In case you didn't know, Saturdays now belong to college basketball.
No more bowl games. Just two NFL playoff games, and that's only for the next two weeks. Sure, the NBA will throw out the occasionally interesting matchup, but from Jan. 9 through March, college hoops is where it's at.
Look no further than this Saturday.
Duke at Georgia Tech. UConn at Georgetown. Surging Kansas State travels to Missouri, Miss State and Ole Miss throw down in Oxford and surprising USC takes on the Bears. And that doesn't even include the gimmes coming to Texas, Kentucky and Michigan State OR the key conference games like UNLV vs. New Mexico, Niagara vs. Siena, Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa and Portland vs. Gonzaga.
|Robbie Hummel and Ryen Smith celebrate Purdue's win against West Virginia.
But the one to watch should be unbeaten Purdue heading into Madison to face Wisconsin. The Badgers (12-2) travel to Michigan State on Wednesday, but expect them to be ready for the Boilermakers, who are one of four undefeated D-I squads.
Given that Wisconsin's Bo Ryan rarely loses at home and that his team is once again one of the nation's most efficient scoring teams, we could be down to three unbeatens after this weekend. Best of all, it's more than just Saturday.
Here are 5 Things to Watch this week.
Winless, but not hopeless
Four teams have yet to win a game (how's that for symmetry?), but this could be the week that all ends.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-11) is better than their record indicates. In fact, consider the Golden Lions a lock to beat Mississippi Valley State on Monday.
Penn (0-9) travels to Maryland-Baltimore County on Tuesday in what's essentially a toss-up game. But the Quakers could and should win that game. It's the next two that are tricky.
Bryant (0-14) is at Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday, while Alcorn State plays host to Jackson State on Saturday. Neither would be a surprise if they won, but neither are gimmies.
Good and lucky
No. 1 Kansas silenced most of its critics thanks to Saturday's 32-point road win at No. 18 Temple. (Almost seems like a typo, right?) And another tough road test at Tennessee should provide even more clarity as to just how good the Jayhawks are, right?
Well…not if Tyler Smith and Cameron Tatum aren't playing.
Smith and Tatum were among the four Vols arrested Friday and charged with gun possession and other counts. They're suspended for now, though coach Bruce Pearl expects to settle on their future "shortly."
If they don't play Sunday vs. Kansas, consider it a gift to the Jayhawks' undefeated prospects. Lucky or good? What about both?
Big Monday brickfest
Pitt (12-2) is coming off its best win of the season, an 82-72 upset at Syracuse. Despite losing their three most important players, the Panthers have remained an impressive defensive team – mostly because foes can't hit a shot.
The same could be said about Cincy (10-3), which means Monday's game could be one brick after another. First one to 65 wins.
Don't bring that weak stuff inside
Speaking of defense, two of the nation's best face off Wednesday, but their styles couldn't be more different.
Syracuse relies on its vaunted 2-3 zone, which limits foes to just 41.6 percent on its twos and less than 30 percent on its 3s. They're also proficient at blocking shots and producing steals.
Memphis isn't as effective in limiting opponents' shooting, but it's just as good at shot-blocking at steals, and also forces opponents into more turnovers because of their aggressive man-to-man defense.
May the more stifling style win.
A Big 5 surprise?
St. Joe's (4-8) has lost eight of its last nine. The Hawks can't rebound and don't have any efficient scorers. Yet why does it seem like Wednesday's game at Temple should be closer than the 75-57 score indicated on kenpom.com?
Sure, the Owls (11-3) are the better teams, but the two schools have played each other six times in the past two seasons. That kind of familiarity doesn't allow for blowouts, nor does Temple's slow-down style. I'd be stunned if the Owls won by more than 6.
Mike Miller's also on Twitter. Follow him at @BeyndArcMMiller.