The first week of February is upon us. In the college basketball world, that can only mean conference races around the country are only going to heat up that much more. Here are the key games to keep an eye on this week.
Monday, Feb. 3
Xavier at Villanova
FOX Sports 1; 7 p.m. ET
Villanova is quietly lurking in the top-10 and needs to continue playing well in the final month of the season to lock down a No. 2 or No. 3 seed come March. Xavier, on the other hand, has done enough up until now to reach the Big Dance, but a road win on Monday night would do wonders for their résumé. If the Musketeers want to have any chance in this one, they will need to slow down James Bell. Bell is Villanova's leading scorer and has been on quite the roll lately, averaging 20 points over his last five games.
Iowa State at Oklahoma State
ESPN; 9 p.m. ET
After some really promising starts to the year, Iowa State and Oklahoma State meet on Monday night heading in the wrong direction. The Cyclones have dropped four of their last six games, though they did bounce back nicely over the weekend against Oklahoma. The Cowboys inexplicably lost at home to Baylor on Saturday afternoon and are just 1-3 over their last four games. Both teams come in with 4-4 records against Big 12 foes.
Tuesday, Feb. 4
Missouri at Florida
ESPN; 9 p.m. ET
In the blink of an eye, the Florida Gators have moved into the top-three and seem to get a little better every time they take the floor. On Tuesday night, UF will welcome in the Missouri Tigers for what will be one of their tougher SEC games of the year. The Tigers are coming off a tough loss to Kentucky over the weekend and are squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. A road win would be huge for their postseason résumé.
The other key storyline in this one is the debut of freshman Chris Walker. The NCAA finally cleared Walker to play last week, and all eyes will be on him as he gets his first taste of the college game in a big time atmosphere.
Wednesday, Feb. 5
Wichita State at Indiana State
ESPN3; 8 p.m. ET
With a perfect record of 23-0, Wichita State is one of just two teams left in college hoops without a loss. This may be the biggest test remaining on the schedule. Indiana State is 17-5 on the year and 8-2 against the Missouri Valley Conference.
Even with their unblemished record, many feel Wichita State still has to win games like this if they want to earn a top seed in March. Their best win at the moment is over St. Louis, and while knocking off ISU won't exactly grab national headlines, it will still serve as another quality win to add to their résumé.
Thursday, Feb, 6
Oregon at Arizona
ESPN; 9 p.m. ET
This will be the first game for the Wildcats after losing for the first time all year last weekend. It will also be their first game without Brandon Ashley, who broke in foot in that same game over the weekend. For a team that many had as the favorites to win the national title just a few days ago, how will they respond to adversity for the first time?
Oregon comes in as a team in search of answers. After starting the season 12-0, the Ducks have dropped six of their last nine games. They are squarely on the bubble right now and will need to turn things around in a hurry if they hope to go dancing this March.
Bill Walton will be on the call for this one.
Saturday, Feb. 8
Michigan at Iowa
ESPN; 2 p.m. ET
On a Saturday with a pretty weak slate of games, this one is the clear-cut choice for the top matchup. Both teams can really shoot the ball and like to push the tempo, so there should be no shortage of offense in this one.
Assuming they guard each other, the one-on-one battle between Nik Stauskas and Roy Devyn Marble could be a ton of fun to watch. Both players are among the top scorers in the conference, and neither exactly shies away from taking big shots down the stretch. If the game is close in the closing minutes (and it likely will be), we all know who will have the ball in their hands.
Gonzaga at Memphis
ESPN; 9 p.m. ET
It's rare to get a non-conference tilt this good late in the season, and that's probably why Josh Pastner and Mark Few set it up this way.
Gonzaga enters with an impressive 21-3 record, though they really haven't played anyone all year. That will change as they head into what will be a rowdy FedExForum in primetime. Memphis, on the other hand, has struggled to play consistently on both ends of the floor all season long, and the matchup with the Zags will kick off a pretty tough nine-game stretch to close out the season that includes a home matchup with Louisville and road trip to Cincinnati. Josh Pastner's team has plenty of talent, but staying focused for a full 40 minutes has been an issue.
Sunday, Feb. 9
Michigan State at Wisconsin
CBS; 1 p.m. ET
In what may just be the best game of the week, the Spartans will head to the Kohl Center on Sunday afternoon to take on the struggling Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers have dropped three in a row at home for the first time in the Bo Ryan era, and a team that looked to be a top-four seed a couple weeks ago is suddenly searching for answers. A win over a battered Michigan State team would go a long way for their résumé come Selection Sunday. MSU has the talent to beat anyone in the country, but injuries and a couple of off-court issues have really held Tom Izzo's squad back this year. Gary Harris will need to come up big if the Spartans hope to win on the road.