There’s plenty to watch for this weekend with teams jockeying for conference leads, chasing records, and throwing it back to the old conference days.
The Big 12 road goes through Kansas, but the Longhorns have the big men down low to provide quite the road block to the Jayhawks’ 11th-straight conference title. Meanwhile, Coach K will go for his 1,000th win at Madison Square Garden against St. John’s, and Louisville and Pitt meet in a battle of former Big East teams.
With February fast-approaching, now is the time statement wins make impacts still easily felt in March. Here’s what to watch for this weekend as we inch closer to postseason play.
Who is the Big 12 bully?
Kansas has owned the Big 12 the past 10 seasons, but that doesn’t mean it’s the biggest, baddest team in the conference. Texas seems to have rediscovered its bullish inside presence lately with Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes flourishing in recent wins over West Virginia and TCU.
Most importantly, point guard Isaiah Thomas has found his role in the offense that should clearly revolve around the big bodies inside. With that first option reestablished of late, look for Taylor to see more open looks as well against Kansas. It’s the Jayhawks’ conference, but they may not be the boss anymore.
Back in the olden days.
Louisville travels to Pittsburgh in a throwback Big East matchup on Sunday. With both now in the ACC, they’re competing not just for bragging rights but a leg up in the conference race as well. Pittsburgh needs a big win to put on its tournament resume, which lacks quality victories thus far. Louisville, on the other hand, has slowed down after a strong start to the season with recent losses to Duke and North Carolina.
Keep an eye on Louisville’s perimeter shooting. It’s the Achilles heel of this squad that Duke exposed by switching to a zone last Saturday. Will other ACC teams follow suit?
Tale of two injuries.
When Wisconsin travels to Michigan on Saturday, both teams will be without their best guards due to injuries. Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson should be back in time for the postseason run, but Michigan lost leading scorer and rebounder Caris LeVert for the season earlier this week.
The difference for Michigan, though, is the lack of depth compared to Wisconsin. Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig have eased the blow for the Badgers by quickly raising their games in Jackson’s absence. The Wolverines, on the other hand, will turn to….
It’s tough to find another reliable option in Ann Arbor. If they hope to compete in the Big Ten, someone will have to step up quickly.
One of the greatest coaches of all-time will go for his 1,000th career win on Saturday as the Blue Devils take on St. John’s at the Garden. What a setting for a legendary moment, but don’t start shaking hands just yet.
St. John’s has shown that it can beat the best in the nation this season behind show-stopping performances from D’Angelo Harrison. The Garden will be rocking, and as much as everyone respects Mike Krzyzewski, Steve Lavin and company have no plans to give away win 1,000 without a major fight.