Top 25 teams seem to have a target on them in recent weeks. Which ranked program will be the next to fall? We preview all the action involving Top 25 teams on Saturday's slate.
Georgetown Hoyas at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+4)
Defense has helped guide Georgetown to a four-game winning streak and a return appearance in the Top 25 and the Hoyas will try to keep it going Saturday afternoon when it visits Rutgers. Georgetown allows the second-fewest points in the Big East (55.3) and the second-lowest shooting percentage (37.5). Since a three-point loss at South Florida on Jan. 19, the Hoyas have allowed 51.5 points while knocking off Notre Dame, Louisville, Seton Hall and St. John's. Rutgers is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Georgetown.
The Scarlet Knights have dropped five straight since beating South Florida on Jan. 17. They have the league's third-worst offense (66.9 points), the second-worst defense (66.9) and have averaged 56.4 points in losses to Notre Dame, St. John's, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville.Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
Primarily regarded as an efficient and explosive offensive team, No. 3 Michigan turned to its defense late to pull out an important conference win Wednesday. The Wolverines likely need to follow a similar script on Saturday when they visit Wisconsin. Michigan is tied for second in the Big Ten standings with Michigan State and in the midst of a four-game stretch where it will play each of the other top-five teams in the conference.
Michigan, the second-highest scoring team in the conference, rebounded from last Saturday’s loss at Indiana with a thrilling overtime home victory over Ohio State on Wednesday. The Wolverines have won five of six, but will be forced to take on the Big Ten’s stingiest defense in the Badgers. Wisconsin needed two overtimes Wednesday to down Iowa at home. The Badgers are starting a stretch where they face three consecutive ranked opponents.Mississippi Rebels at Missouri Tigers (-6)
Mississippi tries for a season sweep of Missouri when the No. 23 Rebels visit the No. 20 Tigers on Saturday. Mississippi led the entire game when it beat then-No. 12 Missouri 64-49 on Jan. 12 in Oxford in the teams' first-ever meeting.
Missouri played without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who was sidelined with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He is back now for the Tigers. Mizzou is coming off a 70-68 loss at Texas A&M but is 13-0 at home. The Rebels, who are 5-2 on the road, are coming off a 93-75 victory at home against Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas Longhorns (+3.5)
Texas attempts to stretch its homecourt win streak over No. 24 Oklahoma State to nine when it hosts the Cowboys on Saturday. The Longhorns are 9-2 at home but are struggling overall with seven defeats in nine games since the start of Big 12 play. Oklahoma State has won four consecutive games. The Cowboys pulled out a dramatic 69-67 victory over Baylor on Wednesday when junior guard Markel Brown scored on a layup with two-tenths of a second remaining in overtime.
Oklahoma State notched a road win at Kansas prior to the squeaker against Baylor. Texas lost 60-58 to West Virginia on Monday. The defeat dropped the Longhorns to 1-7 in games that were decided by six or fewer points or went into overtime. “We are close but it’s the mental things – a couple possessions here and there – that we need to get,” coach Rick Barnes said afterwards.
Butler Bulldogs at George Washington Colonials (+4)
No. 14 Butler may be the only ranked team in its conference, but there is no shortage of conference foes vying for the regular-season crown. The Bulldogs will attempt to bring a bit more clarity to the Atlantic-10 picture on Saturday when it travels to George Washington for the first time in school history. Butler is locked into a three-way tie atop the conference standings at 6-2, but five more teams trail Butler, VCU and St. Louis by one game.
The Colonials are one of those teams and have won four of five following Wednesday’s victory over cellar-dweller Duquesne. The Bulldogs have won two in a row after defeating St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, but have dropped two straight away from home after going 4-1 in true road games prior to conference play. It’s an otherwise small blemish for a Butler team that has won 16 of 18 overall.North Carolina Tar Heels at Miami Hurricanes (-7.5)
No. 11 Miami puts its unbeaten home record and perfect ACC mark on the line against North Carolina, a team the Hurricanes earlier defeated on Jan. 10 in Chapel Hill, 68-59. That game featured 11 lead changes and seven ties before the Hurricanes used a late 8-0 spurt to pull away. Miami is 10-0 at the BankUnited Center this year and owns a seven-game home ACC winning streak dating back to last season including a 90-63 blowout of then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23.
North Carolina has won six of its last seven games since losing to the Hurricanes including the last three in a row. The Tar Heels come in off a 87-62 victory over visiting Wake Forest on Tuesday, the third time in the last four games North Carolina topped the 80-point mark after not scoring 80 or more in the previous five ACC contests. Despite losing to Miami at home in the first meeting last month, the Tar Heels still own a 18-3 series lead over the Hurricanes.
