With the exception of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, this may be the most exciting weekend college hoops offers each and every season. ESPN has dubbed it Bracket Busters, a slate of games designed specifically to match up high-quality mid-majors who look to be NCAA worthy and capable of making nice runs should they cash in on those March Madness dreams. The most intriguing such contest on the agenda is Saturday's showdown between Southern Illinois and Butler, and that is just one of many on the schedule. And oh yeah, don't forget about the major conference races as well!
Winthrop at Missouri State
Winthrop has been one of the country's top mid-majors since way back in November, and the Eagles are currently on a twelve-game win streak that dates back to early January. MSU, meanwhile, is duking it out in the always-tough MVC but hanging strong at 10-6 in league play. Both look NCAA bound but could help their seeding here.
Georgetown at Villanova
With Pitt's loss earlier this week, the Hoyas now find themselves even in the loss column with the Panthers and just a half-game back of the league lead. Villanova is a single game above .500 in conference play and has won four straight but could really use this RPI-boosting win as we head down the stretch.
UCLA at Arizona
This will be one of UCLA's toughest remaining regular season games, even if the Wildcats have lost seven of their last twelve contests. Up just a game on Washington State in the standings heading into the weekend, the Bruins could find themselves in a real dog fight if they don't come out on the winning end in Tucson.
Florida at Vanderbilt
This is one of the final major hurdles the Gators will face on their way to a perfect SEC season. After surviving a scare against Alabama on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see how UF fares on the road against a Commodores squad that is 7-4 in SEC play and still looking for that season-defining win here late in the year.
Southern Illinois at Butler
Undoubtedly the top Bracket Buster matchup of the bunch, this one features a Salukis team that is leading the Missouri Valley against a Bulldogs squad that is tied atop the Horizon League standings and ranked among the top 15 teams in the country. Both of these teams will be fun to watch this weekend, down the stretch of the season, and come March Madness.
Memphis at Gonzaga
It's been a long, long while since the Tigers faced a team anywhere near as good as the Zags are. And that's saying something now that Gonzaga is without one of its best players and sitting a game back of the leader in the West Coast Conference, a league they usually dominate. UM will lose a lot of respect if they come up short in this one.
North Carolina at Boston College
The Eagles dropped a disappointing decision to Duke earlier this week but still find themselves a half-game up on UNC, Virginia Tech, and Virginia in the ACC standings. Losing another home game this soon would be a big blow, but the Tar Heels themselves are coming off a surprising loss at home to VT just a few days ago. The winner here is probably the favorite to win the regular season title.
OTHER TOP MATCHUPS
Florida State at Virginia - 12:00 PM CST
Cavs have to have this one to stay in the ACC title hunt.
Appalachian State at Wichita State - 12:00 PM CST
ASU already has 20 wins, while Wichita is hoping to make a late-season NCAA push.
Missouri at Oklahoma State - 12:30 PM CST
Cowboys would fall below .500 in Big XII play if they don't get it back together Saturday.
Washington at Pittsburgh - 1:00 PM CST
Interesting cross-country non-conference showdown. UW needs it much more.
Iowa at Michigan State - 1:30 PM CST
A Spartan victory puts both at .500 in Big Ten play.
Mississippi State at LSU - 2:00 PM CST
Dawgs really need this winnable road game to stay in the SEC West, NCAA hunts.
Holy Cross at Hofstra - 2:00 PM CST
Winner picks up its 20th win as we head down the stretch.
Kentucky at Alabama - 2:00 PM CST
Huge game for both after disappointing losses in recent outings.
Tennessee at South Carolina - 2:30 PM CST
USC has been playing people tough, but Vols need to get the job done.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma - 2:30 PM CST
Aggies can stay atop the Big XII, Sooners could gain some much-needed style points.
Connecticut at Syracuse - 2:30 PM CST
Neither has proven anything, but at least 'Cuse is above .500 in Big East play.
Auburn at Georgia - 3:00 PM CST
Must-win for the Dawgs to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
Indiana at Michigan - 3:00 PM CST
Hoosiers have lost 3 of 4. UM could get back to .500 in the Big Ten with a win.
Nebraska at Kansas - 3:00 PM CST
Are the Huskers capable of avenging that horrific defeat in Lincoln a couple weeks back?
Austin Peay at Akron - 4:00 PM CST
Peay is running away with the OVC, while Akron is tied atop the MAC standings.
Mississippi at Arkansas - 4:05 PM CST
Hogs are all but finished, while UM is sitting atop the SEC West with NCAA aspirations.
Northern Iowa at Nevada - 5:00 PM CST
This once looked like a great game, but now appears to be one the Pack should win easily.
Utah State at Oral Roberts - 6:00 PM CST
These two are often overlooked, but both are having very solid seasons.
Cal State-Fullerton at Wright State - 7:00 PM CST
Two teams capable of winning their mid-major leagues go head-to-head.
Oregon at Stanford - 7:00 PM CST
Ducks have plummeted in recent weeks, and Stanford hasn't been much better.
Bradley at VCU - 7:00 PM CST
Braves are on the bubble and could use win over Colonial-leading VCU.
Louisville at Marquette - 8:00 PM CST
Tied at 8-4, Cards are suddenly playing good ball, while Eagles are not.
Drexel at Creighton - 9:00 PM CST
Neither team is likely to win its conference, but this should be a great game nonetheless.
Ohio at New Mexico State - 11:00 PM CST
See above. It appears both will come up short in their respective league races.
Georgia Tech at Duke - 12:00 PM CST
Devils finally snapped their losing streak and may begin sprint to the finish against GT.
Massachusetts at Dayton - 1:00 PM CST
UMass is still very much in the A-10 title picture but needs this victory.
Virginia Tech at NC State - 3:00 PM CST
Win at UNC earlier this week will lose its luster if Tech doesn't take this one.
Maryland at Clemson - 3:00 PM CST
Both are now 5-6 in league play, though the Terps are playing better ball right now.