WEEKEND PREVIEW: 11 top 25 teams on the road, including five top ten
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 11 West Virginia at No. 2 Oklahoma, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
West Virginia will become the first team since 1997 to play the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country in the same week when they head to Norman on Saturday to take on No. 2 Oklahoma. On Tuesday night, the Mountaineers knocked off No. 1 Kansas in Morgantown.
With a win, West Virginia will become the first team since 1989 to beat the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country in back-to-back games. That honor belongs to Kansas, who pulled off the feat on back-to-back nights in November of that season during the Preseason NIT.
For the Bobby Huggins’ club to make that happen, they are going to need the press that turned the Kansas guards into a high school team to be operating in top gear. Oklahoma can be susceptible to pressure. Buddy Hield is averaging more than 26 points on a nightly basis, but he’s turnover prone. Ask Oklahoma State. They got him to cough up the ball 10 times on Thursday night. Isaiah Cousins has been inconsistent this season. Jordan Woodard doesn’t really have a back-up ready to handle the kind of pressure that West Virginia is going to throw at them. They’ve got a chance.
That said, the question with this group is whether or not they can travel. We know how good they are in their own building; it’s a long flight to Morgantown to play in a loud arena against a team that plays tough, physical, in your jock defense for 94 feet for 40 minutes. That’s not fun. It’s also a different story when they’re trying to do that same thing on the road, when they have to make that long trip and the crowd is getting loud when they mess up.
But in a year where five top ten teams losing in the span of three days doesn’t seem all that strange, West Virginia sweep the top two teams in the country in the span of five days isn’t out of the question.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 6 Villanova at Georgetown, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
A good old fashioned Big East battle. After struggling through the early part of the season and getting run out of the gym by Oklahoma and Virginia, Villanova has found a rhythm. They’re shooting less threes than they were at the start of the season, they’re hitting a higher percentage of the threes that they do take and, as a result, they’re winning games and currently sitting atop the Big East conference standings. The team sitting directly behind them right now? Georgetown, who is 4-1 in the Big East. That said, the Hoyas have yet to beat one of the top four teams in the conference and they’ve also lost to the likes of Monmouth, Radford and UNC Asheville. I don’t totally trust them yet.
But I will if they pick up this win at home on Saturday.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Michigan is coming off of a huge win over No. 3 Maryland at home on Tuesday night, but they’ll be on the road on Sunday afternoon to take on No. 16 Iowa at 4:30 p.m. It’s unclear if the Wolverines will be with or without Caris LeVert, who is still battling a left foot injury.
- No. 7 Xavier, on the other hand, will be back at full strength at Marquette on Saturday, a game that tips at 2:00 p.m. Edmond Sumner, the star point guard for the Musketeers, will return to the lineup for the first time since New Year’s Eve, when he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the last two weeks.
- No. 13 Virginia bounced back from a rough week on Tuesday when they knocked off No. 8 Miami at home. The prior week the Cavaliers had lost a pair of road games to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, giving them their third true road loss of the season. Virginia will play on the road at Florida State on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m.
- No. 9 Duke will be looking to bounce back from an upset loss at Clemson on Thursday night when they host Notre Dame on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. If you like high-scoring basketball games, games that have a lot of points and a lot of threes and not all that much defense, this will be right up your alley. The Blue Devils have been nearly unguardable since Brandon Ingram moved to the four when Amile Jefferson broke his foot.
- The first edition of this year’s Tobacco Road rivalry will pit N.C. State heading over to Chapel Hill to take on No. 5 North Carolina on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. This is getting pretty close to must-win territory for the Wolfpack, who have not exactly lived up to their talent this season.
- It’s not a secret that John Calipari and Bruce Pearl are not exactly the best of friends. That’s a rivalry that stems back to the days when Memphis and Tennessee were two of the best teams in college basketball. On Saturday at 4:00 p.m., No. 14 Kentucky makes the trip down to Auburn to take on Bruce Pearl’s new program. This is a winnable game for the Tigers. Don’t think Bruce Pearl doesn’t know that.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 8 Miami FL at Clemson, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
In the last three games, Clemson has knocked off Syracuse, they’ve knocked off Louisville and they’ve knocked off Duke. And on Saturday, they get Miami, who just may be the best team out of that quartet. (That’s crazy to think about, isn’t it?) The Hurricanes are coming off of a loss at Virginia on Tuesday, a loss where they did not play all that well and got lit up by UVA’s big three down the stretch. At 4-1 in the ACC, Clemson currently looks like a team that might end up being a factor in ACC play this season. If they can beat Miami on Saturday, you might be able to take the ‘might’ out of that last sentence.
WHAT WILL WE BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY?: This has not been a good week for teams currently ranked in the top 10. Five of them lost this week: No. 1 Kansas, No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 8 Miami and No. 9 Duke. Four of those five were on the road.
In total, nine top 25 teams lost this week, with all but two of them falling in games that came away from home.
There are 11 top 25 teams that are playing away from home, with five of the top ten wearing road jerseys this weekend.
Only one of those teams -- No. 11 West Virginia -- will be playing on the road against a fellow top 25 program.
In other words, if you thought that this week was a bloodbath for highly-ranked teams, just wait until you see what happens this weekend.