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On Feb. 12, 2024, Wake Forest's Efton Reid III (4) slaps a rebound away from Duke's Kyle Filipowski (30) during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)
On Feb. 12, 2024, Wake Forest's Efton Reid III (4) slaps a rebound away from Duke's Kyle Filipowski (30) during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)

Games to Watch: Tournament resumes on the line in a packed weekend of basketball

As Selection Sunday draws nearer, every game becomes more important, making games this week extremely vital

This weekend may not have many high-profile matchups like some other weekends have, but this weekend is as, if not more, important than any other weekend we’ve seen so far. This is because we’re just over three weeks away from Selection Sunday and two weeks away from the end of the regular season. This means that there aren’t many opportunities left for teams to pick up wins to boost their resume, making every game left absolutely critical. For bubble teams and teams safely in the field alike, this weekend could be the turning point, changing the trajectory of their seasons for better or for worse. 

Saturday, Feb. 24: No. 2 Houston at No. 11 Baylor; noon ET on CBS

We’ve got a good one to start off Saturday, as Houston travels to Baylor in what should be a typical, great Big 12 matchup. Both of these teams have proven to be elite at times, but Baylor can be a bit inconsistent at times. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of Bears team shows up against Houston because most everyone knows that UH will show up like they almost always do. Great defense, coupled with a solid offense led by a dynamic duo of L.J. Cryer and Jamal Shead, is what Houston always brings and that’s why they're currently slotted as a one seed in my recent bracket projections. This game is particularly interesting for Cryer because it’s his first game against his old team, as he transferred from Baylor to Houston after last season. Baylor, though, has some great players of their own in Ja’Kobe Walter, RayJ Dennis and Yves Missi, all of whom should make an impact on this game. All this talent, along with the Bg 12 and national implications, should make for an exciting opening to the Saturday slate. 

Saturday, Feb. 24: No. 8 Duke at Wake Forest; 2 p.m. ET on ESPN

In an incredibly important game in terms of the bubble, Duke will take on Wake Forest in a home game for the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is right on the cut line for most bracket projections, so a big win here could do wonders for their tournament resume. They’ll need big games out of stars Hunter Salis and Kevin Miller to get it done, which isn’t a lot to ask for since they’ve been great for the vast majority of the season. For Duke, Kyle Filipowski will be key along with the plethora of guards he has around him. Jared McCain has been on fire recently, so look for him to have a big game. While this game is obviously huge for Wake, it’s also a big one for Duke in the ACC regular-season race. They’re still chasing UNC, so a loss here could crush their hopes at a regular season title. Nonetheless, this is a big game for both teams, although for different reasons, but it should be one to watch. 

Saturday, Feb. 24: No. 20 South Carolina at Ole Miss; 3:30 p.m. ET on SECN

Another game crucial to the bubble features South Carolina playing at Ole Miss. The Gamecocks have cooled off after a hot start to SEC play where they found themselves leading the conference. That may no longer be the case, but they’re still easily in the tournament field, which cannot be said for Ole Miss. The Rebels are slotted right at the cut line by most experts and could really use a ranked win to bolster their resume. Key players for them that could get it done include Matthew Murrell and Adam Flannigan, who will face off against Meechie Johnson, Ta’Lon Cooper and Collin Murray-Boyles of South Carolina. USC is still fighting for the SEC regular-season title, so every game is still important to them even if they’re safely in the tournament. This, paired with Ole Miss almost needing this win to keep their tournament hopes alive, should make for an entertaining game to keep your eyes on.

Saturday, Feb. 24: No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia; 4  p.m. ET on ESPN

A matchup incredibly similar to the Duke/Wake Forest game is the clash between North Carolina and Virginia on UVA’s campus. As for why this matchup is similar, Virginia is currently on the bubble, like Wake, and could really use this win to improve their case to make the tournament. For UNC, like Duke, this game is important because of the ACC regular-season race and would not want to pick up a loss here. Also similar to Duke/Wake, the game being on the lower-rated team’s floor should make all the difference, as home court could lead the Deacs or the Cavs to victory. This is where the similarities end as this game should be played with a very different style considering UVA’s defense. Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely lead the Cavalier offense and will try to keep up with Armando Bacot, R.J. Davis and Harrison Ingram for UNC. This should be an exciting game with clashing styles, all the while having major ACC and tournament implications, making for it certainly being a game to watch. 

Saturday, Feb. 24: No. 13 Alabama at No. 17 Kentucky; 4 p.m. ET on CBS

In maybe the marquee matchup of the week, Alabama travels to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky. The Tide are looking outstanding, and are alone in first atop the SEC standings. Kentucky wishes it could say the same, but has struggled recently, losing several games most people think it should win. This makes this one increasingly important for the Wildcats, as they are trying to avoid dropping even more seed lines. Even though the team played poorly recently, Antonio Reeves and Rob Dillingham have lit it up recently, both with 20-point games during their losing stretch. They’ll try to keep up with Mark Sears and Grant Nelson, both of whom are having great seasons and are leading Alabama to over 90 points per game as a team. This should make for a very high-scoring game, but a game both teams desperately trying to win, Alabama to maintain their lead over the SEC, and Kentucky to potentially turn their season around for the better. 

Sunday, Feb. 25: No. 15 Creighton at St. John’s; noon ET on CBS

In a game similar to a couple games already talked about, a solidly in the field team will travel to a team in major need for a win to help their tournament resume. Now the term “major need” is even more major with this one as St. Johns’ chances may be numbered if they don’t beat Creighton here. The Bluejays have a star trio of Ryan Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander, who were all crucial to beating No. 1 UConn earlier this week. The Red Storm are Joel Soriano and Daniss Jenkins and could really use big games out of them to secure the big win. A win here wouldn’t mean the Johnnies are in, but it would draw them closer and potentially start some momentum that could lead them to a tournament berth. Creighton, though, is looking to continue their momentum and end St Johns’ tournament hopes, which should make for one exciting matchup. 

Sunday, Feb. 25: FAU at Memphis; 2 p.m. ET on ESPN

This matchup may have been incredibly more notable earlier in the season, but it’s still noteworthy now as FAU and Memphis are still two talented teams. Both squads have struggled recently, with more emphasis on Memphis, who is projected to be out of the tournament at this moment. Despite this David Jones and Jahvon Quinerly are both incredible players and could lead the Tigers to a big win here. This win is a must for Memphis if they want any chance to make the tournament, but it’ll be tough against a great FAU team. Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis are both star players in the AAC and have the Owls projected to be an at-large team at the moment. In addition to the NCAA implications, both teams are lower in the conference standings than they’d like to be, making for even more of an importance on this game. Because of all this, this may be a must-win for both teams, meaning it’ll be one you won't want to miss as a finale of sorts to a great weekend of basketball. 

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