Kansas Jayhawks at Oklahoma Sooners (+4)
Fifth-ranked Kansas figures to have plenty of motivation when it looks for its 11th straight victory over host Oklahoma on Saturday. The Jayhawks were embarrassed by lowly Texas Christian on Wednesday in an effort that peeved coach Bill Self. “It was the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there,” Self said. “I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA in the first couple years.” Both the Jayhawks and Sooners are attempting to end two-game losing streaks.
Oklahoma is well aware that its NCAA tournament hopes will receive a huge boost by knocking off Kansas. “Saturday’s game has to mean more to us than it means to Kansas,” senior forward Romero Osby said. “They’ve already made the NCAA tournament. We’re trying to get there.” The Jayhawks defeated the Sooners 67-54 on Jan. 26. The two-game skid is Kansas’ first since the 2005-06 campaign. The Jayhawks scored just 13 first-half points in the 62-55 loss to TCU. Kansas started the game by making just one of its first 17 shots.
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Florida Gators (-28)
Florida was rolling along until a trip to Arkansas on Tuesday, when it allowed 13 more points than in any other game. The second-ranked Gators must rebound from a defeat for the first time since before Christmas as they host struggling Mississippi State on Saturday. Florida had won 10 straight games before the 80-69 loss to the Razorbacks with an efficient offense and stifling defense.
The Gators, one game up on Mississippi and Kentucky in the SEC, should be focused to avoid a letdown against the Bulldogs who they beat 82-47 on Jan. 26. Mississippi State has dropped seven straight in SEC play for the first time since 2006 after winning its first two conference games. The Bulldogs, hampered by injuries all season, have allowed the most points in conference games and struggle mightily putting the ball in the basket at times.
Iowa State Cyclones at Kansas State Wildcats (-5)
No. 15 Kansas State tries to keep pace with Kansas atop the Big 12 when the Wildcats host Iowa State on Saturday. Kansas State has won three straight, including two in a row on the road, while the Cyclones have won three of four to move into a third-place tie in the conference.
Iowa State has won three straight meetings with Kansas State for the first time since 2000-01, when the Cyclones won four in a row. Iowa State is 2-1 in its last three visits to Manhattan, Kan., and defeated Kansas State 73-67 in Ames, Iowa on Jan. 26. The Wildcats are 10-1 at home.
Fresno State Bulldogs at San Diego State Aztecs (-15)
San Diego State's bid to stay in the Mountain West Conference race got a big boost with a dramatic victory Wednesday night. The Aztecs will look to keep the heat on the league front-runners when they host Fresno State on Saturday. After blowing a 17-point lead, San Diego State got a Chase Tapley 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left to steal a 63-62 win over Boise State. It left the 25th-ranked Aztecs two games behind No. 16 New Mexico with eight games to play.
The Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak with a 64-55 victory over UNLV on Wednesday. It was the 10th time that Fresno State has held an opponent under 60 points. Coach Rodney Terry's team had a slightly different look to it. Freshman 7-footer Robert Upshaw sat out the first game of a three-game suspension, but Kansas transfer Braeden Anderson made his collegiate debut after being forced to sit out the first 20 games of the season. Anderson had two rebounds in 12 minutes, but figures to see more action.Pittsburgh Panthers at Cincinnati Bearcats (Pick)
Pittsburgh had just snuck into the back of the top 25 before opening their Big East slate with a home loss to Cincinnati. Now back at No. 25, the Panthers will be looking for some revenge when they visit the 17th-ranked Bearcats on Saturday. Pittsburgh went on to drop three of its first four conference games but has picked things up with wins in six of the last seven.
Cincinnati is coming off a loss at Providence. The Bearcats rely heavily on Sean Kilpatrick to create offense but the junior guard has struggled with his shot over the last four games, which include two losses. Kilpatrick did most of his damage at the free throw line in the win over the Panthers on Dec. 31 but has settled for 3-point shots more recently instead of attacking the basket. Pittsburgh spreads out its offense more and slows the pace, preferring to work the ball inside before looking for the 3-pointer.
Michigan State Spartans at Purdue Boilermakers (+2.5)
Purdue has been able to hover around .500 in the Big Ten by picking at the bottom of the conference. A date with visiting Michigan State on Saturday will give the Boilermakers another crack at the top tier in the league. The eighth-ranked Spartans dominated Purdue in the first meeting on Jan. 5 and have won eight of their last nine.
