It’s another Saturday (morning, in this case) and we are going to be treated to a lot of great basketball games. At least on paper the games look really good, but they don’t always work out to be competitive. With just two more weeks until Selection Sunday and one more full week of the regular season, there are a lot of seeds and places within the bubble at stake. Let’s take a look at a quartet of games that will start in a mere hours.
Miami at Duke
The Hurricanes staked their claim to a one-seed when they destroyed the Blue Devils backs on Jan. 23. By losing at Wake Forest last Saturday, Miami lost some of their luster. There is no undefeatable team and Saturday’s game at Cameron will be a good test to determine if Miami can hold on and get that advantageous seed coming out of the ACC. Back in January, the Miami was led by the trio of Durand Scott ($127,000), Shane Larkin ($155,000), and Kenny Kadji ($129,000). Scott had a season-high 25 points in the win over the Blue Devils, but he only scored 35 points in his last four games and came off the bench against Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Larkin had 22 points against the Hokies to break a three-game slump in which he averaged 10.3 points. Kadji also had a big game against Virginia Tech (20 points) after averaging just 8.0 points in his previous four games.
Duke is coming off its fourth loss in conference. They are three games behind Miami with three to play, so it would take a major reversal in fortune for the Blue Devils to even tie for the regular season ACC title. The one Dukie to keep an eye on in particular is Seth Curry ($184,000). The guard went scoreless in 22 minutes (0-of-10 from the field) against Miami. Since that game Curry has scored in double digits in every game and has topped 20 points six times. He has been particularly hot from 3-point range and has averaged 3.4 3-pointers over his last eight games. Mason Plumlee ($177,000) has slowed a bit in the ACC schedule, but he is still a decent play at home. He has not attempted more than seven shots in his last four games. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon ($154,000) was held to four points against Virginia on Thursday after scoring 18.3 points in his previous four games.
Alabama at Florida
The Gators were expected to be good, but the Crimson Tide are a bit of surprise in the SEC. Florida has not lost at home this season, but they have showed some vulnerability with three losses in their last four road games, including a six-point loss at Tennessee on Tuesday. This will be the only meeting between Alabama and Florida. Florida has won with balanced scoring this year and will get Will Yeguete ($56,000) and Michael Frazier ($102,000) back to provide even more fire power. Yeguete has missed a month after knee surgery and Frazier missed the loss against Tennessee with a concussion. Frazier had scored 34 points in his last three games. Senior Kenny Boynton ($125,000) has name value, but has not made buckets this season. He was held to two points against Tennessee. Mike Rosario ($159,000) has been much more consistent and has averaged 16.8 points over his last four games.
Alabama has won five of its last six games and the Crimson Tide could get in the NCAA tournament with a win over Florida. This has been a nice year for the Releford brothers. Travis is playing well in Kansas and Trevor Releford ($187,000) is leading Alabama. the 6-0 junior scored a career-high 36 points in the triple-overtime loss to LSU last Saturday. He followed that up with 21 points in the win over Auburn on Tuesday. Releford has hit eight 3-pointers in his last two games. Releford is supported by Trevor Lacey ($127,000) and Rodney Cooper ($131,000). Despite shooting poorly from the outside, Lacey has scored in double digits in four straight games. He has only gone 5-of-22 on 3-pointers during the streak. Cooper scored just two points in the win over Auburn to snap a a seven-game double-digit scoring streak.
Louisville at Syracuse
Over in the Big East, these two teams were expected to dominate. It’s funny how things don’t always work out like they are supposed to. Louisville has won four straight games over the dregs of the Big East since losing that epic five-overtime game against Notre Dame on Feb. 9. Syracuse took a 70-68 win at Louisville on Jan. 19. For Louisville, Russ Smith ($202,000) was the only Cardinal to score in double digits in the loss. The 6-1 junior scored 25 points in the loss and has not been held below 14 points in his last eight games. Smith has been getting to the line with regularity of late and has gone 39-of-45 (86.7%) in his last five games. Peyton Siva ($100,000) scored 16 points against DePaul on Wednesday, but had only scored 30 points in his previous five games. Chane Behanan ($136,000) has scored in double digits in four of his last five games, including 30 points in the game against Notre Dame.
The Orange have not had a three-game losing streak this season, but they have lost their previous two games (against Georgetown at home and at Marquette). Syracuse has lost five of their last nine games. In the win at Louisville, senior guard Brandon Triche ($153,000) led the way with 23 points. He is not a consistent scoring threat and had only made two of his last 13 3-point attempts. If he can get hot, he could be a nice play, but I don’t think I’d risk it. The better play is C.J. Fair ($168,000) who has developed into a star in his junior season. Fair has scored in double digits in every Big East game and has averaged 16.7 points in his last seven games. Michael Carter-Williams ($137,000) has been scoring better of late. He only had seven points in the loss to Georgetown last Saturday, but has scored 14 points or more in his other five most recent games.
Arizona at UCLA
Much like Louisville and Syracuse, the Wildcats and Bruins were expected to be the top two dogs in their conference. Both teams are in the mix, but are looking up at Oregon in the standings. The Bruins can earn a season sweep with a home win. They beat Arizona on Jan. 24 in the desert behind 23 points from freshman Shabazz Muahammad ($193,000). The 6-6 swingman is s scorer who should fit in any Jouster’s heart. He has scored 20 points or more five times in his last nine games and is averaging 18.3 points on the season. On Wednesday, Muhammad equaled his season high with three 3-pointers. Fellow freshman Jordan Adams ($184,000) has scored at least 20 points in his last three games. In that streak, he has converted 21-of-34 (61.8%) of his field goals. The third freshman to note is Kyle Anderson ($133,000), who had a season-high 21 points against the Sun Devils.
Arizona lost on Wednesday at USC and has lost three of their last six games for their worst stretch of the season. When they were beaten by UCLA earlier in the season, they had three double-digits scorers: Nick Johnson ($108,000), Mark Lyons ($159,000), and Solomon Hill ($147,000). They are the most relevant Wildcats to track. Johnson had 23 points against UCLA, but has all but disappeared since. He has only scored more than 10 points once in his last eight games. He continues to get big minutes, but you probably don’t want to mess with him. Lyons has taken over the scoring role from the backcourt and has provided 14 points in each of the last three games. He only went 1-of-9 from the field against USC, but was 12-of-16 from the line. Hill has been the most consistent scorer for the Wildcats this season and had 21 points against the Trojans. He has only been held to single digits once in Pac 12 play.
Perry Missner is a college basketball enthusiast. He doesn’t grind because he is too smooth. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com or @PerryMissner on the Twitter.