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On Dec. 5, 2023, Michigan State's Tyson Walker (2) during introductions before a game against Wisconsin at Breslin Center on in East Lansing, Michigan. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images/TNS)
On Dec. 5, 2023, Michigan State's Tyson Walker (2) during introductions before a game against Wisconsin at Breslin Center on in East Lansing, Michigan. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images/TNS)

Games to Watch: Several top teams visit upset-prone environments on Saturday

Look out for court stormings, as many ranked teams travel to play solid unranked opponents on Saturday

While there are not as many high-ranked matchups as there were last weekend, this weekend might be even better. This is because there is so much potential for several upsets to go down on Saturday. Even the best of teams have a hard time playing in a road, conference environment, and there are many of those types of games this week. From the Big Ten to the SEC to several Big 12 games, most conferences have a game on Saturday involving one of their top teams going into a road environment that has upset written all over it.

No. 10 Illinois at Michigan State; 2 p.m. ET on CBS

One of the potential upsets comes from the Big Ten, where Illinois will travel to Michigan State to take on the Spartans. While Illinois is a top-10 team and ahead of MSU in the standings, the rowdy crowd of the Breslin Center should keep the Spartans in it. The last time these two teams met was back on Jan. 11, a game that was extremely close, but the Illini took it in the end. As for this matchup, of course Michigan State’s Tyson Walker will be a huge factor, but it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of MSU’s starters play, as they've been lackluster of late. For Illinois, Marcus Domask has been sensational recently, while Terrence Shannon has been slow to get back to his stellar self since his return to play. This should definitely be one to watch, not only because it’s two major programs meeting in a great environment, but because this one could end up being critical for how the Big Ten standings shake out come the end of the season. 

No. 12 Auburn at Florida; 3:30 p.m. ET on SECN

Moving over to the SEC, another top-15 versus bubble team matchup takes place when Auburn travels to Florida. The Gators are right on the cut line in most bracket projections, so a win here would be really big for their tournament hopes. Auburn, while a virtual lock for the field, would also love this Quad One win to boost its chances at a top seed, but also keep it in the race for the SEC regular-season title. The Tigers are coming off a huge win over rival Alabama on Wednesday, so this game will see if Johni Broome and the rest of the roster can keep it up in a solid road environment. The Gators, though, have shown they can beat ranked teams, even on the road, as their star Walter Clayton Jr. willed his team to victory over Kentucky last month. Because of all this, this is a high upset-potential game, but with Auburn still being the favorite with its talented squad. 

Gonzaga at No. 17 Kentucky; 4 p.m. ET on CBS

Another matchup from a SEC arena only features one team from the league, which is a major oddity for this time of year. Nonetheless, Gonzaga will travel to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats in a non-conference game in the middle of February. This game, while already interesting because of the teams involved, is even more interesting considering how these two teams have played throughout the season. Both squads have proved to be talented at times, but underwhelming overall. While this one obviously won’t count in the conference standings, for national ranking and NCAA Tournament resume, it’s vitally important for Kentucky to not take a loss at home here. Gonzaga, though, is desperate for a big win because they’re projected to be out of the field entirely. Winning this one may put them in the field, meaning they wouldn’t be reliant on the WCC autobid to get them in. All this means that this one will certainly be one to watch, with star players Antonio Reeves and Rob Dillingham for UK battling Graham Ike and Ryan Nembhard for GU.

No. 5 Houston at Cincinnati; 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2

It’s looking like each conference has a chance at a major upset, because here we’ve got a Big 12 matchup that could be a shocker in favor of the home team. Houston will try to avoid the upset, taking the trip to Cincinnati to take on a bubble team hungry for a big win. The Bearcats are coming off a great road win over Texas Tech, so making these back-to-back huge wins would do wonders for their Tournament chances, as they are currently in by most projections, but not by much. For Houston, they are a projected No. 1 seed, so taking a loss here would not be good for their hopes of retaining that one seed line. Jamal Shead and L.J. Cryer are playing phenomenally, but recently taking a loss to Kansas means they definitely don’t want another L here. Simas Lukosius and Cincy, though, would love this huge home win over a top-five team. 

No. 13 Baylor at No. 4 Kansas; 6 p.m. ET on ESPN

In what is looking like the best matchup on a packed Saturday, Baylor travels to Kansas where they will meet the Jayhawks in a Big 12 showdown. Both these teams won big games last Saturday, but Kansas took a loss this week to rival Kansas State. Baylor, on the other hand, is on a three-game winning streak, one it’ll try to extend in the raucous environment of Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is yet to lose there this season, so it’ll be the perfect environment for them to make up for their loss earlier this week. The Jayhawks are looking like a top-two seed with an outside chance at a one, so this game is really important if they want to get up to that one line. Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson should have stellar performances per usual for KU, but Ja’Kobe Walter and RayJ Dennis are a dynamic duo for Baylor and could potentially pull off the upset in the tough road environment Kansas brings. 

No. 6 Tennessee at Texas A&M; 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Another possible upset from the SEC comes from College Station where Texas A&M will host Tennessee. Both these squads are projected to be in the Tournament field, but Texas A&M doesn’t have much breathing room, so a win here could be huge for them. The Vols are right in the middle of the SEC regular-season title race, so this one is also huge for them and their chances to win the league. Dalton Knecht is also fighting for SEC Player of the Year honors, so expect a big performance out of him, as well as Wade Taylor IV. The Aggies’ star usually steps up in big games like this. Texas A&M has already beaten Kentucky at home, so they’ve proven they can upset teams at home, meaning this one will definitely be one to watch.

No. 8 Arizona  at Colorado; 10 p.m. ET on ESPN

Yet another possible upset takes place on Saturday, this one from the Pac-12, where two of the top teams, Arizona and Colorado will battle after dark. Arizona is the clear top dog in the conference, with the rest of the teams, including Colorado fighting to make the Tournament. Arizona, though, is fighting for a one seed so this one is still important for them. Caleb Love and Oumar Ballo lead the ‘Cats and are looking great recently. They’ll face Colorado star K.J. Simpson, who will look to take over this game and get his team a much-needed big win. A victory here could move the Buffs into a tournament slot, while a loss would mean they don’t have many more opportunities to get a big win in the rest of the season. All this means that this matchup may seem like it would be easily in the Wildcats’ favor, but a hungry Colorado team could get the upset at home. 

Boise State at No. 22 Utah State; 10 p.m. ET on FS1

Rounding out the Saturday slate, Boise State goes to Utah State in a solid Mountain West game late at night. Both these teams look solidly in the field, but as for the Mountain West regular season crown, that's anybody's game. This means that this one could be the difference in the final standings, making it a very important matchup. Utah State took the earlier matchup this season in overtime, meaning that we should be in for another nail biter in this one. Tyson Degenhart, for Boise, is a name to remember, as is Great Osobor for USU, both of whom are some of the biggest stars in the conference. Both these teams are coming off losses, so they’ll be hungry to get back to their winning ways, especially with how many great teams the Mountain West has this season. All this makes this matchup seriously intriguing and a great one to end this busy Saturday of basketball with. 

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