Where will the top spin this week?
Also: DII baseball hits the field; DI wrestling unbeatens to meet
After lots of shuffling in recent weeks, will this be the week when the top-ranked men’s basketball can actually hold on to the No. 1 spot?
Or will No. 1 Michigan be knocked off by No. 3 Indiana at Assembly Hall in a battle for first place in the Big Ten Conference standings?
On Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET, college basketball fans will get their answer in a nationally-broadcast game on ESPN.
Michigan is off to the best start in program history at 20-1, and boasts a 7-1 mark in league play. The Wolverines earned their first No. 1 ranking since the 1992-93 after patiently waiting their turn in the top five for the first 11 weeks of the season.
The Maize and Blue finally made the jump to No. 1 after Duke lost to Miami 90-63 on Jan. 23 – the fourth time the top spot had changed hands in the last four weeks.
Before Duke, Louisville reigned at No. 1 for one week, but a loss to Syracuse ousted them from the spot. The Cardinals went on to lose two more – to Villanova and Georgetown – before getting back on the winning track against Pittsburgh on Monday.
Louisville had grabbed the top spot from Duke, which held on to it for four weeks before losing to NC State. The Blue Devils had moved into No. 1 after Indiana, which entered the preseason as the top-ranked team, was upset by Butler in Week 6.
It seems fitting that Indiana will have a chance at knocking the Wolverines off their pedestal on Saturday as the season comes full circle.
Indiana enters the contest with a 19-2 overall record, and like Michigan, the Hoosiers have won four consecutive games entering the weekend.
It will be the second time this season the Hoosiers will be hosting a top-10 clash at Assembly Hall. On Jan. 15, then-No. 5 Indiana downed then-No. 8 Minnesota 88-81. It was the first game between two top-10 programs in almost 13 years.
The last time Indiana hosted a No. 1 team at Assembly Hall, the unranked Hoosiers upset No. 1 Kentucky 73-72 on Dec. 10, 2011.
Sophomore Cody Zeller leads the Hoosiers with 16.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while sophomore point guard Trey Burke sparks the Wolverines with 17.9 points and 7.1 assists per game along with a 49.4 field goal percentage.
Who will be No. 1 next week? I don’t know, but I’ll enjoy watching them figure it out on Saturday night.
• The No. 25 Delaware women’s basketball team will be looking to extend their winning streak to 12 games at Georgia State on Thursday night. After a slow start to the season mostly due to All-American Elena Delle Donne missing six of the Blue Hens’ first seven games while recovering from Lyme Disease, Delaware has reeled off 11 consecutive victories and has a perfect 7-0 mark in Colonial Athletic Association play.
The Hens are in the midst of playing four games in an eight-day stretch, but that has not slowed them down. Delle Donne has scored at least 17 points in all 13 games played this season, while senior Kayla Miller has dished out seven or more assists in three of the last four contests, including a career-high nine assists against Northeastern. The Blue Hens are coming off a 77-50 win against Northeastern in which they shot a season-high 56.6 percent on Tuesday, extending their CAA regular season winning streak to 26 games. Delaware went 18-0 in CAA regular season action last year.
• The last two unbeaten wrestling teams in the Big Ten will square off on Friday at 9 p.m. ET in a dual meet set to air live on the Big Ten Network. No. 1 Penn State (8-0, 5-0) travels to No. 3 Iowa (15-1, 5-0) in a clash of two of the top programs in the nation at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The two teams have split the last two meetings with the Nittany Lions winning in 2012 and Iowa earning the victory in 2011, but the Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 25-7-2.
"Yep, this is a big one," Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. "We always talk about the next event on the calendar. This is the one you probably have highlighted and you point toward, but last week (a 16-15 win against Minnesota) was, too."
Iowa senior Matt McDonough, the defending NCAA champion at 125 pounds, will be pitted in a rematch of last year’s national championship bout against Penn State sophomore Nico Meglaludis. McDonough has won 41 consecutive matches.
• The No. 2 Quinnipiac men’s hockey team enters the weekend riding a 17-game (15-0-2) unbeaten streak as the Bobcats head on the road to face ECAC Hockey foes Brown and No. 8 Yale. Quinnipiac boasts an unbeaten mark in ECAC Hockey action at 11-0-1, and is in first place with 23 points. The Bobcats are led by Hobey Baker Award candidate, Eric Hartzell (.934, 1.46, 18-2-3) is second in the nation in goals against average, and a scoring defense that ranks second in the nation. Brown enters Friday’s contest with a 7-9-4 mark, but the Bears have won five of their last eight games. Yale is 5-1 in its last six games, and sits in second place in the league standings. The Bulldogs host Princeton on Friday before welcoming Quinnipiac for a Saturday night contest.
