By Kyle Beery
What a wild week that was. Teams ranked inside the AP Top 25 lost 18 times, 14 of those being upsets. No. 1 Michigan State, No. 2 Duke and No. 5 Xavier all lost on the road over the weekend.
No promises that we’ll see as many upsets this week, but there is a pretty good slate of games with a handful of matchups between ranked teams. Due to Monday night’s
SEC National Championship Game, there’s no action in the world of college basketball, so take the night off from hoops and watch the last collegiate football game until August.
Tuesday, Jan. 9
No. 8 Texas Tech (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) @ No. 9 Oklahoma (12-2, 2-1) — 7 p.m., ESPNU
Oklahoma just squandered an opportunity for a major signature win in a top-10 matchup at West Virginia over the weekend. Well don’t worry, there are going to be oodles of top-10 matchups in the Big 12 throughout the season, including this one.
Texas Tech has essentially come out of nowhere to crack the top 10 for the first time since 1996, thanks to Keenan Evans’ 17.2 PPG a pair of wins over ranked teams since the start of conference play. It will be fun to watch him square off with National Player of the Year candidate Trae Young (29.4 points, 10.2 assists per game). Young “came back to earth” in Saturday’s loss at West Virginia, but he still had 29 points and five assists.
Texas A&M (11-4, 0-3 SEC) @ No. 21 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1) — 7 p.m., ESPN
Texas A&M garnered a lot of attention early on this season, reaching as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll, but the Aggies have gone 0-for-3 to start SEC play. But make no mistake, this is still a good team with the ability to finish near the top of the SEC. It will be a long climb back to the top, and that starts with a road game against a sputtering Kentucky team.
The Wildcats only have three losses — all against pretty solid teams, but this is one of the “worst” Kentucky teams we’ve seen during the John Calipari era. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad team, but the Wildcats lack a star player and lack the killer instincts we’re used to seeing in Coach Cal’s teams.
No. 5 Purdue (15-2, 4-0 Big Ten) @ Michigan (14-3, 3-1) — 9 p.m., ESPN
Since losing a pair of brutal games in the Bahamas back in November, the Boilermakers have won 11 straight and risen to the AP top five. Purdue ranks ninth in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency (points scored or allowed per 100 possessions) according to kenpom.com.
Matt Painter’s crew heads to Crisler Center to face a Michigan team hungry for a signature win. The Wolverines have won seven in a row, but their best win of the season was a come-from-behind home overtime victory over a bubble-riding UCLA team. Michigan can go off from behind the three-point line on any given night and the Boilers are middle-of-the-pack when it comes to running teams off the three-point line. At the rate we’ve seen top-10 teams go down this season, this one definitely has some upset potential.
#Purdue up 8 spots to No. 5.
— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) January 8, 2018
Tuesday’s honorable mention games:
Baylor (11-4, 1-2 Big 12) @ No. 2 West Virginia (14-1, 3-0) – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Butler (12-5, 2-2 Big East) @ No. 25 Creighton (13-3, 3-1) — 8:30 p.m., FS1
No. 13 Seton Hall (14-2, 3-0 Big East) @ Marquette (11-5, 2-2) — 9 p.m., CBSSN
Wednesday, Jan. 10
No. 10 Xavier (15-2, 3-1 Big East) @ No. 1 Villanova (14-1, 2-1) — 8 p.m., FS1
Well, like it or not, the Villanova Wildcats are back to the top spot in the AP Top 25. And last time they were there, they got knocked off by Butler. This game was looking a little flashier last week when the Musketeers were ranked fifth in the polls before suffering a loss at Providence on Saturday.
Trevon Bluiett went missing in that game, especially in the second half when he didn’t score a single point. He’ll need to play more like the potential First Team All-Big East player he is capable of being if Xavier wants to knock off Jalen Brunson and the Wildcats.
Georgia (11-3, 2-1 SEC) @ Missouri (11-4, 1-1) — 9 p.m., ESPN2
Two under-the-radar SEC teams. Two teams currently on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Also two teams that could quietly find themselves near the top four or five of the SEC standings come March, and definitely two teams that could pull off an NCAA Tourney upset.
