Hard as it is to believe, this is the final full Saturday of the 2015-16 college basketball regular season. All of the major conferences conclude their regular seasons next weekend, but most of the smaller ones wrap up this weekend and start conference tournaments next week. So it's time to start doing your homework on potential giant-killers for the Big Dance like a Chattanooga (Southern Conference) or Stephen F. Austin (Southland), to name two.
No. 9 Arizona at No. 22 Utah (-2.5)
Pac-12 matchup is at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN. Both teams are still in the running for the Pac-12 regular-season title, but the loser can probably forget about it. Arizona (22-6, 10-5) is a game behind first-place Oregon. In terms of a potential tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, UA would lose it to the Ducks because Oregon won the teams' only meeting. Arizona should win its final two games after this, at home vs. Cal and Stanford. The Cats might have been looking ahead to Utah on Wednesday when they were upset 75-72 at Colorado. Huge win for the Buffs' NCAA Tournament hopes as they ended a six-game losing streak in the series. Ryan Anderson had 19 points to lead Arizona, which had its six-game winning streak snapped. Allonzo Trier added 15 points but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That's the thing with Arizona this season: it doesn't really have that true go-to guy.
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Utah (22-7, 11-5) is half-game back of the Ducks but a full game in the loss column as Oregon has a game in hand. Utah also loses a head-to-head with Oregon after getting swept. The Utes close the regular season next Saturday at home vs. Colorado. They won a fifth straight game Thursday, 81-46 over visiting Arizona State. The Utes led 30-2 to start the game. Can't say I've seen that before in a major conference matchup. The blowout meant no Utah starter had to play heavy minutes, which is always nice with these quick turnaround games. This is the only scheduled meeting between Utah and Arizona. The Wildcats won both last year.
Key trends: The Utes are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven following an ATS win. Arizona is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
I'm leaning: Utah.
No. 7 North Carolina at No. 3 Virginia (-4)
The ACC game of the year is at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Believe it or not, this is the only Top-10 matchup in the conference this season. North Carolina (23-5, 12-3) I believe will wrap up the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win here. The Heels only have a game lead over Miami and Louisville, but those two play earlier Saturday. Remember that Louisville is ineligible for the postseason. I'd say at worst UNC will lose one more regular-season game, and that's next Saturday at Duke (Heels host Syracuse on Monday). So with a win here, at worst UNC would finished tied with either Miami or Louisville and the Heels own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Canes. UNC avoided a trap game Wednesday in winning 80-68 at NC State. Brice Johnson had his ACC-best 17th double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Virginia (21-6, 10-5) is looking to become the first team to win three straight ACC regular-season titles since Carolina from 2007-09. That would be impossible with a loss. After this, the Cavs go to Clemson and host Louisville and would be favored in those. So if the Wahoos win here, they become huge Duke fans next week. Virginia comes off a 64-61 loss in Miami on Monday. Only Malcolm Brogdon showed up offensively with a career-high 28 points. Second-leading scorer Devon Gill had six. Two UVA forwards are in question here. Reserve Evan Nolte missed the Miami game with a toe injury and starter Isaiah Wilkins did not return after being kneed in the back of the head. Wilkins is less likely to play. This is the only scheduled meeting of the season between UNC and UVA.
Key trends: The Heels are 1-4 ATS in their past five road games. The Cavs are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 after a loss. The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings.
I'm leaning: Virginia, which is unbeaten at home and has won 33 of its past 34 there inside the conference.
Gonzaga at BYU (-1)
West Coast Conference game at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and it's the regular-season finale for both. The loser of this game probably can kiss an at-large NCAA Tournament bid goodbye. And the winner is hardly a sure thing. Gonzaga (22-7, 14-3) is currently listed among ESPN's "First Four Out." The Zags are tied for the WCC lead with Saint Mary's but were swept in the season series (SMC is at San Francisco on Saturday). Gonzaga avoided a trap game Thursday with an 82-60 win at San Diego. A 20-4 run early in the second half broke things open. The Zags shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded USD by 17.
BYU (22-8, 13-4) is a game behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. The Cougars are listed among the "Next Four Out" for the Big Dance. BYU has the same issue the Zags do: no good nonconference wins. BYU does enter on a five-game winning streak, beating visiting Portland 99-81 on Thursday. Kyle Collinsworth extended his NCAA-record triple-double record with 14 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists. BYU had 30 assists overall, its most in a game since 1982. A win here for BYU clinches a top-two seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament and the most in-conference wins since the Cougars joined the WCC in 2011. BYU, which split with Saint Mary's, won at then-No. 25 Gonzaga 69-68 on Jan. 14. Nick Emery's only basket of the game was a 3-pointer with 1:38 left that proved to be the winning points. Kyle Wiltjer had 35 in a losing effort for the Zags.
Key trends: The Zags are 6-13 ATS in their past 19 after a win. The Cougars have covered 15 of their past 21 home games. The home team is 9-3-1 ATS in the past 13 meetings.
I'm leaning: BYU. If the Cougars do win to complete the season sweep, there's no way the NCAA selection committee can take Gonzaga over BYU with all other things being equal.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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