There are several big games this weekend that will have an impact on both the top and bottom of the bracket, as we will find every weekend from here on out. There are only a few games on Sunday because of some other sport dominating that day — the Super Bowl? — so most of the action is on Saturday.
Notre Dame at North Carolina
The Tar Heels begin a stretch of games against six ranked teams in their final eight games against the Irish. The two unranked teams are on the bubble and those are road games. For North Carolina, this last month is a great opportunity to prove that it belongs on the top line of the bracket. Notre Dame is desperate to get back on track after losing three in a row. A loss on Saturday may mean the Irish are no longer ranked on Monday.
Arizona at Oregon
UCLA looked like the best team in the Pac-12 until the Bruins went to Eugene and lost at the buzzer. Now, Arizona sits atop the league and faces the challenge of playing the Ducks on the road. Arizona is on the cusp of being a No. 1 seed, but doesn’t have much margin for error due to the lack of quality depth in the Pac-12. Oregon can’t be ruled out as a potential top seed also, but that will no longer be true if the Ducks fall on Saturday.
Purdue at Maryland
Some people feel that Maryland isn’t getting enough respect for its 20-2 start, but I think they might be getting just enough. That is a pretty soft 20-2. The Terps’ best win is at Minnesota and they have a few others over bubble teams. Their losses came at home to Pitt and Nebraska. Maryland has yet to even play a team in the current top 25. That changes on Saturday when the Boilermakers visit. Purdue has had a decent season so far, but has been relatively bad on the road. They have already lost at Nebraska and Iowa and barely escaped at Ohio State. The Boilers have no chance to compete in the Big Ten if they can’t do better away from the friendly confines of Mackey Arena.