What to Watch for in College Basketball this Weekend: How much better are the Longhorns with the return of Isaiah Taylor and more
With only one game remaining in the College Football Playoff, the college sports world turns its eyes to the hardcourt this weekend for a slew of opening conference games. It won’t be long till a much bigger, better bracket is upon us, and the story lines now can make or break a team’s inclusion.
Texas finally gets healthy and looks to make a push at dethroning Kansas in the Big 12. The remaining undefeated schools, some rarely tested in the non-conference slate, finally find formidable foes in their conference openers.
The most intriguing conference lineup this weekend has to be the Pac-12, where outside of Arizona the conference has been flipped upside down since the preseason predictions. Here’s what to watch for as you take in those games and more.
How much better is Texas with Isaiah Taylor?
The Longhorns haven’t faired poorly without Taylor. During his 10-game absence due to a wrist injury, Texas has gone 8-2 with wins over California and Connecticut and a loss to Kentucky.
Taylor’s return, though, makes this team even more dangerous. In a conference full of teams that like to get out and run with smaller lineups, his speed and finishing touch will allow the Longhorns to run with the best. Their greatest threats in the Big 12 will likely be Iowa State and Kansas, both of which poses scoring guards that can dart through the lane to jump start the offense. Not only with Taylor’s return help on the offensive end, but he can matchup up with and hopefully contain other Big 12 scorers.
He’ll return against Texas Tech on Saturday with Oklahoma not far behind on Monday. If Taylor is in midseason form right off the bat this weekend, Texas will take the early Big 12 lead.
Undefeated teams get conference tests.
Villanova, Virginia, Colorado State, and TCU all face difficult openers this weekend with only the Horned Frogs playing at home. Especially for TCU and the Rams, conference play is an opportunity to silence the naysayers who are still searching for quality wins from those programs.
Colorado State travels to New Mexico and will have to contain sophomore guard Cullen Neal, who averages 17 points per game, to reach 14-0. The Horned Frogs host no. 17 West Virginia as a heavy underdog despite their 13-0 record. Win this weekend, though, and you’ll see both jump up the rankings and finally start to generate some buzz.
Will Pac 12 return to normalcy?
Despite its upset loss to UNLV before Christmas, Arizona is still in the top 10 and should stay there all season. Past that, not much has gone according to plan in the Pac 12 so far.
Utah is on the top 10. Yes, those Utes, which have wins over Wichita State, BYU, and UNLV. California, after a surprising showing in the early season tournaments, is now in a tail spin with a recent loss to CSU Bakersfield. UCLA, one of the most prestigious programs in the nation, has been an after thought, and Washington was undefeated before losing to Stony Brook. Wasn’t Oregon supposed to be good this year too? I give up.
Strange times no doubt, but the more things change, the more they stay the same as the conference could easily return to order soon. UCLA takes on Utah in a tempting upset pick, Washington gets a contender-or-pretender game against Stanford, and Oregon looks to get back on the map with a win over rival Oregon State. This weekend will tell us if the wild west will stay so for the remainder of the season or not.