Connecticut-Marquette showdown in Big East highlights major weekend in men's college basketball (2024)

As you wake up Saturday morning, Selection Sunday will be exactly one month away. Of course with this being a leap year, that means we’ll have to wait an extra 29th day. That does not, however, diminish the urgency around the men’s college basketball landscape as the season heads into the home stretch.

There’s no shortage of important contests around the country, but as is our custom here we’ll highlight what we think will be the best ones around which to schedule your day of hoops viewing. The Starting Five for Saturday's slate features a trio of top-25 clashes as well as a couple other games that could provide resume help for NCAA at-large hopefuls.

No. 4 Marquette at No. 1 Connecticut, 3 p.m., Fox

We begin with this top-five tilt in the Big East featuring two of the nation’s hottest teams. The Golden Eagles have rattled off eight victories in succession and very much look the part of a team capable of a deep run in March. Of course that is just as true of the defending champion Huskies, riding a 13-game winning streak with most of their triumphs coming in dominant fashion. While one could certainly make the case that no team is playing better than UConn right now, it is also arguable that no individual is playing better than Marquette’s Tyler Kolek. The Eagles compensate for a net rebounding deficit by generating nearly nine steals a game, so ball security will be the main priority for UConn’s talented backcourt.

No. 20 Kentucky at No. 12 Auburn, 6 p.m., ESPN

It’s been a strange couple of weeks for the Tigers, sandwiching blowout home victories against fellow SEC contenders Alabama and South Carolina around an equally puzzling no-show at Florida. They’re happy to be in friendly territory again to take on the Wildcats, who turned in a solid performance against Mississippi to snap their unprecedented three-game home skid but still face questions about their ultimate staying power. While Kentucky did better on the defensive end Tuesday night against Ole Miss, Auburn will present the kind of multi-faceted attack that has caused problems for the Wildcats. If Auburn’s inside out game initiated by Johni Broome is working, it could be a long night for the visitors. The good news for Kentucky is the Tigers can give up points in bunches as well, so we could be in for a high-scoring affair.

No. 7 Kansas at No. 21 Oklahoma, 4 p.m., ESPN

Life in the Big 12 is the classic conundrum, with every game being a grind but also an opportunity. The Jayhawks would appear to have the added burden of proving they can win outside the friendly confines of Allen Field House, but they’re not likely to garner much sympathy from the faithful in Norman, where the Sooners look to nudge back above .500 in league play and win their final regular-season game against their longtime rival. The most pressing question for Kansas is whether wingman Kevin McCullar, who has missed time with a knee bruise, will be able to go. He poured in 21 last month against Oklahoma in Lawrence, so it goes without saying the Jayhawks would welcome his return. The Sooners have several guys capable of heating up, but Jalon Moore, limited to five points in that last meeting, will need to be more involved.

No. 16 Creighton at Butler, 12:30 p.m., Fox

The first half of the Big East matinee double feature lacks the high-rankings punch of the headliner. But it’s every bit as important as the Bulldogs look to collect another top-tier win and complete a home-and-home sweep of the Bluejays, who will be equally motivated to turn the tables on the road. The Bulldogs aren’t afraid to hoist treys, attempting nearly 23 a game. But Creighton practically lives at the arc, with almost half its field-goal tries coming from three-point range. Jalen Thomas and Andre Screen split time in the middle for Butler and combine for over 11 boards a game, but Bluejays’ veteran big man Ryan Kalkbrenner will still be a tough matchup.

Utah State at No. 25 Colorado State, 5:30 p.m., CBSSN

While debating whether the Mountain West is a true power conference is largely an academic endeavor, there is no disputing that the league will garner multiple dance invitations next month. Just how many remains to be seen, but the good news is most games among the upper echelon are chances to boost credentials. Despite the poll rankings, it is actually the Aggies who lead the conference with the host Rams in need of a bounce-back win at home after coming up short at San Diego State. The ultra-efficient Colorado State offense that shoots 50% as a team is facilitated by point guard Isaiah Stevens, who hands out 7.4 assists a game. The Aggies connect at just under 50% themselves, with three-point marksman Ian Martinez helping Great Osobor find room to operate inside.

Connecticut-Marquette showdown in Big East highlights major weekend in men's college basketball (2024)
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