The first day of the season college basketball has to itself out from under the shadow of its football counterpart is Tuesday, and stationing yourself in front of your television is advised. A handful of ranked games will be played on national television, including three featuring high-profile undefeated teams.
The headliner Tuesday is the Big Ten showdown between the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 5 Michigan State Spartans on ESPN and WatchESPN at 9 p.m. ET. The Spartans have only lost one Big Ten home game each of the last two seasons, and their home conference debut is a doozy against the team with the stingiest defense in the country, and the one that KenPom.com's team ratings recently bumped into the top overall spot, overtaking the Louisville Cardinals.
Ohio State wasn't perfect in its Big Ten opener, a 78-69 road win over Purdue on New Year's Eve, but it returned to form with a dominating 84-53 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday. The Buckeyes have looked great in their 15-game win streak to start the season, but the Michigan State game begins a vital three-game stretch in which they'll play their toughest competition of the year to date: on the road against the Spartans, at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes, and back on the road to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Tom Izzo's Michigan State teams historically have thrived on the offensive glass, though this year's team has not been great to date. The Spartans rank 115th in Division I with a 33.6 offensive rebounding percentage (the amount of available offensive rebounds a team grabs). Of all the Buckeyes' elite defensive statistics, one weakness is their 30.3 offensive rebound allowed percentage, No. 125 in Division I. If they don't allow anything else, perhaps a strong showing on the offensive glass for Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and the rest of the Spartans would be one path to handing Ohio State its first loss of the year.
And now for the rest of the big games Tuesday:
No. 7 Baylor Bears at No. 9 Iowa State Cyclones, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN: The Cyclones are still one of six undefeated teams in Division I, and among their 13 wins to date are big ones against the Michigan Wolverines and the Iowa Hawkeyes, both at home. Baylor will be the best team the Cyclones have played this season, but it bodes well for Fred Hoiberg's team that Tuesday's game is at the Hilton Coliseum. The Bears will be a tough matchup for Iowa State, though. The Cyclones' offense scores a lot for two reasons: They take (and make) a lot of threes, and they shoot 44.7 percent on the two-point jumpers they take, which is No. 4 in Division I, according to hoop-math.com. Baylor's length inside—think Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin—could challenge Iowa State's twos in a way that hasn't been challenged this season and force the Cyclones outside.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at No. 16 Duke Blue Devils, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN: Duke dropped its ACC opener Saturday in a surprising 79-77 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in which Jabari Parker finished 2-of-10 from the field, scored seven points and watched from the bench in the final few minutes as Notre Dame completed its comeback from down 10 with about 11 minutes to play. Also, this happened at his expense (and, to be fair, at the expense of the unidentifiable Duke player who tripped running through a screen at the top of the key):
But Duke returns home against a Georgia Tech team that has done little of note this season. Watch because Parker could bounce back and do something extra Parkerian; don't watch because you think Duke could lose two in a row.
No. 2 Syracuse Orange at Virginia Tech Hokies, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN3: Syracuse was down six, a putrid 35-29, with under 12 minutes to play Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes, but they rallied—"rallied" in a relative sense to a game with 93 combined points—to top the Hurricanes 49-44 and stay undefeated. That surprisingly happened in the friendly corridors of the Carrier Dome, where Syracuse resumes ACC play Tuesday night against Virginia Tech. The Hokies are only two games removed from a 55-52 home loss to UNC Greensboro, the team ranked No. 305 out of 351 Division I teams in KenPom.com's team ratings. But hey, Virginia Tech beat Miami, too: a 61-60 overtime win at Miami, an ACC game randomly contested Dec. 8 nearly a month before the Hokies' next conference game.