The Friday night schedule may be light in quantity but it certainly doesn't lack for quality, with a pair of Top 20 matchups in the HTC Big East/SEC Invitational. #9 Florida (5-1) visits #3 Syracuse (7-0) in a game that promises to be played at a fast tempo, and given the offensive weapons that will be on display it should be high-scoring as well. This is the Gators' second true road game against a Top 5 opponent this season, as they fell at Ohio State in mid-November, which should pay off for this group when the stakes get raised in SEC play.
With the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on deck for Tuesday and Wednesday, it would be easy to think that the only matchups between ranked teams early in the week can be found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not so thanks to the matchup between #12 Xavier (4-0) and #22 Vanderbilt (5-1)in Nashville, but while Memorial Gym is always a tough place to play the Commodores have already lost at home once this season (Cleveland State).
In-season tournaments can be tricky to analyze when the dust settles. Sometimes the winning team can build on the experience and move on to bigger and better things, with last year's Connecticut team (Maui Invitational champs) being a prime example. Others, like Minnesota (last year's Puerto Rico Tip-Off champs) can temporarily hide flaws that get exposed later in the season. Essentially these early season results should be taken with a grain of salt, because while we see flashes of teams in reality it's a small sample size.
While college basketball will take a back seat to college football there are some attractive games on the schedule, led by a beat-up Louisville team visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on Butler. The Cardinals have already lost Wayne Blackshear (probably out until February) and Mike Marra (season), and there's the definite possiblity that Peyton Siva (ankle) could sit out as well. At the very least the point guard from Seattle will be limited in his mobility, and the lack of depth at the point could get Rick Pitino's team in trouble today.
Question: Outside of the generally accepted top four (UNC/UK/Ohio State/UConn) who do you think can win the national title?
Next up in the short series of looking ahead to next season is the Southwest region, where things essentially went haywire the first weekend. Advancing to San Antonio was the top seed Kansas and seeds 10 through 12, and when the dust settled VCU won the region. A number of teams have some important personnel issues to address, but the Jayhawks won't be the lone team expected to contend for their league title out of this region in 2011-12.