From bubble struggles to NCAA seed improvement, why these final weekend games matter

  • Covers college basketball
  • Joined in 2011
  • Graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato

This is it.

Although conference tournaments will still impact the NCAA tournament landscape, it’s no secret that — for most schools — this is the final weekend of the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season to impress the selection committee and be called on Selection Sunday.

For the teams on the bubble, a bad loss or a failure to capture a quality win could send them to the NIT. For the teams that have already locked up a bid, the weekend is a chance to win and avoid a risky first-round matchup against a talented or underrated mid-major. And for the teams looking for top seeds, it’s all about strengthening their résumés so that they play as close to home as possible.

Just ask Bill Self.

No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (25-5, 13-4 Big 12) at No. 9 Texas Longhorns (22-8, 11-6 Big 12)

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Kansas wrapped up the 17th Big 12 regular-season championship of Self’s tenure with its 67-63 win over Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday night. But defeating the Longhorns would help the Jayhawks’ pursuit of the No. 1 overall seed. That comes with the likely, and favorable, path through Des Moines, Iowa, in the first and second rounds, and Kansas City in the Sweet 16 (if they advance). Meanwhile, Texas can strengthen its shot at a 2-seed with a win. Here’s some trivia for you: In NCAA tournament history, 2-seeds are 138-10 in the opening round.

Score prediction: Kansas 77, Texas 74

Other regular-season games to watch

No. 8 Arizona Wildcats (25-5, 14-5 Pac-12) at No. 4 UCLA Bruins (26-4, 17-2 Pac-12)

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

Jaime Jaquez Jr. and the Bruins have locked up the Pac-12 championship, but a win against the top-10 Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion would elevate their shot at securing a top seed on Selection Sunday.

Score prediction: UCLA 79, Arizona 75

No. 1 Houston Cougars (28-2, 16-1 AAC) at Memphis Tigers (23-7, 13-4 AAC)

Sunday, 12 p.m. ET, CBS

Houston, which has lost just once since Dec. 10, 2022, is chasing the top overall seed. This will be the first time it faces a Memphis team with Kendric Davis, who missed the first meeting due to injury.

Score prediction: Houston 75, Memphis 70

No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers (21-9, 14-5 ACC) at No. 16 Miami Hurricanes (23-6, 14-5 ACC)

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Jeff Capel has endured multiple obstacles during his time at Pitt, but he can complete one of America’s top turnarounds — Pitt was 11-21, 6-14 in the ACC last season — and secure a share of the first ACC title in school history (Pitt was in the Big East when it won that league’s title in 2011).

Score prediction: Miami 84, Pitt 78

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (26-4, 16-1 SEC) at No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies (22-8, 14-3 SEC)

Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, CBS

Alabama can’t seem to avoid controversy, but the Crimson Tide grabbed the SEC title with their win over Auburn on Wednesday. The Aggies can play their way into a safer seed for their NCAA opening-round matchup if they find a way to beat the champs.

Score prediction: Alabama 79, Texas A&M 77

Illinois Fighting Illini (20-10, 11-8 Big Ten) at No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (25-5, 14-5 Big Ten)

Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox

Brad Underwood’s program is in better shape than most bubble teams, with wins over UCLA and Texas to help its cause. A victory against the Big Ten champ and potential No. 1 seed would erase any concerns.

Score prediction: Purdue 78, Illinois 72

No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (23-7, 11-6 Big 12) at West Virginia Mountaineers (17-13, 6-11 Big 12)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A 6-11 record in league play would disqualify most teams in the bubble conversation. But West Virginia can maintain its NCAA tournament hopes if it knocks off Jerome Tang’s crew.

Score prediction: West Virginia 76, Kansas State 73

No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers (22-8, 11-6 SEC) at Auburn Tigers (19-11, 9-8 SEC)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

The drama continues for the Vols, who just lost point guard Zakai Zeigler to an ACL tear ahead of this matchup against a squad that hopes to get off the bubble with another signature win.

Score prediction: Auburn 69, Tennessee 67

No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (20-10, 11-6 SEC) at Arkansas Razorbacks (19-11, 8-9 SEC)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Kentucky’s spot in the NCAA tournament field will be determined by its finish. A win over Arkansas — days after a loss to Vanderbilt — could help in avoiding a dangerous 7-10 situation in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Score prediction: Kentucky 76, Arkansas 72

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