Matchup: Villanova (14-8, 4-6 Big East) at Georgetown (19-3, 9-2), 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Rankings: Villanova, #93 in Pomeroy Ratings (12th of 16 in Big East); Georgetown, #7 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Georgetown, 75-58 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 5%
Prospectus: The Hoyas and Wildcats have one of the best rivalries in college basketball, intensified by the 1985 NCAA championship game, when a heavily favored Georgetown squad fell to Villanova in thrilling fashion. The players on this year's Wildcats team weren't even born when that game occurred--in fact, Villanova is one of the youngest units in the nation this year. The Wildcats have no seniors, and play four freshman and three sophomores in their 10-man rotation. The key man among that group tonight will likely be 6'10" sophomore Casiem Drummond, as he will face 7'2" Hoyas center Roy Hibbert. If he had played enough minutes to qualify, Drummond's 18.9 offensive rebounding percentage would rank fourth in all of Division I, ahead of the likes of UCLA's Kevin Love, and his 25.2 defensive rebounding percentage would rank in the top 40 (Drummond missed time this year with a stress fracture in his right ankle). Despite the fact that Georgetown is the tallest team in the nation by Effective Height, it is the Wildcats that are the better rebounding team on both ends, thanks mainly to Drummond and 6'8" freshman Antonio Pena.
Matchup: Albany (11-12, 6-5 America East) at Vermont (12-10, 7-3), 7:30
Rankings: Albany, #190 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 9 in America East); Vermont, #198 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Vermont, 71-68 in 69 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 36%
Prospectus: The last two dynasts of the America East square off in the rematch of a thrilling 80-79 overtime victory for Albany back on January 6. The Catamounts of Vermont won the America East conference tournament three straight years from 2003-05, and the regular season title in 2005 and 2007, while the Great Danes won the conference tournament the last two years and the regular season in 2006. A new team is threatening that rivalry this year, as upstart Maryland-Baltimore County currently sits atop the standings, a game and a half ahead of the Catamounts. Vermont doesn't play UMBC again, but if the Catamounts can take this game and then get some help from the Great Danes, who still have to play the Retrievers at home, then Vermont could grab at least a share of the regular-season title. Beating the underrated Great Danes won't be easy, however, as Albany rates as the best defensive rebounding team in the nation thanks to the Killer Bs, 6'8" forwards Brian Connelly and Brent Wilson, and 6'5" guard Brian Lillis. The Great Danes should have little trouble controlling the defensive glass against a Catamounts team that secures just 31 percent of potential offensive boards.
Matchup: Kansas (23-1, 8-1 Big 12) at Texas (19-4, 6-2), 9:00, ESPN
Rankings: Kansas, #1 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in Big 12); Texas, #21
Pomeroy Prediction: Kansas, 75-68 in 67 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 24%
Prospectus: The premier game of the day in the nation's premier conference--that's right, the Big 12 has eclipsed the Pac-10 in quality, per the Pomeroy rankings. The Jayhawks defense is not completely invulnerable, as Baylor scored 1.13 points per possession in its 100-90 loss to Kansas on Saturday, thanks mainly to a 12-of-29 performance from behind the arc. Indeed, the Jayhawks' weakest area of defense--in a very relative sense, of course--is preventing the three, as opponents have taken 37.1 percent of their field goal attempts from deep, a high figure, and hit on 33.5 percent. That latter mark isn't great, but is enough for a eFG% of 50, which thanks to the excellent two-point defense of Kansas is well above the 44.7 eFG% the team has allowed its foes this year. The Longhorns are a decent three-point shooting team, with a percentage of 37.9 from long range, but don't fire from deep all that often (less than one-third of their field goal attempts are threes). Guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are more than capable of catching fire from behind the arc, however. All that speculation could very well be made moot by the Jayhawks offense, which puts up a national-best 1.18 points per possession and which will be going against a Longhorns defense which ranks 11th in the Big 12 in raw efficiency.
Matchup: Utah St. (18-6, 8-1 Western Athletic) at Nevada (15-8, 7-3), 10:05
Rankings: Utah St., #120 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 9 in WAC); Nevada, #97 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Nevada, 77-70 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 25%
Prospectus: The Utah St. Aggies beat the Wolf Pack 77-63 at home on February 2, and now Nevada will look to get even in Reno. A win would move the Wolf Pack to a game back of Utah St. in the loss column with five league games to play (Utah St. has six left after this one). It will be interesting to see whether the luck of the Aggies will hold up down the stretch--the team is sixth nationally at three wins above expected based on points scored/points allowed. Luck or no luck, however, the Wolf Pack will have to find a way to slow down a prodigious Utah St. offense that is fourth best in the nation at converting field goal attempts into points, with a 56.8 eFG%. The Aggies simply know how to put the ball through the hoop--they shoot 40 percent from three, 55.5 percent from two, and 77.6 percent from the free-throw line. In the first meeting, Utah St. 6'9" junior Gary Wilkinson shot 9-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the line for 23 points, and also grabbed 10 rebounds, eating up a bigger Nevada front line that is nearly five inches taller than the Aggies' four- and five-men by Effective Height.
Matchup: St. Mary's (20-3, 7-1 West Coast) at Santa Clara (12-10, 4-3), 11:00, ESPN2
Rankings: St. Mary's, #33 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 8 in West Coast); Santa Clara, #142 (4th)
Pomeroy Prediction: St. Mary's, 66-58 in 63 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 19%
Prospectus: The Gaels beat the Broncos by 31 points in Moraga on January 12. This contest should be a different story, if judged by Santa Clara's home effort against West Coast co-power Gonzaga on February 2, when the Broncos lost in double overtime. The battle on the Santa Clara defensive boards in the team's rematch with St. Mary's should be fierce--both teams are tall up front, and the Gaels are a strong offensive rebounding squad while the Broncos are very good at grabbing opponent's misses. The majority of that ability for Santa Clara comes from 6'10 junior John Bryant, who is third nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, at 31.2 (and 70th in offensive rebounding). Bryant also leads his team in percent of possessions used, percentage of shots taken, eFG% and block percentage. In the curious statistical deviance department, St. Mary's has held its opponents to a lower assist percentage (percentage of made field goals that are assisted on) than any other D-I school, at 37.8. What's remarkable is by how much they are in the lead--the two through nine schools have an A/FGM percentage allowed ranging from 44.6 to 46.6 percent. The wide gap suggests that there could be something interesting going on at St. Mary's home games, such as a reverse Acie Law effect.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.