Here's what you need to know in college basketball for Wednesday, Jan. 10:
Game of the night
The beauty of the Big East is we get two of these games. Villanova and Xavier are the two best teams in the Big East with Seton Hall and Creighton climbing at their heels. This should be a gritty, rough, late-possession game. The Musketeers have a stronger presence inside but 'Nova has the edge on the perimeter. These two teams have the feel of Duke-Maryland from 2001 when they met four times — twice in the regular season, once in the ACC tournament and once in the Final Four. No one should be shocked if there are four Xavier-Villanova games this season.
Time to return to normalcy for Michigan State
Rutgers has been grinding out games and had a huge win over Wisconsin last weekend after disheartening losses in non-conference games against Stony Brook and Hartford. This is the same Rutgers team that beat Seton Hall but also got crushed at Purdue. Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said forcing Wisconsin into turnovers to create points was critical. Rutgers must limit its turnovers against Michigan State to have a chance.
But let’s be honest here, the Spartans are looking for a much better performance after falling flat at Ohio State Sunday and losing their No. 1 ranking. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said the Spartans have plenty of room for growth. The Spartans are still the best team in the Big Ten, and arguably one of the two best teams in the country.
Duke can’t lose again to a lower level ACC team, right?
It would be absolutely shocking if the Blue Devils were to lose at Pitt. The Panthers are 0-3 in the ACC and 8-8 overall. Duke lost its first two ACC road games at Boston College in December and last weekend at NC State. This is a mismatch inside and on the perimeter. Duke needs to get a lead and step on Pitt until the Panthers get run out of the gym. Will that happen? Unlikely, since it’s a road game. But the Blue Devils need a game where they look like the best version of themselves.
Win | Season 113 | Cinematic Recap pic.twitter.com/5g9KDsyoJQ— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) December 30, 2017
Contender or pretender?
OK, Colorado, this is the time to stand up and be counted. Colorado is playing at USC and the Buffs are coming off a sweep of Arizona State and Arizona to go to 2-2 in the Pac-12. If the Buffs seriously want to make a run at an NCAA tournament berth they need to get a split on this trip. USC has been reeling since winning the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas. Stanford beat the Trojans on a last-second bucket. The Buffs say they have turned the corner and are ready to be consistent. This game should go a long way toward determining if that’s the case.
Hidden gem of the night
If you haven’t seen Tremont Waters play, then check out the Tigers’ top freshman. He would be getting a lot more publicity if LSU was ranked or if this freshman class wasn’t filled with so many studs. He hit the winning bucket to beat Texas A&M in College Station. Arkansas has turned Bud Walton Arena back into a house of horrors for opponents and the Hogs need to make sure their style translates well on the road. But that’s the concern for another day. Arkansas just has to hold serve at home again to maintain its status in the SEC race.