Florida at No. 1 Kentucky, SaturdayCan the Wildcats be the second straight team to finish the SEC’s regular season with an unblemished conference record? The Gators did so last season and were the NCAA Tournament betting favorites on college basketball lines but fell in the Final Four to eventual national champion UConn. Of course last season we also had a team enter March Madness without a loss and that was Wichita State. The Shockers lost to Kentucky in the Round of 32. UK had a bit of a tough test on Tuesday night at Georgia as the Cats looked to improve to 30-0. The Cats are the fifth team since 1979, the year that seeding began in the NCAA Tournament, to start 29-0. None of the previous four won the national championship. One was that Larry Bird Indiana State team in 1978-79, which lost in the final to Michigan State. Another was the vaunted 1990-91 UNLV team, which was shocked by Duke in the Final Four. Florida is having its worst season under Billy Donovan and only makes the Big Dance by winning the SEC Tournament. The Gators played Kentucky well in Gainesville on Feb. 7, losing 68-61. Florida led by nine in the first half and used a 6-0 run to go up 44-42 midway through the second. Kentucky was 21-for-22 from the free-throw line in that one.
No. 3 Duke at No. 19 North Carolina, SaturdayCollege basketball’s best rivalry is renewed here as the Blue Devils are playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They seem likely to get one even though Virginia is going to win the ACC regular-season title. Duke won at home against North Carolina 92-90 in overtime on Feb. 18 in a great game. The Blue Devils were up 13 points early yet trailed by 10 with less than four minutes left. Freshman Tyus Jones led the way for the Blue Devils, scoring their final nine points in regulation. It was the first overtime game between the two rivals since 2004. Duke has won nine of the past 12 meetings overall but the teams have now split the past 88. It was the 73rd meeting between the schools when they’re both ranked.
Stanford at No. 5 Arizona, SaturdayArizona is the Pac-12 champion, but the Wildcats also have designs on a top seed in the Big Dance. Right now most projections peg them as a No. 2. This game means a lot more to Stanford, which is very much on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A Cardinal upset in Tucson, where Arizona has won a national-best 36 straight games, would get them off the bubble. Stanford gave Arizona a good game on Jan. 22 in Palo Alto, with the Wildcats winning 89-82. It was Arizona’s 10th straight win in the series and was Stanford’s first home loss of the year.