A look at the two most notable games on Monday's schedule:
Pittsburgh at Connecticut
The first meeting between these Big East heavyweights couldn't have come at a better time. UConn, which is fresh off wins over Syracuse and Seton Hall last week, has now won 13 straight and has staked its claim to the title of best team in the country. Pitt, meanwhile, has rattled off five straight victories, including two convincing home wins last week over Cincinnati and West Virginia, to jump back up to the 1 line in our Field of 65. The Huskies' current tear has coincided with the increasingly impressive play of big man Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet beat the overmatched Pirates all by himself on Saturday, finishing with a ridiculous 25 points, 23 rebounds, and nine blocks, and over his last five games, he is averaging 15.8 points, 14 rebounds, and 7.2 blocks. Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, who has nine double-doubles in his last 15 games, have anchored a UConn defense that has emerged as the team's biggest weapon. The same thing could be said about the bruising Panthers, who have allowed opponents just over 62 points per game this season, good for third best in the Big East behind UConn and Louisville. Most of Pitt's success on the defensive end can be attributed to the presence of DeJuan Blair and Sam Young inside. Blair is averaging 19.6 points and 12 boards over his last five, and if Pitt is going to pull the upset in this game, he and Young are going to have to be the difference. If they can get Thabeet in foul trouble and force the Huskies to find another offensive option (which won't be as easy now with Jerome Dyson out...maybe Stanley Robinson? Craig Austrie?), the Panthers have a chance. If not, it's hard to see Pitt being able to score enough from the perimeter to win. Whoever does win this game (for the record, we'll take the Huskies by five) will get a leg up in the race for the Big East regular season title and the 1 seed that goes along with it. Both teams, regardless of the result, will almost certainly be on the 1 line again next week.
Texas at Texas A&M
A&M's at-large chances are officially hanging by a thread. The Aggies' loss at Baylor on Saturday - their sixth loss in their last eight games - slid them even further down the list of Big XII bubble teams. If they lose this game, they'll have to win out just to finish .500 in conference, and with games left at Nebraska and vs. Missouri, a 5-0 run doesn't seem very likely. Tonight they face a Longhorns team that seems to have righted the ship after its three-game losing streak. Texas crushed Oklahoma State and eeked out an OT win at Colorado last week to move to 6-4 in conference, and they'll likely move up to a 7 seed in our new bracket. They begin a huge week that includes a showdown with Oklahoma in Austin on Saturday. The Longhorns have still not beaten a Big XII team that is currently in our bracket, and their seed has hovered around the 6-8 range for almost a month now as a result. Despite all of their recent stuggles, though, Texas still has the OOC resume of a top-five seed, and if they can upset the Sooners and go 2-0 this week, that's exactly what they'll be next Monday.
Also receiving votes: Siena at Iona