Which team is under the most pressure in this final week of the regular season?
Patrick Snow: I think the West Virginia Mountaineers are under a ton of pressure if they want to make a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Bob Huggins’ club is currently tied for ninth in the rough Big East, and WVU has not been playing quality ball down the stretch. After starting the season at 15–5 overall and 5–2 in league play, the Mountaineers have lost seven of their last nine games. Those seven defeats include four home games, and WVU suffered a very tough loss last Friday after blowing an 11-point halftime lead against Marquette. Seniors Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones have led the team all season but have been inconsistent lately. WVU travels to South Florida on Saturday to face a Bulls club that has been very tough this season. A quality road win in the last regular-season game could be the difference-maker in getting the Mountaineers off the bubble, instead of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Huggins’ return to Morgantown.
Mitch Light: There’s a bunch of options here, but I will go with Northwestern, which is scratching and clawing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Wildcats are currently 17–11 overall and 7–9 in the Big Ten with an RPI of 43. They close the regular season with a home date with Ohio State on Wednesday and a tricky road game at Iowa on Saturday. If they beat Ohio State, they will be a virtual lock for the Tournament. If not, however, Bill Carmody’s club will head to Iowa City in must-win mode against an Iowa team that beat Indiana and Wisconsin in its last two home games. There’s no denying that this will be a stressful week for everyone associated with Northwestern basketball.
What conference tournament are you most looking forward to?
Patrick Snow: I am very excited for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament this weekend. We all know the success that the CAA has had in recent NCAA Tournaments, producing two Final Four teams over the last six years — George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. Even though three league squads (Drexel, VCU and George Mason) have 23 wins or more, I’m not sure that multiple teams will be invited to this season’s March Madness. That fact will make for a very exciting and pressure-packed league tourney. Three other CAA teams — Old Dominion, Delaware and Georgia State — have double-digit win totals in league play, so it should be wide open in Richmond. Drexel is the top seed on the strength of 17 consecutive victories, while fifth-place Delaware has won eight straight CAA games. VCU and George Mason will also be tough outs, as the CAA tourney figures to produce an electric atmosphere with multiple teams trying to reach their NCAA Tournament goal.
Mitch Light: I think the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis — or Arch Madness, as it’s called — will be fun to watch. The league has two very good teams at the top in Wichita State (16–2) and Creighton (14–4) and then incredible balance with five teams finishing in a tie for third place at 9–9 in the league. Wichita State is the obvious favorite, but Creighton boasts the Valley’s best player in sophomore forward Doug McDermott, the son of head coach Greg McDermott. Looking for a sleeper? Indiana State was a bit of a disappointment this season with an 8–10 league record, but Greg Lansing’s club returns most of the key players from last year’s team that won the MVC Tournament title.
Nathan Rush: The SEC Tournament is must-see TV. Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to win the national championship. But can the Wildcats cruise to the SEC crown, as they have in each of John Calipari's first two seasons at UK? If they are tested in a do-or-die tournament setting, how will Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the young Cats react? Also, the SEC has two of the more intriguing NCAA Tournament wild cards. Both Florida and Vanderbilt have the firepower to make a run in March. But if the Gators and Commodores don't get hot at the right time, either (or both) could easily stagger early in the Dance. UF and VU are hit or miss. But which is it? Then there's Alabama, a well-coached club that can stifle just about any offense on the right night. There is plenty of NCAA Tournament insight to be gleaned from the SEC Tournament — which, coincidentally, is in New Orleans, the site of this year's Final Four.
Duke's Hall of Fame coach talks philosophy and leadership.
With a 74–69 win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden earlier this season, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski passed his mentor and former coach at Army, Bob Knight, for most NCAA career victories (903). Krzyzewski says he is most proud of the fact that coach and player — Knight and himself — together have more than 1,800 victories.
Inside the NBA on TNT and NCAA Tournament on CBS analyst Kenny "The Jet" Smith talks basketball.
Athlon Sports sat down with Kenny Smith, who covers the NBA on TNT — along with Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Co. as a member of the Emmy award-winning Inside the NBA — as well as the NCAA Tournament on CBS. “The Jet” was a first-team All-American point guard under Dean Smith at North Carolina and a two-time NBA Finals champion with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995.
