WEEKEND GAME TO WATCH
No. 3 Villanova at No. 11 Providence, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports 1)
Villanova’s 11-game cruise since late December has been interrupted only by a 77-70 loss at home to — you guessed it — Providence, coming on Jan. 4. Friars 6-9 sophomore Ben Bentil threw up 31 points and 13 rebounds in that one, but the Wildcats will get a chance for revenge possibly without having to face their No. 1 aggressor from the first time around. Bentil is day-to-day because of an ankle injury suffered in an uncharacteristic Providence loss at DePaul on Tuesday. Can the Friars bounce back and repeat the upset with Bentil less than healthy or on the bench?
NUMBERS TO KNOW
10 Years since Iowa — currently tied with Indiana atop the Big Ten standings — has finished in the top three in the league. The Hawkeyes haven’t won the conference since 1979.
11 Virginia’s offensive points-per-possession ranking in the nation, at 1.14. That’s a stark improvement from 40th (1.09) last season, when the Cavaliers were all about defense.
A week ago, after No. 20 Kentucky dropped a close one in overtime at Kansas, coach John Calipari challenged the general belief that the Wildcats are ready to take the next steps — claiming his team didn’t know “how to win.” A couple of days later, we got yet another hint that statement is true, when the Wildcats let a 21-point lead fall apart at not-so-threatening Tennessee for their fifth road defeat, fourth against an unranked team. At home, Kentucky looks close to achieving that next level, but away from Rupp Arena the Wildcats resemble just another young team. The freshman class outside of Jamal Murray really hasn’t stood up to the hype, it might be time to accept that the Kentucky of right now might be the only Kentucky we’ll see.