By Steve Silverman
Saturday, Feb. 24
No. 8 Kansas (22-6, 11-4) at No. 6 Texas Tech (22-6, 10-5), 4:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
This has not been one of those seasons where the Jayhawks have been among the top three teams in the nation and a likely favorite to win the national championship or at least make the Final Four. However, with March Madness right around the corner, the Jayhawks are in first place in the Big 12 and they are playing their best basketball of the season.
They have a modest three-game winning streak, but one of those victories came on the road at Iowa State and another was a 30-point win over Oklahoma. Bill Self should have his team ready for a potentially memorable March Madness run, and a road game against a very good Texas Tech team should provide a major test.
Devonte Graham (17.6 ppg, 7.2 apg), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (15.4 ppg) and Udoka Azubuike (14.0 ppg, 77.1 FG percentage) are leading the team in scoring. Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman are also averaging in double figures.
Texas Tech has lost back-to-back games after winning seven in a row, so the Red Raiders may be vulnerable here. Keenan Evans is averaging 17.6 points per game and connecting on 47.7 percent of his shots, while Zhaire Smith is averaging 11.1 points and a team-leading 4.7 rebounds per game.
No. 14 Arizona (22-6, 12-3) at Oregon (18-10, 8-7), 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Arizona Wildcats had some issues in the early part of the season and a couple of recent bumps – losses to Washington and UCLA – but Sean Miller’s team is in the top spot in the Pac-12 and they just may turn out to be a very tough out in both the Pac-12 tournament and during March Madness.
Arizona will get tested by a good but not great Oregon team, as the Wildcats must play Dana Altman’s feisty team on its home court. The Wildcats will have to play this game without star guard Allonzo Trier who was suspended by the NCAA after trace amounts of a banned substance was found in January drug screening.
While the Wildcats are appealing the ruling, it will be challenge to go to Oregon and try to win without him. Trier is averaging 19.6 points per game, and he shares the team lead in that category with freshman forward DeAndre Ayton. Guard Rawle Alkins is averaging 13.6 ppg and he will likely play a bigger role without Trier in the lineup.
The Ducks are trying to right themselves after losing back-to-back games to USC and UCLA, but they are coming off a 75-68 home victory over Arizona State. Payton Pritchard is averaging 14.6 ppg and Elijah Brown is scoring 13.0 points per night whie shooting an incredible 94.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Monday, Feb. 26
No. 5 Duke (23-5, 11-4) at Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Blue Devils have had their moments this year, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski has to be concerned because star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III has missed four straight games with a knee injury and that has a huge impact on the way Duke can play.
The Blue Devils will be challenged in a tough road game against a solid ACC opponent like Virginia Tech. Coach K normally has his team peaking at this time of the year, and while the Devils have won all four of the games that Bagley has missed, it’s not an ideal situation.
Grayson Allen is playing excellent basketball right now, and that’s one of the reasons the team is streaking. He his coming off a 28-point performance in Duke’s 82-56 trouncing of Louisville and he has scored 95 points in the four games without Bagley.
The Hokies have won seven of their last nine games, and they are led by Justin Robinson (13.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Justin Bibbs (13.3 ppg, 51.2 FG percentage).
The Hokies have already beaten Virginia this season, so they are capable of pushing Duke hard for 40 minutes and potentially stealing this game.
Wednesday, Feb. 28
No. 20 Nevada (24-5, 13-2) at UNLV (19-9, 8-7), 11 p.m. ET, CBSSN
The Nevada Wolf Pack have been the best team in the Mountain West Conference this season, and while they are getting some respect with their ranking, they probably won’t get much recognition until they win a game or two in the NCAA tournament.
They were first-round losers to Iowa State last year, but head coach Eric Musselman’s team has won 13 of its last 15 games and nearly always finds a way to win. Junior forward Caleb Martin is the main offensive cog, and he is averaging 19.2 points per game and connecting on 49.1 percent of his shots from the field. Junior guard Jordan Caroline is second in scoring with 17.0 points per night and he is also a major force on the boards with 8.7 rebounds per game.
The Thomas & Mack Center can be a difficult place for a visitor to establish its game, but the Wolf Pack should be quite motivated after losing at home to UNLV. The Running Rebels have lost their last two games, so they have to be prepared for a nasty opening salvo from Nevada.
UNLV is led by Brandon McCoy, Jovan Mooring and Shakur Juiston. McCoy is averaging 16.9 points per game and shooting 55.8 percent from the field. Mooring and Juiston are both scoring 14.4 points per game.