The last few days of December and the first weekend of the New Year is always an exciting one for college basketball. It still features some marquee non-conference games that could not fit in the previous calendar year, but it also marks the first full week of conference play for nearly every conference around the country. It is the week where teams begin to show their true colors – if they are a contender or a pretender. This year is no different, as this week is absolutely loaded with must-watch games, both inter-conference and intra-conference. Also, don’t look now, but there’s just ten weeks until Selection Sunday – the stretch run starts now. Note: Doesn’t include the Connecticut and Pittsburgh game from Monday night.
No. 12 Purdue at Michigan (Tuesday): Purdue still somehow looks like a team that can contend for a Big Ten title, while Michigan has won seven in a row.
No. 14 Minnesota at Wisconsin (Tuesday): Can one of these teams hang with Ohio State near the top of the standings? Minnesota is out to prove its non-conference performance was no fluke.
Providence at No. 5 Syracuse (Tuesday): Providence has only two losses on its resume, but heading to the Carrier Dome in Big East play is a different animal.
St. John’s at West Virginia (Wednesday): St. John’s has not lived up to its preseason hype, while West Virginia has had an up-and-down couple of months.
Boston College at Rhode Island (Wednesday): If you say Boston College is the second-best team in the ACC right now, who am I to argue? A road win would be impressive.
No. 9 Georgetown at No. 15 Notre Dame (Wednesday): Georgetown might be the best team in the Big East, while Notre Dame has been a pleasant surprise so far.
Marquette at No. 24 Vanderbilt (Wednesday): Marquette lost Reggie Smith to transfer earlier this week, but he wouldn’t make a difference at the Commodores anyway.
Washington at USC (Wednesday): Is Washington the clear-cut favorite in the Pac-10? USC has been playing well since Jio Fontan became eligible after his transfer.
Washington State at UCLA (Wednesday): Washington State is finally playing to its potential after a disappointing campaign last year; UCLA has been hard to figure out.
Saint Mary’s vs. Mississippi State (Wednesday): Saint Mary’s has positioned itself for a shot an at-large big again, while Mississippi State is an utter disaster right now.
No. 25 Temple at No. 8 Villanova (Thursday): The two best teams in the Philadelphia area go head-to-head. Both teams have some question marks heading into conference play.
Iowa State at Virginia (Thursday): A couple of surprising BCS-conference teams. A win for either team would provide nice momentum heading into league play.
Old Dominion at No. 10 Missouri (Thursday): Aside from a loss to Delaware, Old Dominion has been solid this season. Missouri is absolutely must-see TV.