Though just January and the early part of the conference schedules, it's already getting crunch time for a number of squads all around the country. Teams like Louisville, who hosts Connecticut on Saturday, Kansas, welcoming in Nebraska, and Arkansas, paying a visit to Auburn, all desperately need to pick up big conference wins this weekend if they want to avoid falling even farther behind in their respective conference standings. Each of those three teams has won just a single league game so far. In addition to those matchups, also keep an eye on others like West Virginia's trip to UCLA, Florida's visit to Tennessee, and Syracuse's venture to Villanova over the weekend.
MUST-SEE THIS WEEKEND
Iowa at (#15) Michigan State
The Spartans have recovered from an 0-2 start to Big Ten play, winning their previous two games at home against Indiana and on the road earlier this week at Ohio State. Back even at 2-2, Michigan State is again a favorite in the conference race. And speaking of recovery, Iowa played three overtimes Wednesday in a home win over Minnesota, so how well the Hawkeyes' legs recover will certainly be a concern. Combine that with the fact that MSU is at home, and it looks like the Spartans should be on their way to a third straight win.
(#12) West Virginia at UCLA
After a rough start to the season, WVU has rebounded to win eleven straight games, and the Mountaineers now lead the Big East with a 5-0 conference mark. Included in that streak are road wins at Oklahoma and Villanova, and if the streak is to continue this week, it will obviously have to be done away from home. The Bruins have battled numerous injuries all season but lead the Pac-10 with a 5-2 record in league play and have won a dozen of their last fourteen games. This should be a great cross-country battle.
Syracuse at (#5) Villanova
The Orange picked up big wins on the road at Notre Dame and Cincinnati last week and gained some huge momentum, but all of that came crashing down in a blowout loss to Connecticut at home this past Monday. The Wildcats, meanwhile, continue to be ranked as one of the country's top teams and have lost just twice all season. The senior guard combo of Allan Ray and Randy Foye is perhaps the most deadly in all of America as the pair combines for nearly 40 points per game. A Syracuse win in Philly would be extremely surprising.
(#2) Florida at Tennessee
If the Gators are going to lose anytime soon, this weekend's trip to Tennessee is the game most likely to trip up Billy Donovan's squad. First year head coach Bruce Pearl has the Volunteers sitting at 11-3 overall, and though UT is just a game back of Florida in the SEC East standings, Tennessee has lost two straight games against LSU and Memphis, both away from home. With the Vols returning to Knoxville, the Gators should be tested, but if they pass, they could begin to run away with the SEC East before the month of January is complete.
(#4) Connecticut at Louisville
The Cardinals are one of the most disappointing teams in all of America this season. Rick Pitino's squad is 13-4 overall but just 1-3 in their first year of Big East play. The Cards have played three games against ranked teams this season and lost each by an average of nearly ten points a piece. The Huskies, arguably UL's toughest foe to date, have dropped just one game this season and come in to Louisville ranked by everyone as one of America's top five teams. A Cardinal loss would put a huge damper on their NCAA hopes.
YOU'LL WANT TO CATCH THESE, TOO
Notre Dame at Marquette - Friday 8:00 PM CDT
Clemson at Georgia Tech - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
(#1) Duke at Georgetown - Saturday 12:30 PM CDT
Texas A&M at Iowa State - Saturday 12:45 PM CDT
Northwestern State at Southeast Louisiana - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
Arkansas at Auburn - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
George Mason at UNC-Wilmington - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
Alabama at LSU - Saturday 2:00 PM CDT
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt - Saturday 2:45 PM CDT
Wake Forest at (#14) NC State - Saturday 3:00 PM CDT
George Washington at Charlotte - Saturday 3:00 PM CDT
Nebraska at Kansas - Saturday 3:00 PM CDT
Colorado at Oklahoma State - Saturday 3:00 PM CDT
Illinois at Northwestern - Saturday 3:30 PM CDT
Mississippi at Georgia - Saturday 4:00 PM CDT
(#9) Gonzaga at San Diego - Saturday 5:00 PM CDT
California at Arizona - Saturday 5:00 PM CDT
Boston College at Miami - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Michigan at Minnesota - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Western Kentucky at South Alabama - Saturday 7:05 PM CDT
Rutgers at Cincinnati - Sunday 1:00 PM CDT
Wichita State at Missouri State - Sunday 2:05 PM CDT
North Carolina at Florida State - Sunday 5:30 PM CDT