|This story originally published on FrankHoops.com|
Two of the nation's three unbeaten teams remained 1-2 in the latest Scout.com Top 25, while the third continued to move forward in the ratings, courtesy a key Big East Conference road victory.
Duke and Florida improved to 16-0 last week but each faces a potential pothole on the road to remaining unbeaten this week, the Blue Devils with a home Atlantic Coast Conference game against No. 11 North Carolina State Wednesday night (along with a non-conference tilt at Georgetown Saturday), and the Gators with a Southeastern Conference clash at Tennessee Saturday.
Pittsburgh improved to 14-0 (and 3-0 in the Big East) with the Panthers' 61-57 win in Freedom Hall against Louisville Sunday afternoon, moving to No. 13 – up five spots from last week.
Here is a look at some of this week's best matchups, as well as the five Scout.com Players of the Week and the updated Scout.com Top 25:
Connecticut at Syracuse: This is a "Big Monday" game in every sense. The Orange are coming off road victories against Notre Dame and Cincinnati that pacified any doubters because of their less-than-imposing non-conference schedule. With Marcus Williams still getting acclimated and Rudy Gay and Josh Boone playing somewhat short of expectations, the Huskies fit into the "work in progress" category.
Southern Illinois at Northern Iowa: The 6-0 Salukis face their stiffest Missouri Valley Conference yet this season. These two, along with Creighton, Missouri and Wichita State, could all be clamoring for at-large bids if they don't win the MVC tournament.
Kansas at Missouri: These Big 12 rivals are coming off losses at home Saturday, the Jayhawks to Kansas State and the Tigers to Colorado.
Illinois at Indiana: One is tempted to call this an intriguing Big Ten Conference matchup – but they all can pretty much be called that.
Texas Tech at Texas: The Red Raiders are sans a victory to build an NCAA Tournament at-large bid resume around. This would do the trick.
Ohio at Northern Illinois: If you're looking for a Mid-American Conference game to track this week, this fits the bill.
Kentucky at Georgia: The Wildcats take a three-game losing streak into this Southeastern Conference road game. Their offense has struggled much of the season. In the home loss to Alabama Saturday, so did their defense (the Crimson Tide shot .526 from the field).
North Carolina State at Duke: The best team in the ACC – and the country – plays host to the squad that is shaping up to be its most formidable competition for a conference championship.
Tennessee at Memphis: This one gets anointed "the game most likely to be the most entertaining of the week". This game will be played at a very quick tempo – and then some.
Wisconsin at Ohio State: This is just another of those Big Ten matchups pitting teams capable of getting to the Sweet 16 – or beyond – in the NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati at Xavier: After reeling off 10 wins in a row, the Bearcats dropped Big East decisions to Connecticut and Syracuse. Things aren't going to get any easier when they go cross-town to take on what might be the best team in the Atlantic 10 Conference right now.
Stanford at Arizona: Prior to the season, this projected as a potential Pac 10-showdown between Top 10-ranked teams. The "Pac-10 showdown'' part of the projection still holds true, at least. The Cardinal seems to have regrouped, with three consecutive wins after a miserable preseason and 0-2 conference start. The Wildcats (3-3 in conference) are struggling.
Utah at Air Force: Last season's Mountain West Conference best team (OK, minus a few key players, including Andrew Bogut), travels to Colorado Springs to take on this season's MWC best.
Florida at Tennessee: If you're thinking this is probably where the Gators fall from the ranks of the unbeaten . . . you're probably right.
West Virginia at UCLA: The nation's most explosive offensive team travels West to put its wares on display in Pauley Pavilion in front of the man (John R. Wooden) who coached some pretty explosive offensive teams himself over a couple of decades in Westwood.
Iowa at Michigan State: The Spartans have been through some Big Ten challenges (at Illinois and Wisconsin, home to Indiana and at Ohio State) but Tom Izzo has no illusions about anything every getting any "easier" in this conference.
George Washington at Charlotte: The 49ers lost at home to one Atlantic 10 Conference championship contender (Xavier) and can't afford to do it again if they want to stay in solid contention themselves.
