Memphis-Houston, Arizona-UCLA and other rematches we want to see during Champ Week

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Monday, March 6, 2023

While the NCAA tournament gets all of the buzz each year, Champ Week often produces the best basketball of the postseason.

While many of the auto-bid leagues have already given us buzzer-beaters and game-winners to send their lone representatives to the field of 68 for the 2023 edition, the major conferences are getting set to give us more drama this week. At-large bids are on the line. Some teams need to prove they deserve to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Some beefs need to be settled.

Here are the eight games we hope to see this week, in the buildup to March 12.

Meanwhile, keep track of all the Champ Week action here.

Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels, Part III

When we could see it: ACC tournament championship game (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Last year, UNC spoiled Mike Krzyzewski's retirement party when it defeated Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and then advanced to the national championship game with another victory over its instate rival. In his first year as Coach K's successor, Jon Scheyer returned the favor, sweeping the Tar Heels and returning the Blue Devils to the perch in this rivalry.

A third meeting in the ACC tournament could help Duke hammer home its vengeance for last season's results. It's an unlikely pairing since UNC would have to make a run to the title game for it to happen, but here's hoping. Any loss in the ACC tournament after all could send the preseason No. 1 team to the NIT and complete one of the greatest falls in NCAA history. The stakes are high.

Saint Mary's Gaels vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs, Part III

When we could see it: WCC tournament championship game (Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Saint Mary's nearly secured the outright WCC regular-season title for the first time in more than a decade before losing to Gonzaga 77-68 in the regular-season finale and being forced to split it.

A matchup in Las Vegas in the WCC tournament championship would not only settle this year's debate about the league's best team; it could also help both teams, who are currently top-five seeds in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket.

Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Xavier Musketeers, Part III

When we could see it: Big East tournament championship game (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Shaka Smart led Marquette to the Big East regular-season title after losing multiple starters from a year ago, and has positioned himself to win every national coach of the year honor. Sean Miller returned to college basketball and has led the Musketeers back to the NCAA tournament in his first season since Arizona fired him in 2021.

Xavier won the first meeting, 80-76, on Jan. 15, while Marquette won the second meeting, 69-68, in Milwaukee -- beating a squad that had just begun to adjust to life without Zach Freemantle (15.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG). Since Jerome Hunter has joined Xavier's starting lineup, however, Sean Miller's team has made 54% of its shots inside the arc and 42% of its 3-point attempts. The school recently announced Freemantle would not return the rest of this season, but Marquette would still have its work cut out for it.

Memphis Tigers vs. Houston Cougars, Part III

When we could see it: AAC tournament championship game (Sunday, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

In the first meeting between these two teams, Houston -- a likely top seed in the NCAA tournament -- outplayed Memphis 72-64. But that happened without Kendric Davis (21.3 PPG), the SMU transfer who was unavailable that day due to injury.

Davis is back, and scored 26 points in the rematch on Sunday. He nearly led his team to the win, beforeJamal Shead's buzzer-beater gave Houston a 67-65 victory. It's definitely time for Round 3.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kentucky Wildcats, Part II

When we could see it: SEC tournament championship game (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Alabama has made more headlines for incidents off the court than on in recent months. The scrutiny will follow the Crimson Tide, who can't seem to avoid drama, through the postseason.

But this is also a legitimate 1-seed candidate, and the favorite to win the SEC tournament after winning the league's regular season crown with just two losses in conference play. It beat Kentucky 78-52 on Jan. 7 in the pair's first and only SEC meeting. But John Calipari's crew has mostly shaken off its early-season funk, and won five of its last six games. The rematch should be a better spectacle.

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Indiana Hoosiers, Part III

When we could see it:Big Ten tournament championship game (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

The biggest rivalries in college basketball trump everything else. It's why Mike Woodson will have a victory at the end of this season over Matt Painter, regardless of what happens in the postseason.

Indiana's sweep of the Boilermakers during the regular season is a gold star in the eyes of Hoosier fans, who live for this rivalry. It's even more impactful this season since Purdue has Zach Edey, the projected Wooden Award winner, and a shot at a 1-seed. That said, perhaps the Boilermakers will have learned from the last two meetings, and make it difficult to beat them three times in one year.

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kansas State Wildcats, Part III

When we could see it: Big 12 tournament championship game (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Jerome Tang has restored the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry in his first year on the job. The split record this season signaled a cultural shift for a Wildcats program that had lost seven consecutive games against the Jayhawks before their 83-82 overtime win in Manhattan on Jan. 17.

KU will enter the Big 12 tournament with a résumé worthy of the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, while KSU (4-1 in its last five games) is also in a good spot to earn a favorable seed. A third meeting in this rivalry would simply be fun.

Arizona Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins, Part III

When we could see it: Pac-12 tournament championship game (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

After beating Arizona on Saturday, UCLA moved up to a 1-seed in Lunardi's latest bracket. It was a critical win for a Bruins team that has dominated the Pac-12 with a 10-game winning streak to end the regular season. The pair split their regular-season series, so a third meeting in the Pac-12 tournament would settle the score. That game would be critical for UCLA, which might have to move forward without Jaylen Clark (13.0 PPG 6.0 RPG 2.6 SPG), who suffered a foot injury in Saturday's win over Arizona: The committee will be assessing if the Bruins are the same team with the same ceiling and 1-seed potential without their star.

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