UConn-Georgetown, Vanderbilt-Kentucky highlight the action
WEEKEND ON TAP
The regular season is winding down. Every game counts. Here's a look at the key games this weekend.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
The Commodores threw a scare into Kentucky in Nashville — they led by four points late in the second half — but had no answer for the Wildcats’ defense down the stretch.
Notre Dame at St. John’s
Notre Dame’s incredible run in the Big East has included four straight wins on the road — three by four points or less. This team is playing with a ton of confidence.
LSU at Ole Miss
LSU has won four straight and is above .500 in the SEC for the first time this season. The Tigers need to win their final three regular-season games to be in the discussion for an at-large bid.
UCLA at Arizona
Arizona is a team that cannot afford any bad losses — and losing to UCLA at home would be a bad loss.
Florida at Georgia
The Gators’ struggles on the road appear to be a thing of the past. Georgia will need to shoot very well to keep this one close.
NC State at Clemson
The Wolfpack are in desperate need of some good wins away from home. Clemson is always a tough out at Littlejohn Coliseum. This is a huge game for NC State.
Rutgers at Seton Hall
Seton Hall solidified its NCAA Tournament resume with a convincing win over Georgetown. This weekend, the Hall will be looking to complete the season sweep vs. in-state rival Rutgers.
Penn at Harvard
With home dates vs. Princeton (Friday night) and Penn, this is a huge week for Harvard, which is closing in on its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946.
North Carolina at Virginia
Virginia’s NCAA Tournament résumé is solid; the Cavs have an opportunity to improve their seed with a win over North Carolina.
Missouri at Kansas
It doesn’t get any better than this: Two hated rivals meeting for the final time (we think) in one of the great settings in college basketball with a conference title on the line.
Memphis at Marshall
Memphis is still in good shape, but the Tigers took a step back with a loss at home to UTEP over the weekend. Marshall is good enough to win this game.
Belmont at Mercer
This regular-season finale in the A-Sun figures to be a preview of the league tournament title game, which will played on Mercer’s home floor one week later.
Purdue at Michigan
This is far from a must-win for Purdue, but the Boilermakers will greatly enhance their at-large chances with a win in Ann Arbor.
Mississippi State at Alabama
Mississippi State has lost four straight to dip under .500 in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ RPI is 60, and they are ranked 78th in KenPom. They could really use a win in Tuscaloosa.
Syracuse at Connecticut
The defending national champs stopped the bleeding with the win at Villanova on Monday, but we’re not quite ready to say the Huskies’ ship has been righted.
Colorado State at San Diego State
The Rams are feeling pretty good about themselves after beating New Mexico at home earlier this week. If they can steal a win at San Diego, it will be time to seriously consider them for an at-large invite.
Saint Mary’s at San Francisco
The Gaels are struggling at the wrong time of the year. San Francisco has been tough at home down the stretch. The Dons lost by one to BYU then bounced back to beat Gonzaga.
Sunday, Feb. 26
Cincinnati at South Florida
South Florida has already secured its first-ever winning season in Big East play. Now, the Bulls are focused on beefing up their at-large profile.
Indiana at Minnesota
With wins over Kentucky and Ohio State, the Hoosiers are in no danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. But Tom Crean would like to see his team play better away from home.
Pittsburgh at Louisville
Barring a miracle run in the Big East Tournament, Pittsburgh will miss the NCAAs for the first time since 2001.
Wisconsin at Ohio State
The Buckeyes won ugly in Madison, 58–52, earlier this month. They’d love to open things up and get this game in the 70s.
Florida State at Miami (Fla.)
This is huge game for both teams. The Noles are still in the hunt for the ACC title, while the Canes need another quality win on their résumé.
Iowa at Illinois
Illinois has wins over two top-five teams (Ohio State, Michigan State), but the Fighting Illini have played their way off the bubble (on the wrong side) with an epic late-season collapse.
"Obviously this is my favorite win I've ever had in my entire life. And it's because we were down the whole game. The whole game, we were down. They just kept it on us -- 10-point lead, 10-point lead. And then there was 3 minutes left and probably everybody thought we were going to lose, and we just kept fighting. To get a W, it's amazing."
Duke freshman Austin Rivers, who hit a three pointer at the buzzer to give the Blue Devils an 85-84 win at rival North Carolina.