The Super Bowl matchup is set, but that game won't be played for two weeks, meaning the focus of the sports nation can turn towards college hoops throughout the coming week. It's a big next few days in the Big Ten as Indiana and Iowa get together Tuesday before in-state rivals Michigan State and Michigan meet in Ann Arbor on Wednesday. And don't look now, but there's another huge matchup in the Missouri Valley this week, Tuesday's game featuring Creighton and Southern Illinois. It's time for teams to step up or step out as we near the midpoint of the 2005-2006 college basketball season.
MUST-SEE THIS WEEK
Syracuse at Pittsburgh
The Orange sprinted out to a 14-2 start and had gained some momentum after back-to-back road wins at Notre Dame and Cincinnati two weeks ago, but that came crashing down this past week. SU dropped a pair of games against highly-ranked Connecticut and Villanova, and neither contest was close. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season on the road at St. John's Saturday, so seeing how the Panthers respond against quality competition will certainly be interesting. Syracuse has struggled against the better foes on their schedule, and I would look for that continue on Monday.
Creighton at Southern Illinois
There is absolutely no room to breathe atop the Missouri Valley standings. Along with the Blue Jays and Salukis, Northern Iowa and Wichita State also have just two league losses to go with seven wins; that four-some is tied atop the league standings heading into this week. There is still a long way to go, but this showdown in Carbondale will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on. Watch out for two stars, SIU's Jamaal Tatum, who scores nearly 16 per game while dishing out four assists, and the Jays' Johnny Mathies, who has stepped up in the absence of star Nate Funk and upped his average to nearly 14 per contest.
Indiana at Iowa
The Hawkeyes failed to show up in East Lansing this past weekend against Michigan State and can't afford to sleep through another game if they wish to stay in the Big Ten race. Iowa is 3-2 in league play and is among a host of teams trailing co-leaders Indiana and Wisconsin, each 4-1 in conference action. The Hoosiers' lone loss came on the road at MSU a couple weeks back, but Mike Davis' squad has won two straight since. The Hawks have already taken down the likes of NC State and Illinois at home this season and are 11-0 overall in Iowa City this year.
Michigan State at Michigan
In-state rivalry alert. These matchups are always good, but especially so when both teams are in the Big Ten hunt, just a game back of the conference leaders nearing the midpoint of the conference schedule. Flying under the radar most of the year, the Wolverines have won six of their last eight games on the way to a 13-3 record. The bad news for UM is that they have played just three ranked teams all year, and each time it ended in a loss, though all three games were decided by single digits. No Big Ten team is hotter than the Spartans, but if the streak is to continue, it will have to be extended in Ann Arbor where UM is 9-1 this season.
Washington at California
No team has stepped out as the front-runner in the Pac-10 thus far, though the Huskies' 5-2 mark in league play is good enough for a tie atop the standings as of right now. UW has also won four straight games, including consecutive road wins in the state of California two weeks ago at USC and UCLA. Washington's Brandon Roy, averaging 18 points per game on 45% shooting from downtown, has emerged as one of the conference's top players. The Bears are just a game back in the Pac-10 standings but have lost three of their last four. In fact, Cal has actually dropped two of the last three games they've played at home. It's a statement game for both teams, the Huskies wanting to prove they're king out west and the Bears hoping to show they're NCAA worthy.
YOU'LL WANT TO CATCH THESE, TOO
Oklahoma State at Texas - Monday 8:00 PM CDT
Utah State at Nevada - Monday 11:00 PM CDT
Kentucky at Auburn - Tuesday 6:00 PM CDT
Florida State at Wake Forest - Tuesday 6:00 PM CDT
Georgetown at Notre Dame - Tuesday 6:00 PM CDT
Kent State at Miami (Ohio) - Tuesday 6:00 PM CDT
Akron at Ohio - Tuesday 6:00 PM CDT
Miami at Virginia - Tuesday 8:00 PM CDT
Xavier at Temple - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Maryland at Georgia Tech - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Bucknell at Lehigh - Wednesday 6:05 PM CDT
Cincinnati at Louisville - Wednesday 6:30 PM CDT
Iowa State at Missouri - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Georgia at LSU - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Kansas at Texas A&M - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Tennessee at Mississippi State - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Florida at South Carolina - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Mississippi at Arkansas - Wednesday 7:05 PM CDT
Boston College at North Carolina - Wednesday 8:00 PM CDT
Nebraska at Colorado - Wednesday 8:00 PM CDT
Minnesota at Illinois - Wednesday 8:00 PM CDT
Arizona at Arizona State - Wednesday 8:30 PM CDT
Miami (Ohio) at Akron - Thursday 6:00 PM CDT
Duke at Virginia Tech - Thursday 6:00 PM CDT
Ohio at Buffalo - Thursday 7:00 PM CDT
Tennessee Tech at Murray State - Thursday 7:30 PM CDT
UAB at Memphis - Thursday 8:00 PM CDT