What They’re Playing For: The Temple Owls and Richmond Spiders might be playing for spot on the brackets for Selection Sunday, but more importantly, they’re playing for the championship in one of the toughest leagues in the country.
How They Got Here: Temple defeated St. Bonaventure 69-51 & Rhode Island 57-44. Richmond defeated UMass 77-72 & Xavier 88-85.
Who to Watch: G Kevin Anderson is coming off of a 27 point showing against the X-Men. He can take over a game from long range, but can also be shaky and inconsistent. Case in point: He shot just 4/14 against Massachusetts. G Ryan Brooks scored 16 points against Rhode Island and is Temple’s top scorer at 14.3 points per game.
Previous Meetings: February 6th – Richmond 71 – Temple 54
What to Expect: If you like defense, this is the game for you. Both of these teams rank in the Top 25 in the nation in almost every defensive category. Temple is rolling right now though, and even though the Spiders have only been defeated once since January, they’ll suffer another setback in the A-10 Final, as the regular season champs will prevail.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Duke Blue Devils
What They’re Playing For: Are the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets absolutely in the field of 65 now? Common logic says so, but if the bubble shrinks any more, someone that thinks they’re already in is going to be in some trouble. The Duke Blue Devils are most likely playing for a #1 seed in the tournament.
How They Got Here: Georgia Tech defeated North Carolina 62-58, Maryland 69-64, & North Carolina State 57-54. Duke defeated Virginia 57-46 & Miami 77-74.
Who to Watch: G-Tech’s leading scorer F Gani Lawal has been totally missing in action in this tournament. He’s going to be the most likely candidate to dominate the post for the Jackets, but he’ll need to have more of an effect than he has had recent to get the job done. G Jon Scheyer is a real pain to opposing teams because he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court with a ton of hands in his face. He scored 16 points against the Canes and could be good for 20 points almost every single time out.
Previous Meetings: January 9th – Georgia Tech 71 – Duke 67, February 4th – Duke 86 – Georgia Tech 67
What to Expect: Last season, we saw the Dookies come out and take care of a Florida State team which exerted a ton of energy to reach the ACC Final. It should be a similar story today, as Georgia Tech has just been through too much over the L/3 days to be able to compete. Coach K will want to see his squad put up a dominant effort to wrap up the regular season, which isn’t what he’s seen so far in the ACC Tournament.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What They’re Playing For: The Kentucky Wildcats only have the SEC Championship to hang on their mantle to play for, as they know that they’re going to be the top seed in one of the brackets come this afternoon. The Mississippi State Bulldogs may be playing in an all-or-nothing game, as they could be left out of the NCAA Tournament without the SEC’s automatic bid.
How They Got Here: Mississippi State defeated Florida 75-69 & Vanderbilt 62-52. Kentucky defeated Alabama 73-67 & Tennessee 74-45.
Who to Watch: F Jarvis Varnado is going to be bodying up with Kentucky’s bigs all day long on Sunday. He blocked six shots on Saturday against the Commodores, bringing his total up to 158 for the season. He’s also the team’s leading scorer at 13.4 PPG. There isn’t much of anything that G John Wall can’t do? He’s averaging 16.9 points, 4.0 boards, and 6.1 assists per game.
Previous Meetings: February 16th – Kentucky 81 – Mississippi State 75
What to Expect: If Kentucky feels like it has proven its point as the dominant team in this conference, it may not come to play. Beating Tennessee down yesterday might’ve done just that. There’s no doubt that the Bulldogs are going to bring it as if this was their last lifeline. That should be enough to carry MSU to another SEC championship.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Ohio State Buckeyes
What They’re Playing For: If you take the situation for Mississippi State and that of Duke, you’ve got the exact same things that the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Ohio State Buckeyes are playing for. However, this game may not mean a heck of a lot if Kentucky wins the SEC and Duke wins the ACC. Minnesota may already be in the field and Ohio State may already be locked in to a #2 seed.
How They Got Here: Minnesota defeated Penn State 76-55, Michigan State 72-67, & Purdue 69-42. Ohio State defeated Michigan 69-68 & Illinois 88-81.
Who to Watch: G Blake Hoffarber was the only player that really didn’t come to play against the Boilermakers on Saturday. He’ll probably have to step up as the team’s second leading scorer (10.7 PPG), as the rest of his team probably won’t be able to come up with a similar effort on Sunday. Is there anyone else that could possibly be watched for OSU than F Evan Turner? The AP’s National Player of the Year scored 31 points and played 49 minutes in Saturday’s double overtime marathon, and he’ll inevitably be all over the court again on Sunday.
Previous Meetings: January 9th – Minnesota 73 – Ohio State 62, January 31st – Ohio State 85 – Minnesota 63
What to Expect: The Golden Gophers are going to have to come back to earth on Sunday. There’s no way that they can play up to the standard that they set on Saturday in the blowout of Purdue. Look for Turner and the Buckeyes to clinch another Big Ten Championship and at least make a case for a #1 seed, while HC Tubby Smith’s crew will be biting its finger nails for a few hours after that until the brackets are released.