College hoops viewer's guide: Top teams look to avoid road upsets

Grant Halverson

If the past five days are any indication, the college basketball world is about to experience the craziest Saturday of the season. Here's your guide to it all.

It's rare for a Saturday this late in the season to feature no games with multiple top 25 teams, but that's the situation we find ourselves staring down this morning. Still, the potential for an exciting day looms, as seven top 15 teams will be tested on the road by worthy conference adversaries.

If the past five days are any indication, some crazy ish is about to go down.

Here's what you're watching today.

No. 3 Syracuse at Villanova (11 a.m./ESPNU)

An interesting rematch between a Villanova team that's riding high after its upset of Louisville earlier this week, and a Syracuse squad that has an outside shot at being the new No. 1 team in the country if it can return home with this win. The Orange won the first meeting between these two by 11 back on Jan. 12.

No. 5 Louisville at Georgetown (Noon/ESPN)

Suddenly, Louisville - everyone's national title favorite just eight days ago - has dropped two straight and is in desperate need of a win. Not exactly the ideal time for a road trip to face the team that has given them more trouble than any other since joining the Big East in 2005-06. The Hoyas have won five of the seven meetings with the Cardinals as conference foes.

No. 14 Ohio State at Penn State (Noon/ESPN2)

If we're giving odds to the BCS conference teams most likely to finish the regular season without a league win, I'm making Penn State the slight favorite over TCU due to the superiority of the Big Ten. On a related note, my prediction for this basketball game is that Ohio State will win.

No. 24 Notre Dame at South Florida (Noon/SNY/MASN)

Notre Dame finds itself in need of some answers after dropping three of four and losing senior Scott Martin for perhaps the rest of the season. You can't ask for a much better place to find them than the Sun Dome.

Maryland at No. 1 Duke (1 p.m./CBS)

No one in America was less excited about Miami's absolute beatdown of Duke on Wednesday night than Maryland. The Terrapins' resume could use the big-time boost that a win at Cameron would provide, but they're going to be facing as focused and determined a Blue Devil team as we'll see all season. Even if you hate both teams or don't care about any of the pregame stroylines, Mason Plumlee vs. Alex Len is going to be worth your time.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State (1 p.m./ESPNU)

West Virginia basketball is living on the ESPN family of networks this season. It needs to be living on...dammit, I can't think of a funny canceled television channel to finish the joke. I was going to say Versus, but that's still around, it's name just changed to NBC Sports Network. This whole day just turned into a f---ing nightmare.

No. 11 Kansas State at Iowa State (1:30 p.m./Altitude)

The Wildcats hadn't lost in a month before falling to Kansas earlier this week, and now they have to overcome the power of Hilton Magic if they want to bounce back. The Cyclones are also looking to bounce back after a horrendous loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday. They need this win, and I think they'll get it.

Alabama at Tennessee (2 p.m./ESPN2)

Anthony Grant says his team hasn't practiced well in the two days since its big win over Kentucky. At 12-6 overall, they're not really in a position where they can afford to take a letdown loss to a team like Tennessee.

Dartmouth at Harvard (2 p.m./NBC Sports Network)

Both teams have played one conference game...and it was against each other two weeks ago. Harvard won that meeting, 75-65. I don't really understand the rationale behind a league schedule like this, but I'm just going to chalk it up to being some next-level Ivy League shit that the rest of us could never understand.

Marshall at Memphis (2 p.m./Fox Sports)

Marshall lost by somewhere around 8,000 points to Southern Miss earlier this week. That's the only preview I'm willing to offer up for this game.

No. 12 Minnesota at Wisconsin (2 p.m./Big Ten Network)

Minnesota has dropped three straight since beginning Big Ten play 3-0 and rising into the top ten of both national polls. Similarly, Wisconsin is riding a two-game losing streak after it had climbed to the top of the league standings with a 4-0 start. Something will have to give in Madison this afternoon.

Providence at Marquette (2 p.m./MASN/MSG)

Few players in the country are more deserving of an increase in national love than Providence's Bryce Cotton, who is quietly leading the Big East in scoring at 21.9 ppg. It would probably help if the Friars hadn't dropped seven of the their last nine.

Northwestern at Nebraska (3 p.m./ESPNU)

At 3:30 p.m., at least one of these two teams won't have hit double digits. Take that prediction to the bank, deposit it, try to withdraw it right away, and smack anyone who tries to give you a dirty look about it.

