Baylor-Kansas, bluebloods on the bubble and other games to watch this weekend

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Friday, February 17, 2023

Per the norm this season, the men's college basketball chaos will continue this weekend with a series of high-profile matchups.

We're less than a month from Selection Sunday, so every game matters now. With a soft bubble and multiple teams entering the second half of February with a chance to seal -- or erase -- their NCAA tournament hopes, the slate on Saturday and Sunday is worth watching, beginning with the biggest matchup of the weekend.

No. 9 Baylor Bears (20-6, 9-4 Big 12) at No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks (21-5, 9-4 Big 12)

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

The last two national champions seem prepared to chase another ring this season. The Bears (2021) and the Jayhawks (2022) have risen just weeks before Selection Sunday, when both Big 12 squads could capture top seeds. The winner of this matchup -- Baylor won the first game, 75-69, in Waco on Jan. 23 -- will have the edge in a three-way tie between Baylor, Kansas and Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 title race.

Baylor star Keyonte George, a projected first-round pick in ESPN's latest NBA mock draft, leads the No. 1 team in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom. For Kansas, an 88-80 win over the Longhorns on Feb. 6 proved this is not the same team Baylor defeated a month ago. Jalen Wilson scored just two points against the Longhorns that night, but Gradey Dick (21 points) and the other three KU starters combined to score 64 points. This is not only a heavyweight fight in the Big 12; it's also a potential Final Four matchup.

Score prediction: Kansas 81, Baylor 77

Other games this weekend with NCAA tournament seeding implications

No. 10 Tennessee Volunteers (20-6, 9-4 SEC) at Kentucky Wildcats (17-9, 8-5 SEC)

Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

After losing back-to-back games on buzzer-beaters (Vanderbilt Commodores, Missouri Tigers) before securing a 68-59 win over No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday, the Vols (No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom) remain one of college basketball's most difficult riddles to solve. But the bubble-worthy Wildcats need a major boost for their résumé, and that reality will add another layer to this rivalry game at Rupp Arena.

Score prediction: Kentucky 68, Tennessee 66

No. 19 Iowa State Cyclones (17-8, 8-5 Big 12) at No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats (19-7, 7-6 Big 12)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Well, Kansas State is sliding after losing four of its last five games, but Iowa State has lost five consecutive Big 12 road games. Anything could happen when the two meet. Both will need a lot of help to get back to the top of the league standings.

Score prediction: Kansas State 69, Iowa State 66

Oklahoma State Cowboys (16-10, 7-6 Big 12) at No. 22 TCU Horned Frogs (17-9, 6-7 Big 12)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+

We've gone from talking about a top-tier seed for the Frogs to wondering if they'll enter a dangerous first-round tournament game after four consecutive losses. Admittedly, those defeats come to good teams amid the Mike Miles Jr., (18.1 PPG) knee injury that has sidelined the star for the five consecutive games (TCU is 1-4 in the stretch). A loss to a surging Oklahoma State (No. 33 in the NET) wouldn't end any tourney dreams, but Jamie Dixon's squad has to start winning again soon.

Score prediction: Oklahoma State 75, TCU 71

North Carolina Tar Heels (16-10, 8-7 ACC) at No. 23 NC State Wolfpack (20-7 10-6 ACC)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Somewhere in America, there is a TV exec salivating about a potential First Four pairing that includes UNC -- which entered the season as the No. 1 team in America before a rapid fall. A road win over in-state rival NC State (No. 38 NET) on Sunday would contribute to minimizing that possibility. A losing effort would be the Tar Heels' fifth loss in six games, adding to the possibility that a flock of their fans might end up in Dayton.

Score prediction: NC State 78, North Carolina 73

Memphis Tigers (19-6, 9-3 American) at No. 2 Houston Cougars (23-2, 11-1 American)

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Penny Hardaway has weathered some highs and lows this season, but Memphis' only losses since New Year's Day unfolded in overtime. If Kendric Davis (21.8 PPG) and Co. can beat Houston in the first of two meetings this season, all that bubble talk will end for the Tigers.

Score prediction: Houston 78, Memphis 70