Here's what you need to know for Wednesday, Jan. 31:
Game of the night
1. Houston at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., CBS Network: The Cougars have arrived in the American. Their win over Wichita State was a strong signal to the Bearcats that the Cougars mean business. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told me last week that he loses sleep thinking about how to defend Houston. The Cougars have options at all five positions and a bust-out scorer in Rob Gray, who shows no fear. The problem for Houston is that Cincinnati is as good a team defensively as there is this season. The Bearcats will make you look offensively inept. So, if Houston makes this a game late, then expect the second meeting on Feb. 15 in Houston to be as intense a game as the Bearcats will play this season. If they win? Well, now, the rest of you better take Houston seriously. The Cougars have already been a regular in our Power 36. Jump on board when you can.
2. Penn State at Michigan State, 6:30 p.m., ET, BTN: Belief. That’s what the Nittany Lions have now. They believe they can win any game remaining on their schedule. That’s what the win at Ohio State did for this team’s confidence. Not pulling a Penn State and losing at home to Rutgers did the trick, too. The Spartans are still the most talented team in the Big Ten, but they have played down to the competition quite often lately and there’s a good chance Penn State will hang around in East Lansing. Slow starts have sent the Spartans into danger zones in the second half.
3. Louisville at Virginia, 7 p.m., ET, ESPN2: How do you handle success? You don’t get rattled. The Cavaliers are playing their first game since knocking off Duke in Cameron but this team doesn’t have a huge head -- Not at all. I got that sense in chatting with Ty Jerome earlier in the week. Nobody seems to care who busts out for points on a given night. This is A TEAM. The Cardinals have done quite well under David Padgett, but scoring will be at a premium tonight. This will be one of Padgett’s toughest tests this season. Oh, can we say right here and now that Tony Bennett is one of the best coaches active in the game? The evidence is overwhelming.
4. Providence at Seton Hall, 7 p.m, ET, FS1: The Friars have turned out to be a tough out at home, but the Big East road has been daunting. Let’s see how the Friars translate their aggressive play and renewed sense of defensive purpose on the road. Both teams are 5-3 in the Big East and this game is the first of two between the two teams that are likely going to be battling for a 3-5 seed in the Big East tournament. The goal is to avoid the 4 seed and Villanova as long as possible at MSG.
5. Why watch…..
Maryland at Purdue, 8:30 p.m., ET, BTN: The Boilermakers share the ball so well and Mackey Arena is the best environment in the sport this season.
Butler at Marquette, 9 p.m., ET, FS1: Markus Howard is the best scorer in the country that needs to get more love (he got plenty here after he scored 52 at Providence).
Missouri at Alabama, 9 p.m., ET, ESPN2: Collin Sexton is the freshman all-American that can lead the Tide to the NCAAs.
Arizona at Washington State, 10 p.m., ET, Pac-12 Network: The Wildcats are playing Final Four well right now and have the most dazzling athlete in Deandre Ayton.
Texas at Texas Tech, 9 p.m., ET, ESPUN: Catch Mo Bamba of the Longhorns. He’s one amazing talent who fills every category of the stat sheet.
Florida State at Wake Forest, 8 p.m., ET, ACC Network: To see if the Seminoles can get another critical road win in the quest to get a bid.
Syracuse at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m., ET, ACC Network: See above. The Orange could use another W on the road, as well.
LSU at Tennessee, 6:30 p.m, ET, SEC Network: To watch how Rick Barnes is doing one of his best coaching jobs in his career.
Pitt at Miami, 7 p.m., ET, ACC Network: To check out how the Hurricanes handle their first game without Bruce Brown Jr., who is out for six weeks with a foot injury.