Oklahoma at No. 3 Kansas (4 p.m./ESPN)

I'm starting to become convinced that Kansas will never not be the king of the Big 12. So far this year, the Jayhawks lead the league in average scoring margin (+9.6), field goal percentage defense (.362) and steals (8.6 spg), and ranks second in scoring defense (58.6 ppg), average rebounding margin (+4.8) and blocked shots (6.0 bpg).

Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee (4 p.m./ESPN2)

It's a bit of a role reversal, as traditional Sun Belt power WKU finds itself at 5-5, while the Blue Raiders are running the league at 9-1.

No. 15 New Mexico at San Diego State (4 p.m./NBC Sports Network)

These two unnatural rivals have been developing an increasingly high amount of animosity between one another over the past few years. Most recently, there was las year's conference tournament title game (New Mexico won), and the controversy over who should have been the MWC Player of the Year (SDSU's Jamaal Franklin was, UNM's Drew Gordon didn't agree).

Mutual success can often breed contempt, and that appears to be the case here. Among current Mountain West members, SDSU (seven) and New Mexico (five) have won the most regular-season or conference tournament titles in men's basketball. They have won or shared the last six straight.

UCLA at Arizona State (4 p.m./Fox Sports)

UCLA got its signature win at Arizona on Thursday, now it's hoping to avoid a letdown against an Arizona State team searching for its own statement victory. The Bruins haven't won both games in Arizona since the 2007-08 season.

Bucknell at Holy Cross (4 p.m./CBS Sports Network)

The Bison will try to stay just one game behind Lehigh - which it lost to earlier this week - in the Patriot League standings.

DePaul at Pittsburgh (4 p.m./MSG/MASN)

DePaul needs either a win or a South Florida loss to extend its current three-day streak of not being in last place in the Big East. Pitt will be out for a little bit of revenge after the Blue Demons stunned them 84-81 a year ago.

Vanderbilt at No. 22 Missouri (5 p.m./ESPNU)

Missouri has a lot of kinks it needs to straighten out if it wants its team of talented transfers to eventually emerge as a legitimate contender. Beating up on a bad Vanderbilt team would be a solid place to start.

Temple at No. 9 Butler (6 p.m./ESPN2)

Rotnei Clarke has been cleared to play in what should be one of the better A-10 games of the first half of the conference season. The Bulldogs don't have anyone capable of slowing down Khalif Wyatt, so I think the best they can hope for is an off day from the Owl star. Butler needs a win to keep pace with the rest of the one loss teams in the conference, while Temple is looking to get back above .500.

Xavier at Saint Joseph's (6 p.m./CBS Sports Network)

There are simply no off days in the Atlantic 10. Unless you're playing Duquesne, Fordham or Rhode Island...Duquesne, Fordham and Rhode Island aren't that great.

North Carolina at No. 18 NC State (7 p.m./ESPN)

All you need to read about this one is Dexter Strickland's quote about NC State from back in October.

"They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year. They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can't put them in the mix."

Should be fun.

USC at No. 6 Arizona (7 p.m./ESPNU)

Oh thank God, USC is on national television again this week. Almost flipped out.

No. 8 Florida at Mississippi State (8 p.m./ESPN2)

Florida (15-2, 5-0) has won its league games by an average of 24.8 points, allowing just 48.4 points per contest and holding opponents to just 35.1 percent shooting. That's fairly absurd.

La Salle at No. 19 VCU (8 p.m./CBS Sports Network)

This is a fairly (using "fairly" a lot these days...also finally getting into "Homeland") intriguing matchup between a VCU team looking to get back on track after a disappointing loss to Richmond, and a La Salle squad that might still be basking in the glow its first win over a top 10 team in 33 years. If the Explorers have any sort of Butler hangover then they're liable to find themselves in a pretty big hole right out of the gate.

San Francisco at No. 10 Gonzaga (8 p.m./ROOT Sports)

One month ago, I had no idea what ROOT Sports was. Thanks to every other Mountain West/WCC game being a thriller, I have been enlightened.

Air Force at Wyoming (10 p.m./ROOT Sports)

The Cowboys are going to find themselves in a very bad place if they don't find a way to win this one and get back to .500 in MWC play.

BYU at Portland (10:30 p.m./ESPNU)

Few teams in America have had their confidence shaken harder in the past week and-a-half than BYU. First, there was the soul-crushing loss to Saint Mary's on Matthew Dellavedova's prayer, then there was a 20-point beatdown at the hands of Gonzaga two days ago. The Cougars now find themselves in a position where they'll almost certainly have to win the WCC tourney to get back to the dance.

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