WHAT LIES AHEAD
When UConn meets Pittsburgh on Saturday, it should go down as the biggest game of the regular-season -- or at least the biggest game, rankings-wise. The Huskies and Panthers were 1-2 in my last Power Rankings and should be 1-2 in the Associated Press poll that's released later today, if the voters have any good sense. UConn will be chasing a share of the Big East title, and every person who has aims of winning an NCAA tournament pool will be forming national-title opinions off of the game. But how much, in the grand scheme of the season, will this rematch matter? There's a chance that regardless of the outcome, both teams will end up as No. 1 seeds in the dance, with the Huskies still getting the geographical advantage of playing in Philadelphia and Boston on the first two weekends, and the Panthers still getting to play in Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis. As much as UConn-Pitt II will provide the most entertainment value of any game this week, there are matchups elsewhere in which more is at stake, particularly these five:
1. Kentucky at Florida, Sat., 2 p.m.: This game reeks of desperation. The Wildcats have lost three of their past four to put themselves on the tourney bubble, while Florida has dropped four of its past six (including a potentially devastating loss in Athens, Ga., on Valentine's Day). UK, which is 24 spots behind Florida in the RPI and is in danger of missing the tournament for the first time since 1991, probably needs the win more, if only to appease a fanbase in near-meltdown mode. After Saturday's loss to LSU, the Kentucky Secretary of State ripped A.J. Stewart -- for dubious reasons -- in a Twitter. What might happen if they actually get left out of the dance? Will Mitch McConnell go after Billy G. via Tumblr?
2. Villanova at Notre Dame, Mon., 7 p.m.: The Irish are out of the at-large conversation if they lose, because there's no way they get in the dance with a sub-.500 record in the Big East (they're currently 7-9) and only two decent wins -- over Louisville and Texas -- on their resume. The Wildcats, meanwhile, desperately want to be high enough on the selection committee's S-curve to be slotted into one of the Philadelphia pods for the first and second rounds. If they get to play two de-facto home games to start the NCAA tournament, they're practically a lock for the Sweet 16.
3. Oklahoma at Missouri, Weds., 9 p.m.: The Sooners still need to make their case for a No. 1 seed. They haven't lost a Big 12 game in which Blake Griffin was fully available ... but they haven't really played any tough Big 12 games without him, either. Winning at Mizzou would go a long way towards justifying that OU deserves top seeding instead of, say, Memphis, which will likely finish unbeaten in Conference USA for the 89th straight season.
4. Wake Forest at Maryland, Tues., 9 p.m.: A win here and the Terps' resume is too good to ignore. They'd be .500 in the ACC with wins over a probably No. 1 seed (UNC), No. 2 seed (Michigan State) and No. 3/4 seed (Wake Forest). As long as they don't implode at Virginia over the weekend and then make an early exit from the ACC tournament, the Terps should be at-large-worthy. An NCAA tournament bid and the prospect of a Lance Stephenson commitment -- Under Armour controversy aside -- could be enough to keep Gary Williams employed.
5. Washington State at Washington, Sat., 5:30 p.m.: As of Feb. 19 -- just 11 days ago -- the Cougars were 13-13 and 5-9 in the Pac-10, and appeared to have no shot at the NCAA tournament. Since then they've beaten two NCAA tourney teams (UCLA and Arizona State) and a possible third (Arizona). A win at Hec Ed on Saturday could get Wazzu to .500 in the league -- and spoil the Huskies' shot at winning the Pac-10 title outright. The Cougs are still an extreme longshot for an at-large bid, but a win in Seattle keeps them in the picture.
SI.COM'S STARTING FIVE
(Wearing cream suits, and not changing at halftime ...)
1. Sherron Collins, PG, Kansas: "We wanted to blow them out," Collins said of Missouri, and he helped Kansas do just that, dropping 25 points on the Tigers in a 90-65 rout on Sunday. His clutch play in a win over Oklahoma on Monday -- 15 points in the final six minutes, to finish with 26 -- helped put the Jayhawks alone in first place in the Big 12.
2. A.J. Price, G, UConn: One way to make up for not having slasher Jerome Dyson in the offense: Shoot the lights out against Marquette on Wednesday, hitting 8-of-13 long-distance attempts to finish with 36 points.
3. Marcus Thornton, G, LSU: He went from unknown to well-known in a week, by scoring 32 against Florida on ESPN, and then 23 at Kentucky on CBS to clinch an SEC title.
4. Charles Jenkins, G, Hofstra: On Saturday, his 20th birthday, Jenkins gave the Pride its 20th win by scoring a career-high 35 points against UNC-Wilmington. It would have been nice if he'd scored 20, to keep the thing symmetrical ... but if he'd only scored 20, he wouldn't have made this list.
5. Jon Brockman, PF, Washington: It was a double double-double week for Brockman, who scored 21 points and grabbed 11 boards against Arizona State, and then went for 19 and 11 against Arizona to clinch a share of the Pac-10 regular-season title.
THE MARQUEE MATCHUP
Saturday, March 7: UConn at Pitt, 12 p.m.:
Regardless of what I said above -- that this game doesn't matter as much as say, Kentucky-Florida -- you still need to watch this game. If only for the potential of another Thabeet Flipping.
YOUR MONDAY MOMENT OF ZEN
The following video appears twice on YouTube, with titles to appease both the Duke Lover and Hater/Conspiracy Theorist:
1. Duke's Scheyer Mugged; Haters Only See Traveling
2. Jon Scheyer Moon Walks Across the floor: Traveling NOT Called