College basketball viewers’ guide: Baylor-Kansas, Gonzaga-Kentucky and more


It’s so strange to see Gonzaga at Kentucky on the schedule in the thick of conference play. No complaints, even if the matchup hasn’t unfolded as expected. Regardless, there is still a slew of league games that should have considerable implications on the regular-season standings and NCAA Tournament chances, particularly in the Mountain West, SEC and Big 12.

Let’s power-rank the top-10 men’s basketball matchups between now and Feb. 13, starting with a few honorable mentions and counting down.

Honorable Mention: No. 8 Arizona at Utah (Thursday); No. 20 Florida Atlantic at UAB (Thursday); St. John’s at No. 7 Marquette (Saturday), No. 6 Tennessee at Texas A&M (Saturday); Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor (Tuesday, Feb. 13); Ole Miss at No. 17 Kentucky (Tuesday, Feb. 13)

(All tipoff times are Eastern, all rankings are via the AP Top 25, all stats and records are current at time of publishing.)

10. Boise State at No. 22 Utah State, Saturday, 10 p.m., FS1

Big-time bubble implications in this one, especially for the Broncos, who are looking to add another Quad 1 win to the resume after dropping one on the road to Colorado State on Tuesday. Boise State has the profile of an NCAA Tournament squad and has played as well as anyone in the Mountain West in conference play, particularly on the glass. A win would provide some solid at-large footing. The Aggies are a tough matchup and the league’s best offense, though it didn’t look that way in Tuesday’s 77-63 home loss to Nevada. Utah State still has no bad losses but could use another quality win under first-year head coach Danny Sprinkle.

9. No. 7 Marquette at Butler, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m., FS1

Who did Butler tick off in the Big East scheduling offices? After a slow start to league play, the Bulldogs found a groove to get back on the bubble, but have a gauntlet ahead of them. A humbling road loss to UConn last night and Marquette at home a week later is part of a brutal 10-game stretch in February. Butler did get the better of the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee in early January, handing Marquette its only home loss of the season. The big three of Tyler Kolek (15.1 points per game, 7.2 apg), Kam Jones (14.7 ppg) and Oso Ighodaro (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) will be out for revenge.

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8. Colorado State at No. 24 San Diego State, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network

More Mountain West action! SDSU has cranked up the defense in league play, but the Aztecs have been too inconsistent over the past month, which wasn’t an issue during last year’s run. Jaedon LeDee took a leap (20.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg) from last season, but those around him have struggled to make similar strides. Better competition is part of that as well, including Colorado State, which recently took care of SDSU and Boise State at home. Colorado transfer Nique Clifford has been a massive addition, averaging 13.8 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from deep and nearly 60 percent from the field.

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7. No. 4 Kansas at No. 23 Texas Tech, Monday, Feb. 12, 9 p.m., ESPN

The Jayhawks may have some scheduling gripes as well, with two straight weeks featuring a Saturday-Monday turnaround. Last time it was Houston and Kansas State, which they split. This time it’s Baylor and a Texas Tech squad trying to recapture its hot start to league play. The Red Raiders need to get right after dropping a third straight with Tuesday’s road loss to Baylor. Tech went from comfortably in the NCAA Tournament to being stuck in the Big 12 logjam in a hurry, which can happen in that league. The good news is the Red Raiders will have opportunities to pull out of that skid. The bad news is having to do so against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU over eight days.

6. No. 10 Illinois at Michigan State, Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS

The Spartans continue to confound. Michigan State, despite impressive metrics, hasn’t had a quality win since Indiana State in December. That needs to change at home against Illinois, or the worm could start to turn on MSU’s tournament hopes. Good luck against a resilient Illini squad that pulled off an overtime win against Nebraska to stay just one loss behind Purdue in the loss column. Illinois’s offense has cooled a bit in conference play, but remains a nightmare for opposing teams on the offensive glass.

5. No. 5 Houston at Cincinnati, Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2

Predictably, the Cougars bounced back from an outlier of a loss to Kansas on Saturday by thumping Oklahoma State on Tuesday. But Saturday is a much bigger game for a Cincinnati team that is on the bubble and fighting to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. The Bearcats have been impressively competitive in their first season in the Big 12, with road wins over BYU and Texas Tech, a home win over TCU, and no league losses by more than five points. But they also haven’t strung together two conference wins in a row. Saturday would be a notable time to do so.

4. TCU at No. 14 Iowa State, Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2

The Cyclones responded to that deflating, too-late game-winner against Baylor with a road win over Texas to remain right on the heels of Houston in the Big 12 standings. Hilton Coliseum has been one of the most fun environments to witness this season, bolstered by do-everything guard Keshon Gilbert (14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.1 apg). TCU, which lost to Texas on Saturday, will attempt to enter that hive and get a signature road win as the Horned Frogs aim to separate from the deep middle of the league. Emanuel Miller (16.4 ppg, 40 percent 3FG) continues to play at an all-conference level.

3. Gonzaga at No. 17 Kentucky, Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS

So much for best-laid plans. This rare February nonconference headliner between big names doesn’t have quite the pop most expected when the game date was announced. Instead, the Zags are unranked, on the bubble and fighting to stay there while looking up at Saint Mary’s in the WCC standings. Gonzaga is 0-5 in Q1 games and desperately needs to win one against a Kentucky group that is electric offensively yet downright pedestrian on defense. UK’s frontcourt, which played without Tre Mitchell on Tuesday at Vanderbilt, could struggle against versatile forwards Graham Ike (15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 38.5 percent 3FG) and Anton Watson (14.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 42.4 percent 3FG).

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2. No. 16 Alabama at No. 12 Auburn, Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Bama’s production is finally catching up to its hype and potential, dating back to a home win over Auburn on Jan. 24. The offense continues to be one of the best in college hoops, led by point guard Mark Sears (20.1 ppg, 44.7 percent 3FG) and the defense has tightened. Auburn had won 11 straight before that road loss to Alabama but just picked up its first Q1 win against Ole Miss on Saturday. The Tigers are only a game behind Alabama for first place in the SEC and have all the metric bells and whistles, including an efficient offense, pestering defense, and player-of-the-year candidate Johni Broome (15.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg). But the quality wins have thus far eluded them.

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1. No. 13 Baylor at No. 4 Kansas, Sat., 6 p.m., ESPN

Two of the last three national champions and Big 12 heavyweights clash in Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks are 12-0 this season. Baylor hopes to snap that streak with an offense that flows in waves, shooting a combined 49.2 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and featuring six players averaging at least 9.6 points. Kansas, meanwhile, is experienced but top-heavy, though the emergence of ​​freshman Johnny Furphy (8.3 ppg, 40.5 percent 3FG) has helped. Both teams are still chasing Houston and battling Iowa State for the regular season crown, but it also feels as if both have a gear they haven’t found just yet. If either can peak at the right time, another title run is in play.

(Photo of Baylor’s Josh Ojianwuna: Matthew Lynch / AP) 





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