The final Saturday in February is loaded with great games. Three matchups between teams in the top 25. No.1 Gonzaga goes for 30-0. And, Duke looks to rebound from their stunning loss to Syracuse this past Wednesday. Let’s get right to it.
No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky—2:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Florida handled Kentucky in the first matchup between the two, winning 88-66. They did as good a job as anyone has on Malik Monk, holding him to just 11 on 4-14 shooting. But where the Gators really dominated was on the boards. A 54-29 rebound advantage would truly be the key, one even bigger than locking up Monk.
Winners of nine straight, the Gators have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the second half. This time around, Devin Robinson is going to be the key for Florida. With Kentucky starting three guards, Robinson’s length and versatility will make him the toughest Gator to cover. Expect Calipari to put Isaiah Briscoe, the best rebounding guard UK has, on Robinson. If not Briscoe, it may be Wenyen Gabriel, who matches up well with Robinson. That, however, would put Briscoe on a larger player like Justin Leon.
Also, keep an eye on the Monk/KeVaughn Allen matchup. If nothing else, this should produce plenty of points. They were both relatively quiet in the first matchup, but I expect a change today.
No. 23 Creighton at No. 2 Villanova—3:00 p.m. ET, FOX
For Creighton, this is a chance to get their biggest win of the season. For Villanova, it’s a chance to rebound from another stunning loss to Butler this past Wednesday. It’s a chance for them to remind the nation that they are one of, if not the, best teams in the nation.
The Wildcats haven’t lost two straight games since 2013, so Creighton will have their hands full. Josh Hart still has a chance at national player of the year, and could leap to the top of the group with a big-time performance today.
No. 10 Duke at Miami—4:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Instead of playing a game of “What’s Wrong with Duke?”, I’d rather focus on the surging Miami Hurricanes, who are riding high after a huge road win at No. 18 Virginia this past Monday. The Hurricanes are looking to corner the market on the Tobacco Road rivals this year, as they already handled North Carolina (a likely No. 1 seed) 77-62 at the end of January. The high-scoring duo of Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton will battle it out with Duke stars Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard.
With the ACC and NCAA tournaments right around the corner, you have to wonder when, if ever, Coach K will insert Harry Giles into the starting lineup. Or, take the training wheels off and allow him to play over 30 minutes. There’s a good chance it doesn’t happen at all, as Giles still has a shot to be a lottery pick and may not want to risk injury at this point. If Giles stays in his normal role of 10-15 minutes per game, then expect an interesting battle down low between the Amile Jefferson and Kamari Murphy.
The X-factor for Duke would be Jayson Tatum, who continues to nudge his way into the top pick conversation ahead of this June’s NBA draft. Tatum had a monster game against Syracuse and he looks to keep it up this weekend.
No. 5 UCLA at No. 4 Arizona—8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
This top-five matchup is far and away the best game of the day, which says a lot considering our slate. Arizona can knock UCLA out of the PAC 12 title race once and for all with a win while also completing a season sweep over the loaded Bruins. The return of Allonzo Trier has lifted the Wildcats to the heights most people thought they would reach at the start of the year.
He was back for the first matchup of these two teams, scoring 12 points in 27 minutes off the bench. I expect him to be starting in this one. And, I also expect him to go toe to toe with UCLA star Lonzo Ball all evening long.
Watch out for the Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen going up against UCLA’s T.J. Leaf. They are two of the best freshmen in the country. Yet Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz and even Leaf’s teammate (Ball) typically overshadow them. Markkanen is a sure-fire Lottery pick, while Leaf could be right there with him if he decides to go pro. Trier/Ball will be fun to watch, but keep your eye on Markkanen and Leaf.
BYU at No. 1 Gonzaga—10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
After the big game in Tucson, stick around for the nightcap as Gonzaga shoots for 30-0. They should get there, but even if they do somehow stumble, should still be a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Assuming they win the WCC conference tournament starting next week, of course. Even with a win tonight, BYU would probably still need to win that same tournament to make the big dance.
Cougar sophomore Eric Mika, averaging a hair under 20 points per game, is a nice player with a very bright future who could give Gonzaga some trouble. He went for 15 points and 11 rebounds in their first meeting earlier this season.
For Gonzaga, Nigel Williams-Goss looks to put the finishing touches on a fantastic season. One that could even end with him as a first-team All-American. It’s really great to see that things have worked out for Williams-Goss, a one-time top 20 recruit, who transferred after things didn’t work out in Washington. Now he’s found a home at Gonzaga and is looking to help them finally reach the Final Four.
What’s your favorite matchup of the day?