still go for stretches when their shot selection is not to coach John Calipari’s liking.
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North Carolina State at No. 2 Duke
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
A few suboptimal results — including one downright awful one — had the Wolfpack hovering dangerously close to the wrong side of the bubble. But they picked up a quality victory Wednesday night against Syracuse, and this short trip to Durham provides a chance to improve their security. Winning in Cameron isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible as the aforementioned Orange demonstrated last month. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils now have all their key pieces back, and their most recent outing at Louisville showed just how difficult it is to keep them down for a full 40 minutes.
No. 25 Maryland at No. 7 Michigan
Saturday, noon ET, Fox
The race for the Big Ten regular-season crown got even tighter this week, thanks to some unexpected outcomes by these two participants. The Terrapins stopped a streaking Purdue squad, while the Wolverines sustained a puzzling loss at last-place Penn State that featured a rare outburst from coach John Beilein. Michigan would like to erase that memory quickly with a fast start on its home floor, but Maryland plays sound team defense that has helped facilitate a few post-intermission rallies.
No. 22 Iowa State at No. 18 Kansas State
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2
A squad from the Sunflower State is two games clear in the loss column in the Big 12 Standings, but it isn’t the one from Lawrence. The Wildcats from Manhattan are in a great position to end their in-state rivals’ streak of regular-season league titles. K-State has already passed most of its toughest road tests, including a one-point triumph in Ames last month. The Cyclones are more than capable of returning the favor in hostile territory, but they must find a way to solve the Wildcats’ suffocating defense.
No. 13 Villanova at St. John’s
Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, FS1
The Big East race has two clear leaders and a big muddle in the middle, with a number of candidates needing to distinguish themselves down the stretch. The Red Storm has a couple of things in their favor, namely their regular-season sweep of Marquette. They’ll look to notch another high-end victory and move into a more secure position against the Wildcats, who are quite familiar with the role of wearing the big target. Villanova continues to top the standings despite last weekend’s setback against Marquette. St. John’s isn’t consistent, hence its 6-6 conference mark, but veteran scorer Shamorie Ponds is an explosive talent who can keep his team in most games.