There is still a lot to figure out in conference play. Good teams are starting to separate themselves from their conference foes, while bad teams remain deep in the gutter. Will anything change this weekend?
Can’t Miss College Basketball Games
Friday, January 19
Michigan State has the most talented roster in the Big Ten. They’ve struggled in their last three games: Losing to Ohio State by 16 points, needing overtime to beat Rutgers at home by four and then losing to Michigan by 10 at home last weekend. Indiana is still trying to figure out its identity after a rough non-conference stretch. The Hoosiers have won three games in a row against Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern. Sparty will be heavy favorites in this clash between Big Ten traditional powerhouses.
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily worthy of being on this week’s viewing guide — but here are valid two reasons why: 1. We are The Champaign Room, for fans of the Fighting Illini, and 2. Both the Wisconsin Badgers and the Illinois Fighting are in some serious danger, and the stakes could not be higher, particularly for a Wisconsin team that hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since the 1997-1998 season. Wisconsin has just two Big Ten wins (Indiana a couple of weeks ago, Penn State a month and a half ago) and lost their last three Big Ten games, all on the road to Rutgers, Nebraska and No. 3 Purdue. Illinois is desperately seeking its first Big Ten win of the season under new head coach Brad Underwood. The Kohl Center in Madison hasn’t been too kind to Illinois over the years.
Saturday, January 20
Wichita State is in some pretty muddy waters after falling to SMU on Wednesday. This Wichita State vs Houston Cougars matchup is actually a rematch of a game that happened two weeks ago. In that first contest, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet was unstoppable, scoring 18 points and was perfect from the free throw line in the Shockers’ 18-point win. The top of the American Athletic Conference looks like this: 1. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2. Wichita State Shockers, 3. Houston Cougars. Wichita State should win, but this is one of their tougher road games of the regular season. How do the Shockers bounce back after their loss to the Mustangs?
Big East basketball is a thing of beauty. When Xavier comes to New Jersey to take on Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall Pirates, this will be a contest between two of the top four teams in the conference. For Seton Hall, big-man Desi Rodriguez is a menace in the paint. Rodriguez averages over 18 points per game, meanwhile his partner-in-crime and center down low Angel Delgado is averaging over 14 points per game and a whopping 12 rebounds per game. Delgado leads the Big East Conference in rebounding. On the other side, guard Quentin Goodin (second in the conference in assists), and Kelan Martin (fourth in the conference in scoring) lead the charge for the X-men. Expect both of these teams to be in the NCAA Tournament come March.
John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are angry and eager to get back out on the floor following Tuesday night’s loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks. True freshman and Kentucky’s best all-around player Kevin Knox had himself a good game with 21 points and eight rebounds. Knox’s weakness? He shoots way too many (and misses too many) 3-pointers for a player who can do so much more damage in the mid-range game. The Florida Gators are balanced and have four players averaging double figures in points. Senior guard Chris Chiozza is the heart and soul of Gators basketball, leading his team in assists and steals while being the vocal leader in crunch time.