Game of the night: No. 8 Minnesota at No. 12 Illinois (9 p.m., BTN)
With neutral court wins over Memphis and Stanford, a road rout of Florida State and home thumping of Michigan State, the Golden Gophers already own an impressive résumé. Minnesota can add to it over the next week, when the team gets put through the wringer in about the toughest eight-day stretch of basketball a school can play in conference. The Golden Gophers will open up a daunting three-game slate tonight in Champaign before a road date with No. 5 Indiana and home tilt against No. 2 Michigan await them next. Minnesota’s athletic guards will be put to the test against Illinois’ deep and talented backcourt, headlined by Brandon Paul. The Gophers will own a significant size and skill advantage inside, where Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams should have little resistance. Minnesota dealt Indiana its only home loss last season and gave a licking to Florida State earlier this season at a place where the Seminoles seldom lose, so winning on the road isn’t new to Tubby Smith’s crew.
MWC showdown: No. 24 UNLV at No. 25 New Mexico (10 p.m., CCS)
Mike Moser is back just in the nick of time for the Rebels. The star junior forward, who rushed back prematurely from an elbow injury in UNLV’s loss to North Carolina last month, returns to the court tonight as Mountain West Conference play tips off in grand style. A rusty Moser, however, figures to take a backseat to Rebels freshman sensation Anthony Bennett, who will butt heads with Tony Snell in the matchup to watch in Albuquerque. For New Mexico to protect its home floor, the Lobos will need a big game out of rising sophomore Alex Kirk, the dynamic stretch-5 who should present all kinds of matchup problems for a UNLV team readjusting on the fly. New Mexico took two of three from the Rebels last season, including the rubber match in the MWC tournament semis.
Upset alert: No. 3 Louisville at Seton Hall (7 p.m., ESPN2)
The Cardinals will be playing without Chane Behanan, who is out for the week nursing a high ankle sprain. Behanan’s absence should open the door for upset-minded Seton Hall, which gave Louisville a pair of scares last season—first at home in the Prudential Center and again in the Big East tournament. With Louisville’s depth compromised, look for budding star and freshman standout Montrezl Harrell to step in and Wayne Blackshear to get more burn in a more a perimeter-oriented look for the Cardinals. Seton Hall pivot Eugene Teague is off to a hot start to this season, thriving even against Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley. Wednesday’s matchup against Gorgui Dieng should be a great measuring stick as to how legitimate Teague is.
A-10 heavyweights collide: No. 14 Butler at Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m.)
Welcome to the A-10, Butler. The Bulldogs debut in their new conference tonight by getting a look at one of the league’s flagship programs. You wouldn’t know by looking at the respective records, résumés or records, but Saint Joseph’s, not Butler, was tabbed as the league’s preseason favorite while the Bulldogs were picked to finish sixth. Fast-forward a few months and the roles are tentatively reversed. Phil Martelli’s team has been a disappointment ever since its comeback, overtime win over Notre Dame in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The Hawks will be up for this game though for sure. In a matchup of slow-footed, but skilled frontcourts and trigger-happy guards, expect this game to go down to the wire.
Other Top 25 Action
- Nebraska at No. 2 Michigan (7 p.m., BTN)
- Iowa State at No. 6 Kansas (7 p.m., ESPNU)
- No. 7 Syracuse at Providence (7 p.m., ESPN3)
- George at No. 11 Florida (7 p.m., ESPN3)
- No. 16 San Diego State at Fresno State (11:30 p.m.)
- Georgia Tech at No. 20 North Carolina State (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- Southern Illinois at No. 23 Wichita State (8 p.m., ESPN3)
Notable High-Major Games
- Florida State at Maryland (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- Ole Miss at Tennessee (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- West Virginia at Texas (9 p.m., ESPN2)
- Washington at Cal (11 p.m., ESPN2)
Notable Mid-Major Games
- East Carolina at Memphis (8 p.m., Conference USA)
- Eastern Kentucky at Murray State (8 p.m., Ohio Valley Conference)
- La Salle at Charlotte (7:30 p.m., A-10)