What a week ahead. The calendar flips to the second month of the year, football fans are anxiously awaiting National Signing Day on Wednesday, and the Super Bowl is sure to be the topic of conversation all around the country in the days to come. At the same time, though, it's a huge week in college basketball. League leaders will face tough challegnes over the next few days, like on Tuesday when Illinois takes on Wisconsin and Northern Iowa travels to Creighton. Or also like when Duke visits Boston College on Wednesday and when George Washington travels to Xavier on Thursday. Any way you look at it, it's certain to be a "super" week ahead.
MUST-SEE THIS WEEK
Illinois at Wisconsin
No less than four teams come into the week leading the way in the Big Ten with 5-2 conference records. Along with this pair set to meet in Madison on Tuesday, both Michigan and Iowa have also come on strong as of late to lead the way in the conference. The Illini dropped two of their first four league games but have since won three straight, though none of those were nearly as tough as this week's trip to Madison will be. The Badgers, meanwhile, are in a slump of sorts. After losing a hard-fought game at Ohio State two weeks ago, the Badgers lost a shocker at home to North Dakota State and then dropped one at Michigan last weekend. One team's streak will be stopped.
Pittsburgh at Connecticut
The Big East is arguably the nation's best conference, and this pair of squads is just a single game out of first place. The Panthers and Huskies have combined to win their last nine games and are trailing only West Virginia in the conference standings. Though there seem to be big games every single week in the Big East, this is about as big as it gets. UConn was ranked number one in the SCS.com Preseason Fab 15, while Pitt started out the season with 15 straight victories. One team will stay on the heels of WVU, while the other will pick up just their second loss of the entire season. Should be a great matchup.
Northern Iowa at Creighton
Both the Panthers and Southern Illinois are 9-2 in MVC play and sitting atop the league standings heading into the week. Just one game behind that pair are both the Blue Jays and Wichita State with 8-3 conference marks. These four teams seem to have separated themselves in the Missouri Valley race, and any of this group is capable of winning the conference crown and earning a NCAA berth. If the Jays have conference title expectations, winning this one at home will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal. That won't be an easy task, however, because NIU has won their last five conference games away from home by an average of nearly eleven points each.
Duke at Boston College
No teams in the ACC are playing better than these two right now. The Eagles are just 4-3 in league play but have won four straight conference games after an 0-3 start. None of the victories have been all that convincing, but BC has been willing to take the "W" any way they could get it and nothing will change that mindset come Wednesday night. The Blue Devils have bounced back to win two straight since their first loss of the season two weekends ago at Georgetown. This trip to Chestnut Hill, however, will be their toughest game since the setback in D.C - and arguably their toughest road trip all year. A Boston College victory would give Duke its first ACC loss of the season and give the rest of the league some hope for catching Coach K's squad as they head into February.
George Washington at Xavier
The Colonials have very quietly gone about their business this season, compiling a 16-1 overall reocrd and 6-0 mark in conference games. GW's lone loss came at NC State way back in December, and since then, the team has won eight straight games. It's been a total team effort for George Washington as five players score somewhere between 11 and 15 points each night out. Xavier, meanwhile, had sprinted out to a 3-0 A-10 start and was coming off of a huge home win over Cincinnati but then dropped back-to-back games against St. Louis and Temple. XU is now 4-2 in league play and could really use a huge home win to get back in the A-10 race and improve their bubble status.
YOU'LL WANT TO CATCH THESE, TOO
Louisville at Villanova - Monday 6:00 PM CDT
Samford at Murray State - Monday 7:30 PM CDT
Hawaii at Utah State - Monday 11:00 PM CDT
Florida at Mississippi - Tuesday 7:00 PM CDT
Virginia at NC State - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Buffalo at Akron - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Rutgers at Syracuse - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Clemson at Florida State - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Kent State at Ohio - Wednesday 6:00 PM CDT
Vanderbilt at Tennessee - Wednesday 6:30 PM CDT
Kentucky at Mississippi State - Wednesday 7:00 PM CDT
Texas at Missouri - Wednesday 8:00 PM CDT
North Carolina at Maryland - Thursday 6:00 PM CDT
Nevada at Louisiana Tech - Thursday 7:00 PM CDT
California at Oregon State - Thursday 9:30 PM CDT
Arizona at Southern Cal - Thursday 9:30 PM CDT