It is cold out this weekend and if you are smart you will stay home, sit in front of your TV and watch college basketball weekend long. Why? Because football is over and it is all you've got. Secondly, the Gophers are terrible so it is time to expand our college basketball horizons a bit to check out the rest of what college hoops has to offer this year.
For starters, this has been a crazy year. Just a year ago Kentucky was the consensus favorite to win it all, cruised through the regular season undefeated only to be sniped by team not to be discussed in the Final Four. But 2014-15 was a top-heavy season in college hoops. This year it is wide open. Basically everybody with a good record has been ranked in the top 5 at one point or another.
Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans were once ranked #1.
"I don't know if we were ever [a No. 1] team. I've said that," Tom Izzo told ESPN.com. "Although, I can think of some other ones that weren't either. ... I think [North Carolina] right now might be the cream of the crop. Oklahoma's good. We played them last year. Same team. I really like them. Buddy Hield is great but I don't think they're destroying like North Carolina [in 2008-09] was. Iowa is really good. I don't think anybody is gonna say there aren't 15 teams that could win it this year. "
This North Carolina team that Coach Izzo was referring to back in late January? Now ranked 9th and have lost 2 out of 3.
As of February 12th, there are about 10 teams who could make a case for being a #1 seed and not one of them is a clear-cut favorite or a lock. But this isn't about NCAA hoops parity or whether or not this is a great season. This is about giving you a viewing guide for this weekend to begin to be reminded what college basketball looks like and most importantly to begin your research for your NCAA Tournament Bracket.
Gopher fans have nothing to cheer for in the final weeks of the season, but you'll be a leg-up on your friends, families and co-workers because you'll be spending the next few weeks becoming familiar with Friars and Flyers and a host of other quality teams who will be dancing in March.
Some of these games are only listed because there are not a ton of great options on Friday night. But a few nice opportunities for research.
Dayton at Rhode Island - 6:00 (CST) ESPN2
The Flyers are leading the tough Atlantic 10 (who could have up to 4 teams in the NCAA Tournament), have a KenPom ranking of 39 and are on the road at Rhode Island. Dayton has a 4-0 record against P5 schools this year highlighted by a win over Iowa. One baffling loss to 5-17 LaSalle will hurt their seeing but this is an NCAA Tournament team going to a talented Rams team. They have a very good defense and most importantly their point guard is named Scoochie. Currently Lunardi has them as a projected 4-seed, a couple of conference losses and they could be a 5 or 6 seed with a very real shot at getting to the Sweet 16.
Monmoth at Rider - 8:00 ESPNU
I'm serious here. Monmouth is currently 20-5, winning the MAAC and should they lose in their conference tournament they could still snag an at-large bid. (Yeah, I'm serious). Wins over UCLA, Georgetown and Notre Dame...all on the road. The Hawks have an RPI of 36! A team to watch! Plus they have a crazy crew at the end of their bench, with their own twitter account. A rare chance to check out the Hawks and familiarize yourself with them.
A lot of games to wade through here so I'm narrowing it down by time of day, TV availability and I'm avoiding a lot of P5 games because those are obvious. But here I my recommended games for a busy day in college hoops.
TCU at West Virginia - 11:00 on ESPNU
TCU is terrible but West Virginia was in the conversation for a 1-seed just a month ago. An exciting team and one certainly capable of making a Final Four run from a 2,3 or 4 seed.
Xavier at Butler - 1:30 on Fox
A couple of staple names in the Mid-Major world. Xavier is a projected 3-seed, while Butler is underseeded at 12 in current Bracketology projections. But the Bulldogs are a home and KenPom has them winning this one. On network TV, should be a good game and gives a great chance to get a good look at these two teams out of the Big East.
Kansas at Oklahoma - 1:30 on ESPN
This was a great game earlier in the year and should be again. Two teams fighting for a 1-seed with great players all over the floor. I shouldn't need to sell you on this one.
Louisville at Notre Dame - 3:00 on ESPN2
Both of these teams are always dangerous tournament teams. Louisville is out of this year's bracket but Notre Dame has the best offense in the country and going to have it tested by one of the contry's best defenses. A good tourney test for the Fighting Irish. That's why this is worth watching.
South Dakota at South Dakota St - 4:30 ESPN3
Cause why wouldn't you watch the two best teams between South Dakota and Minnesota. SDSU is trying to pull away in the Summit and should be a big favorite in this home game against their rival. But look out for the Jackrabbits come March, watch them now if you can.
Wright State at Valparasio - 7:00 ESPN3
Internet only but Valpo is one of the best mid-majors in college basketball this year. KenPom has them 24th while Lunardi projects them as a 10-seed. This is a major Cinderella team in the making here. Possibly to be seeded far below their value. The Raiders of Wright State actually gave the Crusaders their one and only conference loss, so this is a pay-back game of sorts. This should be watched if you are able.
Texas at Iowa State - 7:30 on ESPN
A couple of tourney teams and this should be a very entertaining game.
Gonzaga at SMU - 9:00 on ESPN2
Couple more dangerous mid-majors getting to face off. Both are KenPom top 30 teams, both are sitting atop their conferences but only one of them is NCAA Tournament eligible. Don't bother watching SMU, they are ineligible but seeing Gonzaga face a really good team...that is valuable.
Just a couple games to round out your weekend and allow you some rest before work on Monday.
Pitt at North Carolina - noon on ESPN3
Internet only but if you have the means you should watch North Carolina closely. They'll be a trendy Final Four pick so watch them and see for yourself. This is their final tune-up before their first match-up with Duke on Wednesday. I wonder if that'll be on TV?
Indiana at Michigan State - noon on CBS
Couple teams fighting for a Big Ten title, watching some good Big Ten basketball is allowed.
Minnesota at Iowa - 6:30 on Big Ten Network
Avert your eyes, this could get real ugly. Hopefully the Hawkeyes are thinking more about their Valentine's plans after the game and still pissy about losing the lead at Indiana. But give yourself some brownie points. Make sure you subtly drop to your sweetheart that the Gophers play tonight and then sacrificially suggest you take her out while you skip the game.
USC at Arizona - 7:00 Fox Sports 1
Remember Florida Gulf Coast and "Dunk City" from a couple years ago? You may recall that their coach moved on to take the USC job and after scuffling through a couple losing seasons, Andy Enfield has this team with a Ken Pom rank of 26th, 2nd place in the Pac 12 and a projected 5-seed. You might want to get yourself familiar with what the Trojans have to offer, they could be a sneaky Tournament team as they shoot the three very well and they defend the three very well. And they are facing the other team trying to catch Oregon in the Pac 12 standings. The Wildcats are also very dangerous and hold a KenPom rank of 15 while also being projected as a 5-seed by Lunardi. These two teams went to 4 overtimes when they played at USC last month.
That's a good start for the weekend. There will be dozens of other games on, across many different channels that you can flip to if something gets interesting but these are my recommendations. If I had to pick one per day I'd suggest Momouth on Friday, Valpo on Saturday and the USC/Arizona game on Sunday.