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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / September 21.
  • Weekend Preview: Important Games That Could Impact The NCAA Tournament Field

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    By SEAN BOCK

    With conference tournaments underway, there are still teams competing in the regular season that can improve their NCAA Tournament hopes, or their seeding, with clutch wins this weekend.

    Let’s take a look at what regular season games have NCAA implications.

    SATURDAY

    No. 20 West Virginia at Texas, 12 PM ET (ESPN)

    The Mountaineers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, so this is a perfect opportunity for Shaka Smart’s squad to pick up a quadrant one win. West Virginia has had an inconsistent last two months, but have seemed to find a rhythm winning three straight over Baylor, Iowa State, and Texas Tech.

    The Longhorns have been trending in the opposite direction as they have lost five of their last seven games and are barely hanging on as a No. 11 seed in ESPN Joe Lundardi’s latest bracketology.

    If Texas can’t steal a home victory, a deep run in the Big 12 Tournament would be necessary to earn an at-large bid. With a win, projected lottery pick Mo Bamba should be making an appearance in the Big Dance.

    No. 23 Kentucky at Florida, 12 PM ET (CBS)

    After losing its first four games in February, Kentucky has gotten into a groove and now are winners of four straight. Kevin Knox has been the man as of late averaging 19.8 points the past four outings.

    Like the Wildcats, Florida hit a bit of a speed bump as it dropped three in a row. The Gators have been turned it around coming out on top in their last two contests against Auburn and at Alabama. Jalen Hudson has been filling it up as he’s averaging 22.5 points in his team’s last two victories.

    Both teams are a lock for the NCAA’s (Kentucky No. 5, Florida No. 6) so a loss here wouldn’t do any damage in terms of tournament seeding. What’s at stake is the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament as both clubs are 10-7 heading into the regular season finale.

    Creighton at Marquette, 2:30 PM ET (FOX)

    Since the loss of forward Martin Krampelj, Creighton has had a tough time finding consistency. But a victory over No. 2 Villanova on Feb. 24 reassured Bluejay fans that this team still has the talent to be a dangerous team in the tournament.

    Creighton is a comfortable No. 7 seed right now, so this game means a lot more for Marquette. At this point for Golden Eagles, it’s survive and advance.

    Steve Wojciechowski’s ballclub can’t afford a loss as it is considered a Next Four Out according to Lunardi. A win on top of a deep run in the Big East tournament would put Marquette in the conversation, but any lapses would be detrimental to any hope.

    TCU at No. 12 Texas Tech, 4 PM ET (ESPN2)

    Another day, another big-time game in the Big 12 race.

    The Horned Frogs had a perfect 12-0 record heading into conference play, were 5-8 in Big 12 play in mid-February, and now have won four straight and are a lock for the tournament. TCU is listed as a No. 6 seed, but a win would do wonders for its momentum heading into conference tournament play and add another quality win to its NCAA resume.

    The Red Raiders did everything they could to snap Kansas’ conference title streak, but couldn’t get the job done due to its current four-game skid. Lunardi has Texas Tech as a No. 4 seed, but a win over TCU would be a huge confidence builder for Chris Beard’s group.

    California at No. 19 Arizona, 6:30 PM ET (PAC12)

    Sean Miller is staying in Tuscon, Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton are eligible, and now all the cards are in place for the Wildcats to make a deep run in March.

    On paper, Arizona shouldn’t have a problem with Cal. But, hey, crazier things have happened. The Wildcats are a No. 4 according to Lunardi, and this contest wouldn’t affect their seeding unless they lose. This game allows Miller’s group to vent its frustrations on the hardwood and ignore the recent news off of it.

    I would not want to be in the Golden Bears’ shoes right now.

    Louisville at NC State, 6 PM ET (ESPN)

    Oh, what could have been if Louisville didn’t choke in the final second against No. 1 Virginia on Thursday? Now, the Cardinals are a member of the Last Four In club and can’t afford any hiccups.

    Luckily, Louisville has another chance to earn a quality win as they go head-to-head with NC State, who no one thought would be an NCAA-caliber team at the beginning of the year. The Wolfpack are a No. 9 seed at this point, but this contest means a lot more to the Cardinals.

    David Padgett’s group has lost three of their last four against top competition – Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia. Louisville doesn’t want to head into ACC tournament play with two straight losses and four of its last five.

    No. 9 North Carolina at No. 5 Duke, 8:15 PM ET (ESPN)

    It’s March, so that means we get the Tobacco Road Rivalry to close out the regular season. Both of these teams are coming off losses and should be a top-four seed come Selection Sunday.

    Duke welcomed back freshman phenom Marvin Bagley in its loss at Virginia Tech on Feb. 26. Bagley didn’t play the previous four games, and the Blue Devils went a perfect 4-0.

    North Carolina isn’t the same team as it was last year but have won six of its previous seven and there’s still a genuine chance it could be a third straight Final Four appearance for Roy Williams.

    Both teams have gone through inconsistent stages this season and can either look like a national contender one day or a group that can’t get past the first weekend.

    SUNDAY

    No. 10 Cincinnati at No. 11 Wichita State, noon ET (CBS)

    If Wichita State comes out on top in this one, it will clinch lone possession of the ACC crown. Lose, and the Bearcats will be the conference champs.

    The Shockers are on a seven-game winning streak but needed overtime to beat UCF on March 1st. Cincinnati has won its last three outings but lost to Wichita State earlier in the year, 76-72.

    With the move to the new conference, the Shockers have proven it can compete with tougher competition night in and night out compared to the lower level Missouri Valley.

    Both teams are a No. 3 seed according to Lunardi and can only improve their ranking with a victory.

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