The national spotlight is on the Big Ten and Mountain West this week.
There are multiple games of interest in both leagues. In the Big Ten, the big games involve teams trying to establish a foothold near the top of the standings. In the Mountain West, which is entering just its second week of league play, teams still are trying to prove they are in the race for the long haul.
While there isn't any game as noteworthy as some of the matchups last week, it's still a solid week overall, with key games in the ACC, Atlantic 10 and Big East worth a look.
Here's a look at the key games this week; we'll do this again Friday to spotlight big weekend games. All times Eastern.
Top five games this week
Syracuse at Cincinnati, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Both lost Saturday, Syracuse in a surprise at Notre Dame and Cincy in overtime at West Virginia. This is the only meeting of the season between these teams, and after this one, Syracuse plays three of its next four at home. The Bearcats already have three home losses this season, including a setback against St. John's.
Michigan at Purdue, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Purdue was whipped at Michigan State on Saturday, and perhaps a return home will help the Boilermakers against the Wolverines. This is the second game in an eight-game stretch for Purdue in which every opponent looks to have legit NCAA hopes. Michigan followed up a home win over Michigan State with a loss at Arkansas on Saturday. After this one, the Wolverines have Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State back-to-back-to-back.
San Diego State at Wyoming, Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., The mtn.: The Aztecs, who have gone from a frontcourt-oriented team to a squad that relies heavily on its guards in one year, are the only unbeaten team in Mountain West play. San Diego State already owns wins over UNLV and New Mexico, and a win in Laramie would add to the impressive start. Wyoming is 16-3, but the schedule hasn't been difficult. A victory over the Aztecs would show that the Cowboys will be a player in the league race.
North Carolina State at North Carolina, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN: The first of two games between these rivals. The Wolfpack have played well for new coach Mark Gottfried; they come in 15-5 overall and 4-1 in the ACC. The one conference loss, though, was to Georgia Tech at home. If not for that, the Wolfpack would be alone in first place in the league race. The one thing about NCSU's record, though, is that there are no "big" wins. This will be UNC's first game in a week and just its fourth in a 16-day stretch.
Indiana at Wisconsin, Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN2: Indiana has struggled of late but may have righted itself with a win Sunday over Penn State. Neither one of these teams is going to win the Big Ten, but if either has designs on finishing in the top three, they need to win games such as this. IU is 1-3 on the road in league play, but the Badgers already have lost three times at home this season; two of those have come in league play. The Badgers were unbeaten at home in league play last season and lost just four conference home games in the previous four seasons combined.
"Mid-major" game of the week
Saint Louis at Xavier, Wednesday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Midwest/Fox College Sports Atlantic: The Atlantic 10 race looks as if it will be better than expected. Dayton whipped Xavier on Saturday and is the only league team with fewer than two league losses. SLU also has lost to Dayton and to Temple, so the Billikens could use a win against a top contender. Thing is, Xavier also needs a victory against a "good" A-10 team.
Something to prove
Colorado State: The Rams are 13-5 and 21st in the RPI, the second-best of any Mountain West team. But their best wins are over Colorado and Denver, and their solid RPI looks more a result of a good nonconference schedule than anything else. The Rams have a shot at a needed "big" win when they play at New Mexico on Wednesday (10 p.m., CBS Sports Network). Keep in mind that Colorado State was hammered at Wyoming on Saturday and that Wyoming lost by 10 to New Mexico at home.
Keep an eye on
Baylor: After opening with 17 consecutive victories, the Bears have dropped two in a row – albeit to top-10 teams Kansas and Missouri. Baylor is at Oklahoma on Tuesday (8 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude/YES network/ESPN FullCourt). OU is 2-4 in Big 12 play, but the Sooners did beat Kansas State and Arkansas at home. Baylor needs to rebound from its recent adversity.
Duke: Fresh off their first ACC loss of the season, the Blue Devils travel to play Maryland on Wednesday (9 p.m., ESPN). Maryland is in dire need of a marquee win. Can the Terps, who are 10-1 at home, get it against Duke?
Iowa State: Not much was expected of the Cyclones, but they are off to a 14-5 start, including a 4-2 mark in the Big 12. But they own only one win over a team in the RPI top 100: The Cyclones beat Texas in Ames on Jan. 4 and now get the Longhorns in Austin on Tuesday (9 p.m., Longhorn Network). It's the start of a huge three-game stretch for the Cyclones, who play host to Kansas on Saturday and to Kansas State on Jan. 31.
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