Players of the Week
(Jan. 8-14 games)
Lamarcus Aldridge (6-10, So., Texas): He scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with three steals and three blocked shots in the 78-58 Big 12 victory at Iowa State on Jan. 9. Saturday, in a non-conference game in Austin, the Longhorns handed Villanova its second loss, 58-55, as Aldridge had 19 points, five rebounds, two steals and five blocked shots.
For the season: 17.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game.
Gerry McNamara (6-2, Sr., Syracuse): He sparked the Orange to a couple of road Big East victories, scoring 25 points (seven of 16 on 3's) with four assists vs. Notre Dame (88-82) and adding 29 points (five of nine on 3's) with four rebounds and six assists vs. Cincinnati (77-58).
For the season: 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Kevin Pittsnogle (6-11, Sr., West Virginia): The Mountaineers went 3-0 in Big East competition, in large part due to Pittsnogle, who had 22 points and five rebounds as they handed Villanova its first loss (91-87); 23 points and nine rebounds against Georgetown (68-61); and 30 points and three rebounds against Marquette (104-85).
For the season: 20.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and .482 on 3's.
Brian Thornton (6-8, Sr., Xavier): The Musketeers had a huge Atlantic 10 victory (78-65) at Charlotte Saturday, with Thornton (16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots leading the way). In a non-conference win (82-63, over Eastern Kentucky) earlier in the week he had 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
For the season: 15.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 blocked shots per game.
Alando Tucker (6-5, Jr., Wisconsin): Tucker helped the Badgers go 3-0 in Big Ten play last week, with 17 points and six rebounds against Michigan State (82-63), 22 points, 10 rebounds and two assists at Minnesota (64-62) and 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals against Northwestern (68-52).
For the season: 19.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
Scout.com's updated Top 25
(records include games of Jan. 15; last week's ratings in parentheses)
1. (1) Duke (16-0) Next game: vs. North Carolina State (Wednesday)
2. (2) Florida (16-0) Next game: vs. Savanna State (Wednesday)
3. (5) Illinois (16-1) Next game: at Indiana (Tuesday)
4. (6) Connecticut (14-1) Next game: at Syracuse (Monday)
5. (7) Memphis (15-2) Next game: vs. Tennessee (Wednesday)
6. (8) Gonzaga (13-3) Next game: vs. Loyola Marymount (Monday)
7. (10) Wisconsin (14-2) Next game: at Ohio State (Wednesday)
8. (11) Texas (14-2) Next game: vs. Texas Tech (Tuesday)
9. (3) Villanova (11-2) Next game: vs. Seton Hall (Tuesday)
10. (4) Ohio State (12-2) Next game: vs. Wisconsin (Wednesday)
11. (12) North Carolina State (14-2) Next game: at Duke (Wednesday)
12. (16) Washington (14-2) Next game: vs. Oregon State (Thursday)
13. (18) Pittsburgh (14-0) Next game: at Rutgers (Wednesday)
14. (19) George Washington (12-1) Next game: vs. Stony Brook (Monday)
15. (20) West Virginia (12-3) Next game: vs. Providence (Tuesday)
16. (21) Michigan State (14-4) Next game: vs. Iowa (Saturday)
17. (13) UCLA (14-3) Next game: vs. USC (Wednesday)
18. (9) Indiana (10-3) Next game: vs. Illinois (Tuesday)
19. (25) Iowa (13-4) Next game: vs. Minnesota (Wednesday)
20. (ur) Syracuse (15-2) Next game: vs. Connecticut (Monday)
21. (ur) Xavier (11-2) Next game: vs. Cincinnati (Thursday)
22. (22) Air Force (15-2) Next game: vs. Utah (Thursday)
23. (17) Cincinnati (13-4) Next game: at Xavier (Thursday)
24. (14) North Carolina (10-3) Next game: at Virginia (Thursday)
25. (ur) Southern Illinois (13-3) Next game: at Northern Iowa (Monday)
Dropped out: Arizona (15), Maryland (23) and Boston College (24)
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach, Calif. Press-Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com.