After dropping three straight Big Ten games #25 Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3) has won four straight games, but they face quite the challenge at the Kohl Center as #17 Indiana (16-4, 4-4) visits in a pivotal Big Ten battle. The leaders in the conference (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) are all 6-2, meaning that the Hoosiers can ill-afford to fall three games back in the loss column if they're to remain a factor in the title race.
While tonight's game between #4 Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) and Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2) may have lost a little luster from a national standpoint with both teams falling on the road Saturday, that shouldn't take away from the importance of Monday to Mick Cronin's Bearcats. The computer numbers are still a bit low although the Bearcats would most likely be a tournament team if the season ended today, so a win over a Top 5 opponent would be a nice line to add to the resume.
On the heels of their first loss of the season, #3 Baylor (17-1, 4-1) returns home to take on #5 Missouri (17-1, 4-1) in a game that features a major contrast when it comes to team strengths. Scott Drew's Bears are one of the biggest teams in college basketball while Frank Haith's Tigers are neither as big or as deep in the frontcourt. That simply means that in addition to forwards Ricardo Ratliffe (13.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Steve Moore (4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg) all hands must be on deck of Missouri is to have any shot of leaving Waco with a victory.
Light schedule tonight with Ivy League Fridays not really getting going on a consistent basis until next weekend, but there are some entertaining matchups to keep fans occupied. Both MAAC matchups consist of top-half (of the standings) teams taking on squads hoping to avoid "First Round Friday" in March's conference tournament. One such game is Iona hosting Rider on ESPNU, and while Tommy Dempsey's Broncs have been a major disappointment this year they have the firepower necessary to keep up with the Gaels.
With the SEC making the move away from two divisions, games such as the one between Vanderbilt (13-4, 3-0) and Alabama (13-4, 2-1) take on added importance in the race for one of those four first-round byes in the SEC Tournament. And while both teams presently have the look of NCAA Tournament clubs, there's nothing wrong with picking up another resume-building result.
It looks as if the schedule-makers in the Mountain West wanted to spark some serious national conversation about the conference from the beginning of league play because the first full week of play will feature all three expected contenders facing each other. Wednesday's slate features #16 San Diego State (15-2, 1-0), fresh off of their two-point win over UNLV, visiting The Pit to take on a New Mexico (15-2, 1-0) squad that's quietly won thirteen in a row.
Throughout the history of the Big 12 Conference there has been one measuring stick for the rest of the league: Kansas. The Kansas (14-3, 4-0) program has won seven straight Big 12 regular season titles, and despite the early-season doubts of many Bill Self's team has the ability to extend that streak. And while there are multiple challengers there may not be a more talented one than #4 Baylor (17-0, 4-0), and Scott Drew's team is well-equipped to be the last team standing in April as well.