Finals are over and college campuses are empty. The holiday break is upon us. And the basketball world is about to take a breather before the start of the new year, when conference play begins in earnest across the land.
There are just 26 games involving ranked teams over the next week, several schools in the Top 25 won’t play at all, and there is just one matching between two teams in this week’s poll — sixth-ranked Virginia heading to No. 22 Miami for an important early season game in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
So there’s nothing worth watching in college hoops this week? Not exactly.
There are five unbeatens left in men’s Division I basketball and all of them will be trying to stay that way. Newly minted No. 2 UConn plays Georgetown while No. 15 Mississippi State faces Drake in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Tuesday night; No. 1 Purdue plays New Orleans on Wednesday night in its lone game this week; Utah State faced Weber State on Monday night and gets Seattle on Thursday night; and New Mexico faces Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night.
“Sitting here at 11-0, I thought we would be improved, but probably not sitting here like this,” said second-year Lobos coach Richard Pitino, whose team beat his father Rick Pitino’s Iona team over the weekend but remains unranked in the AP poll.
So does Utah State, which plays the Lobos on Feb. 2 in Mountain West play.
The voters have certainly taken notice of UConn, though. The Huskies have yet to win a game by fewer than 10 points this season, and that includes wins over No. 9 Alabama, Iowa State and Oregon on neutral floors.
As for the Boilermakers, who maintained their grip on No. 1 on Monday, their game against New Orleans and another next week against Florida A&M provide an opportunity to freshen up before returning to Big Ten play in January.
Mississippi State, led by first-year coach Chris Jans, hasn’t faced the same level of competition this season, though it does own an impressive win over No. 24 Marquette. But that’s about change after the Bulldogs face Drake: They open SEC play with back-to-back games against ninth-ranked Alabama and eighth-ranked Tennessee.
The biggest showdown this week comes in the ACC on Tuesday night, when the No. 6 Cavaliers visit No. 22 Miami in a game between two teams that picked league wins among their nonconference schedules. The Hurricanes already beat North Carolina State and lowly Louisville while Virginia has a win over Florida State.
Also in the ACC, No. 14 Duke visits Wake Forest on Tuesday and No. 21 Virginia Tech visits Boston College on Wednesday.
In the Big East, along with the Huskies getting a visit from Georgetown, Marquette puts its new ranking on the line at Providence on Tuesday night. The Golden Eagles have won three straight and six of their last seven.
The most noteworthy rivalry game happens Thursday night in St. Louis, when No. 16 Illinois plays Missouri in their annual showdown. The Illini have played a brutal schedule with wins over UCLA and Texas along with losses to Virginia, Maryland and Penn State, while the Tigers have lost just once — a blowout in another rivalry game against Kansas.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25