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Louisville looks to retain top spot nationally against shorthanded Syracuse
If you listen closely, you can almost hear the whispers: Bracketology, bubble watch, resumes, seeding, RPI.
The college basketball season is halfway through January and the conference races are starting to be determined. Though most conferences have only made a dent into league play, we have a pretty good idea of which leagues are going to have a ton of bids (Big Ten) and which are not (SEC).
While it’s too early to call too many teams NCAA Tournament locks, many programs have an idea of what their goals might be: A conference title, a high seed or a spot in the field.
Take this week for example: Louisville and Syracuse have one loss each and will be in contention for a No. 1 seed and the final Big East title in the league’s current incarnation. Jim Boehiem's team, though, will be shorthanded against the No. 1 Cardinals.
Elsewhere, the race in the Mountain West will become much more interesting this week with a series of four games involving the league’s six contenders.
At the same time, a team like Maryland is trying to avoid a disastrous start in ACC play after two losses. The Terrapins face NC State and North Carolina this week.
Midseason Report Part 1: Surprises and disappointments
Midseason Report Part 2: All-Americans and championship picks
Here’s our look at the rest of the week and how it could impact the postseason.
All times Eastern.
JAN. 16 BRACKET UPDATE
Athlon Sports College
Basketball Power Rankings: Jan. 16
1. Duke (15-1)
2. Louisville (16-1)
3. Michigan (16-1)
4. Kansas (15-1)
5. Syracuse (16-1)
6. Indiana (15-2)
7. Minnesota (15-2)
8. Arizona (15-1)
9. Gonzaga (16-1)
10. NC State (14-2)
11. Kansas State (13-2)
12. Florida (12-2)
13. San Diego State (14-2)
14. Butler (14-2)
15. Ohio State (13-3)
16. Missouri (12-3)
17. Creighton (17-1)
18. VCU (14-3)
19. Michigan State (14-3)
20. UCLA (14-3)
21. Marquette (12-3)
22. Oregon (14-2)
23. Connecticut (12-3)
24. New Mexico (14-2)
25. Wisconsin (13-4)
MOST IMPORTANT GAME:
Syracuse at Louisville (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The Orange have been walking the tight rope in Big East play at times. Syracuse shot 36.5 percent from the floor at USF, went 3 of 21 from three-point range and needed to rally against Providence and played close with Villanova until the final 10 minutes. Now with James Southerland ineligible, the margin of error is a little slimmer. Louisville struggled, too, earlier this week against Connecticut but went 17 of 28 from the field in the second half while holding the Huskies to 7 of 27 from the floor after the break in the 73-58 win. This could be an important game for seeding purposes.
ALL EYES ON: The Mountain West
New Mexico at Boise State (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ROOT Sports)
UNLV at San Diego State (Wednesday, 10 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
UNLV at Colorado State (Saturday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
San Diego State at Wyoming (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet)
All six of the Mountain West’s NCAA contenders will face one of the others this week. UNLV has the most to gain this week by facing two potential NCAA teams on the road (San Diego State coughed up an 18-point halftime lead Saturday but defeated Colorado State in overtime). UNLV has lost its last two road games to North Carolina and New Mexico. This would be a good time for the Rebels to show they can win outside of Vegas. Meanwhile, Wyoming may have the most to lose. The Cowboys’ 14-0 start was ended with a loss to Boise State a week ago, and now Wyoming may be without Luke Martinez (14.5 points per game) for a while.
UNDER PRESSURE: Maryland
NC State (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
at North Carolina (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Maryland had the look of a Tournament team as of the first week of January, but the Terrapins’ postseason resume could be in peril after next week. The Terps lost back-to-back games to Florida State and Miami last week, showing that its 13-1 record may have been a mirage. This week, Maryland faces an NC State team coming off a win over Duke then a reeling North Carolina team in Chapel Hill. Maryland didn’t score many good wins in the non-conference schedule, so the Terrapins cannot afford a potential four-game ACC losing streak to NCAA Tournament contenders.
RISING: Ohio State
at Michigan State (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
Who else soured on Ohio State after the Buckeyes’ 74-55 loss to Illinois on Jan. 5? Time to rethink that. The Buckeyes have bounced back nicely by making easy work of Purdue on the road and then handing Michigan its first loss of the season. Against the Wolverines, Ohio State led by as much as 21 but needed Michigan to go cold from three-point range to prevent a collapse.
SINKING: Oklahoma State
Texas Tech (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Here's how things have changed for the Cowboys: They defeated Tennessee 63-45 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off when we thought that was a decent win and lost 82-71 at Virginia Tech when it didn’t look like an awful loss. At least Oklahoma State still has a win over NC State on the resume. The Cowboys have lost three of their last four (Gonzaga, Kansas State and Oklahoma). With Texas Tech on Saturday, Oklahoma State won’t have a chance to save face against a postseason contender until Monday at Baylor.
MID-MAJORS TO WATCH: Creighton and Wichita State (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2)
The top two teams in the Missouri Valley meet up Saturday in a game that could be an important resume-builder should one team need a resume boost. Wichita State is coming off a loss to Evansville, but the Shockers will have Carl Hall (13.9 points, 7.6 rebounds in 10 games) back from a broken thumb. Creighton’s Doug McDermott will have a chance to boost his Player of the Year stock in front of a national television audience as well.
Pittsburgh at Villanova (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Is Pitt a Tournament team? The Panthers have lost three of four to Cincinnati, Rutgers and Marquette, but defeated Georgetown 73-45 on the road.
Saint Mary’s at BYU (Wednesday, 11 p.m., ESPNU)
BYU is outscoring opponents by 24 points per game during a six-game win streak, including a 4-0 start in West Coast Conference play.
Michigan at Minnesota (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Both teams trailed by big margins early in their last games (Michigan to Ohio State, Minnesota to Indiana) only to see second-half rallies fall short. Will either team have a hangover this week?
Florida at Texas A&M (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
The Aggies’ Elston Turner scored 40 points on Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Florida is holding opponents to 52 points per game.
Connecticut at Pittsburgh (Saturday, noon, ESPN2)
Don’t tell UConn it can’t play in the postseason. The Huskies have been a tough out for New Mexico, NC State, Marquette and Louisville.
Missouri at Florida (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The SEC will feature more bubble watch games than must-see games. Make sure you catch one of the few games between Tourney locks.
Arizona at Arizona State (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Network)
Thanks to freshman Jahii Carson (17.3 points per game). Arizona State is on the Tourney bubble. Defeating Arizona would go a long way for the 14-3 Sun Devils.
Oregon at UCLA (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
The two schools have started a combined 7-0 in Pac-12 play. Few would have picked this game having first-place implications for the league back in November.
Oklahoma at Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Lon Kruger, a former Kansas State coach, is working his rebuilding magic again. The Sooners are in the Tournament conversation after a convincing Oklahoma State win.
Marquette at Cincinnati (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
The Bearcats’ 12-0 start hit a skid with losses to New Mexico (by one), St. John’s (by one) and Notre Dame (by six). Marquette can win the close game with two wins in overtime (UConn and Pitt) and another in an ugly one-point game (Georgetown).
Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Are the Hawkeyes a Tournament team? Tough to buy a team that could fall to 1-4 in the Big Ten and 0-3 in conference home games with a loss to Wisconsin.
Gonzaga at Butler (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Butler’s chances to defeat Gonzaga look slim without Rotnei Clarke. Still, don’t underestimate Brad Stevens.