|Michigan begins a difficult four-game stretch tonight that will decide its Big Ten championship fate. (US Presswire)|
Several quality games on the docket tonight, including a few games that will play a major role in the pecking order of multiple conferences.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: No. 20 Michigan at Purdue (7 p.m., ESPN). This is an important game for both clubs. For Michigan, it’s the first of a brutal four-game Big Ten stretch – coming on the heels of a non-conference loss at Arkansas over the weekend. Purdue has lost three of its last five, including a 25-point defeat at the hands of Michigan State on Saturday. The key battle in this one will be on the perimeter. Neither team defends the 3-point line very effectively, but both teams make a killing from behind the arc.
Second-best game: Iowa State at Texas (9 p.m., Longhorn Network). A win here for either team would help its case as the best team outside of the top three or four in the conference. Iowa State won the first meeting between the two, a six-point victory at home. The Cyclones have won nine of their last 11, with the only losses coming to Missouri and Kansas. Texas is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the latest a close defeat to Kansas. The Longhorns need to keep Royce White off the offensive glass, and also limit fouls.
Another one to watch: South Florida at No. 17 Marquette (8 p.m., ESPN3). Well, well, well. Look who is 5-2 in the Big East – none other than the South Florida Bulls. There aren’t any marquee wins on the ledger, but a home win over Seton Hall and a road victory at Villanova look solid. Marquette is also 5-2 in conference play, and the Golden Eagles have won four in a row. If USF wants to pull the upset, it needs to take care of the ball and keep Marquette from getting second chances.
Guaranteed win: Boston University could set up a showdown for first place in the America East on Friday with a home win against 3-16 Maryland-Baltimore County (7 p.m.) on Tuesday night. We think the Terriers will cruise to a victory, and go into Friday’s battle against Stony Brook with both teams having a 7-1 record.
Potential upset: Wyoming has intrigued me for most of the season. The Cowboys have one of the best defenses in the country, yet they haven’t really beaten anyone besides Colorado back in early December. However, they destroyed Colorado State by 19 over the weekend and now get No. 13 San Diego State at home (8:30 p.m., Mountain). The Aztecs have won 10 in a row, but Wyoming could trip them up tonight.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Can No. 6 Baylor bounce back after two straight losses last week? The Bears head on the road to face Oklahoma (8 p.m., ESPN3).
- It’s still tough to get a read on the Jarnell Stokes-era Tennessee. The Volunteers get another chance to prove themselves at Vanderbilt (7 p.m., ESPNU).
- No. 1 Kentucky plays its first game since taking over the top spot in the rankings, at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Georgia (9 p.m., ESPN).
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