Yante Maten (20 PPG, 9.4 APG) is one of the most exciting SEC players you may not know about. He has incredible length, great bounce, the ability to hit from deep, and he plays harder than most anyone on the court at any given time. He has an outside shot at winning SEC player of the year, and here’s your chance to watch him against a Missouri team that gives up a lot of points.
Wednesday’s honorable mention games:
Mississippi State (13-2, 1-1 SEC) @ Florida (11-4, 3-0) — 7 p.m., SEC Network
No. 16 TCU (13-2, 1-2 Big 12) @ Texas (10-5, 1-2) — 9 p.m., ESPNU
Thursday, Jan. 11
Maryland (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) @ Ohio State (13-4, 4-0) — 7 p.m., ESPN2
Maryland just got blown out at Michigan State, who just got blown out at Ohio State. If you’re using the transitive property, Ohio State should beat Maryland by about 50 points. Well guess what. That won’t happen.
The Buckeyes are riding high after knocking off the top-ranked Spartans, but life in the Big Ten is never easy. Even when you’re playing at home against a Maryland team without two of its best players. The Terrapins responded to getting whooped by MSU by dominating Iowa, 91-73. Sure, the Buckeyes are better than the Hawkeyes, but can shoot even close to the 56.7 percent they did on Sunday, this one could be a doozie.
No. 19 Clemson (14-1, 3-0 ACC) @ NC State (11-5, 1-2) — 9 p.m., ESPN
This one pits an upstart Clemson team against a Wolf Pack team that likely won’t make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers take their 10-game winning streak into Raleigh, where the Pack just knocked off second-ranked rival Duke on Saturday night in convincing fashion.
**Mid-major bonus game**
New Mexico State (13-3, 3-0 WAC) @ Grand Canyon (11-5, 1-0) — 9 p.m., ESPN3
New Mexico State crept onto the national radar last month when it beat Miami, which was ranked sixth in the AP Poll at the time. The Aggies will be a trendy upset pick come March, but the Grand Canyon Antelopes will be a challenger in the WAC. In their first year of NCAA Division I postseason eligibility, the ‘Lopes have a legit chance to make it to the Big Dance (much like Northern Kentucky did last season) with former NBA player Dan Majerle at the helm.
OK, I’ll admit, this game doesn’t sound all that enticing. But if for no other reason, you should watch for the GCU student section, which provides, seriously, one of the best atmospheres in the country, just ask Rick Pitino. (Disclaimer: the school is still on Christmas break, so “The Havocs” may not be at full tilt).
Friday, Jan. 12
Marquette (11-5, 2-2 Big East) @ Butler (12-5, 2-2) — 6:30 p.m., FS1
We get a rare Friday night double-header of Big East games (though the nightcap is a little less intriguing with Providence at DePaul). Markus Howard is building on his historic freshman season in which he shot 52 percent from three-point range last year. He just scored 52 points in an overtime win at Providence on 11-of-19 three-pointers. He followed that up with 37 at Villanova and helped the Golden Eagles hang around against the Wildcats.
Howard leads Marquette’s quest for an NCAA Tournament bubble spot into Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler just lost its first home game of the season. Fresh off an upset of No. 1 Villanova, the Bulldogs squandered an 11-point lead against Seton Hall on Saturday. Butler is capable of finishing in the top four in the Big East, but LaVall Jordan’s team has been wildly inconsistent on both ends of the floor at times. It will be interesting to see what Hinkle is like on a Friday night before classes resume, but it’s still no easy task to go in there and win. This should be a fun one.
Saturday, Jan. 13
Michigan (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) @ No. 4 Michigan State (12-5, 2-2) — Noon, FOX
Michigan, as previously mentioned, is still looking for a signature win. If the Wolverines lose to Purdue Tuesday, this will be another shot at getting that win. If they do knock off the Boilers, they could take it to another level with a win over the rival Spartans that would elevate them to Big Ten title contention discussions.
