The first full week of the new year is not yet complete, and already conference play is heating up all around the country. Many leauges have already begun their intraleague play, and nearly all of those that haven't will be doing so this weekend. Big games dot the schedule all across the nation on Saturday, including in the Missouri Valley where Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa, the only two conference unbeatens remaining, will go head-to-head. Elsewhere, Ohio State travels to Illinois in the Big Ten, UCLA visits Oregon in the Pac-10, Notre Dame makes its way to Georgetown in the Big East, and much more. Below is a complete look inside the weekend ahead.
Notre Dame at Georgetown
The Irish have been one of the biggest surprises of the season thus far and are currently 13-1 overall after picking up a win in their first Big East outing. For the Hoyas, this will be their first conference game of the season, but they come in hot as winners of their last six, not tasting defeat since the second day of December.
Southern Illinois at Northern Iowa
These are the lone two Missouri Valley squads to make it this far unscathed in conference play. Both are 3-0 in league action and 12-2 overall, giving them the early advantage in a very competitive MVC. While it will be the Panthers' third home conference game, it will be the Salukis third league game on the road. Can they win another one away from Carbondale?
Ohio State at Illinois
The Illini got off to a bad start with a Big Ten-opening loss at Michigan earlier this week and must now return home to take on one of the favorites in the conference this season. The Buckeyes preceed their Monday football championship appearance with a road hoops trip to Champaign and would like to show some spunk after getting thumped at Florida in their most recent road outing.
UCLA at Oregon
The Ducks finally dropped their first game of the season on Thursday at home against USC, and it's not the one they wanted to lose with this matchup against the Bruins looming on the horizon just two days later. UCLA has been ranked #1 for more than a month now, though they did get a scare from Washington State last week. Can they Ducks bounce back?
UNLV at Air Force
These two have combined to win 28 games already this year while losing just three, and neither has dropped a game since the month of November. Those stats in mind, the Rebels and Falcons are likely the favorites in the Mountain West this season, and after each won their league opener earlier this week, they'll go head-to-head on Saturday.
Georgia Tech at Clemson
The Tigers have marched to victories in each of their first 15 games this season and will try to extend that streak Saturday afternoon against a young but dangerous Yellow Jackets squad. Tech has had some disappointing performances, but they have also had quality outings against good competition like Purdue and Georgia. Will it be enough to stop the Tigers' streak?
Connecticut at LSU
The Huskies had their unbeaten streak snapped in large fashion on the road at West Virginia last week, but they'll get a chance to quiet the doubters if they can take down the Tigers. LSU has had an up-and-down season thus far and has struggled against quality competition (losses against Wichita State, Texas, and Washington), but they'll get a chance for their biggest win yet in this one.
Arizona at Washington State
Behind UCLA, no team in the Pac-10 has been more impressive in recent weeks than Arizona. After storming back in the second half for a come-from-behind win on the road at Washington on Thursday, they'll try their luck on the road in Pullman Saturday evening. The Cougars have been a very pleasant surprise thus far, which should make for a great early-season matchup.
OTHER TOP MATCHUPS
Virginia Tech at Duke
The Blue Devils have been winning, but it hasn't always been pretty. Will that change against the pesky Hokies?
Georgia at Florida
Dawgs started hot but have struggled in recent weeks. Can they hang around against the defending national champs?
Penn State at Purdue
Both of these teams hope to step from the shadows in the Big Ten this year but need to start winning to earn respect.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
These two won't be expected to win the Big XII, but each has NCAA Tournament hopes. It's game one on the long road that is conference play.
Alabama at Arkansas
Tide, along with LSU, is a SEC West favorite, but it's about time Stan Heath's Hogs stepped up. Will this be the year?
Colorado State at New Mexico
Behind Air Force and UNLV, these two should be the next most dangerous in the Mountain West this season.
San Diego State at BYU
Another pair of quality MWC foes get together to continue early 2007 league play.
Baylor at Oklahoma State
Bears have had a good run thus far but will likely struggle against perhaps the Big XII's best team.
Akron at Ohio
These two look to be among the best the MAC has to offer this season.
Kansas State at Texas A&M
Bob Huggins takes his Wildcats on the road in conference play for the first time against a very good Aggie squad.
Western Kentucky at Nebraska
Quality non-conference showdown that may get overlooked. Will either of these teams emerge as a NCAA contender this year?
Creighton at Evansville
Both of these MVC teams need to step up their game if they wish to contend this year.
Bradley at Drake
See the note about the above matchup. Neither has gotten off to a great start in league play.
Kentucky at Mississippi
The Rebels have gotten off to a good non-conference start, but now is when we begin to see if they're for real.
Utah State at Fresno State
Behind Nevada, these two are the next best teams the WAC has to offer.
Mississippi State at Tennessee
Bulldogs continue to struggle away from home and likely won't find Knoxville any more friendly than the other venues they've visited.
Michigan State at Indiana
These annual powers have stepped back to allow new teams to emerge as front-runners in the Big Ten this season.
Kansas at South Carolina
Jayhawks are extremely young but very talented and will attempt to take down a Carolina squad not among the top half in the SEC.
Stanford at Virginia
Cavs are riding high after demolishing Gonzaga earlier this week, and now they get a shot at another west coast team.
Wichita State at Missouri State
Shockers were red-hot to begin the season but have lost focus in recent weeks. Can they rebound on the road?
Florida State at North Carolina
Every year it seems the Seminoles make a NCAA run but come up short. Can this game get them started on the right foot?
Syracuse at Marquette
Both dropped their Big East openers on Thursday and will be looking to rebound and avoid an 0-2 start.