Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday, Jan. 16:
Games of the night
Auburn at Alabama (7 p.m., ET, SEC Network)
Crazy to think this rivalry game will affect first-place in the SEC. But it does. An Alabama win and the Tide are one game back of the undefeated Tigers for first (along with Florida if the Gators win). Alabama can still make a play for the title, despite dealing with a slew of injuries throughout the season. Auburn has defended extremely well this season, but will have its toughest test when it has to lock in on Tide freshman Collin Sexton. Football is over. The Tide won the title in thrilling fashion. It would be great to see a crazed atmosphere in Tuscaloosa to watch one of the most entertaining players in the country.
Alabama has played through a lot of adversity!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 17, 2018
Seton Hall at Creighton (8:30 p.m., ET, FS1)
Seriously, how can you not love this conference’s top eight teams? The parallel with the Big 12 is so close. It just seems like each night of conference play there is a game with significant meaning between two teams near the top that will be in the NCAA tournament. Creighton has one of the best homecourts in the country. They shoot the ball well. They’ve got plenty of offensive options, led by Marcus Foster. The Pirates can play D and have a 1-2 punch with Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado that is tough to beat.
Arkansas at Florida (7 p.m., ET, ESPN2)
The Hogs desperately need a quality road win. Yes, they have a strong RPI of 18 and two wins in quadrant 1. But none of them are on the road. The one win away from Arkansas in this quadrant was on a neutral court against Oklahoma. And that’s great. But getting one in the SEC would certainly help. Meanwhile, the Gators are sitting fine in quadrant 1 with a 3-2 mark and most importantly just one loss in the SEC. But the perimeter shooting has to be better. Florida made 10 3s in a loss at Ole Miss, but the Gators took 29. Florida has the guards, especially Chris Chiozza, to handle Arkansas’ pressure. But they will have to deal with plenty of contested shots.
Villanova at Georgetown (6:30 p.m., ET, FS1)
Look, the Hoyas are in the rebuilding mode under Patrick Ewing. But this is still Nova-Hoyas and it always has the chance to bring us back. Seeing Ewing representing Georgetown against Villanova isn’t going to produce an epic, thrilling game. But the nostalgia alone is great for the Big East. The Wildcats have another road week with a road game at UConn to follow Saturday. But there is no reason to think — at this juncture — we could see a court storming of the No. 1 team.
New powers on display
Texas Tech at Texas (8 p.m., ET, LHN)
Kansas’ win at West Virginia was the one the Red Raiders needed to thrust them into a first-place tie in the loss column with the Jayhawks. Texas Tech already has the win at Kansas and gets the Jayhawks back in Lubbock. The Longhorns are hoping for consistency and can use as many quality wins as they can get — especially at home. Still hard to get used to Texas Tech being a Big 12 elite, but this team doesn’t show any signs of fading this season. And their style has translated well on the road. They defend.
SMU at Wichita State (7 p.m., ET, ESPNU)
The Mustangs slide into Wichita losing three in a row. It’s likely going to be four. That’s hardly a good look for a team hoping to be back in the NCAA tournament. The Shockers have done what was expected in the American — dominated. This could eventually become a rivalry in the league, but it will not equal what should be The Rivalry in the AAC between Wichita State and Cincinnati.
Ohio State at Northwestern (9 p.m., ET, BTN)
I wasn’t ready to give up on the Wildcats’ chances for the NCAA tournament — before the blowout loss at Indiana. Now? Northwestern has to go on a run that would take them from a 2-4 team to something in the 12-6 range. Flip that script and the Wildcats could be back. But the clock is ticking. The chances for a quadrant-change win are fading, especially since the Big Ten only has a handful of those (as in four teams). Ohio State is one of them with the Buckeyes in step with Purdue as the only two teams still undefeated in the league.
Arizona State at Stanford (11 p.m., ET, Pac-12)
Standings don’t matter to the selection committee. Every team is judged on its own merit and schedule. ASU has two of the best wins, over Xavier on a neutral court and at Kansas. But the Sun Devils aren’t helping their case with a 2-3 Pac-12 record. Stanford, meanwhile, is 4-1 and tied with Arizona atop the standings. The Sun Devils need to get back to finding consistency, notably on the defensive end. This is a huge weekend for ASU in the Bay Area if the Sun Devils want to stay in the race.