Today's Specials: Michigan, Michigan State to wage intrastate battle

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Keith Appling will have to come to play against Trey Burke and Michigan on Tuesday night. (US Presswire)

Monday was a light slate, but it had some headlines. Tuesday features two Top 25 matchups, including a battle between two top-eight teams from the Big Ten. It's an intrastate rivalry -- and a game that will help decide the Big Ten pecking order. Kentucky vs. Florida isn't bad, either.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 4 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State (9 p.m., ESPN). The Big Ten is really starting to heat up, with Michigan State winning three in a row to move into a tie for first place in the league. While Michigan might have the best overall profile in the country, the Wolverines have lost two of three and are one game out of first place. The battle at the point guard spot between Trey Burke and Keith Appling will be key, as will the rebounding matchups. Michigan State has a frontcourt playing better lately, and Michigan will need Jon Horford and Mitch McGary to play well inside.

Second-best game: No. 25 Kentucky at No. 7 Florida (7 p.m., ESPN). Well, well, well. Kentucky has suddenly won five in a row and is back in the Top 25. The Wildcats are playing arguably their best basketball of the season, and could really make a statement with a nice performance in Gainesville. Florida bounced back from its blowout loss to Arkansas with an easy win over Mississippi State, although the Gators will be without injured forward Will Yeguete for the next month or so. It will be key for Kentucky to take care of the ball, while Florida needs to keep the Wildcats out of transition.

Another one to watch: Villanova at Cincinnati (8 p.m., ESPN3). Both Big East teams need a win -- but for different reasons. Villanova is squarely on the bubble, despite its big wins over Syracuse and Louisville. However, the Wildcats have a few bad losses, and have four of the next six games on the road. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is dropping in the Big East pecking order after two losses in a row -- and a difficult schedule coming up. Villanova will have to keep Cincinnati off the glass, and stifle the guards.

Guaranteed win: After a travel nightmare, Stony Brook fell at Hartford over the weekend, losing its grip on first place in the America East. Tuesday night should be easier, as Binghamton comes to Long Island (7 p.m.). Binghamton has won two Division I games this season and has dropped 17 of its last 18 contests. It has played one road game to within 24 points in the last month. Stony Brook will bounce back.

Potential upset: The Horizon League is getting crowded at the top of the standings, but Valparaiso has a 1.5-game lead on Detroit and Wright State. On Tuesday, the Crusaders take a road trip to Wright State in a key tilt (7 p.m.). Valpo won the first meeting, by six points at home, and has won nine of its last 10 games. However, Wright State has won three in a row and knows how to knock down shots and force turnovers.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Virginia has become a major point of debate for bubble analysts, with its collection of good wins and terrible losses. The Cavaliers can't afford a slip-up against Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  2. Vermont took over first place in the America East over the weekend, but a loss to Boston University (7 p.m., ESPN3) could send the Catamounts right back down.
  3. Indiana State is another team making some bubble noise, but the Sycamores have to keep winning. They are on the road at Missouri State (8 p.m., ESPN3/Regional TV).

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello.

 
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