A look at the six most notable games on Tuesday's schedule:
Connecticut at West Virginia
The Huskies rebounded nicely from their loss to Georgetown by blowing out Rutgers over the weekend, but they’ll face a huge challenge tonight in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are the hottest team in the Big East right now not named Pittsburgh; they’ve won five in a row by an average of 26 points. They’ve won all of those games with defense, and UConn didn’t fare too well the last time the faced a team (Georgetown) that could play a little defense. Let’s see if Hasheem can actually show up in a big game for the Huskies. If he does, they should come away with a nice road victory. If he struggles, like he has against Wisconsin (nine points), Gonzaga (nine points) and Georgetown (four points), the preseason Big East favorites will start the conference season 1-2.
Ohio State at Michigan State
Michigan State, winners of seven in a row, jumped up to a two seed in our latest bracket and is playing the best ball right now of anyone in the Big Ten. With Goran Suton playing well since his return, and Raymar Morgan putting up big numbers from his forward spot (he has double-doubles in his last two games), Michigan State looks like the team to beat in the conference and should be in play for a one seed down the road. The team they replaced on the two line, Ohio State, is just 2-3 since David Lighty went down with a broken foot, and they’ve played pretty poorly in both of those defeats (WVU and Minnesota.) These two teams tend to play really close games, but all signs point to a double-digit Spartan win tonight at the Breslin Center.
Texas at Arkansas
Arkansas already took care of the best team in the Big 12 at home (and jumped into the Field of 65 as a result), and now they get a crack at the conference's second best squad. Six Razorbacks scored in double figures against the Sooners, and they'll need a similarly balanced performance if they are going to upset the explosive Longhorns. The play of forward Michael Washington might well be the key for Arkansas - he scored 24 points against Blake Griffin and the tough Oklahoma front like and has scored 58 points over his last two. If he can duplicate that and neutralize Damion James inside, the Razorbacks have a shot. If not, Texas fans will have something to celebrate for the second straight night.
Alabama at Clemson
The unbeaten Tigers put their perfect record on the line against their final OOC opponent of the season - the potentially dangerous but resume-challenged Crimson Tide. Clemson has been on a scoring tear over its last five games; they've won each game by double digits (that stretch includes road wins over Miami and South Carolina) and they were particularly efficient against East Carolina last time out. The double-double capabilities of Ronald Steele and Alonzo Gee will probably keep 'Bama in this game for a half or so, but Clemson's depth and superior front line will win out in the end.
Illinois State at Bradley
Is this the night Illinois State finally goes down? The newly single-digit-seeded Redbirds face their stiffest road test of the year tonight as they face the dangerous Braves - the only other Valley team to not yet lose a conference game. Bradley has won five straight and is coming off two nice road wins, but beating a team as deep and balanced as Illinois State is probably asking a little bit too much. The Redbirds have shown over the last week (in beating Evansville and Creighton by an average of 26 points) that they're for real and that they're embracing being an unlikely unbeaten. They'll keep the streak alive with a close early, pull-away-late-type win.
Purdue at Penn State
The Boilermakers stubbed their toe in their Big Ten opener at home against Illinois and now they face a better-than-expected Penn State team on the road without the services of Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer, who are out with back and foot injuries, respectively. Their abscences make this one a real toss up and a dangerous game seed-wise for Purdue. The middle of the Big Ten is a muddled mess right now (after Michigan State) and a loss to a non-tourney team, even on the road, can send a team, in this case Purdue, sliding down a seed line or two come next week.
Also receiving votes: Siena at Kansas, Villanova at Seton Hall, LSU at Utah, Miami (OH) at Dayton, Northern Iowa at Creighton