Monday, January 28, 2008

The Week Ahead

With February right around the corner, the stretch drive is officially here in college basketball. Some conferences are at the mid-point in league play, meaning it’s time for teams to start making moves with an eye towards the NCAA Tournament. This week is filled with important conference clashes that could make the difference between whether a team is “in” or “on the bubble” come March, as well as important contests that will have a huge impact at the top of the league standings. That “Last Ten Games” category on teams’ NCAA Tournament profiles? It starts now.


Louisville at Connecticut:
Two of the hottest teams in the Big East go at it. Louisville has won 10 of its last 12, while Connecticut has won three in a row, including a win at Indiana on Saturday. The Huskies will be without suspended guards Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins.

Morgan State at Hampton: Fight for first place in the MEAC. Hampton, the preseason favorite, is 6-0, although the last two wins have come by just two points each. Morgan State has won four of its last five after losing three in a row.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: It will be “Bedlam” in Oklahoma on Monday night. OSU has lost four in a row in Big 12 play, all by single-digits. Oklahoma has won two in a row, and is coming off a big win at Baylor in Blake Griffin’s return to the lineup.


Miami (Fl.) at Wake Forest:
Two of the seemingly endless teams stuck in the middle of the ACC. Miami pulled out a must-win against Clemson over the weekend to snap a three-game losing streak, while Wake has lost three of its last four.

VCU at George Mason: The two best teams in the CAA, although VCU has a two-game lead over the rest of the conference. The Rams have won 12 of their last 13 games, while George Mason had won four in a row before falling at UNCW over the weekend.

Tennessee at Alabama: How will Tennessee fare on the road after losing at Kentucky last week? The Volunteers rebounded to beat Georgia by 16 this past weekend. Alabama won its first SEC game of the year, beating Auburn by 20 on Saturday.

Florida State at Virginia Tech: Can either of these teams make a push in the ACC standings? Like nearly every team in the conference, both clubs are inconsistent. Florida State has lost four of its last five, while Tech won at Boston College over the weekend.


Massachusetts at Duquesne:
The Atlantic-10 will still receive multiple bids, but it is up in the air as to who will get them. UMass has lost two in a row and four of its last six to drop to 2-3 in the conference, while Duquesne has lost two league games by a total of three points.

UAB at UCF: The winner has a chance to keep up with Memphis in the standings – not like it matters, though. UAB is 3-1 in the league, with its lone loss coming at Marshall. UCF is coming off a two-point overtime loss at SMU – its first league loss of the season.

Virginia at Maryland: Two teams expected to fight for an at-large berth out of the ACC but are struggling. UVA has lost five of its last six after starting 10-2. Maryland couldn’t finish the improbable sweep of UNC and Duke with its loss to the Blue Devils on Sunday.

Cincinnati at West Virginia: Bob Huggins finally faces the program where he made a name for himself. Cincy has fallen back in the Big East pack after starting 4-2. WVU lost a heartbreaker to Georgetown at home on Saturday on a controversial no-call at the buzzer.

Villanova at Pittsburgh: Two teams coming off surprising home losses this past weekend. ‘Nova fell to Notre Dame by 10 on Saturday – its second loss in a row. On the other side, Pitt’s 13-point loss to Rutgers at home was one of the biggest upsets of the season.

UNLV at TCU: In a wide-open Mountain West Conference, five teams are within one game of first place. UNLV is atop the league after its three-point road win at SDSU on Saturday, while TCU snapped a three-game winning streak with a loss at Utah.

Rider at Marist: Two of the three teams tied for first in the wide-open MAAC. Rider, with Wooden Award candidate Jason Thompson, has won seven in a row since starting 1-2. Marist has won eight of its last nine, with five of the wins coming at home.

Texas-Arlington at Sam Houston State: The underrated Southland has several quality teams this year, and here are two of them. UT-Arlington has won four in a row in the league to improve to 4-2, while SHS has just three losses by a combined seven points this season.

Memphis at Houston: One of the few legitimate remaining chances for Memphis to lose this season. Both of these teams are undefeated in Conference-USA, with Memphis looking like one of the top teams in the country and Houston trying to make an at-large run.

