Thursday was a big night for the Virginia Cavaliers as they were looking for their first win at Duke since 1995, and a victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Devils would raise their ceiling even higher.
A review of the week that was in college basketball focusing on the best (and worst) performances. Check in every Monday morning for our weekly awards.
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
NORTH DAKOTA STATE (10-3, 3-1 Summit) AT ORAL ROBERTS (12-4, 4-0 Summit)
Time/TV: 8:05 p.m./FCS
Seton Hall's struggles with Connecticut in their series have been well-doucmented, as the Pirates went into Tuesday's meeting having lost eleve straight dating back to March 3, 2001. That matchup between eventual NIT teams went down to the wire as the Pirates won 65-63. There would be no such suspense in Seton Hall's first win over the Huskies since 2001, as they stormed back from an early 11-2 deficit to win 75-63 in a game that wasn't as close as the margin would lead one to believe.
Finals week for many schools is approaching its end, meaning that the matchups will get a little better with the best coming on Saturday. Thursday's game of import is Oral Roberts (7-3) visiting Gonzaga (5-2) in hopes of winning in front of one of the best student sections in the country. Thursday marks the 100th game that Gonzaga has played in the McCarthey Athletic Center and they've gone 92-7 in the 99 games prior, so winning will be a tough task for Dominique Morrison (16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and company.
The schedule for Thursday is light in terms of the number of games, but there's an excellent matchup between ranked teams in Storrs to keep an eye on. #9 Connecticut (7-1) hosts #24 Harvard (8-0) with Tommy Amaker's team looking to remain undefeated and retain the program's first Top 25 ranking in school history for another week. An interesting fact regarding this contest is that they could have played in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the Thanksgiving holiday, but UConn's loss to UCF prevented that and Harvard went on to win the tournament.
With the college basketball season finally on the horizon, the game that's been overlooked by many in conference realignment will once again have the center stage. Perennial contenders will once again make a run at a national title while some new faces will pop up as well. The first four-part preview will focus on the conferences, and more specifically who will win each of the 32 leagues. In the final part of this series, the final eight conference champions are selected.
(1) Alabama (25-12, 12-4 SEC)