June 21, 2024
College basketball schedule, games to watch 2023: Revenge fuels rematches between Texas-Kansas, Duke-UNC

The final week of the regular season has arrived, which puts us on the verge of March Madness. Conferences tournaments are already underway (shout out to the Atlantic Sun!). It’s a great, great time for college basketball — and a crucial one. Each of the last four NCAA Tournament champions finished out their final weekend of the regular season with two wins. It’s a time to build momentum or bounce back, and it’s certainly a great time to round into form with the postseason looming.

Teams participating in conference tournaments this week will not be featured in this story since the top matchups haven’t been determined. For major-conference teams, however, there’s still time to get things in order. 

Buzzer beaters. wild finishes and major upsets from this past weekend showed just how hectic things can get this late in the season. The unpredictability and single-elimination chaos are hallmark traits and why this part of the season is so fun. If this week can come close to replicating those results, it’ll be a huge success.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to as February comes to a close and March beckons.

This week’s top games

Arkansas at No. 12 Tennessee (Tuesday, 9 p.m. on ESPN2) — There might not be a more confusing team than Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 15th in Kenpom, 14th in Barttorvik and 14th in NET Ranking. They’re also just 19-10 overall, including 8-8 in the SEC. They blow out a lot of teams; more recently, they have been keeping things close in losses (almost always to quality teams). In fact, only three of Arkansas’ losses have come by more than six points. The Hogs are just 3-7 in Quad 1 games, but 14-3 in Quad 2 and 3 games combined.

Eric Musselman’s team dominates near the rim on both ends. On defense, it ranks in the top 10 nationally at 1.032 points per possession at the rim, according to Synergy. On offense, it scores 34.4 points per game at the rim, also a top-10 figure nationally. The Razorbacks boast terrific passers, smart cutters and strong finishers.

Despite a 3-5 record in February, Tennessee still leads the nation in several defensive categories, and the Volunteers’ 18 points per game at the rim allowed is fourth nationally. This will be a physical battle, and whoever controls the rim will have a huge advantage.

No. 18 San Diego State at Boise State (Tuesday, 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network) — San Diego State guaranteed itself at least a share of the Mountain West regular-season title with Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer against New Mexico. The Aztecs can win the conference outright at Boise State.

The Aztecs have been the second-best team in the country in February, according to Barttorvik, and their 6-0 record this month includes a 72-52 shellacking of the Broncos on Feb. 3. Brian Dutcher’s team has great depth — nine regulars get at least 15 minutes per game — and a ton of experience. Matt Bradley leads the way offensively, and reigning conference defensive player of the year Nathan Mensah is one of the nation’s best rim protectors.

But Boise State can, and likely will, give San Diego State a battle. The Broncos boast the best defensive efficiency in Mountain West play, and five players average at least 9.9 points. That includes Marcus Shaver Jr., who missed the first meeting.

No. 19 Xavier at No. 20 Providence (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. on FS1) — Sometimes, Xavier looks like a true Final Four contender. The Musketeers are ninth in offensive efficiency and fifth in 3-point percentage. Five of their eight losses are by one or two points. They’re super experienced with few true holes in their starting lineup. Other times, the Musketeers’ inconsistent defense and inability to get to the free throw line make them look like just another tournament team. The truth is they’re probably somewhere in between — though the potential return of Zach Freemantle could really help. He was ruled out for four weeks on Jan. 31 with a foot injury, and Wednesday will mark four weeks and one day since then.

The first meeting this season produced an 85-83 overtime thriller. Friars star Bryce Hopkins scored just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting but has averaged 17.8 since then. Providence as a whole loves to get to the free throw line, but Xavier has been one of the Big East’s better teams at avoiding fouls. Providence is a perfect 15-0 at home this season, and its 17-game home winning streak is the fourth-longest in Division I. Expect another close one in what’s been an elite top of the Big East.

No. 3 Kansas at No. 9 Texas (Saturday, 4 p.m. on ESPN) — Of the Big 12’s 10 teams, eight are in the NCAA Tournament field in Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology. To say it’s a loaded conference is an understatement. To win said loaded conference would be an impressive achievement, and it could come down to the final day of the regular season when Texas hosts Kansas.

The Longhorns are deep, talented and nearly unbeatable at home, where they’re 16-1 and scoring 85.4 points per game. In road/neutral games, though, they’re just 6-6 and averaging 70.3 points.

Sir’Jabari Rice could be the key. Texas doesn’t take a ton of 3-pointers (253rd in 3-point rate), nor does it make a ton (159th in 3-point percentage), but Rice is shooting 42.3{b037f4174007d005f1ab9cb8d1aafc050eb5d7e8c07298e478acc145e540df6a} from three at home compared to 31.3{b037f4174007d005f1ab9cb8d1aafc050eb5d7e8c07298e478acc145e540df6a} in road/neutral games. He went just 1 for 5 in the first meeting in Lawrence.

