|The battle between Elijah Johnson and Angel Rodriguez could be key in Monday's showdown. (US Presswire)|
This season is getting better and better – or maybe just weirder – as it progresses toward the NCAA tournament. The weekend was crazy, and I wouldn't expect the upcoming week to be any different. It starts on Monday with a showdown in the Sunflower State.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: No. 13 Kansas State at No. 5 Kansas (9 p.m., ESPN). Well, this is weird. Kansas was expected to run over the Big 12 as of late January, but the Jayhawks have now lost three in a row, and Kansas State is atop the standings. Can the Wildcats make a major statement by going into Lawrence and knocking off the Jayhawks? Kansas won the first meeting by four, but both teams are different than a month ago. Kansas State has to crash the offensive glass and also force turnovers from Kansas' inconsistent point guards. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks need to figure out their offense.
Second-best game: No. 24 Marquette at No. 20 Georgetown (7 p.m., ESPN). Heading into the season, did anyone think Marquette would be tied for first and Georgetown would be in third place at this point in the season? The Golden Eagles have won 10 of their last 12, and they did escape against Georgetown by one point back in early January. Georgetown has won five in a row without suspended Greg Whittington. For Marquette, Vander Blue is really coming on strong, averaging nearly 18 points in his last eight games. Georgetown needs to win the rebounding battle, and also continue to knock down shots.
Another one to watch: TCU at Oklahoma (7 p.m., ESPNU). How does Oklahoma follow up its monster win over Kansas? Fortunately, the Sooners get a 1-9 Big 12 team in TCU, but the Horned Frogs did beat Kansas last week, so maybe it's a speed bump for Oklahoma? Probably not. Oklahoma is building a certain at-large profile, and its ability to get points from so many different players is pretty impressive. Unless TCU has another heroic performance, Oklahoma should roll in this one.
Guaranteed win: This has become pretty much a regular thing on Monday nights, but Grambling falls into this category again. On Monday, the Tigers host Texas Southern (8:30 p.m.), which is absolutely rolling right now. It has won nine of its last 10 to put the pressure on Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the top of the standings. The first time these two teams played, TSU won by 45. Grambling won't get its first win here.
Potential upset: Northeastern still holds a fairly solid lead in the CAA standings, but the Huskies have needed to pull out some squeakers recently – including an overtime win against Old Dominion this past weekend. On Monday, they visit William & Mary (7 p.m.), which has won two of its last four after losing eight in a row. There should be plenty of perimeter firepower, with Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee squaring off against Marcus Thornton.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff knocked off Southern over the weekend to forge a tie atop the SWAC. Southern needs to bounce back at Mississippi Valley State (8:30 p.m.), while Arkansas-Pine Bluff hosts Alcorn State (9 p.m., ESPNU).
- The MEAC is home to two undefeated teams, and both are in action on Monday. North Carolina Central hosts Bethune-Cookman (7:30 p.m.), while Norfolk State welcomes Maryland-Eastern Shore (8 p.m.).
- Bryant holds a half-game lead in the Northeast Conference, but it can extend that lead when it hosts Sacred Heart (7 p.m.).
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