The end of finals week for many schools means a step up in competition on Saturday, and one contest that will garner attention is the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida. #22 Texas A&M (8-1), which has a strength of schedule that ranks 341st in the country, takes on #13 Florida (7-2) in what should be an interesting matchup. Do the Aggies have the horses on the perimeter to hang with the Gator guards?
With suspensions ruling out two of their key interior players for the next six games, many wondered what Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats would do to make up for the absence of Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj. Without a consistent scoring option in the paint the strategy was to let the guards go to work, and that they did in the Bearcats' 78-58 win at Wright State. Sean Kilpatrick, who was a non-factor in their loss at Xavier on Saturday, scored a game-high 20 points (6-12 3PT) while JaQuon Parker added 14 points and all five starters finished in double figures.
Frank Martin's Kansas State (4-0) may be undefeated on the young season, but it can definitely be argued that this group hasn't been tested. That all changes this evening as the Wildcats play their first true road game of the season, visiting Virginia Tech (5-2) in a game that could have long-term effects on both teams when looking ahead to Selection Sunday.
The game between #3 Duke and #2 Ohio State was a matchup expected to be a barnburner throughout. But in runs to begin and end the first half, the Buckeyes made a case to their fans and a national television audience that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky and North Carolina when talking about early favorites to win the national title. Thad Matta's team opened the game on an 11-0 run and finished the half with an 11-2 run on their way to the 85-63 win at Value City Arena, and four of their five starters finished in double figures.
The game between Duke and Kansas more than lived up to the pregame expectations on Wednesday night, but it was an unsung hero who stepped to the forefront late. Tyler Thornton, essentially a defensive substitute when Austin Rivers picked up his fourth foul, knocked down a pair of critical three pointers late to catapult the Blue Devils to the 68-61 win. Duke earned their fifth Maui Invitational title and moved to 15-0 all-time in the prestigious early season event.
Here's how the Big 12 teams stack up over the last five years according to conference wins. There are substantial gaps (at least 6 wins) between tiers. With the change in conference membership, and certain programs in flux, the next 5 years of Big 12 basketball could be much more fluid.
With the college basketball season finally on the horizon, the game that's been overlooked by many in conference realignment will once again have the center stage. Perennial contenders will once again make a run at a national title while some new faces will pop up as well. The first four-part preview will focus on the conferences, and more specifically who will win each of the 32 leagues.