What to watch in college basketball: Florida and Kentucky square off in battle of top SEC programs

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone is scrambling to position themselves for conference tournaments, with Florida and Kentucky taking the spotlight on Saturday.

Monday, March 3

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at North Carolina Tar Heels, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Notre Dame has been struggling all season in ACC play and with Saturday's loss in overtime to the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Irish are just trying to find any confidence they can while creating havoc for the Tar Heels. North Carolina, for the most part, has righted the ship after slipping a few times early in the year and against conference opponents. The Tar Heels have won 11 straight games and are trying to solidify their standing for the ACC Tournament.

Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma State Cowboys, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Kansas State has struggled mightily on the road this season, amassing a record of just 2-6 outside of Bramlage Coliseum. Marcus Foster has been carrying the scoring load for the team this year, but over the last five games -- three of which were on the road -- he has been plagued with inconsistency in terms of assists and shot selection. Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart will pose a significant challenge for the Wildcats as the projected top-10 pick in this year's draft looks to regain some ground in the Big 12.

Tuesday, March 4

Iowa State Cyclones vs. Baylor Bears, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2: Kansas State ended the Cyclones' four-game winning streak on Saturday, pushing them to 22-6 overall and firmly in the fight for second place in the Big 12. Getting a win over Baylor will be key to grabbing the No. 2 spot in the conference tournament. The Bears won't be an easy out, as they have scrapped all February against Big 12 opponents. Iowa State is leading the country in assists per game and Baylor isn't in the top 300 in assists allowed. The key to this game will be how and if Iowa State can move the ball on offense.

Creighton Bluejays at Georgetown Hoyas, 7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1: Despite 27 points from Doug McDermott, the Bluejays lost to Xavier on Saturday and never looked to be in control of their own destiny. Creighton's last three losses have come on the road and the team will face another test of its mettle against the Hoyas on Tuesday. Georgetown has had a disappointing season with just a 7-9 record in the Big East. A win over the Bluejays would be a feather in its cap for this season, as well as throw a wrench in Creighton's spokes as it tries to chase down Villanova for the top spot in the conference tourney.

Wednesday, March 5

Louisville Cardinals at Southern Methodist Mustangs, 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: Louisville is coming off a loss at Memphis while the Mustangs are in the middle of a three-game winning streak. For the Cardinals, they are trying to fight off both SMU and Cincinnati as they approach the AAC Tournament. An upstart this season, Larry Brown has the Mustangs raring to go and looking to avenge their Jan. 12 loss to Louisville in Kentucky. Nic Moore has been the model of consistency lately and he should be a big factor in whether SMU can knock off the Cardinals.

Dayton Flyers at Saint Louis Billikens, 9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: Dayton will look to climb into the top four in the Atlantic 10 with a tough road game against Saint Louis. At 20-9, the Flyers are firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament and are looking to make their case against the Billikens. Saint Louis will try to remain atop the A 10 as it heads into the postseason. Look for Dwayne Evans to have a strong showing after putting up 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds against Dayton in January.

Thursday, March 6

Memphis Tigers at Cincinnati Bearcats, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Neither of these teams is looking to cede a loss this late in the season, especially with Memphis within striking distance of a top-four seed in the AAC. The Tigers stumbled over Houston on Feb. 27 but followed that up with a win over Louisville and need to continue to right themselves against Cincinnati. For the Bearcats and star guard Sean Kilpatrick, this game could mean leapfrogging Louisville if it happens to fall to SMU earlier in the week.

Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan State Spartans, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Despite their 20-9 record, the Iowa Hawkeyes have had seven of their losses this season come in the Big Ten. Thursday night's game against the Spartans won't come easy, as Michigan State will be looking to rebound after losing four of its last six games. A win against Iowa will help Tom Izzo hold off the Wisconsin Badgers for second place in the conference tournament.

Friday, March 7

Kent State Golden Flashes at Akron Zips, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2: Kent State skidded through the month of January and its February wasn't much better. The Golden Flashes are here to cause trouble for Akron, who is sitting in the upper tier of the MAC and trying to ensure its place in the conference tournament. The Zips will need to move the ball better than they have in their last two losses, in which they have averaged just nine assists per game.

Saturday, March 8

Kentucky Wildcats at Florida Gators, 12 p.m. ET, CBS: Florida puts its conference-best record on the line against a traditional powerhouse on Saturday in what could be the game of the week. The Gators have been rolling since Dec. 10 when they started their 21-game winning streak. Tough defense has been a staple for Florida, and Kentucky will be a challenge. The Wildcats are 39th in points per game and fifth in rebounds, which should give them extra opportunities. Kentucky lost its last game against the Gators on Feb. 15 and a win on Saturday would give the Wildcats the extra boost of confidence they need going into the SEC Tournament.

North Carolina Tar Heels at Duke Blue Devils, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: More than anything, this entry into the Tobacco Road rivalry is about conference standings moving into the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels has tripped over themselves often this year, with just one of their seven losses coming to (at that time) ranked opponents. Marcus Paige, who had 13 points, four assists and five turnovers when these teams last met on Feb. 20, will likely need to have a strong showing in order to beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are 16-0 at home this season.

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