Week 12 of the college basketball season starts with a trio of games on Monday between power conference regular season title contenders in the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten.
Here’s a preview of some of the biggest games of the week and what’s at stake.
Maryland at Michigan State, Monday, January 21, 6:30 p.m. ET
The winner of this game will have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. This is the only meeting between the two schools in the regular season. Michigan State won’t have to make a return trip to Maryland, which is a scheduling break for the first-place Spartans.
Two of the best point guards in the Big Ten will go head-to-head in Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Maryland’s Anthony Cowan. The Spartans have veterans in their frontcourt in Nick Ward and Kenny Goins, while Maryland will have a size advantage down low with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith.
These are two of the top three teams in the Big Ten. The winner will get a Quadrant 1 win and sole possession of the conference lead. The loser won’t have the opportunity for revenge in the regular season.
Maryland last won at Michigan State on December 30, 2014, in a double-overtime thriller.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina, Monday, January 21, 7 p.m. ET
There’s a six-way tie atop the ACC standings entering Monday and two of the teams will square off in Chapel Hill, where Virginia Tech will try to run with fast-paced North Carolina. The Hokies have the seventh-most efficient offense in the country and the third-most accurate three-point shooting attack.
But their adjusted tempo is on the opposite end of the spectrum of the Tar Heels, whose average offensive possession takes less than 14 seconds. North Carolina has the third-fastest paced offense, compared to Virginia Tech’s 269th-ranked offensive tempo. It should be a high-scoring affair and kenpom.com projects North Carolina to win 79-76.
Virginia Tech won the schools’ only meeting last season – 80-69 in Blacksburg, Virginia – but the Hokies haven’t won in Chapel Hill since 2007.
Iowa State at Kansas, Monday, January 21, 9 p.m. ET
It looks like no one wants to run away with the Big 12 – at least not yet. Every team has lost at least twice in arguably the country’s toughest conference on a game-by-game basis. Last-place West Virginia proved that with a win over Kansas Saturday.
Two of the four teams that share the Big 12 lead with a 4-2 conference record after the weekend will meet in Lawrence Monday night. The Big 12 is annually Kansas’ conference to lose, but the Jayhawks could be vulnerable after losing big man Udoka Azubuike for the season. Advanced metrics suggest that Iowa State is the most balanced team in the conference with its offense and defense ranking in the top 20 nationally in adjusted efficiency, per kenpom.com.
The Cyclones have won their last two games in conference play, which may not seem like a lot but only two other Big 12 teams can say the same, and they won at Texas Tech last week. They also beat Kansas by 17 in their last meeting in early January in Ames, thanks to a 13-of-25 shooting night from behind the arc.
Iowa State has beaten Kansas six times in the last six seasons and the Cyclones have the quality guard play from Marial Shayok, Lindell Wigginton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Nick Weiler-Babb and Tyrese Haliburton to challenge the Jayhawks in their own building.
Villanova at Butler, Tuesday, January 22, 7 p.m. ET
Villanova is the last remaining undefeated team in Big East play but the Wildcats are projected to lose at Butler, according to kenpom.com. The Wildcats haven’t played Butler or Marquette, which are the two most efficient teams in the conference behind Villanova. The Bulldogs have beaten them three times in the last two seasons.
Butler has had an up-and-down season that started with a three-game winning streak but the Bulldogs haven’t won more than two games in a row since then. But they’re 9-1 at home and their offense, which ranks third in the Big East, could challenge a Villanova defense that ranks just 84th nationally in adjusted efficiency.
Villanova isn’t as good as it has been in recent years but neither is the Big East as a whole. A road game at Butler is one of the few spots where the Wildcats may not be favored in conference play.
Michigan at Indiana, Friday, January 25, 6:30 p.m. ET
Indiana is in the midst of a four-game losing streak that kenpom.com projects to extend to six games after the Hoosiers’ upcoming games at Northwestern and at home versus Michigan. If they enter Friday’s game having lost their last five, this game becomes something of a must-win in order to end the skid and to add a really good win to a weakening resume.
After Michigan jumped out to a 30-13 lead in the opening 10 minutes of the Wolverines’ win over the Hoosiers in Ann Arbor on January 6, Indiana had a six-point advantage over the final 30 minutes.
So there’s reason to believe that at home inside Assembly Hall, which is almost always a dangerous venue for ranked opponents, Indiana could play Michigan tough if it gets off to a better start.
It’ll be Michigan’s first road game since losing on the road to Wisconsin and it’ll offer some insight into any changes the Wolverines have made since a rough offensive showing in Madison. Michigan is one game behind Michigan State in the loss column and the Wolverines will need to try to keep pace with the Spartans until the two schools play twice in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Michigan State at Purdue, Sunday, January 27, 1 p.m. ET
Purdue might be undervalued at this point in the season with the No. 9 ranking on kenpom.com despite a 12-6 record. Led by junior guard Carsen Edwards, who has a 34.7 percent usage rate that ranks ninth nationally, the Boilermakers’ offense is built around its lead guard and he’s flanked by 40-percent three-point shooters in Ryan Cline, Sasha Stefanovic and Grady Eifert and efficient, rim-protecting bigs in Trevion Williams and Matt Haarms.
So despite Michigan State’s 77-59 win over Purdue in East Lansing two weeks ago, the return trip to Mackey Arena should be much closer. Purdue has a 42 percent chance of victory, according to kenpom.com.
Purdue has won six of its last seven games, including wins over top-35 teams Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana, so it has the tools to hand Michigan State its first loss in conference play – if Maryland doesn’t do it on Monday.