No. 1 Kansas and second-ranked Texas are both in action Tuesday night, facing matchups that, on the surface, look similar to their games from last Saturday.
The Longhorns are first up, taking on their second straight top 10 opponent, Michigan State, in Austin. Burnt Orange Nation, SB Nation's Texas blog, and The Only Colors, our Spartan site, had Q&A sessions with one another to preview this one.
Peter Bean told The Only Colors that Tuesday's game is a key one for the Longhorns' chances for a top seed in March.
If Texas had lost to North Carolina on Saturday, I'd be very anxious about a second loss to Michigan State. As it is, winning this one will just be validation; a poor performance wouldn't be a major setback. At this point, the focus starts to be big picture, with no one game being make-or-break. Given what we've seen so far, a #1 seed looks like the appropriate goal, and there appear to be three games which will determine whether they deserve it: Tuesday vs MSU, January 23 at UCONN, and February 8 vs Kansas. Win two out of three and I'll be ecstatic.
In reply, KJ said that the Spartans need to watch three specific areas that created issues in Michigan State's previous games against quality opponents in his exchange with Burnt Orange Nation.
Statistically speaking, this MSU squad is better on offense than on defense, but the team has struggled in two distinct areas on offense against their three quality foes. First, they've shot just 17.1% from 3-point range in the three games (7-41). Second, the turnover issues that haunted the 2007 and 2008 Spartan teams cropped up against Gonzaga (TO% of 25.6%) and Florida (33.4%) in a major way.
Defensively, MSU played Gonzaga tough and played well enough to win against Florida. North Carolina, meanwhile, came out red hot shooting the ball--racking up 50 points in the first half.
It should be a thrilling one at the Erwin Center, so be sure to check out both interviews before tipoff.
In the second big game of the night, Kansas hosts a Cal team that, much like Michigan, hasn't quite lived up to expectations so far this season. Our Jayhawk and Golden Bear blogs also exchanged Q&A's to preview this one.
As Cal has struggled a bit this season, one of the big topics of conversation was how competitive would this one actually be. SB Nation's Kansas bloggers told California Golden Blogs not to expect this one to be a complete blowout.
We still haven't been tested much and when we have been it's been a bit of a challenge in finding our identity. Kansas is a team still working on chemistry, it's rotation and who exactly they are. Cal looks to have some experienced guards and you guys beat an Iowa State team fairly easily. The Cyclones aren't Kansas, but they were expected to be pretty good and Craig Brackens is a beast. I'll say in the end Kansas wins by somewhere between 10-20. No reason for the prediction just a gut call.
At Rock Chalk Talk, our Cal bloggers came to a similar conclusion.
Cal falls behind early but keeps battling. At least one key player for the Bears gets into early foul trouble. Cal comes out hot to start the second half, gets to within 4, then a combination of fatigue and foul trouble opens the door for a 13-2 Kansas run, effectively putting the game away. The Bears keep it respectable down the stretch, but the Jayhawks are never really threatened after that.
Be sure to check both of these preview posts as well.
Even though Cal-Kansas matches the Pac 10 against the Big 12, that game isn't part of the Hardwood Series between the two leagues. However, 19th-ranked Texas A&M's visit to 22nd-ranked Washington serves as the event's final game. The Big 12 has already claimed the series, nine games to two.
The Huskies are responsible for one of those nine Pac 10 losses, as they fell in their first game in the Series, a 99-92 overtime loss to then-unranked Texas Tech back on December 3. Our Washington blog, UW Dawg Pound, says there's nothing complicated about what the Huskies' need to do to avoid going winless in the Series.
The formula for the Huskies needs to stay like it was against Portland: play defense and take care of the ball.
You will be able to find plenty of discussion about all three of these contests on SB Nation.
No. 2 Texas 79, No. 9 Michigan State 66
The Longhorns knocked off their second straight top 10 team.
Spartan game preview and discussion at The Only Colors
Longhorn game preview and discussion at Burnt Orange Nation
No. 1 Kansas 84, California 69
Our bloggers were right, Cal put up a fight for 30 minutes or so, but Kansas still won big.
Golden Bear game preview and discussion at California Golden Blogs
Jayhawk game preview and discussion at Rock Chalk Talk
For more on today's other action, including the quarterfinals of the Diamond Head Classic, which start at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU, visit Blogging the Bracket.