Viewer's Guide: Two top-10 battles welcome all to college hoops

The battle between senior point guards Keith Appling and Aaron Craft will be huge on Tuesday. (USATSI)
The battle between senior point guards Keith Appling and Aaron Craft will be huge on Tuesday. (USATSI)

Nice planning by the college basketball gods. On the first day without college football, we have two terrific games between top-10 teams. Ohio State and Michigan State battle in the Big Ten, while Baylor and Iowa State look to make statements in the Big 12. Who needs the gridiron?

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

Best game: No. 3 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan State (9 p.m., ESPN). Is this where Ohio State loses its first game of the season? The Buckeyes are undefeated right now, but winning in East Lansing won’t be easy. Michigan State is finally getting healthy, and the Spartans have the pieces to be a national championship contender. Gary Harris looked fantastic in their road blowout of Indiana over the weekend, and him being an All-American is huge going forward. Will Shannon Scott be up to the task of shutting him down? Offensively, LaQuinton Ross has to keep it going for Ohio State – while also being a factor on the glass against Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. The senior point guard matchup between Aaron Craft and Keith Appling could also be the deciding factor.

Second-best game: No. 7 Baylor at No. 9 Iowa State (7 p.m., ESPN2). This is going to be a fun one. Neither team was expected to be a top-10 team at this point in the season, but it’s not far-fetched to say that both are legitimate threats to stay near the top of the Big 12 for the next two months. On Tuesday, Baylor needs to guard the perimeter more effectively than it has been. Iowa State has at least four guys on the floor who can make shots, and the Bears need to be aware. On the other side, Iowa State’s versatile frontcourt has to keep Baylor off the glass and off the free-throw line. DeAndre Kane vs. Kenny Chery should be a good matchup.

Another one to watch: Tennessee at LSU (7 p.m., ESPN). After Florida and Kentucky, the SEC is wide-open this season. Missouri is right in the mix, but Tennessee and LSU will also fight for the third spot in the standings. Heading into last week, this looked like a win for LSU – but Tennessee then steamrolled Virginia and LSU lost at home to Rhode Island. The key battle will be on the inside, between LSU’s frontcourt trio of Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Johnny O’Bryant, and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. Moreover, can LSU guard Jordan McRae?

Guaranteed win: Georgia Tech at No. 16 Duke (7 p.m., ESPNU). Duke dropped out of the top 10 this week, but the Blue Devils will get back on the right track on Tuesday. Georgia Tech has been up and down this season, but the Yellow Jackets could struggle against Duke. Jabari Parker will bounce back from his late-game benching over the weekend, and the Blue Devils should get a victory.

Potential upset: No. 25 Kansas State at TCU (8 p.m., ESPN3). Kansas State has bounced back from its 2-3 start by winning nine in a row – including Saturday’s victory over Oklahoma State. But the Wildcats have their first true road game on Tuesday, traveling to TCU. The Horned Frogs have struggled a bit this season as expected, but their ability to get to the free-throw line and defend inside the arc could spring a surprise.

Three other things to keep an eye on:

  1. Rhode Island’s road win at LSU flew under the radar on Saturday, but the Rams have to turn around quickly at face Saint Louis (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
  2. How does Notre Dame follow up its big home win over Duke? The Fighting Irish get a hungry North Carolina State team in South Bend (9 p.m., ESPN3).
  3. Houston and Cincinnati both started AAC play 2-0, but one will fall on Tuesday night. It would be a statement win for the Cougars (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Other games to watch:

  • No. 2 Syracuse at Virginia Tech (9 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Creighton at DePaul (9 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
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