The Boilermakers snapped out of a two-game funk with a win at Penn State on Tuesday. Michigan State avenged one of its two Big Ten setbacks with a win over Minnesota on Wednesday and will have to be careful not to overlook Purdue with a date against No. 3 Michigan coming up early next week. The Spartans have been dealing with several injuries lately but expect to have everyone back for Saturday. That can only be bad news for the Boilermakers, who have lost their last two games against top 10 teams by an average of 26 points.Missouri State Bears at Wichita State Shockers (-17)
No. 22 Wichita State looks to snap a three-game slide when the Shockers host Missouri State on Saturday night. Wichita State has averaged 56.3 points per game in that span, losing to Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. The Shockers blew a 17-point first-half lead in its 64-62 loss to the Salukis on Tuesday night and committed a 35-second violation with the game tied and 11 seconds left.
Wichita State defeated Missouri State 62-52 on Jan. 23. The Bears have lost six of their last eight games, most recently losing to Northern Iowa 48-37 on Tuesday. The 37 points marked a season-low and a program-low in Mississippi Valley Conference play. The Bears are 6-20 all-time at Wichita, though two of their last three losses came by one-point margins.Utah Utes at Oregon Ducks (-13)
Dominic Artis can’t return soon enough for Oregon, which has lost three straight entering Saturday’s matchup against Utah. The Ducks are 1-3 since the freshman point guard suffered a knee injury two weeks ago, and there’s no timetable for his return. Oregon, which was unbeaten in league play at the time of Artis’ injury, had its 20-game home winning streak snapped by Colorado on Thursday.
Utah’s pattern of surprising wins and perplexing losses continued Wednesday when the Utes were blown out by Oregon State, 82-64. The loss came four days after the Utes defeated Colorado for their first home win in league play. Freshman point guard Brandon Taylor scored a career-high 21 points and had six assists against the Beavers, and he’s provided a much-needed spark since being inserted into the starting lineup last week.Loyola Marymount Lions at Gonzaga Bulldogs (-24.5)
Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk is putting together league player of the year numbers. The 7-1 junior center has scored in double figures in every game since Nov. 23 and shoots 64.3 percent from the field as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs prepare for a visit from struggling Loyola Marymount on Saturday night. Olynyk has been a big part of one of the nation’s top offenses, which has helped Gonzaga to its highest ranking since December of 2008.
The Bulldogs, unbeaten in the West Coast Conference, have won five consecutive games since the loss at No. 14 Butler. Loyola Marymount has lost seven straight games and eight of 10 overall on the road. The Bulldogs will have to contain junior guard Anthony Ireland, who is second in the WCC in scoring. The Lions did recently lose in overtime to San Diego, which only lost by two points to Gonzaga.
Louisville Cardinals at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4)
After losing three straight games No. 12 Louisville is back on track and carries a three-game winning streak into its Big East showdown at Notre Dame paced by player of the year candidate Russ Smith. The Cardinals, however, have never won at Notre Dame since joining the Big East. The Cardinals are in third in the Big East standings, a half-game behind Syracuse and Marquette.
Notre Dame had its own three-game winning streak snapped last time out falling at sixth-ranked Syracuse. Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey announced n Thursday that his team will remain in the Big East Conference for one more year before leaving for the ACC so you can expect more tight games in this series. Six of the last eight games between these two teams have gone to overtime.
New Mexico Lobos at UNLV Runnin' Rebels (-4)
The Mountain West Conference has seen its share of upsets in recent weeks, but New Mexico has won seven of its last eight games to emerge as the clear front-runner. The Lobos look to maintain their lead Saturday when they visit UNLV, which has lost three of its last four, including a stunning 64-55 loss to last-place Fresno State on Wednesday.
With the first half of Mountain West play complete, New Mexico holds a one-game edge over Colorado State and leads the fourth-place Rebels by three games. The Lobos have won three straight against UNLV, including a 65-60 victory at The Pit on Jan. 9. New Mexico sophomore center Alex Kirk, averaging 11.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, had a season-high 23 points and nine boards in the first matchup with the Rebels.
Illinois State Redbirds at Creighton Bluejays (-9.5)
Creighton is seeing red, and not only because that will be the primary color of the opponent's uniforms when it hosts Illinois State on Saturday. The No. 13 Bluejays are coming off their worst loss of the season - 76-57 at Indiana State on Wednesday, and will have an opportunity to take their frustrations out on the Redbirds, who are in a three-way tie for seventh in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference. After winning its first six MVC games, first-place Creighton has split its last six, but maintains a one-game lead over Wichita State and Indiana State.
Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, a national player of the year candidate, is averaging 23.3 points, but was held to eight Wednesday - the second time this season he hasn't reached double figures. The Bluejays begin a stretch of four games against teams at .500 or below in the conference before a showdown at Saint Mary's (20-4) on Feb. 23. Illinois State has won two straight following its 94-86 victory at Drake on Wednesday, and has won five of its last six games since an 0-6 start in conference play.