Jan 25, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT
Someone wants to be relevant in the Triangle, right?: North Carolina heads to Raleigh to take on No. 18 NC State on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a game that features two of the bigger disappointments in the ACC this season. And, frankly, it’s not totally unexpected. We knew that North Carolina was young heading into the season and we knew that NC State was talented but coming off of a fluky run to the Sweet 16 and still had Mark Gottfried as their head coach.
But in a season that as proven to be as wide-open as any in recent memory — particularly with the injury to Ryan Kelly at Duke — it’s still surprising that both the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack have fallen so far out of the discussion for the ACC regular season title. They’ll fall even farther with a loss Saturday night, as both teams are currently sitting two games behind undefeated Miami in the ACC standings.
Are either of these teams truly going to be competitors for the ACC crown? A loss on Saturday pretty much ends that discussion.
So what’s the deal with Kentucky?: Does anyone have a definitive answer at this point? They have plenty of talent on the roster. They have some pieces that, in a vacuum, can be really impressive. But “it” just hasn’t “clicked” yet for the Wildcats. What I mean is that John Calipari has yet to get this team to the point where they look better every single time they step on the court. With last year’s group, Kentucky would seemingly get better after each TV timeout, not just after each game. Their ascent from young-but-talented to holy-crap-they’re-awesome was fast and steep. This year’s team is still making the same mistakes and still has the same issues that we were talking about in November. That’s a problem.
On Saturday, LSU visits Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3) in a game that the Wildcats simply have to win. But this is one of those instances where just a win may not suffice. The Wildcats need a confidence builder. They need to come out and dominate an overmatched Tiger team from the start. They need to make a statement, because that will a) allow their fans to slowly step away from the edge of the cliff, and b) it will provide a building block on which they can grow. Hesitancy and a lack of confidence are the worst traits an athlete can have, and it’s an issue afflicting everyone on Kentucky not named Nerlens Noel.
Rotnei Clarke’s return: When Temple visits No. 9 Butler on Saturday (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), we’ll likely see Clarke return to the court for the first time since this terrifying injury that he suffered at Dayton two Saturday’s ago. He’s been cleared to practice and the Bulldogs are awaiting word on whether he’ll be allowed to play on Saturday. Butler beat Gonzaga in a thrilling win last Saturday night, but they lost on a last-second shot from Ramon Galloway at La Salle on Wednesday night. Clarke’s return should be a major boost for the Bulldogs.
Turn the Bruins turn a corner last night?: On Thursday, UCLA put on one of the most impressive displays we’ve seen out of Ben Howland’s program since … they made the 2008 Final Four? Seriously. UCLA went into the McKale Center and just drubbed Arizona, jumping out to a 19-3 lead and never allowing the Wildcats to get closer than four points the rest of the way. Now here comes the big test. UCLA visits a good Arizona State team on Saturday (4:00 p.m. ET, FSN). It’s a game they probably can’t afford to lose if they want to keep within striking distance of Oregon at the top of the Pac-12.
Good teams win on the road. The really good teams, the teams that can compete for conference championships and Final Fours, don’t have letdowns after winning a big game on the road. Saturday should tell us a lot about UCLA.
Big Sky showdown: Weber State had to go and lose to Montana State on the road on Thursday night, taking some of the luster off of the big matchup in the Big Sky on Saturday night (9:05 p.m. ET). As was the case last season, Weber State and Montana are the class of the conference. The Grizzlies are now sitting at 9-0 in the league while the Wildcats 8-1. It will be a good way to cap what should be another great Saturday of hoops.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Mar 12, 2014, 3:14 PM EDT
No one noticed that a key possession in a quarterfinal in the NEC tournament saw Mount St. Mary’s use six players.
Mar 12, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
The NCAA will not allow Baylor to wear the jerseys that were created for them by Adidas.
Mar 12, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
Weber State is the presumptive favorite, but as many Big Sky teams are on equal footing, the Wildcats may again miss the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT
Michigan State and Iowa look to right the ship, Wisconsin tries to earn a No. 1 seed and Nebraska and Minnesota try to lock up a bid.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT
The major conference tournaments kicks off on Wednesday.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT
The Maryland basketball team honors a former manager that passed away.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Regular season champion UC Irvine may have gone 13-3 in Big West play, but look for this tournament to provide a surprise or two.
Mar 12, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT
Doug McDermott’s SI cover pays homage to a man that he passed on the career scoring list weeks ago.
Mar 12, 2014, 9:09 AM EDT
Up to 13 spots remain uncertain for the stretch run.
Mar 12, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
While there’s a clear favorite in the Pac-12 tournament, there will be plenty of drama with multiple teams looking to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
No. 8 San Diego State, No. 20 New Mexico are the clear favorites in Las Vegas. But don’t expect those two teams to simply coast to the title game, either.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:38 AM EDT
Four autobids were decided on Tuesday as the NCAA Tournament has some new entrants into the field of 68. Find out who made the Big Dance and see how BYU is looking after its WCC title game loss.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Gonzaga is back in the tournament for what feels like the 100th straight year, but this team is a bit different than Gonzaga teams of old.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Meet the North Dakota State Bison, the winners of the Summit League and one of the — likely — trendy upset picks in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT
The coaching carousel continued to spin on Tuesday night as Loyola Marymount opted not to renew the contract of head coach Max Good.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:06 PM EDT
Get to know the Northeast Conference tournament champs!
Mar 11, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
The Milwaukee Panthers are dancing after winning four games in the Horizon League Conference Tournament. Meet one of the NCAA Tournament’s more dangerous double-digit seeds here.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
After only two seasons as head coach, Tennessee State has opted to fire head coach Travis Williams.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
The Southland’s top team has been upset in the conference tournament for the past three seasons. Will the trend continue? Or has the arrival of Stephen F. Austin’s new coach, Brad Underwood, altered the trajectory?
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