SEC West hopefuls already in terrible position (cont.)
Locks: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut
The league has five teams ranked in the top 10. Monday's UConn-Pitt clash in Pittsburgh is a great way to kick off the conference season and is a nice soundcheck for both teams.
SHOULD BE IN
West Virginia (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 4, SOS: 6)
The Mountaineers didn't play last week and won't before Wednesday's league opener with St. John's. The next three after that are on the road, so performance and computer profile will start to converge one way or the other.
GW: Vanderbilt, Cleveland State
BL: at Miami?
Notre Dame (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 38, SOS: 145)
The Irish have a brutal start to Big East play, hosting Georgetown and UConn around a trip to Syracuse. The fun begins Wednesday night. The Irish already have several quality wins and the lone loss was in Louisville to Kentucky.
GW: Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Georgia
Louisville (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 31, SOS: 89)
The Cardinals finally ventured out and crushed Western Kentucky on the road. They have a game with Morgan State tonight before the annual brawl with Kentucky, this one in the KFC Yum! Center.
GW: Butler, UNLV
IN THE MIX
Cincinnati (12-0, 0-0; RPI: 94; SOS: 339)
The Bearcats remained unbeaten with two more lopsided wins over inferior foes. Now they have very winnable league home games against DePaul and Seton Hall before hosting Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout. The record is great. The strength of schedule is not.
Marquette (9-3, 0-0; RPI: 168; SOS: 276)
Team Bubble Watch has a big week, first at Vandy and then at home against West Virginia in the Big East opener. Marquette needs some quality wins. As the computer numbers show, the Golden Eagles have dropped all three of their good-win opportunities so far, even while playing well.
Providence (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 54, SOS: 155)
The Friars' front part of the Big East schedule is very difficult, which will provide them with opportunities to boost a negligible profile. The fun starts at Syracuse on Tuesday.
BL: La Salle (N)?
St. John's (7-3, 0-0; RPI: 24, SOS: 19)
The Red Storm took out Davidson and Northwestern to win the Holiday Festival and make an appearance on this list. Their next 10 games are brutal. They face seven ranked opponents and that doesn't even include this Wednesday's trip to Morgantown.
GW: Northwestern, Arizona State (N)?
BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Seton Hall (6-6, 0-0; RPI: 144, SOS: 102)
After losing at home to Dayton and Richmond, the Pirates are solely here because leading scorer Jeremy Hazell has been out for the last nine games. Unfortunately, Hazell was shot four times during a robbery at his family's home, so his return at this point is unknown.
BL: at Arkansas
Locks: Ohio State
Much like in the ACC and Big 12, the race for second place in this league could go a number of ways. The Big Ten much more closely resembles the Big 12 in overall quality, though, which should result in solid NCAA seeding for a number of teams.
SHOULD BE IN
Illinois (10-3, 0-0; RPI: 50, SOS: 67)
The Illini lost a wild Braggin' Rights showdown with rival Missouri, but have a favorable opening part of the Big Ten in which to get well. Road games at league minnows Iowa and Penn State are sandwiched around visits from Wisconsin and Northwestern.
GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N)
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N)
Purdue (11-1, 0-0; RPI: 27, SOS: 123)
Purdue heads into a soft first four games in league play, a nice break with John Hart's injury. The second half of January will provide the testing ground to see whether the Boilers' improving offensive numbers and staunch defensive efficiency can hold up.
GW: at Virginia Tech
Minnesota (11-1, 0-0; RPI: 23, SOS: 70)
Here we go. Three of the Golden Gophers' first four league games are on the road at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Don't bail on this team if it gets off to a slow league start. The quality of the efforts will be just as telling.
GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)
Wisconsin (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 42, SOS: 113)
The Badgers' opening Big Ten schedule is stiff, including a home game with Illinois and a trip to Michigan State. Of their first seven games against ranked teams, though, five are at home, where the Badgers are almost impossible to beat. The fun starts Tuesday vs. Minnesota.
GW: at Marquette, NC State?
Michigan State (7-4, 0-0, RPI: 76, SOS: 45)
It's time to edge closer to the alarm bell after the Spartans were bullied around the Breslin Center by Texas. They don't have any bad losses, but they're adding up and exposing some worrisome weaknesses. A date with physical Minnesota on New Year's Eve is up next.
GW: Washington (N)
IN THE MIX
Northwestern (9-1, 0-0; RPI: 53, SOS: 229)
Unless you count a rout of Georgia Tech, the Wildcats failed their first real test of the season in the Holiday Festival final at St. John's. That effort wasn't a good omen for the league-opening run at Purdue, vs. Michigan State and at Illinois.
Michigan (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 78, SOS: 187)
This is about the time in every John Beilein tenure where things click. Will that be the case with Michigan? Four of the next five are at home, including dates with Purdue, Kansas and Ohio State, so the opportunities are there.
GW: at Clemson
BL: UTEP (N)?
Happy time! Thursday/Saturday Pac-10 weekends are back! And the league is surging, which should make things even more fun. Washington and Arizona still feel like the best teams, but after a couple of weekends of head-to-heads, we'll find out a lot more about the pursuers.
SHOULD BE IN
Washington (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 62, SOS: 64)
After pounding Nevada, the Huskies' Pac-10 fun starts this week with a trip to the L.A. schools -- a trip on which UW has lost seven of eight games over the last four seasons. With USC's and UCLA's recently improved play, this is a nice season-opening check on Washington's level, as the Huskies haven't really done anything yet besides look pretty good in some losses.
Arizona (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 43, SOS: 107)
The Wildcats could be 5-0 in league play heading to Washington on Jan. 20, but first thing's first for the still-young team: taking care of business at the Oregon schools this week. Arizona has a chance to put some pressure on the Washington and L.A. schools with a good start.
GW: at NC State
IN THE MIX
Washington State (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 47; SOS: 163)
Despite having Butler put them away after halftime of the Diamond Head Classic, this was a solid moving week for the Cougars. Beating Baylor adds a second quality win to the dossier and both Gonzaga and Butler are surging, which makes both of those results look better. This week's league-opening trek to the L.A. schools is a very important one.
GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N)
USC (8-5, 0-0, RPI: 51, SOS: 27)
The Trojans had a rough time in an early-season tournament in Springfield, Mass., but have rebounded with strong wins over Texas and at Tennessee and almost took out Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Washington schools come calling this week to open league play.
GW: Texas, at Tennessee
BL: A handful to mediocre teams
California (6-5, 0-0; RPI: 34, SOS: 1)
The Bears' only game of the week was a scrappy loss to Kansas, one which gave them the nation's toughest schedule. There's a healthy number of losses already, though, which makes their opening three-game road swing in Pac-10 play pretty important.
GW: Temple (N), New Mexico?
UCLA (8-4, 0-0; RPI: 89, SOS: 65)
After four straight losses capped by a defeat at home to Montana, the Bruins have won five straight including a convincing win over BYU in Anaheim. They get a chance to keep the roll going this week against Washington and Washington State, two ostensible competitors for postseason positioning.
GW: BYU (N)
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