The ACC joins the conference play party today, as they are back in full effect. On New Year's Eve, there was much drama and surprise, but home teams prevailed for the most part. That trend should continue, with balance being exhibited in the major conferences thus far.
#7 Villanova (13-0) at Seton Hall (11-2) 12PM, Newark, NJ, FS1
Seton Hall got a big-time win versus St. John's on New Year's Eve without the services of Super Frosh, Isaiah Whitehead. They will be without Whitehead for at least another three conference games, so they have sent notice that they will be a tough out, regardless. Villanova is coming off a solid home win versus Butler, where the outcome was never really in doubt. Nova will look to stay undefeated by slowing down the Pirate backcourt and keeping the frisky Hall off the boards. Prediction: Villanova 73, Seton Hall 65.
#25 Baylor (11-1) at #13 Oklahoma (9-3) 4PM, Norman, OK, ESPN2
The Bears only have one loss this season, but the Sooners will present them with their toughest test by far, to date. Oklahoma is already battle tested, with losses to Wisconsin and Washington and a win over Butler. Both squads are stingy defensively, so this game will come down to whose offense steps up and makes shots. Prediction: Oklahoma 67, Baylor 60.
Butler (10-4) at #18 St. John's (10-2) 4PM, Jamaica, NY, CBSS
The Johnnies are coming off a somewhat shaky loss at Seton Hall, only in the sense that the Red Storm came out flat and seemingly overconfident. They do not have the depth nor size to fail to bring it every night. Butler lost at Villanova and were pretty much dominated in the effort. This is a big spot for both teams since neither wants to fall to 0-2 in the Big East. Look for a war in Queens between two contrasting styles. Prediction: St. John's 63, Butler 61.
#22 West Virginia (12-1) at TCU (13-0) 4PM, Fort Worth, TX
The presumptive best conference in America presents a nice opening match-up between two upstarts eager to prove themselves. The Mountaineers and Bob Huggins have been there before. TCU, not so much. West Virginia has wins over UConn and NC State and they have blown out inferior competition. The undefeated Horned frogs are yes, undefeated, but their best win was at Ole Miss. Regardless, Trent Johnson has them playing stout defensively. Prediction: West Virginia 68, TCU 63.
#3 Virginia (12-0) at Miami (10-3) 5:30PM, Coral Gables, FL, ESPN2
The Hurricanes started of with a perceived bang, but that seems so irrelevant and distant now. After losses to Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky, the Canes didn't look bad in a loss to Providence in Brooklyn. However, Virginia is a different beast. You need to be tough and disciplined to beat the Cavs, something Miami has yet to prove they are. Prediction: Virginia 69, Miami 62
Other games of note...
SMU (9-3) at Cincinnati (9-3) 11AM, Cincinnati, OH, ESPN2
Minnesota (10-3) at #15 Maryland (13-1) 12PM, College Park, MD, BTN
Pittsburgh (9-3) at NC State (10-4) 12PM, Raleigh, NC, ESPN3
#10 Texas (11-2) at Texas Tech (10-3) 2PM, Lubbock, TX, ESPNU
Connecticut (6-5) at Florida (7-5) 2PM, Gainesville, FL, CBS
Georgia Tech (9-3) at #14 Notre Dame (13-1) 2:30PM, South Bend, IN, ESPN3
Illinois (10-4) at #17 Ohio State (11-3) 3:30PM, Columbus, OH, ESPNU
Creighton (9-5) at Georgetown (8-4) 4:30PM, Washington, DC, FS1
South Carolina (7-3) vs. #9 Iowa State (10-1) 6PM, Brooklyn, NY, CBSS
#24 Colorado State (13-0) at New Mexico (9-4) 8PM, Albuquerque, NM, CBSS
Other Top 25 games...
Boston College (7-4) at #2 Duke (12-0) 4PM, Durham, NC, ESPN3
#12 North Carolina (10-3) at Clemson (8-4) 8:15PM, Clemson, SC, ESPN
#6 Gonzaga (12-1) at Portland (8-4) 9:30PM, Portland, OR, ESPN2