Rivalry games bring more to the table when it comes to intensity, and that was definitely the case in the battle between #4 Missouri and #8 Kansas in Columbia on Saturday night. In a game that featured many momentum swings and neither team leading by more than eight points, it was Frank Haith's Tigers who landed the final blow. Kansas led 71-63 with 3:25 remaining but they would not score again, as Missouri finished the game on an 11-0 run to win 74-71.
While they're likely a long shot to get back into contention for the WCC regular season title, Dave Rose's BYU (18-6, 6-3) need to make sure they at the very least finish no worse than fourth in the conference. With the setup for the WCC Tournament being what it is the top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals while the third and fourth seeds get a bye to the quarterfinals.
The game between #17 Indiana and #25 Wisconsin proved to be every bit as competitive as expected with the largest margin either team held being seven points with two seconds remaining. In the end it was the little things that made the difference in the Badgers' 57-50 victory, as Bo Ryan's team shot 12-for-12 from the foul line in the second half and grabbed the final seven rebounds of the game. That rebound stretch was over the final 3:38 of the contest, with their offensive rebounds leading to four of their nine second-chance points.
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
NEVADA (11-3, 1-0 WAC) AT UTAH STATE (9-6, 1-0 WAC)
Time/TV: 6 p.m./WSN, ESPN3
The Friday night schedule may be light in quantity but it certainly doesn't lack for quality, with a pair of Top 20 matchups in the HTC Big East/SEC Invitational. #9 Florida (5-1) visits #3 Syracuse (7-0) in a game that promises to be played at a fast tempo, and given the offensive weapons that will be on display it should be high-scoring as well. This is the Gators' second true road game against a Top 5 opponent this season, as they fell at Ohio State in mid-November, which should pay off for this group when the stakes get raised in SEC play.
ESPN's 24-hour college hoops tipoff marathon will get off to a good start at midnight as rivals Washington State and Gonzaga meet at The Kennel in Spokane. The Cougars have embarked on life without Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, and while that means they've got a lot of scoring to account for Ken Bone's got some established returnees back to lead a solid recruiting class. As for Gonzaga, the best news for them may be the health of junior foward Elias Harris.
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. In the final part of this series, the final eight conference champions are selected.