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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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Today's Specials: Iowa State looks for signature win vs. Kansas

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Iowa State should have beaten Kansas the first time; can Korie Lucious and the Cyclones close the deal? (USATSI)

We're entering the final two weeks of the regular season, and Monday should feature at least two high-level games. Big East pecking order is on the line in one matchup, while Iowa State looks to cement its at-large positioning with a win over Kansas. Plus, several mid-major races are heating up down the stretch.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 8 Syracuse at No. 17 Marquette (7 p.m., ESPN). Heading into the weekend, this could have been a matchup for first place in the Big East. However, Syracuse dropped a home game to Georgetown, and Marquette lost at Villanova. What does that mean? The loser could be fifth by the time the weekend rolls around. The rebounding battle will be a major factor. Neither team is very good on the defensive glass, but both crash the offensive boards looking for second-chance points. Moreover, can Marquette find open shots inside the paint against the Syracuse zone?

Second-best game: No. 9 Kansas at Iowa State (9 p.m., ESPN). The first time these two teams played, Iowa State blew a late lead and eventually lost in overtime. It was Ben McLemore's coming-out party, as the redshirt freshman hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation en route to 33 points and the win. Both teams are hitting their stride again after a few bumps in the road, with Iowa State reeling off three wins in a row -- and scoring at least 83 points in five of its last six games. Kansas has won four in a row since losing three straight. Iowa State created matchup problems in the first meeting, with Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim stretching the defense and forcing Jeff Withey to leave the paint. That could be a key again.

Another one to watch: Villanova at Seton Hall (9 p.m., ESPNU). Villanova took a major step forward in its quest for an at-large bid by knocking off Marquette on Saturday, but the Wildcats can't stop there. The issue with them this season is not being able to sustain momentum of big wins -- will that trend continue against struggling Seton Hall? The key will be guarding the perimeter and limiting Seton Hall's 3-point attempts. Nova still has games remaining against Pitt and Georgetown, so a win here would be nice.

Guaranteed win: Kansas State remains tied atop the Big 12 standings with Kansas, although getting swept at the hands of the Jayhawks mean they need to win the league outright. Facing Texas Tech at home on Monday is a good start (7 p.m., ESPNU). The Wildcats won the first matchup by nine on the road, but the gap should be even wider in Manhattan.

Potential upset: Savannah State has reeled off wins in 12 of its last 13 games, yet it still sits 2 1/2 games back of first place in the MEAC. There is still time, however, to make a run -- but the Tigers could have some trouble with Bethune-Cookman (7:30 p.m.). Savannah won the first meeting by three points, but Bethune has won four straight home games. Adrien Coleman could be the difference.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. With the SWAC race winding down, it's still up in the air. Second-place Texas Southern can forge a tie for first place with a win at Alabama State (8:30 p.m.), while 13-3 Arkansas-Pine Bluff stays within striking distance with a win over Jackson State (8:30 p.m.).
  2. Grambling has three games left in which to get its first win of the season. A road game at Mississippi Valley State is up first (8:30 p.m.).
  3. Bryant has lost its grip on the Northeast Conference, but a win over Sacred Heart (7 p.m.) would put them one game back of Robert Morris -- before the head-to-head showdown later this week.

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello

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