Today's Specials: League play and nonconference games converge

Jackie Carmichael needs a big effort if Illinois State is to pull off the upset against Creighton. (Getty Images)

New Year’s Eve saw plenty of marquee matchups, and then we had a nice day off to celebrate 2013. And by that, I’m guessing it meant working off hangovers and getting out of bed by 8 p.m. to prepare for work on Wednesday. Wednesday isn’t filled with ranked vs. ranked battles, but there are several under-the-radar matchups that could make a difference over the next two months.

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

Best game: No. 16 Creighton at Illinois State (8 p.m., Fox/Comcast Affiliates, ESPN3). First of all, I’ll say that I’m slightly biased toward really good Missouri Valley games -- just something about MVC league play gets me going. Creighton is still the favorite in the league, while Illinois State had been impressive throughout the first two months, despite a two-point loss to Indiana State in the league opener. Obviously the best matchup to watch is Jackie Carmichael vs. Doug McDermott. Both players are very different, but both are dominant in their own ways. Illinois State has to guard the perimeter.

Second-best game: No. 1 Duke at Davidson (7 p.m., ESPN2). This game looked a bit better in the preseason, when Davidson was one of the best mid-major teams in the country -- before losses to Milwaukee and four other teams. Duke, meanwhile, continues to roll along at No. 1 and undefeated. The Blue Devils might not be truly tested until Jan. 12 against North Carolina State. Can the Wildcats throw a scare into them on Wednesday? Davidson’s perimeter defense will be key, as will the Wildcats’ ability to get to the free-throw line.

Another one to watch: La Salle at Miami (Fla.) (9 p.m., ESPN3). Both teams could potentially be bubble players come March, with La Salle needing multiple key wins in conference play and Miami having to hold its own with Reggie Johnson on the mend for six weeks. Several good guards will be on display, as Durand Scott and Shane Larkin face off against Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway. Kenny Kadji will have to step up with Johnson out; will he be a consistent inside-outside threat? Jerrell Wright isn’t an easy opponent.

Guaranteed win: Kentucky’s performance against Louisville over the weekend left many people more confident in the Wildcats than they were before -- despite the loss. With that much talent, expect them to fully be a Final Four threat by March. Wednesday’s game against Eastern Michigan (6 p.m., ESPNU) probably won’t tell us much. Can Ryan Harrow continue to play well?

Potential upset: Since Illinois’ 12-0 start, the Fighting Illini have taken a step back somewhat. They lost to Missouri before Christmas, and then struggled before holding off Auburn down the stretch. A Big Ten opener at Purdue (8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) will be an interesting test. The Boilermakers are going to be inconsistent throughout the season, based solely on the fact they are so young. They’re going to have to make the most of second-chance opportunities, and also make sure Brandon Paul doesn’t go off. 

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Neither Utah nor Arizona State will garner headlines, but here’s a fun note: A couple of brothers will go head-to-head in Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski and Utah’s Dallin Bachynski (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
  2. South <span data-shortcode=" data-canon="Florida Gators" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> and UCF have been inconsistent this season, but look to see if USF’s Anthony Collins returns after a potentially scary injury over the weekend (8 p.m., CBS Sports).
  3. Another bad loss could potentially derail Florida State’s at-large profile before ACC play even starts. The Seminoles travel to Auburn on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3).

Other games to watch:

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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