By Steve Silverman
Friday, January 26
Wisconsin (10-11, 3-5) at No. 6 Michigan State (18-3, 6-2), 8 p.m. ET, FS1
As of writing, the Spartans program is under scrutiny after an ESPN Outside The Lines report detailed “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department, whose top leader, Mark Hollis, announced his retirement on Friday.” In the report, ESPN details that several incidents involved members of the basketball program in years past. Check the link to the story above for more.
As for this season’s group, after a couple of nasty Big Ten losses to Ohio State and Michigan, the highly touted Spartans have played with much more of an edge in victories over Indiana and Illinois.
Instead of sitting back and playing a more passive style, Michigan State star Miles Bridges has played aggressively and averaged 26.5 points in his last two games. When the Spartans see their best player going after it in an all-out manner, they are going to follow him with that same kind of approach.
The Spartans have huge aspirations this season, and if they are going to make a run at the national championship this season, their run should begin now.
Bridges has a strong running mate in Jaren Jackson Jr., a versatile talent who can hit the three pointer and also attack the basket.
Those two will be tough for Wisconsin to defend. The Badgers have been struggling to find consistency this season, particularly on the road. They are coming off a brutal 85-67 loss at Iowa, and the Badgers have not shown the defensive consistency they have in previous seasons.
Bridges is leading the Spartans with an average of 17.2 points per game and he is also averaging 7.2 rebounds per night. Ethan Happ is Wisconsin’s go-to scorer, averaging a team-best 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Saturday, January 27
No. 2 Virginia (19-1, 8-0) at No. 4 Duke (18-2, 6-2), 2 p.m. ET, CBS
The Cavaliers are at the top of the ACC standings and have a two-game lead over the second-place Blue Devils, but this is a spot that seems made to order for head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team.
Any time the Blue Devils are playing at home against a top conference rival – and one that they are chasing — it seems certain that Duke is going to come up with a top effort at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s also a given that the Duke fans will be sure to give Virginia an extra-special welcome.
However, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are not going to fold, and Virginia’s constant is the hard-nosed defensed that is played in every game. If they can withstand a Due surge, they should be able to stay close throughout.
Virginia guard Kyle Guy is averaging a team-high 15.1 points per game, and fellow guard Devon Hall is averaging 12.7 points and shooting 48.3 percent from the field.
Freshman superstar Marvin Bagley III is averaging 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Devils, while senior guard Grayson Allen is scoring 15.2 points per game. Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. are right behind those with averages of 14.7 and 14.4 ppg, respectively.
Sunday, January 28
No. 1 Villanova (19-1, 6-1) at Marquette (13-7, 4-4), 1 p.m. ET, FOX
The Wildcats are rolling once again with six consecutive victories since they suffered a 101-93 loss to Butler. Head coach Jay Wright has his team back on track, but this visit to Milwaukee to take on the Golden Eagles represents one of the more difficult regular-season games on the schedule.
Not only will Villanova face a riled-up home team just itching for a major upset, the Wildcats will have to get the job done without Phil Booth. The 6-3 junior guard suffered a broken bone in his right hand Nova’s recent win over Providence, and it will be a challenge to play without him.
Villanova’s Jalen Brunson is one of the best leaders in the country, and he is averaging 18.8 ppg while shooting 56.2 percent from the field, while Mikal Bridges is scoring 16.7 points and collecting 6.2 rebounds per night.
Guards Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey are leading the way for Steve Wojciechowski’s Golden Eagles. Howard is averaging 22.1 points per night and shooting a remarkable .967 from the free-throw line. Rowsey is averaging 20.1 points, handing out 4.3 assists and shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. Rowsey is also an ace at the free-throw line, connecting on 90.2 percent of his shots.
Northern Iowa (11-10, 3-6) at Loyola-Chicago (17-4, 7-2), 4 p.m., ET, ESPNU
Most college fans don’t spend a lot of time paying attention to the Missouri Valley Conference until tournament time, but Loyola-Chicago is on top of that conference’s standings and it just may prove to be ready for prime time when it gets its opportunity.
The Ramblers once played a huge role in college basketball history, as that team won the 1963 NCAA championship. We are not suggesting that a repeat is conceivable, but head coach Porter Moser has a team that will battle for 40 minutes and usually figure out how to win.
The Ramblers have reeled off six straight victories and are have four players who average in double figures. Clayton Custer, a 6-1 guard, leads the way with an average of 12.9 points per game and he is also handing out 4.3 assists each night. Forward Aundre Jackson is averaging 11.9 points and shooting an impressive 59.1 percent from the field.
Northern Iowa was the favorite to win the MVC title at the start of the year, but head coach Ben Jacobson’s team has not played with consistency. This would be as good a spot as any to turn things around.
Big man Bennett Koch is averaging a team-high 12.7 points per game and connecting on 54.9 percent of his shots.