The college basketball season is rounding into form, and some teams have reached the life-or-death stage. As the season has continued, the only thing that has become obvious is there are more questions than answers. There are several teams this week fighting to avoid that dreaded tenth loss in a marquee college basketball Saturday. Here is a look at some of the bigger games of the day.
Marquee College Basketball Saturday 2/11
Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers- 2 pm est
The Crimson Tide might be the best team in the country this year. They also might be the hottest team in the country right now. Since they lost to Oklahoma on 1/28, they have been rolling opponents in SEC play. Lately, the offense has been clicking, averaging over 92 points per game since that Sooners game. Additionally, they have the sixth-ranked defense, according to KenPom. Brandon Miller is as good of a player as there is in the country, and he will be the first college player selected in the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Auburn Tigers are struggling right now. However, College Gameday and their arch-rivals might be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Tigers have lost four of five, with the only win coming over Georgia. They then lost back-to-back heartbreakers on the road against Tennessee and Texas A&M. Auburn still has guards who can score at any time, but they are equally as loose with the ball, which leads to most of their inconsistencies.
The Pick: Alabama in a nail-biter
UConn Huskies at Creighton Bluejays- 2 pm est
No one was hotter than the Huskies to start the year. The former number two team in the nation lost five of six around the New Year but has since started to figure it out. They won five of their last six, with the only loss coming by three to Xavier. The question with UConn is who helps Adama Sanogo. They have tons of options, but that makes it difficult at times when you do not know who will step up.
Creighton is another team that was red hot to start the year and then caught the losing bug. Their losses correlate to Ryan Kalkbrenner being injured. Now, they have won seven straight and have a chance for a big win. Baylor Scheierman is the best transfer this season, and he can carry this team to a Final Four.
The Pick: Creighton by eight
Duke Blue Devils at Virginia Cavaliers- 4 pm est
Duke is coming off the worst game of the season at Miami. That game followed their big win over North Carolina that was supposed to jump-start the season. Of course, Jon Scheyer being new to the sideline, paired with a brand-new, super-young roster, has complicated things. The talent is present all over the floor for Duke, but the inconsistencies are even more present. Jeremy Roach must play as he did in March of last year to lead the young Blue Devils back to the Final Four. Duke has historically been great against the ‘Hoos, but this year feels different unless the Devils get red hot from deep.
Virginia is in the driver’s seat to steal an ACC crown this year. Tony Bennett returns most of his roster from last year and added some nice pieces in the transfer portal. Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman make up one of the best backcourts in the nation. This Virginia team is not quite as efficient on either end of the floor as they usually are, but they are still very talented and very experienced.
The Pick: Virginia at the buzzer
Baylor Bears at TCU Horned Frogs- 4 pm est
Baylor has surged of late. They had a lull around the holidays but have since been quietly one of the best teams in the nation. The Bears have an old and talented backcourt in Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer, that have found their shooting stroke recently. As Baylor continues to get healthy, they will be a team that is feared when the calendar turns to March.
TCU was a dark horse heading into this season and played some great basketball. They have sputtered of late, losing three of four, but a lot of that is due to Mike Miles Jr and Eddie Lampkin missing time. Without your two best players, it is hard to win games. Without knowing their status, this is a tough game to project, but they would need to be at their best to beat Baylor right now.
The Pick: Baylor by double figures
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Iowa State Cyclones- 6 pm est
What started as a down year quickly turned into a hot streak for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State is playing good basketball right now after winning four in a row. Nobody in the Big 12 is excited to play them. Bryce Thompson has been outstanding and leading this team to new heights.
Hilton Magic is a real thing. The Cyclones’ last two games at home were wins over Kansas and Kansas State while they dropped their last three road games. The St. Bonaventure transfers give this team an entirely new level. Iowa State just has to figure out their road woes, but that won’t be a concern tonight.
The Pick: Iowa State by double digits
Missouri Tigers at Tennessee Volunteers- 6 pm est
Missouri is a fun team to watch. They have the ninth-ranked offense in the country and the 187th-ranked defense. They play super fast, force turnovers, and jack up quick shots. That is not necessarily conducive to winning unless they are making everything. However, that recipe on the road against an old and tough team is bound to be sour. Kobe Brown is going to need to put on a show here.
The Volunteers did the unthinkable and lost at the buzzer to rival Vanderbilt. They gave up far more threes than usual and just looked checked out. Now, they get to return home and try to right the ship to look like a true top-ten team. The question for the Vols is, who is the best player? Zakai Zeigler has really struggled in the last two games and must turn it around for Tennessee to reach their potential.