Kansas at Kansas State: Could this be the year KSU finally knocks off Kansas in Manhattan? The Jayhawks are playing arguably the best basketball of anyone in the country, but the Wildcats have won five in a row and nine of their last 10.

Vanderbilt at Mississippi: Two of the more surprising teams earlier this month, both teams are a combined 4-6 in SEC play after going 28-0 in non-conference action. Vandy has lost three of four, while Ole Miss is coming off a 20-point defeat at Mississippi State.

Creighton at Drake: Yet another big test for Drake atop the MVC. The Bulldogs are rolling along, sitting at 16-1 overall and 9-0 in the conference. Creighton has lost two straight games, including an overtime defeat against Drake last week.

Mississippi State at Arkansas: Two of the best in the SEC West battle for position. MSU is one of the hottest teams in the country, having won nine in a row. Arkansas has been up-and-down all season, but a win here would put them squarely in the at-large mix.

Syracuse at DePaul: In the hotly-contested Big East, neither of these teams is guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament. Syracuse has lost four of its last six and can’t afford a sub-100 loss on its profile. DePaul has won seven of its last ten games.

Texas at Texas A&M: Two of the best in the Big 12 go at it. Texas wants to stay within striking distance of Kansas in the conference, and is coming off a 27-point win over Texas Tech. A&M snapped a three-game losing streak with a road win at Oklahoma State.


Providence at Notre Dame:
Can anyone figure out the Big East? If so, please tell me what is going on. Providence has dropped two in a row since winning at Connecticut, while Notre Dame finally won on the road against Villanova after struggling away from home lately.

Boston College at North Carolina:
Interestingly enough, these teams are only separated by one game in the standings. BC has lost two in a row since starting 3-0 in the ACC, while North Carolina bounced back from its home loss to Maryland by beating Miami on the road.

South Alabama at North Texas/Arkansas-Little Rock at Western Kentucky: Two key games in the underrated Sun Belt. USA might be a sleeper come March, while North Texas reached the NCAA Tournament last season and is tough to beat at home. UALR is atop the West division, while WKU is one game back of USA at 8-1 in the East division.

Murray State at Austin Peay: Battle for first in the Ohio Valley. Murray State has won seven in a row since starting 2-3 in the conference, while Austin Peay is 9-2 in the OVC but is coming off a loss to Samford over the weekend. MSU won the first meeting between the two.

Indiana at Wisconsin: Two of the three legit (Purdue can’t be one, can they?) contenders in the Big Ten. Both teams lost over the weekend, with Indiana falling at home to UConn and Wisconsin dropping one at the Boilermakers. The winner gets the inside track for first place.

North Carolina State at Duke: Going into the year, this looked like a top-three battle in the ACC. Now, it just looks like another Duke blowout win at home. The Blue Devils are playing some of the best ball in the country, while NC State is just 2-3 in the conference.

California at Washington State: The first of a quartet of key Pac-10 games on Thursday. California needs to right the ship immediately after losing five of its last six. Washington State is coming off a split on its Arizona road trip, and now it gets four straight home games.

Stanford at Washington: Two teams looking for a win to stay in the conference race (Stanford) or simply get back in the mix (Washington). The Cardinal are pushing towards a top-four seed with three straight wins, while UW had won three in a row before falling at Arizona.

Arizona State at UCLA: The preseason favorite in the Pac-10 against one of the more surprising teams in the conference. ASU looked like a legit contender but has dropped three in a row, including two at home. UCLA needs to keep pace atop the standings.

Arizona at USC: Two of the hotter teams on the West Coast. Arizona has won three in a row to get back to 4-3 in the Pac-10, and the Wildcats remain a threat as long as Jerryd Bayless is healthy. USC has won four in a row – including three consecutive road games – since starting league play 0-3.


Cornell at Brown: Although league play in the Ivy is just starting, these two teams look like the potential early favorites. Cornell is 2-0 in the conference, with both wins strangely coming over Columbia. Brown lost to Yale on the road in overtime, before beating them at home.

Loyola (Md.) at Niagara: Another showdown in the MAAC. Both teams are 7-3, which is one game back of the three frontrunners. Loyola has won four in a row to get back in the mix, while Niagara had lost three of four before winning its last two games.

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