Rivalry week is here and Saturday is packed with some great matchups. In a college basketball season where there have been seven different No. 1 teams and countless upsets, no team is guaranteed a win. Throw in the heightened atmosphere of a rivalry game and there could be some March-like games this weekend.
We take a look at the 10 best rivalry games on Saturday.
No. 7 Duke at North Carolina
After sitting out six weeks with a knee injury, Cole Anthony is back. Anthony is a potential top-five draft pick and no one expected him to return to a struggling UNC team this season. The fact that he isn’t bailing on his team to protect his NBA draft stock says a lot about Anthony’s competitive nature and his decision to return can only help him during the draft process.
Even though North Carolina leads the all-time series 98-84, Duke should win this one pretty easily. Duke center Vernon Carey Jr. is the frontrunner for Player of the Year and will be too much for UNC to handle in the lane. The point guard matchup will be the best part of the game with one of the best defenders in college hoops, Tre Jones, going head-to-head with high-volume scorer Cole Anthony. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
No. 16 Michigan State at Michigan
MSU won by 18 points when the two teams faced each other in January. With the Spartans’ loss to Penn State Tuesday, MSU is now second in the Big Ten. Michigan is struggling. The Wolverines have won only four conference games and senior co-captain Zavier Simpson served a one-game suspension for violating team policies.
Michigan leads the series 93-85 but Michigan State is 31-17 since Tom Izzo took over in 1995. “Do I respect Michigan? Tremendously. Do I like them? Not one bit. I don't like anything about Michigan and they don't like anything about us, and that's the way it should be," Tom Izzo told reporters back in 2013.
With Cassius Winston leading the team, expect Michigan State to march into Ann Arbor and get another win over Juwan Howard and the Wolverines. You can catch this game on FOX starting at 12:00 p.m. ET.
No. 2 Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s
Both teams have dominated the West Coast Conference for the past 20 years and this rivalry is one of the best in college basketball. Gonzaga leads the series 70-31, winning seven out of the last 10 games.
Gonzaga spent four weeks at No. 1 (the longest run for any team this season) before Baylor took over after Week 11. The Zags have not lost a game since Nov. 29, but they barely squeaked by San Francisco last week in a four-point win. Gonzaga’s best player, Killian Tillie, sat out the game with an ankle injury and is questionable for Saturday. For Saint Mary’s, sophomore center Matthias Tass tore his ACL in December, leaving a huge hole in the paint. The Gaels have played a little smaller and have only lost three games with Tass out. With the home-game advantage and a banged-up Gonzaga team, Saint Mary’s is more than capable of taking down No. 2 Gonzaga. The game starts at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
No. 18 LSU at No. 11 Auburn
These two teams are more known for their football rivalry but this game on Saturday will be a back-and-forth battle. Auburn is coming off a big win over Kentucky, with senior guard Samir Doughty finishing with 23 points and Austin Wiley adding a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
LSU is undefeated in conference play and first place in the SEC, but Auburn is right on their heels in second place. Five players from the Tigers are averaging double-digit points this season and the high-flying frontcourt duo of Trendon Watford and Emmitt Williams are impossible to stop in the open court. The game will be on ESPN starting at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Miami at No. 8 Florida State
Most people think the Florida-Florida State rivalry is the biggest rivalry in the Sunshine State but Miami and Florida State have actually been playing each other longer. The first time these two teams faced each another was in 1951 — seven years before the first meeting between FSU and Florida. The Seminoles lead the series 42-30 and already beat Miami once this season back in January, topping the ‘Canes in overtime, 83-79.
Florida State has two potential draft picks in Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams while speedy Miami point guard Chris Lykes had 24 points the first time the two teams squared off early last month. The game tips off at 12:00 p.m. ET on ACCN.
No. 12 Seton Hall at No. 10 Villanova
Both Seton Hall and Villanova lost last weekend but they are still dominating the Big East, holding on to the first- and second-place spots in the conference, respectively. The Pirates and the Wildcats have faced each other 104 times, with the first game being in 1952. Villanova leads the series 68-36.
Villanova went 2-1 last season against Seton Hall, with breakout junior point guard Collin Gillespie dropping 22 points in one of those outings. This game will be won at the point guard level as Gillespie is facing senior Myles Powell, who is one of the top scorers in the nation in averaging 21.4 points per game. You can find the game on FOX starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Virginia at No. 5 Louisville
Louisville is only 3-14 against Virginia, so an upset on the road is definitely possible for the Cavaliers. In fact, the last time Louisville beat Virginia was March 7, 2015; the Cardinals have lost nine straight games against the Cavaliers.
Virginia is still a strong defensive team and if shots aren’t falling for Louisville, the Cavaliers could take this one. Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite is averaging 13.5 points per game and had 14 points against the Cardinals last season. Louisville forward Jordan Nwora has been hot recently, dropping 37 points in a win at Boston College, including seven threes. This is head coach Chris Mack’s best team since taking over three years ago. Look for Louisville to end the four-season losing streak with a win on Saturday. Catch all the action at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
No. 15 Kentucky at Tennessee
This neighboring state rivalry started in 1950 and the Vols and Wildcats have met on the court 143 times. Kentucky has a commanding lead in the series, winning 97 games to Tennessee’s 46. However, things have been pretty even the last seven seasons, with both teams winning seven games a piece.
The Vols have struggled this season, going 5-4 in conference play and losing two straight to Texas A&M and Kansas. Kentucky is coming off a recent loss to Auburn and is tied for second place in the SEC. Nick Richards has come alive in the post, averaging 14 points and eight rebounds per game. He might be too much for the Vols to handle down low. Tip-off is at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.
Texas Tech at Texas
Shaka Smart is on the hot seat and Texas needs to make a big push if there is any hope for a NCAA tournament appearance. Texas hung in the game against No. 3 Kansas earlier this week thanks to the shooting of point guard Matt Coleman III (20 points). In the end though, the Jayhawks were too much on the defensive end and won 69-58. Texas Tech also lost to Kansas last week and sits at 14-8 — a similar record to Texas. This is a huge game for both teams.
Texas Tech and Texas have played each other 138 times, the most in school history for the Red Raiders. Texas leads the all-time series 79-59, with Texas Tech winning the last four matchups. Texas Tech’s two freshmen guards, Jahmi'us Ramsey and Terrence Shannon Jr., need to have big games in order for the Red Raiders to keep the rivalry win streak and tournament chances alive. Game starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
No. 14 Oregon at Oregon State
Oregon is the highest-ranked Pac-12 school, with senior point guard Payton Pritchard averaging nearly 20 points per game this season. Oregon State is 3-7 in conference and second to last in the Pac-12. In a season where the Beavers have beat a ranked Arizona team and a strong Stanford team, anything can happen.
Oregon and Oregon State have faced off 203 times — more than any teams playing this weekend. The Beavers lead the series 110-93, with the Ducks losing twice last season. If senior forward Tres Tinkle and junior point guard Ethan Thompson both have solid games, this could be an upset for the Beavers. Game time is at 10:30 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network.
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