Your Watch Grid guide to a jam packed college basketball Saturday schedule

Conference tournament season is around the corner. Selection Sunday is in three weeks. Conference races are coming down the wire (especially these five) and the race for national player of the year suddenly looks competitive.

It’s officially college basketball’s time in the spotlight, and it kicks off with a loaded slate of games on Saturday that start at noon and won’t end until midnight.

By our count, there are four must watch games on the schedule, and plenty with implications ranging from the bubble to beyond.

Required reading: Chris Dobbertean’s most recent bit of Bracketology. This is what we’ll be watching.

Early shift

  • Oklahoma has lost seven of nine. Texas has lost four of five and is currently one of the last four teams in the tournament, according to our latest projection. Trae Young is playing his worst ball of the year right as his hype reaches a fever pitch. He’s 3-for-31 from three-point range in his last three road games. We’ll see if a trip to Austin cures him, or if his relative struggles continue.
  • Syracuse vs. Miami has big-time bubble implications for the Orange, who are currently listed as one of our first four teams out. Miami would be a No. 7 seed right now, but they’ve dropped two straight. The NBA has eyes on Hurricanes freshman off-guard Lonnie Walker IV, who hit double-figures in scoring in eight straight games before finishing with only six points in each of his last two outings.
  • The Big East always brings it. Expect nothing less from Providence vs. Butler. The Friars last two games: a 17-point loss to DePaul, and a five-point win over top-five Villanova. Because that makes sense. Meanwhile, Butler has dropped three straight.
  • Kentucky is in a tailspin. The Wildcats have lost four straight since an overtime win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 30. It won’t get any easier against a ‘Bama team that is peaking at the right time. The Crimson Tide have knocked off ranked teams in Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida and Tennessee over the past month. Avery Johnson’s squad — led by lottery-bound point guard Collin Sexton — has length and athleticism all over the court.
  • Villanova owns Xavier, winning nine of the last 10. Villanova owns the Big East, winning the conference every year since it realigned. Now Xavier sits with a 1.5 game lead heading into this matchup. This is the game of the day.

The late shift

  • Kansas has won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title in 13 straight years. At the moment, the Jayhawks trail Texas Tech by a game in the standings, with a showdown looming one week from today. West Virginia gets the first crack. The Mountaineers lost to Kansas, 71-66, in a great game on Jan. 15. Winning at Phog won’t be any easier.
  • UNC is suddenly streaking as winners of four straight. Louisville is currently one of the last four teams in the field. The Cards would love to have this one.