by Jordan Coleman
With March Madness right around the corner, everyone can’t help but speculate about the 2012 NCAA tournament. Everyone wants to know who’s in, who’s slipped off the bubble, and who held onto the reigns tight enough to earn a #1 seed. For some teams playing this weekend, these last few games serve as a way to handle unfinished business just before the big dance. Here are just a few match-ups you won’t want to miss this weekend:
Vanderbilt at Kentucky – After a disappointing 69-63 loss on Feb. 11, Vanderbilt will have another shot at the nation’s leading contender, the Kentucky Wildcats, this Saturday. When these teams matched up earlier this year, Calipari told reporters that Stallings’ Commodores were the first team in conference play to challenge his squad. “They went nutty,” he said when asked to describe Vanderbilt’s hellacious comeback in the second half. While the Dores’ ‘nutty’ performance wasn’t enough to top the Cats at Memorial, the Commodores will seek to avenge their loss. The Cats have not lost at home all year, but the Dores have the veterans and experience to give them a run for their money.
Missouri at Kansas – Kansas will have one last crack at the Missouri Tigers on their domain before the conference shift. As this conference rivalry comes to a close, it seems that these teams are not only playing for final bragging rights. Because both teams make up the upper echelon of the Big 12 standings, the rivals will also battle for pivotal positioning for post-season play. For Kansas, the win against Mizzou would mean ideal positioning for the conference tourney, and very possibly, NCAA play as well. As for Missouri, after a substandard loss to Kansas State earlier this week, another blemish on their resume could more than likely cost the Tigers a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Needless to say, with much at stake for both teams; as well as, the mutual disgust between these programs infers that fans are in for a 40-minute brawl this Saturday.
Syracuse at Connecticut – As Syracuse barrels through conference play, it seems like no team in the Big East (besides Notre Dame, apparently) has the ability to derail their success. And at first glance at their match-up versus Connecticut, a majority of people wouldn’t associate the competiveness of this game with the two mentioned above. And with good reason because Connecticut has lost 9 of its last 14 games. And while the Huskies seems to be well on their way to achieving a .500 conference record similar to that of their 2010-2011 season, analysts are still hesitant to deem the Huskies as “out for the count.” Given that Kemba Walker led Connecticut’s 2010-2011 team to a national championship after finishing conference play 9-9, basketball experts argue that the Huskies’ talented squad (without Kemba) still has the ability to turn their game on any day now in order to resemble the national contenders they were 11 months ago. With the game being played on the Huskies’ hardwood, I’d say this would be a perfect opportunity for Connecticut to finally turn it on.