College basketball schedule, games to watch 2023: North Carolina gets big opportunity, Baylor looks to rebound

College basketball schedule, games to watch 2023: North Carolina gets big opportunity, Baylor looks to rebound

No preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 has ever missed the NCAA Tournament, but North Carolina is certainly pushing to make the wrong kind of history. The reigning national runner-up returned four of five starters and several bench pieces, added a big piece in the transfer portal and brought in a top-20 recruiting class, but it hasn’t all come together.

The biggest issue is 3-point shooting. The Tar Heels are connecting on just 30.6{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} of their shots from deep, outside the top 300 nationally and on pace to be the second-worst mark in program history. Caleb Love is down from 36{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} last year to 31.2{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} this year. Pete Nance, who was brought in to replace Brady Manek, is down from 45.2{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} last year at Northwestern to 29.3{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} this year. That leads to awkward spacing and, well, an underwhelming 16-11 record that includes an 0-8 mark in Quad 1 contests.

The question now, 20 days from Selection Sunday, is whether last year’s NCAA Tournament run from bubble team to runner-up was an aberration or a repeatable accomplishment. This week, already the second-to-last of the regular season, could go a long way in determining that.

This week’s top games

No. 3 Kansas at No. 24 TCU (Monday, 9 p.m. on ESPN) — The glass half-full look at the Jayhawks is that the reigning champions have a star in Jalen Wilson and a supporting cast that includes both experience (Dajuan Harris Jr., K.J. Adams) and a likely lottery pick freshman star (Gradey Dick). The glass half-empty approach is that Bill Self’s team simply doesn’t have enough offensively around Wilson. We saw the former over the weekend when the Jayhawks rallied past and then dominated Baylor. We saw the latter almost exactly one month ago when TCU came to Allen Fieldhouse and won 83-60 despite Wilson scoring 30. Conveniently, the Horned Frogs and the Jayhawks meet again Monday night.

TCU did just about everything right in the first meeting, making 8 of their 15 3-pointers, forcing 17 turnovers and getting a season-high 17 points off the bench from Shahada Wells. The Horned Frogs then blew out Oklahoma before Mike Miles Jr. got hurt and TCU lost five of six. Miles returned Saturday, and TCU promptly put up 100 points on Oklahoma State, one of the conference’s top defenses.

TCU has never won consecutive games against Kansas, but if Jamie Dixon’s club can get out in transition like it did in the first meeting (19 transition points), that might finally change.

No. 9 Baylor at No. 14 Kansas State (Tuesday, 7 p.m. on ESPN2) — We saw the best and the worst of Baylor against Kansas. At their best — the first half — the Bears have guards that few teams can defend and wings and bigs who are active on both ends. In the first half, Baylor’s three-headed backcourt monster of Adam Flagler, Keyonte George and LJ Cryer scored 42 of their team’s 45 points.

In the second half, though, the Bears went 1 for 11 from three and had no answers on defense where they’ve been up-and-down all year. For a team that shoots 3-pointers at the highest rate in the Big 12, that’s a major issue. The result? A 55-26 thrashing over the final 20 minutes.

Now, the Bears get a chance at redemption against the “other” Big 12 team from the Sunflower State. Kansas State will be no easy task. The Wildcats allow the lowest 3-point percentage in Big 12 play (28.1{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462}) and have plenty of explosiveness offensively, led by Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. They combined for 56 points in the first matchup, a 97-95 overtime Wildcats win.

No. 10 Marquette at No. 19 Creighton (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. on FS1) — When Marquette cruised to an 11-point win over Creighton in mid-December, no one would have predicted the rematch would be for a spot atop the Big East. Creighton, after all, had lost six straight at that point. Since then, the Bluejays have won 12 of 15. They do it with the Big East’s best defense and a very good starting five that plays over 80{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} of available minutes, eighth-most in Division I. Marquette, meanwhile, has the Big East’s best offense, almost never turns the ball over and is terrific inside the arc. Expect a great big-man battle between Ryan Kalkbrenner and Oso Ighodaro, but a big key will be the 3-pointer. Both teams shoot it right around 36{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} in league play.

No. 20 Providence at No. 18 UConn (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. on FS1) — This will be a throwback, physical Big East battle. In the first meeting, a 73-61 Providence win, Bryce Hopkins made 15 trips to the free throw line as part of a 27-point performance, and Ed Croswell and Devin Carter combined to shoot 18 more freebies. That’s the Friars’ game plan: They rank first in Big East play in free throw rate and second in offensive rebounding rate. They attack and attack and attack.

That’s an issue for UConn, which ranks 335th nationally in foul rate. The Huskies offense runs mostly through big men Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, but they average 4.3 and 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively. Keeping them on the floor is a must. The same goes for making some shots from deep. The Huskies are shooting 36.7{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} from 3 in wins and 31.4{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} in losses. Keep an eye on Jordan Hawkins, a sharpshooter who is up to 19.9 points per game over his last nine contests.