While the college basketball world is in a tizzy over the Spartans’ loss at Ohio State, don’t be fooled. Michigan State is still one of the best teams in the country and will most likely end up with a one-seed in March. The Spartans looked other-worldly in their win over Maryland, when they assisted on 31 of their 32 baskets. Any chance you get to watch them, watch them. The level that Tom Izzo’s bunch is capable of playing is scary good.
No. 16 TCU (13-2, 1-2 Big 12) @ No. 9 Oklahoma (12-2, 2-1) — 1 p.m., ESPNU
A week after the Sooners went down to Fort Worth and handed TCU its first loss of the season, Jamie Dixon’s team looks to regroup and repay the favor in Norman. The first time around, we saw a great game that featured Trae Young hitting two free throws to seal the deal. This one should be a dandy, too. And if you still haven’t watched Young take the court, here’s another chance.
No. 2 West Virginia (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) @ No. 8 Texas Tech (14-1, 3-0) — 2 p.m., ESPN
Yet another top-10 matchup in the Big 12, this one features two of the best defenses in the country. They do it in two contrasting styles as well. Texas Tech plays a slow pace, averaging fewer than 70 possessions per 40 minutes and hunkers down in the half-court. West Virginia, on the other hand, averages 74 possessions per 40 and presses its opponents into a fast tempo.
It will be fun to watch Bob Huggins go against one of the Big 12’s rising coaching stars in Chris Beard and see how they gameplan for each other. It’s pretty hard to gameplan for a guy like Jevon Carter (16.7 points, 6.9 assists, 3.7 steals per game) that can kill you on both ends of the floor and play defense like this:
— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) December 30, 2017
No. 25 Creighton (13-3, 3-1 Big East) @ No. 10 Xavier (15-2, 3-1) — 2 p.m., FOX
It’s cliche, but there are no days off in the Big East. Three days after facing the No. 1 team in the country on the road, Xavier gets to play host to a Creighton team that ranks inside the top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency and tempo.
The Musketeers have won 11 straight at home, but Marcus Foster brings his 18.8 PPG into the Cintas Center, where the Bluejays ended Xavier’s 15-game home winning streak last January.
No. 18 Miami (13-2, 2-1 ACC) @ No. 19 Clemson (14-1, 3-0) — 3 p.m., ESPNU
This game features two top-10 defensive teams squaring off. Clemson has allowed more than 70 points in just two games this season, both coming within the first month of the season. Miami, on the other hand, averages 74 per game and shoots better than 35 percent from three-point range.
Littlejohn Coliseum should be a rowdy place on Saturday, as this is one of the biggest games the Tigers have hosted in quite some time. It’s the first matchup between ranked teams at the coliseum since January 23, 2010 when the 24th-ranked Tigers knocked off No. 12 North Carolina.
Saturday’s honorable mention games:
Virginia Tech (12-4, 1-2 ACC) @ Louisville (11-4, 1-1) — 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 20 North Carolina (12-4, 1-2 ACC) @ Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0) — 6 p.m., ESPN
Texas A&M (11-4, 0-3 SEC) @ No. 24 Tennessee (10-4, 1-2) — 6 p.m., SEC Network
San Diego State (10-4, 2-1 Mountain West) @ Boise State (13-3, 3-1) — 10 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, Jan. 14
NC State (11-5, 1-2 ACC) @ No. 3 Virginia (14-1, 3-0) — 6 p.m., ESPN
Cap off your week by watching Kyle Guy (14.9 PPG) and the Cavaliers’ stifling defense put their 12-game home winning streak on the line against the Wolf Pack. As is no surprise with a Tony Bennett-led team, Virginia ranks first in AdjD (84.2 points per 100 possessions) on kenpom, more than two points ahead of the next best defensive team, Cincinnati (86.4). To give you a little perspective on how wide of a margin that is, teams ranked 11th-30th in that category are separated by fewer than three points per 100 possessions.