It’s become tradition this season for at least one of the high-placed title contenders to unexpectedly lose over the weekend. Duke was this week’s victim, so to speak. With Maryland taking an 83-81 victory, the Blue Devils will now look to bounce back, taking on Virginia Tech on Thursday.
Whilst there’s no doubting that came in Blacksburg will be a big game, it hasn’t made the Casino Review list of the top 10 games on this week’s college basketball schedule. Surprising? Not when you take a look at what lies ahead.
We’re at the point where every game becomes important, but some are that little bit more important than others. Here’s our pick of the unmissable action coming your way over the next seven days.
As publication time falls ahead of this week’s AP poll being released, the AP rankings quoted are those unveiled last Monday (Feb. 11).Expect a fair amount of change in wake of this past week’s results.
#21 Notre Dame @ #16 Pittsburgh (Mon)
Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5 Big East) and Notre Dame (20-6, 8-5 Big East) both suffered tough losses this past weekend but both remain just two games in the loss column behind the Big East leading pack of Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse. The side that comes out of this one with a win still has a shot at winning the Big East regular season. The loser will have to play very well in the Big East tournament if it’s to head to the NCAA tourney.
Virginia Commonwealth @ Saint Louis (Mon)
#11 Butler has been the talk of the Atlantic 10 this season but the Bulldogs currently trail both Virginia Commonwealth (21-5, 9-2 A10) and Saint Louis (19-5, 8-2 A10) in the conference standings. Those two sides play Monday night to decide who is really top of the pops in the A10, at least for the time being. Both sides will be playing Butler over the next fortnight (see below).
#1 Indiana @ #8 Michigan State (Tue)
It was something of a surprise that Indiana (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) held on to the #1 spot in the AP poll last week. This week there’s no surprise about it. The Hoosiers downed Nebraska and Purdue to keep atop of the Big Ten standings. The Bloomington side isn’t alone though.
Michigan State (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten) took a share of the conference lead with wins over Michigan and Nebraska. Now the Spartans have a shot at upsetting the top team in the country. The Hoosiers scored a 75-70 win when the two sides met in Indiana, but the Spartans are unbeaten at home this season. This is looking like the Game of the Week already.
#14 Kansas @ #17 Oklahoma State (Wed)
Indiana and Michigan State might have to hold off on that Game of the Week honor though as there are some big rumblings coming from the Big 12.
Kansas (21-4, 9-3 Big 12) got back to winning ways this past week, defeating both Kansas State and Texas in Lawrence, but this revival could be short-lived. Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3 Big 12) defeated Kansas 85-80 on Feb. 2, sending the Jayhawks spiraling to a first of three losses.
Winners of seven straight and with just one home loss this season, the Cowboys will be looking to take down Kansas again on Wednesday night. Doing so would give Oklahoma State the top spot in the Big 12, not to mention some serious kudos with the AP voters.
California @ #23 Oregon (Thu)
After wowing fans and AP voters alike at the start of the Pac-12 campaign, Oregon (21-5, 10-3 Pac-12) now finds itself having to prove itself. The Ducks have won three straight since a three-game losing streak put an end to their unbeaten conference record, but a 79-77 overtime win over last-place Washington State on Saturday was hardly convincing.
California (16-9, 8-5 Pac-12) finds itself just two games back of the Ducks. Three straight wins and five from six have seen the Golden Bears claw their way up the Pac-12 standings. That stint has included quality wins over UCLA, Arizona and Oregon. A win for California on Thursday would not only complete the season sweep but also set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as the conference standings go.
Saint Louis @ #11 Butler (Fri)
Saint Louis, along with Virginia Commonwealth, has the power to wreck the rest of the season for Butler (21-5, 8-3 A 10). The Bulldogs will need to fend off the Billikens on Friday night, before visiting the Rams on Mar. 2. Butler lost to Saint Louis on Jan. 31, so nothing short of a win will be acceptable in this one.
#19 New Mexico @ #24 Colorado State (Sat)
The top two teams in the Mountain West take to the hardwood on Saturday in what might be the conference’s best game of the season. New Mexico (22-4, 9-2 MWC) defeated Colorado State (21-4, 8-2 MWC) in Albuquerque on Jan. 23 and doing likewise this weekend will give the Lobos are decisive advantage going forward.
A Lobos win won’t come easy though. Since losing to in the desert, the Rams have gone unbeaten. The side knocked-off San Diego State and Air Force this past week, wins that have turned a four horse conference race into a two horse affair.
North Carolina State @ North Carolina (Sat)
Make no bones about it, both North Carolina State (18-7, 7-5 ACC) and North Carolina (17-8, 8-5 ACC) have been disappointing this season. The two sides should have been contending for high AP rankings at least. Instead, they both sit in the middle of the ACC pack.
Both will need to take a win from this rivalry game, or face slipping further down the list in the minds of the NCAA tournament selectors. The sides shouldn’t need any motivation to get up for this game, but there it is right there. The Wolfpack will be buoyed by a 91-83 win back on Jan. 26, while the Tar Heels will use it to fuel a revenge win.
#15 Georgetown @ #6 Syracuse (Sat)
With a win over Cincinnati on Friday, Georgetown (19-4, 9-3 Big East) reached the summit of the Big East. Syracuse (21-4, 9-3 Big East) took a share of top spot on Saturday with a win over Seton Hall. This Saturday’s game will have huge implications at the top of the Big East. Of course, with the sides facing DePaul and Providence respectively during the week, they’ll need to be on upset alert beforehand.
#8 Michigan State @ #13 Ohio State (Sun)
After Tuesday’s home game against Indiana, Michigan State will face a tough trip to Columbus. If the Spartans arrive with a win over the Hoosiers, this one will be about maintaining momentum. If Tom Izzo’s side comes up short though, it’ll need to take home a victory here to stay ahead of Wisconsin, Michigan and the Buckeyes.
Nothing comes easy in the ultra-competitive Big Ten this season, but Ohio State (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) has had a nightmare schedule of late. Losses to Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin in a four game span has seen the Buckeyes slip down the standings, which makes Michigan State’s visit so very important. Ahead of this game, the Buckeyes host Minnesota on Wednesday.