Top 10 games to watch, including huge SEC showdowns

Conference play is finally here as this week’s college basketball schedule is loaded with excellent matchups across the SEC and Big 12.

The non-conference portion of the college basketball schedule is winding down and that means the bulk of conference play is set to arrive. Despite COVID’s best efforts to waylay the season, college basketball’s intensity should pick up with critical showdowns dotting the schedule from here until Selection Sunday.

Unlike last week, where the schedule was pretty light due to the Christmas holiday, the slate for New Year’s is absolutely loaded. Let’s dive into this week’s Top 10 games with a bit more emphasis on some heavyweight title fights in the SEC and Big 12.

Top 10 games on the Week 8 college basketball schedule

Note: All games listed below were officially on the schedule as of post time. COVID concerns could lead to a postponement at any moment.

Cincinnati at Houston – Tuesday, 12/28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Let’s kick off this week with a trip to the American for a slugfest between Houston and Cincinnati, two of the conference’s pre-eminent rivals. The Cougars just lost Marcus Sasser for the season due to a toe injury and this game will be Houston’s first chance to begin retooling the rotation of a potential NCAA Tournament team.

Duke at Clemson – Wednesday, 12/29 at 2:00 p.m. ET on ACC Network

The Blue Devils hit the road twice this week but Wednesday’s trip to Littlejohn Coliseum isn’t going to be pleasant. Clemson has done well against Duke at home over the past few years, winning two of their past three meetings when the Blue Devils have had to come to South Carolina.

LSU at Auburn – Wednesday, 12/29 at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU

LSU has ridden a dominant defense to an undefeated record that will be put to the test in a big way against Auburn on Wednesday. Bruce Pearl’s team has one of the nation’s most talented freshmen in forward Jabari Smith and has looked tremendous in non-conference play with its lone loss being a double-overtime thriller against UCONN in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Seton Hall at Providence – Wednesday, 12/29 at 7:00 p.m. ET on FS1

Few expected Providence to make noise in the Big East this season but the Friars have made a statement in non-conference play with an 11-1 start headlined by a win over Texas Tech. This week sees Seton Hall come to the Dunkin Donuts Center fresh off a COVID pause to try and avoid the upset.

Tennessee at Alabama – Wednesday, 12/29 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Few teams in the country have a resume as disparate as Alabama, which has very high highs (see wins at Gonzaga and over Houston) along with low lows (a neutral floor loss to Iona and last week’s home loss to Davidson). The Crimson Tide will look to bounce back in their SEC opener against Tennessee which got a huge (referee-aided) win over previously unbeaten Arizona last Wednesday.

West Virginia at Texas – Saturday, 1/1 at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU

The Big 12 has dominated non-conference play, which is good for everyone since league play leads to mass cannibalization of each other. The first Big 12 game of the day is an underrated West Virginia team hitting the road to take on Texas, which hasn’t beaten anyone better than Stanford in the non-conference portion of their schedule.

Baylor at Iowa State – Saturday, 1/1 at 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU

ESPNU has an outstanding Big 12 doubleheader on Saturday that includes the Game of the Week as a pair of unbeaten teams square off in Ames. No one is really surprised that Baylor has looked dominant this season but the surge of Iowa State, which is off to a 12-0 start after finishing last season on an 18-game losing streak, is one of the biggest surprises of the season.

Villanova at Seton Hall – Saturday, 1/1 at 2:00 p.m. ET on CBS

The Big East’s top two teams are set to square off in Newark to kick off the New Year as Villanova will look to re-establish their dominance by taking down the Pirates. This game marks the second half of a difficult week for Seton Hall, which is coming off a COVID pause that wiped out their last three games prior to Tuesday’s matchup against Providence.

Duke at Notre Dame – Saturday, 1/1 at 6:00 p.m. ET on ACC Network

The second game of the Blue Devils’ road trip is also an intriguing one as they head up to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish. Mike Brey’s team already has an upset win over Kentucky on its resume and knows its shot at Duke is the best chance to add to its NCAA Tournament bona fides during the regular season.

Michigan State at Northwestern – Sunday, 1/2 at 2:00 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network

Michigan State has quietly climbed into the Top 10 after a strong start to the season but they are staring at a tough road trip here against Northwestern. The 8-2 Wildcats already have a nice road win at Maryland and can put themselves on the map by knocking off the Spartans here.

For more NCAA basketball news, analysis, opinion and features, check out more from the FanSided college basketball section to stay on top of the latest action.

Source: FanSided

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