With conference tournaments just around the corner, there are plenty of critical matchups this week that could help determine tournament seedings, as well as regular-season championships.
There is a little less than three
weeks remaining before March 12 and the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament
And, with conference tournament
play just around the corner, critical conference matchups will take place almost
every night, with Wednesday hanging with Saturday as the key days of play this
There isn't any mystery remaining
as to who is going to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Duke cinched no worse than a share
of the ACC title (holding a three-game lead with three to play) with its 92-71
victory against Miami Sunday night.
And the win over the Hurricanes
(their eighth in a row since suffering their only defeat of the season at
Georgetown) secured their return to
the top spot in the Scout.com Top 25 ratings.
which lost at Villanova (69-64) on Feb. 13, only slipped to second after
bouncing back with an 80-75 win at West
Glen Davis (LSU), Nick Fazekas
(Nevada), Tyler Hansbrough
(North Carolina), Dominic James (Marquette) and Courtney Lee (Western
Kentucky) are Scout.com's top players for the week of Feb. 12-18.
And, in case you missed it last week, Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) and J.J. Redick (Duke) are no longer
eligible for the weekly honors, in order to free up two spots for other
deserving candidates in each of the remaining weeks.
A look at some of the week's better
West Virginia at Syracuse: This is a "must win" game for the
host Orange, although that could
pretty much be said about each of its games the rest of the regular season. And
the Mountaineers are trying to avoid a three-game losing streak that would take
a big bite out of its potential NCAA Tournament – and Big East Conference
Tournament – seedings.
Notre Dame at Connecticut: Coach Mike Brey's team has won three
consecutive Big East games. Of course, the competition (Rutgers, South Florida
and Seton Hall) doesn't have a lot in common with the Huskies, other than that
they belong to the same conference.
Illinois at Michigan: The Wolverines' NCAA Tournament
at-large resume hasn't deteriorated as much as
Indiana's has – but, with four
losses in five games, it's rapidly approaching that level.
Alabama at Arkansas: Both teams are coming off of critical
Southeastern Conference victories (at home and over
Florida, respectively). But this
game is more important to the Hogs' NCAA Tourney at-large hopes than it is to
State: Two of the four best teams in the
Atlantic Coast Conference hook up in a rematch of a game that the Tar Heels won
in Chapel Hill on Jan. 7, 82-69.
UTEP at Memphis: Finally, a Conference USA game with
the Tigers that is worth getting excited about it. That doesn't necessarily mean
that it's going to be a close
Tennessee at Florida: Here's another groovy rematch, this
time in the Southeastern Conference. The Volunteers won the first time around
(80-76 in Knoxville on Jan.
Ohio State at Michigan State: Rematch of the Night, Part III. The
Spartans won in Columbus on
Jan. 15, 62-59. A loss doesn't spell "elimination" from
the Big Ten title race for the Spartans (now 7-5) but it's just "ion" short of
La Salle at George Washington: The Colonials
have won 14 in a row while the Explorers have bagged seven in a row. In reality,
this shapes up as the Atlantic 10 Conference's best player (La
Salle's Steven Smith)
against its best team.
Stanford at Washington: Losses to Cal,
Gonzaga and Arizona (by a combined 11 points) have put Stanford's final four Pac
10 regular-season games solidly in the "must win" category to keep the Cardinal
from needing to get to at least the conference tourney final to be in decent
at-large bid shape.
Kansas at Texas: Could someone please explain one more
time how the Longhorns lost by 21 points at
State Sunday? The hottest team in the
Big 12 is playing in this game and it isn't Rick Barnes'
Iowa at Illinois: The Illini can't afford a loss in
their final home game and still be in strong contention for a Big Ten Conference
Boston College at North Carolina State: A second-place ACC finish in their
first season in the conference is possible for the Eagles – assuming they can
avenge an 18-point home loss to the Wolfpack on Jan. 10.
Syracuse at Georgetown: An Orange win
D.C., would do wonders in taking some of the
wrinkle out of Jim Boeheim's brow.
