The game between #17 Indiana and #25 Wisconsin proved to be every bit as competitive as expected with the largest margin either team held being seven points with two seconds remaining. In the end it was the little things that made the difference in the Badgers' 57-50 victory, as Bo Ryan's team shot 12-for-12 from the foul line in the second half and grabbed the final seven rebounds of the game. That rebound stretch was over the final 3:38 of the contest, with their offensive rebounds leading to four of their nine second-chance points.
After dropping three straight Big Ten games #25 Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3) has won four straight games, but they face quite the challenge at the Kohl Center as #17 Indiana (16-4, 4-4) visits in a pivotal Big Ten battle. The leaders in the conference (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) are all 6-2, meaning that the Hoosiers can ill-afford to fall three games back in the loss column if they're to remain a factor in the title race.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (15-5, 4-1 ACC) AT NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA (16-3, 3-1 ACC)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN
Remember the concerns late in non-conference play that Vanderbilt was destined to be one of the country's biggest busts? Don't look now but Kevin Stallings' Commodores won their eighth straight game on Thursday night, beating Alabama 69-59 in Tuscaloosa to remain tied atop the SEC with Kentucky (4-0). Alabama shot 26.5% from the field in the first half and trailed 26-19 at the half, and a 17-4 run over a five-minute stretch pushed the Vanderbilt lead out to 23 points at 58-35 with 8:12 remaining.
With the SEC making the move away from two divisions, games such as the one between Vanderbilt (13-4, 3-0) and Alabama (13-4, 2-1) take on added importance in the race for one of those four first-round byes in the SEC Tournament. And while both teams presently have the look of NCAA Tournament clubs, there's nothing wrong with picking up another resume-building result.
There weren't many opportunities to watch ranked teams play each other (there was just one, which is discussed below), but Saturday's slate provided many teams the chance to improve their resumes. Florida State and Northwestern took full advantage of their opportunities as they both knocked off Top 10 opponents at home, albeit in different ways.
The Mountain West, similar to the Ivy League and Great West, had to start conference play later than other conferences due to the fact that they've got just eight members. Saturday marks the beginning of conference play and there are two key games to keep an eye on, most notably #22 San Diego State (14-2) hosting #12 UNLV (16-2) in the day's lone matchup of ranked teams.
NO. 3 NORTH CAROLINA (15-2, 2-0 ACC) AT FLORIDA STATE (10-6, 1-1 ACC)
Time/TV: 2 p.m./ESPN
With conference play beginning for many leagues this week (a few conferences began their league slate in early December) it's a good time to look back on some of the top performers. Enter CHN writer Jon Teitel, who put together his all-conference teams for each of the leagues.
In each of North Carolina's last two games sophomore forward Harrison Barnes shot 4-for-12 from the field and scored nine points. Some may have been concerned given the fact that those performances came against Appalachian State and Nicholls State, ignoring the fact that the Tar Heels still managed to win both games by comfortable margins. Barnes is fine, as he showed in North Carolina's 82-63 win over Texas by scoring a season-high 26 points and grabbing ten rebounds in just 25 minutes of action.