Selection Sunday is a little over five weeks away. Here are some of the games to watch on Saturday as teams make their cases for an invite to the Big Dance:
Saint Louis at Dayton: The Flyers (20-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10) continue their ascent and are a legitimate Final Four threat behind star forward Obi Toppin (19.7 ppg) and hot-shooting guards Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Trey Landers. Crutcher hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime as Dayton beat Saint Louis, 78-76, on Jan. 17. The Flyers trailed 55-42 with 7½ minutes left. Dayton will be a double-digit favorite in the rematch.
Purdue at Indiana: Twelve of the 14 teams in the Big Ten remain in NCAA tournament contention, but the Boilermakers (12-10, 5-6) are in serious bubble trouble. Purdue has only two true road wins (Northwestern and Ohio) this season. Purdue coach Matt Painter has dominated the Hoosiers the past few years, but his run of success in this rivalry will stop this weekend. Indiana is 4-1 at home in league play and should be a good bet if favored by five points or fewer. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row and had a full week off to prepare for this game.
Texas Tech at Texas: Texas Tech’s Chris Beard is a bet-on coach and Texas’ Shaka Smart has become a coach to bet against. The Red Raiders, however, are young and make you restless when on the road. Tech dropped to 1-3 in Big 12 road games with a 78-75 loss at Kansas last weekend, but the Red Raiders covered as 8½-point underdogs at Allen Fieldhouse as freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey scored 26 points. Texas was a 14-point ’dog Monday in a 69-58 loss at Kansas. This will probably be a play on the Red Raiders if they are favored by three points or fewer.
Duke at North Carolina: Freshman guard Cole Anthony is back, but he and the Tar Heels have a long, uphill climb. North Carolina is 2-7 straight up in 2020. In his second game after returning from knee surgery, Anthony struggled Monday in a competitive loss at Florida State. He scored 16 points yet shot 5-for-22 and missed seven of his 10 3-point attempts. The Heels played well without senior guard Brandon Robinson, who sat with a sprained ankle. Robinson could return for this rivalry game, but Carolina will be a big home ’dog regardless. Duke was impressive Saturday while covering as a seven-point favorite in a 97-88 win at Syracuse.
San Diego State at Air Force: Will the Aztecs lose before the Mountain West tournament in March? Don’t bet on it. San Diego State (23-0) just survived its two toughest remaining tests by winning at UNLV and beating Utah State. The Aztecs’ comeback victory over the Aggies was especially irritating for underdog bettors as Utah State (+7) led by 10 early in the second half before suddenly falling apart in an 80-68 loss. Matt Mitchell got hot and poured in 24 of his season-high 28 points in the second half. Air Force has slipped into a funk, losing and failing to cover five straight. Still, tiny Clune Arena in Colorado Springs can be a tricky spot for visiting teams. The Falcons might be worth a look if getting more than 10 points.