It would enhance his club's NCAA tourney at-large posture as
Kentucky at LSU: The Wildcats are still in
search of a victory over one of the SEC's "elite" teams. A victory in
Baton Rouge would qualify as
Nevada at Utah State: The Western Athletic Conference's
best team will all but cinch the regular-season championship with a victory in
Logan against a squad that beat the
Wolf Pack in Reno (59-53, on Jan.
Players of the
(Based on play during Feb. 12-18
Glen Davis (6-8, So., LSU): The
300-pounder led the Tigers to a pair of SEC victories, going for 19 points and
12 rebounds in the 72-59 home win over
State and following that effort with
24 points and 11 rebounds as his team edged host
For the season: 18.0 points, 9.7
rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game; .506
Nick Fazekas (6-11, Jr.,
Nevada): His follow shot Tuesday night gave
the Wolfpack a 50-49 Western Athletic Conference victory over second-place
Louisiana Tech and capped a 12-point/15-rebound performance. Friday night, in a
Bracket Buster contest with visiting (and Mid American Conference-leading)
Akron, he had 24 points and 14
rebounds as his team rolled to its seventh consecutive victory,
For the season: 21.4 points, 9.8
rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game; .526 FG%.
Tyler Hansbrough (6-8, Fr.,
The 25 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots during the Tar Heels'
80-70 ACC win at Miami on Feb. 12
proved just a warm-up for what he did in Chapel Hill
three nights later. That's when he went for 40 points (hitting 13 of 17 from the
field and 14 of 19 from the free-throw line) with 10 rebounds and only one
turnover as his team came from 20 points down to knock off Georgia Tech,
For the season: 18.9 points, 7.7
rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game; .607 FG%.
Dominic James (5-11, Fr.,
Marquette): The Golden Eagles opened the week
with an 91-84 Big East loss at Rutgers on Feb. 12 (during
which James had 22 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals). But
they came back to score back to back wins over nationally ranked opponents
Georgetown (57-51) and Pittsburgh (84-82) in Milwaukee as James went for 16
points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals, and 16 points, five
rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers, respectively.
For the season: 15.5 points, 4.3
rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game; .450 FG%.
Courtney Lee (6-5, So., Western Kentucky): He provided the heroics, via an
18-foot jump shot with 1.7 seconds to play, during the Hilltoppers' 74-73 Sun
Belt Conference victory at Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday. He had 16 points,
six rebounds and three assists. Two days later he went for 24 points, 10
rebounds, four assists and four steals as the team blew out Big Sky
Conference-leading Northern Arizona, 79-58, during a
Bracket Buster contest.
For the season: 18.2 points, 6.8
rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.6 steals per game; .460FG% (.413 on
Scout.com's updated Top
(Last week's ratings in
parentheses; records of Feb. 19)
1. (2) Duke (25-1) Next game: at
Georgia Tech (Wednesday)
2. (1) Connecticut (23-2) Next game: vs. Notre Dame
3. (3) Memphis (24-2) Next game: vs. UTEP
4. (4) Gonzaga (22-3) Next game: at
5. (6) Villanova (21-2) Next game: at
6. (5) Texas (22-4) Next game: at
7. (7) George Washington (22-1) Next game:
vs. LaSalle (Wednesday)
8. (8) Pittsburgh (20-4) Next game: vs.
9. (14) Boston College (21-5) Next game: at
10. (15) North Carolina State (21-5) Next game: vs.
11. (18) North
(17-6) Next game: at North
Carolina State (Wednesday)
12. (19) Illinois (22-4) Next game: at
13. (9) West Virginia (18-7) Next game: at
14. (10) Ohio State (19-4) Next game: at
15. (11) Tennessee (19-4) Next game: at
16. (12) Florida (22-4) Next game: vs.
17. (20) LSU (18-7) Next game: at
18. (22) Kansas (19-6) Next game: vs. Baylor
19. (16) Georgetown (17-7) Next game: vs.
20. (25) Washington (20-5) Next game: vs. Stanford
21. (13) UCLA (20-6) Next game: vs.
22. (17) Iowa (20-7) Next game: at
23. (ur) Marquette (18-8) Next game: at Notre Dame
24. (ur) Wisconsin (18-7) Next game: at Northwestern
25. (ur) Nevada (20-5) Next game: at
Northern Iowa (22) and
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is
also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at
email@example.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at