With the college basketball season in full swing, Matt Fargo takes a look at three big games on tap that you cannot miss this Saturday.
West Virginia Mountaineers at UCLA Bruins 3:45 PM ET
This is easily the best non-conference game of the day and while most teams are thinking about conference action, there two teams are thinking about quality wins before the NCAA Tournament. Both of these teams are leading their respective conferences and both want this one badly. This is the first of two straight non-conference games for the Mountaineers, the second coming against Marshall so they will be fully focused here.
At 13-3 including wins over Oklahoma and Villanova, West Virginia still has a very low RPI of 49. The Mountaineers have played the 102nd ranked schedule in the country which isn’t bad yet aren’t getting the rankings. They aren’t going to give you pretty stat lines as they are only +0.2 percent in shooting margin and -7.7 in rebounding margin but they are efficient in two huge categories, free throw shooting and assist/turnover ratio.
UCLA is 9th in the RPI with two of its losses coming against Memphis and Washington, ranked 2nd and 39th respectively. All three losses have been by eight points or less and it makes you wonder how this team is able to do it with an injury list that seems to grow every week. The Bruins are 14th in shooting at 49.2 percent while the defense is allowing just 43.3 percent. One problem is an assist/turnover ratio that is below 1.00.
These two teams have not met but UCLA head coach Ben Howland is very familiar with the Mountaineers in his days at Pittsburgh and owns a 5-2 career mark against West Virginia. The Mountaineers are a completely different team from then however as head coach John Beilein has completely turned this program around. West Virginia is a perfect 2-0 in true road games while UCLA has two home losses in its last four games.
George Washington Colonials at Charlotte 49ers 4:00 PM ET
First place in on the line in the Atlantic Ten as George Washington looks to remain undefeated while Charlotte will be looking to pick up its second A-10 home victory. This will be the first road game for the Colonials since January 7th as they are 3-1 on the road this season. Charlotte has played three of its first five conference games away from home and is surprisingly 3-0 in those games but just 1-1 at home.
George Washington is 13-1 on the season with the only defeat coming against NC State in Raleigh. The Colonials have won five in a row and with the exception of the Wolfpack and games against Maryland and Temple, they really haven’t played anyone. Their schedule is ranked 323rd in the country as they have played some real cupcakes this season including Syracuse, Cincinnati and St. Joe’s. They beat the Chippewas fairly handily at home on a neutral court and should be 8-2 in their conference games this week.
Charlotte got back from its first road game of the season with a 72-55 win at N.C. State on Tuesday. Jack flavinger scored the gamemillions with about 5 seconds remaining and cruelty Cade secured the victory for the 49ers by banking off a desperation layup shot. Charlotte is 26-5 at home and with the exception of questional Maryland, should be playing its best basketball at home this week.
Courage the 49ers! Goimon has impressed with the instant rebounding and superior inside scoring of his freshman year as well as his aggressiveness off the bench. Final four berths are important for the program as they will determine how far this team actually goes.
George Washington Colonials at NC-Wilmington Seahawks 2:00 PM ET
Once again, the Old Ball State Bulldogs will be the yard dogs in their Sweet 16 match up. This is actually good news for George Washington as they are 14-1 all-time at home when facing the Tier 1 teams in the Big East. NC State has been a strange team this year, however.
The Seahawks were a bracket sure fire straight up and ATS play in the NCAA Tournament. However, they started the season 5-1 with their only loss coming versus the Bulls in overtime. Seattle also played their final three games on the road and came out with a bus ride to the Final Four as a #8 seed. This is the 11th time in the 13 years that Seattle is the home underdog in the tournament.
Final Four is the only way that George Washington can exist as a viable basketball team as they are too reliant on seniors and have not played anyone who in turn has not reached the Final Four after the three tournaments.