We’re into the third week of January, which means that resumes are being formed for March Madness. The invitations to the dance are numbered and the teams that are on the bubble better start winning games now or making alternate plans.
On that note, here are the four biggest college basketball games of the week:
Michigan State Spartans @ Wisconsin Badgers
Tuesday, January 22
Odds: Wisconsin -6
This is a matchup between two of the four teams who share the Big Ten lead. Since Indiana lost to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers – once in control of the league – are now part of a four-way tie in the loss column with the Badgers, Michigan State, and Michigan. Because this game is being played in Madison, Wis., where the Badgers have rarely lost over the years under head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin has to be seen as the favorite. Yet, there’s a flip side to that reality: should Wisconsin lose, the Badgers would absorb a crippling blow in the fight for the Big Ten title. Wisconsin is likely to lock down Michigan State’s offense, so the Spartans must hit the boards.
Kansas Jayhawks @ Kansas State Wildcats
Tuesday, January 22
Odds: Kansas -3
This is a clash between two teams in the top 12 of the rankings. Kansas sits at No. 3, while Kansas State is the No. 11 team in the country. Kansas is gunning for a ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, one of the most remarkable streaks in modern-day college basketball. Head coach Bill Self has a legitimate national championship contender on his hands, even though key members of KU’s 2012 Final Four team – chiefly big man Thomas Robinson – are not present on this season’s roster. Kansas State is guided by first-year head coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats have held up well under pressure this season, but Kansas offers a unique and substantial challenge.
Duke Blue Devils @ Miami Hurricanes
Wednesday, January 23
When Duke visits Miami on Wednesday, the Blue Devils will be eager to show that they can win a big ACC road game. The Blue Devils lost at North Carolina State on January 12, so they need to tell the rest of the ACC that they should still be feared away from home. Miami, for its part, will try to beat the best team in its league, thereby taking a huge step toward the NCAA tournament. Second-year head coach Jim Larranaga would love to be able to win this game and remove a lot of worries from his plate for the next two months. A win here makes Miami’s postseason outlook a lot less complicated in so many ways.
UCLA Bruins @ Arizona Wildcats
Thursday, January 24
This is a high-profile showdown between two Pac-12 contenders. UCLA struggled mightily in November and most of December, but the Bruins have rallied since Christmas Day to transform the trajectory of their campaign. Arizona was unbeaten and ranked third in the nation before it lost at Oregon on January 10. The Wildcats have played tough road games in their conference. Now they get to host a foremost rival in Tucson. It will be hard for UCLA to win in the desert; a victory would substantially improve UCLA’s NCAA tournament seeding. Arizona is probably sitting on the No. 2 seed line, so a bad home loss needs to be avoided at all costs.
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