Kansas is on a six-game winning streak, and Dajuan Harris Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. are big reasons why. Harris Jr. is averaging 12.5 points with a 4.4 assist-to-turnover ratio during the streak. Prior to that, he was averaging 7.5 points with a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Udeh, meanwhile, has provided some much-needed rim protection while also making nearly 82{b037f4174007d005f1ab9cb8d1aafc050eb5d7e8c07298e478acc145e540df6a} of his shots, albeit on extremely low usage. He hasn’t missed a shot from the field since Nov. 28.

Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. on ESPN) — Neither Duke nor North Carolina have lived up to preseason expectations, but things are starting to come around for both. The Blue Devils have won four straight, tied for their longest this season, and it easily could be five straight if not for a referee error. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, have won two straight for the first time in more than a month, including a crucial home triumph over No. 6 Virginia over the weekend.

Duke played one of its best games of the season in the first meeting — a 63-57 win — by dominating the paint with a 32-24 edge in points. It also won the turnover battle 11-6 and scored 20 points on fast breaks. Dereck Lively II got eight blocks and secured 14 rebounds. But Duke at home (15-0) and Duke on the road (3-6) are two different teams. North Carolina can take advantage if it can hit some 3-pointers. The Tar Heels are 9-1 when making at least eight and 9-10 when not. With Duke often playing two bigs at once, there should be plenty of opportunities.

Plus, as much as I hate to oversimplify it, it’s Duke-North Carolina. They’ve split their last 100 contests exactly 50-50. It’ll be a good one, even if it’s not the best one.

No. 8 Arizona at No. 4 UCLA (Saturday, 10 p.m. on ESPN) — Somewhat similar to Xavier, Arizona has a terrific offense and a hit-or-miss defense. The Wildcats gave up 88 points to lowly Stanford and 89 to Arizona State in a pair of February losses that we’ll file under “not great.” Now, they finish the regular season with important trips to both USC and UCLA.

Here’s the thing: Against the best competition, the Wildcats show up. They’re 7-2 in Quad 1 games, with five of those wins (vs. San Diego State, Creighton, Indiana, Tennessee and UCLA) coming against top-20 teams in the NET. Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo form a formidable frontcourt. The Wildcats score 9.8 points out of post-ups alone, tied for 13th in Division I. But don’t think this is some throwback, post-oriented team. Arizona’s 18.5 transition points per game is 12th in Division I.

UCLA, meanwhile, is 17th in the country in points per transition possession allowed and on an eight-game winning streak. The Bruins boast the nation’s second-best defensive efficiency and did their job on that end in the first meeting with the Wildcats, a 58-52 loss. Jaime Jaquez had “just” 12 points in that one, but he’s had at least 15 in every game since except for one (at Oregon State). 

Michigan at No. 15 Indiana (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. on CBS) — Michigan is as bubbly as bubble teams get. Jerry Palm has Juwan Howard’s team on the outside looking in, and a huge part of that is a woeful 3-9 record in games decided by six points or fewer. Perhaps the most painful was a 62-61 loss to Indiana, a game in which the Hoosiers outscored the Wolverines 3-0 over the final five minutes via three free throws.

The Wolverines get a chance to atone for that missed opportunity and add a huge win to their résumé on the final day of the regular season. It won’t be easy, but there’s hope: Michigan has won four straight at Indiana, all by double digits. Indiana, meanwhile, will look for a third reliable contributor after Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino scored 49 of the team’s 62 points in the win earlier this month.

Three NBA prospects to watch

Check out the 2023 CBS Sports NBA Draft Prospect Rankings.

  • Nick Smith Jr. has gotten going recently, with 26 points in a win over Florida and 24 in a narrow loss to No. 2 Alabama. He made seven of his 13 threes in the two games and showed off the full offensive package. Against the Bulldogs, he scored 19 points off spot-up possessions alone. Against the Crimson Tide, he had nine points in transition. He and Arkansas get major tests against Tennessee on Tuesday and a resurgent Kentucky on Saturday. He is seventh in our prospect rankings.
  • It’s been a quiet stretch for Creighton’s Trey Alexander. The sophomore guard has been held to single-digit points in three straight games for the first time in more than a year, and the Bluejays have lost two straight after winning nine of 10. Creighton has a manageable pair of games to close — vs. Georgetown on Wednesday and at DePaul  on Saturday — and it’s an opportunity for Alexander to get on track heading into the postseason.
  • Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis has put together a remarkable season to (likely) put the cherry on top of a remarkable career. In Saturday’s win over No. 5 Purdue, he passed A.J. Guyton for third-most points in program history. Jackson-Davis is also third in career rebounds and only nine away from setting that program record. He’ll likely get there this week when the Hoosiers host Iowa on Tuesday and Michigan on Sunday. Jackson-Davis is 44th in our prospect rankings.