Today's Specials: Several teams look to keep pace in league races

Traevon Jackson has come up with big shots a couple of times in the last two weeks for Wisconsin. (US Presswire)

Monday got things off to a good start, with a couple of close games highlighting the schedule. Tuesday has plenty of fun action, including a Big Ten battle between two defensive-oriented teams. Ole Miss and Kentucky both look to make a statement, and the ACC race heats up.

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

Best game: Wisconsin at No. 11 Ohio State (7 p.m., ESPN). Neither of these teams is going to blow you out of the water with offensive explosiveness, but both teams really defend and have guys who can make big shots. Wisconsin needs a good performance from Traevon Jackson, who played well against Indiana and Minnesota -- but struggled against Iowa and Michigan State. Meanwhile, Ohio State is still searching for a consistent second scorer alongside Deshaun Thomas. Lenzelle Smith has hit double-figures in two straight games, though. Aaron Craft might not allow Wisconsin to get into its offense consistently, although Ohio State has plenty of matchup problems.

Second-best game: Kentucky at No. 16 Ole Miss (9 p.m., ESPN). Too bad this game isn’t in Rupp Arena. Marshall Henderson in front of that Lexington crowd? Anyway, let’s look at the Rebels really quick, since they shot up to No. 16 in the rankings. They have won nine in a row, although the lone impressive win in that stretch was over a Laurence Bowers-less Missouri team. The next four games will be key: home vs. Kentucky, away at Florida, home vs. Mississippi State and at Missouri. Kentucky fans think the sky is falling, but this game could jumpstart a winning streak. Alex Poythress needs to be aggressive, and Archie Goodwin has to be smart.

Another one to watch: No. 19 NC State at Virginia (7 p.m., ESPN2). Both teams have had their ups and downs, although the winner will have sole possession of second place in the ACC. Virginia has been outstanding on the defensive end of the floor, allowing just three teams to reach 60 points this season. The last team to get there was 2-17 Old Dominion. As for the Wolfpack, they looked pretty good in that win over North Carolina -- but are they due for a letdown performance? In order to be taken seriously, NC State needs to be more consistent.

Guaranteed win: There aren’t too many locks on the schedule for Tuesday, but Minnesota will snap its four-game losing streak against Nebraska (9 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Golden Gophers have had troubles on both sides of the ball during the skid, although the lack of production from Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams is also concerning. The two have shot a combined 5-for-32 in the last two games. Nebraska has actually won two of its last three, but I think Minnesota bounces back.

Potential upset: North Carolina made a valiant comeback against NC State over the weekend, but the Tar Heels couldn’t get over the hump down the stretch. The Tar Heels look to get back in the win column against Boston College (9 p.m., ESPNU) -- but it won’t be easy. The Eagles have lost four in a row, with three of those decided by five points or fewer. BC will have to get the tempo in its favor, and also get a nice night from Joe Rahon. Before his 10-point performance over the weekend, Rahon had totaled 13 points in his previous three games.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Stony Brook will look to extend its edge in the America East with a road trip to slumping Albany (7 p.m., ESPN3), which has dropped two in a row.
  2. Indiana State has been a surprise in the Missouri Valley this season, and the Sycamores can send a message at No. 15 Wichita State (8 p.m., ESPN3).
  3. UNLV has been inconsistent, but the Rebels have some of the best talent in the country. They can’t slip up against Nevada (10 p.m.).

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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