With the college football season complete, NCAA basketball now steps to the front, and that newfound attention coincides with the beginning of conference play all across the country. Many teams have gotten their feet wet in recent days, but the grinding begins for good in the weeks ahead, making for a long journey to March as teams look to prove themselves worthy of league titles and NCAA bids. Among the top matchups on this weekend's slate are matchups between Creighton and Northern Iowa in the MVC, UCLA and Southern Cal in the Pac-10, and Georgetown and Pitt in the Big East. Also keep an eye on another Pac-10 game, this one featuring Oregon and Arizona, as well as a big-time non-conference battle pitting Tennessee against Ohio State.
Creighton at Northern Iowa
There's no doubt that the Missouri Valley race is going to be congested until the very end, but at this point, these two have to be among the favorites to come out on top. They're both 4-1 in league play and tied with two others atop the conference standings. The Panthers have yet to lose at home this season.
Tennessee at Ohio State
The Vols were stunned on the road at Vanderbilt Wednesday night, but the Buckeyes themselves are coming off somewhat of a disappointment after dropping a hard-fought contest at Wisconsin earlier in the week. These two are both favorites in their respective conferences, which should make for a great, later-than-normal non-conference battle.
UCLA at Southern Cal
The Bruins have been what many expected thus far, spending a number of weeks ranked #1 in the country in fact. USC, though, has been a big surprise this season, and in a good way. The Trojans are 13-4 overall and 3-1 league play. Since the weekend of Christmas, they have beaten the likes of Wichita State, Washington, and Oregon.
Georgetown at Pittsburgh
Like many of the conference races, the Big East is going to make for a long journey to the finish, but these two have to be among the top choices to grind it out. The Panthers may be the favorite, and they're off to a 3-0 start and looking very good. This, though, will easily be Pitt's toughest conference test yet.
Oregon at Arizona
The Ducks had their unbeaten streak snapped last week but then bounced back to knock off the best team in the country over the weekend, solidifying themselves as a Pac-10 contender this year. This will be their first trip out of the state in league play, though, and it will be against another of the conference's best teams.
OTHER TOP MATCHUPS
Bucknell at Holy Cross - 6:00 PM CST
These two are likely the best the Patriot League has to offer.
West Virginia at Marquette - 11:00 AM CST
Eagles are coming off a huge road win at UConn, their first Big East victory. WVU is 3-1 in league play.
Providence at Louisville - 11:00 AM CST
Friars have been the better team thus far, but can they pick up a big win like this away from home?
Indiana at Penn State - 11:15 AM CST
Hoosiers seem to be finding themselves, but the Lions are no push-over this season.
Florida at South Carolina - 12:00 PM CST
Gators hit the road for the first time in SEC play against the back-to-back NIT champs.
Villanova at Syracuse - 12:00 PM CST
These two have both been up-and-down thus far and aren't NCAA locks just yet.
Oklahoma State at Nebraska - 12:30 PM CST
How will the Cowboys bounce back from a huge road loss at Kansas on Wednesday?
Clemson at Maryland - 1:00 PM CST
Tigers look to remain the only unbeaten in basketball. Terps were upset by Miami at home earlier this week.
Virginia at Boston College - 1:00 PM CST
Though they don't get as much pub, the Cavs and Eagles are two of the ACC's better teams.
Kansas at Iowa State - 1:00 PM CST
Jayhawks are rolling right along, but Cyclones have come out on top in their first two Big XII outings.
Wisconsin at Northwestern - 1:30 PM CST
Badgers look strong, especially after win over Ohio State earlier this week. They can't sleep on the 'Cats though.
Missouri State at Southern Illinois - 2:00 PM CST
Another in a long line of tough MVC games all throughout the coming weeks.
North Carolina at Virginia Tech - 2:30 PM CST
Hokies took down Duke last weekend, now will try their hand at the Blue Devils' biggest rival.
Oklahoma at Texas - 2:30 PM CST
Red River Shootout features a very young but talented Horns team that should be favored in this one.
Texas Tech at Baylor - 3:00 PM CST
Red Raiders have been playing good hoops, but the Bears are no slouch and should provide Tech with a good test.
Kansas State at Missouri - 3:00 PM CST
It hasn't been pretty for either of these two in Big XII play thus far.
Vanderbilt at Georgia - 3:00 PM CST
Dores are coming off a huge win against in-state rival Tennessee, but Georgia looks like an up-and-coming SEC team.
Drexel at Old Dominion - 3:00 PM CST
Two of the Colonial's best go head-to-head.
Colorado State at San Diego State - 3:00 PM CST
These two have fallen behind the pace in the Mountain West already and don't need to lose another one.
Air Force at Wyoming - 3:00 PM CST
Falcons are one of the country's better teams, but the Cowboys have yet to lose at home this season.
Washington at California - 4:00 PM CST
Huskies have had a miserable start to Pac-10 play and need to rebound soon. Bears are hoping to make a NCAA run.
Arkansas at Mississippi - 4:00 PM CST
Hogs have looked good in first two SEC outings, but Andy Kennedy has this year's Rebels playing better.
Florida State at Georgia Tech - 5:00 PM CST
Fresh off a huge win over Duke, can the Jackets get back to .500 in ACC play?
Mississippi State at Kentucky - 6:00 PM CST
West-East matchup in the SEC features two teams who have yet to find their groove this season.
Washington State at Stanford - 6:00 PM CST
Cougars have been the most surprising Pac-10 team thus far, and now they get a chance to prove themselves on the road again.
Bradley at Indiana State - 6:30 PM CST
Sycamores are rolling with recent victories over Purdue, Creighton, and Wichita State.
Memphis at Southern Miss - 7:00 PM CST
Tigers will test USM to see if the Eagles are truly ready to take a step forward this year.
Michigan at Purdue - 7:00 PM CST
Will this be the year Tommy Amaker finally gets his Wolves to the Tournament?
Gonzaga at Santa Clara - 9:00 PM CST
Broncos may be the Zags' toughest competition out west this season.
BYU at UNLV - 9:00 PM CST
Can either of these teams make a run at Air Force in the Mountain West race?
Nevada at Hawaii - 11:00 PM CST
Pack leaves the mainland with a gimpy Nick Fazekas.
Illinois at Michigan State - 12:30 PM CST
Both of these teams need a big win like this in the worst way.
Duke at Miami - 4:30 PM CST
With Devils fresh off two straight losses and Miami coming off a win at Maryland, something has to give.