• The No. 1 Minnesota women’s hockey team will be looking to clinch the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in a series against No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth at home this weekend. The Gophers (26-0-0, 20-0-0) need just two points to clinch the WCHA regular season title. If two points are earned on Friday, it would be the fastest any WCHA team has clinched the regular season title. The Gophers enter the weekend riding an NCAA-record 34-game winning streak. Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network at 3:30 p.m. ET.
• It is possible a pair of Division III women’s basketball unbeatens will meet on Saturday when No. 5 Tufts travels to No. 4 Amherst for a New England Small College Athletic Conference match-up. The Jumbos (20-0, 7-0) first visit Trinity, while the Jeffs (19-0, 6-0) host Bates College on Friday. Only two other unbeaten teams remain in Division III women’s hoops. No. 10 Montclair State (20-0), which is ranked in the top 10 for the first time in program history, and No. 1 DePauw (20-0), which is in the midst of a 45-game regular season winning streak.
• Two of the top collegiate gymnastics programs in NCAA history will meet when No. 5 Alabama visits No. 8 Georgia for a Southeastern Conference match-up on Saturday. The GymDogs and Crimson Tide have combined for 16 NCAA titles with Alabama winning the last two trophies. Georgia holds a 79-49-2 advantage in the all-time series, but the Tide has won eight of the last nine meetings.
• The 2013 collegiate baseball season opens up on Friday as a plethora of Division II teams start competition on the diamond. No. 4 Central Missouri will begin play at the Astros in Action DII Invitational at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. The Mules are one of eight Division II teams competing in the tournament that will feature 15 games in four days. Jim Crane, the Astros owner and chairman, organized the event. Crane graduated from Central Missouri in 1976, and also was a standout pitcher for the Mules.
The teams participating in the inaugural Astros in Action DII Invitational are Central Missouri, which will serve as a co-host with the Astros, Abilene Christian, Arkansas Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Emporia State, Incarnate Word, Tarleton State and Texas A&M Kingsville.
“This will be an annual premium Division II invitational of nationally ranked baseball teams,” Crane said. “It will be a great experience for the schools and the student-athletes to compete in a Major League facility and be out of the weather. In addition to the Astros in Action College Classic and Major League Baseball’s Urban Invitational, we’re happy to give Astros fans the opportunity to see high caliber college baseball this spring.”
The Mules are the preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association title, which would be their fourth consecutive. UCM has posted 40 or more wins in 14 consecutive seasons.
• After contributing two assists against No. 7 Yale for his sixth multiple performance of the season on Saturday, sophomore defenseman Spiro Goulakos has left school for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer originating from white blood cells in the lymph nodes. He will undergo chemotherapy in his hometown of Montreal.
During winter break in December, a routine physical examination revealed abnormal test results, and eventually Goulakos was diagnosed with lymphoma. Because his blood counts were normal and he was feeling well, doctors agreed to let him continue playing hockey while awaiting final treatment plans. He played in the contests against Brown and Yale last weekend – which the Raiders won - but is out for the remainder of the season.
“This news came as quite a shock to everyone,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. “Spiro is such an integral part of our team and adored by his teammates. This past week has been a very emotional time for our student-athletes. We ask as Spiro begins his treatments that people hold him and his family in their thoughts and prayers. He is a fierce competitor, and his teammates and coaches know he will bring that attitude to this fight.”
In 21 games played this season, Goulakos had posted 15 points on six goals and nine assists.
• With a 77-67 defeat of No. 9 Tennessee on Monday, the No. 2 Notre Dame women’s basketball squad became the first team to beat both Connecticut and Tennessee in three consecutive seasons. The Irish defeated UConn 73-72 on Jan. 5. The Irish return to Big East Conference play on Saturday when they host Cincinnati at 2 p.m. Notre Dame enters the weekend with a 19-1 overall record, and flawless 7-0 league record.
• The UW-Oshkosh men’s and women’s track teams both claimed the No. 1 spot in their respective USTFCCCA Division III National Computer Team Rankings, marking the first time in the history of the Division III indoor rankings the same school has ascended to the top spot on both lists. The Titans have two men’s athletes at the top of the Division III performance lists -- John McCann (high jump) and Nick Baatz (shot put), as well as three women -- Christy Cazzola (mile & 5,000 meters), Breanna Strupp (shot put) and Samantha Loew (weight throw). The Titans will compete at the Warhawk Classic on Feb. 1 hosted by fellow Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member UW-Whitewater. Seven WIAC teams are ranked in both the men’s and women’s top 25.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy