We are rapidly moving to Championship Week, the best stretch of basketball next to the NCAA Tournament's First and Second Rounds. Another exciting event is the Bracket Buster games in the middle of February. Speaking of Bracket Busters, the matchups are selected this weekend. There's plenty of quality hoops action each week and the games are getting more important. Here are the games you don’t want to miss this week, Jan. 16 thru Jan. 29.
#11 Kansas St at #24 Baylor. Two three loss teams square off for some Big 12 fun. Both teams are looking to rebound from conference losses, Kansas St lost to Oklahoma St and Baylor to Kansas in very close games. Some great talent will be featured in this game with the Wildcats’ Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente and Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn.
Tulsa at #25 Alabama Birmingham. The final two undefeated teams from Conference USA meet to set the early surprise leader. Both teams are 5-0 in conference. Tulsa has a stellar 16-3 record on the season and UAB is 17-2. The Blazers haven’t lost yet at Bartow Arena in Birmingham and the loser joins what will become a four team logjam in second. Both teams look to be on the bubble for the Big Dance in March, so both teams could really use this win.
#12 BYU at #23 New Mexico. BYU has the early favorite for player of the year in Jimmer Fredette. Fredette averages over 20 points a game and shoots 45% from 3-point range. He’s been a big part in the Cougar’s 20-1 start. The Lobos, who still seem pissed over last years NCAA Tournament snub, are back with a vengeance. Upsets over California and a then ranked Texas A&M have helped the Lobos start the season at 18-3. Darington Hobson leads New Mexico in scoring, assists, and rebounds. Coach Alford and the Lobos will have their hands full defending The Pit from the Cougar invasion.
#21 Vanderbilt at #14 Tennessee. Two ranked teams. Vanderbilt is tied for first place in the SEC and the Volunteers are tied for second. Vandy’s A.J. Ogilvy is supposedly one of the best big men in the game. Tennessee has All World player Tyler Smith, whoops! Well they have Coach Pearl and some other thugs that are getting the raw end of the deal.
#15 Temple at Charlotte. Atlantic 10 leader Temple is looking to extend their lead over Charlotte, who has won three games in a row. Temple is riding a 6 game win streak. Charlotte is clearly a bubble team and a win over a ranked team would be very important for the 49ers to stand out. The Owls struggled mightily in their last game and could be without star guard Juan Fernandez.
Boston University at Maine. Maine and Boston U are two of the three teams tied at the top of the American Ease standings. Junior John Holland of BU leads the conference in scoring at 19.6 points per game. The Black Bears shot 66% from 3-point land during their last game and have won eight of their last nine games, including five in a row.
#16 Wisconsin at # 10 Purdue. It’s a rematch from January 9th, when the Badgers downed Purdue 73-66 and started the Boilermaker slide. Wisconsin is playing with a short bench and Purdue’s trio of E’twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and JaJuan Johnson seem to be heating up. It’s tough to win when visiting Mackey Arena but both teams need a win to keep Michigan St. from running away from the crowd.
Oakland at IUPUI. Oakland and IUPUI are in control of the Summit League at the half way point of conference play. The IUPUI Jaguars have the Summit League’s top two scorers. Alex Young and Robert Glenn both average over 18 points per game. Oakland’s Johnathon Jones led the county in assists last year and is dishing out over six a game this season.
Butler at Wisconsin Green Bay. The top two teams in the Horizon League standings face each other to start the second half of conference play. Butler currently leads the conference by 2 ½ games over the Phoenix and is undefeated in league play. The Bulldogs are led by the sophomore Gordon Hayward, the teams leading scoring, and the reigning conference player of the year, Matt Howard. The Bulldogs smashed the Phoenix in their matchup earlier in the season by 23 points but this time the Phoenix are at home.