No. 21 Northwestern at Illinois (Thursday, 9 p.m. on BTN) — The hottest team in the Big Ten and one of the biggest surprises in the entire nation, Northwestern has won five straight, crept into the AP Top 25 and all but guaranteed itself an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats were picked 13th in the preseason Big Ten media poll, only ahead of Nebraska. Right now, they’re second in the conference, behind only No. 5 Purdue.

The biggest reasons are a much-improved defense (20th in Kenpom’s adjusted efficiency after finishing 73rd last year) and the steady play of senior Boo Buie, whose 17 points per game ranks sixth in the conference. Buie’s 3-point percentage is actually down, but he’s more than making up for it by shooting over 48{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} inside the arc; he had never been over 45{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} previously in his career. While the Wildcats offense can get a bit isolation-heavy, Buie has been terrific in those settings. His 61 isolation points are most by any Big Ten player this season.

No. 8 Texas at No. 9 Baylor (Saturday, 2 p.m. on ESPN/ESPN2) — Baylor’s brutal closing stretch continues with a visit from Texas on Saturday, the fifth of seven consecutive games against Kenpom top-35 teams. In the first matchup, Sir’Jabari Rice scored a game-high 21 points in just 24 minutes. Defending Rice and Timmy Allen (18 points) could present an issue for the Bears, whose three-guard lineups leave them vulnerable defensively against wings and bigger guards. Texas boasts great depth and two talented guards of its own in Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter. This should be a really fun one. Of course, you can say that about almost every Big 12 game.

No. 6 Virginia at North Carolina (Saturday, 6 p.m. on ESPN) — Given how North Carolina has played this season, we probably shouldn’t overlook anyone, but if the Tar Heels can get past Notre Dame on Wednesday, they’ll get yet another opportunity for a Quad 1 win Saturday against Virginia.

The Cavaliers have won 11 of 12, but it hasn’t been especially pretty recently. They escaped against Duke in overtime after a referee error and then beat Notre Dame and Louisville — the two teams at the bottom of the conference — by a combined five points. Another thing working in North Carolina’s favor? The Cavaliers had no answer for Armando Bacot last year when he posted a 29-point, 22-rebound effort in the regular season and a 10-point, 11-rebound effort in the ACC Tournament, both blowout wins for the Tar Heels. Bacot played only one minute before injuring his ankle in the first meeting this year, a 65-58 Virginia win, so his presence could help turn the tide. If it doesn’t, an already-dire NCAA Tournament resume gets even worse.

No. 15 Saint Mary’s at No. 12 Gonzaga (Saturday, 10 p.m. on ESPN) — Aidan Mahaney might be the best freshman guard you’ve never heard of. The 134th-ranked recruit in the 2022 class, Mahaney led Saint Mary’s with 18 points in the Gaels’ win over Gonzaga earlier this month and is averaging 15.1 points per game, a remarkable number considering his team plays at the fourth-slowest pace in Division I. The Gaels rank seventh nationally in defensive efficiency.

Gonzaga, on the other hand, plays at a top-40 pace nationally and has reclaimed the nation’s No. 1 offensive efficiency. Even if this isn’t Mark Few’s best team, Drew Timme remains nearly impossible to stop in the post, and Julian Strawther is averaging 28 points over his last three games. This will be a fascinating battle of styles as the Gaels look for the season sweep.

Three NBA prospects to watch

Check out the 2023 CBS Sports NBA Draft Prospect Rankings.

  • Baylor’s Keyonte George put on a mercurial show at Kansas. He had four turnovers before the game was barely four minutes old but then absolutely caught fire with 15 points in the first half. Then came a sluggish second half in which he scored five points and had as many made shots (two) as turnovers. Baylor will only go as far as its explosive backcourt will take it, and the Bears could use a steady George ahead of a huge week. He has the overwhelming talent to step up. George is sixth in our rankings.
  • I already mentioned UConn’s Jordan Hawkins above, so why not have him here as well? Hawkins has been really good as of late, but his home/road splits are significant: 19.4 PPG on 45{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} shooting at home compared to 13.4 PPG on 37{f5ac61d6de3ce41dbc84aacfdb352f5c66627c6ee4a1c88b0642321258bd5462} shooting on the road. The Huskies are at home for Providence but are at St. Johns — a team they already lost to — over the weekend. Hawkins is 31st in our player rankings.
  • Don’t look now, but as Kentucky seems to be putting things together, so, too, is Chris Livingston. The freshman forward has scored double-digit points in consecutive games for the first time, and he was excellent (12 points, 10 rebounds) in the Wildcats’ win over Tennessee. Kentucky visits Florida on Wednesday and then hosts Auburn on Saturday. Livingston is 39th in our prospect rankings.