Conference showdowns produce wave of Top 25 matchups
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The value in conference vs. conference showdowns has never been greater with teams struggling to find opponents amid the pandemic and numerous non-league games having already been scrapped.
This season, they are also produce some exciting showdowns.
The first raft came Tuesday, when fifth-ranked Kansas welcomed No. 8 Creighton to Allen Fieldhouse, which was hosting a small amount of fans for the first time this season.
There were other marquee matchups alongside the premier game in the Big 12-Big East Battle. Third-ranked Iowa faced No. 16 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the series of games that also gave fans No. 6 Illinois att 10th-ranked Duke, No. 15 Virginia Tech against upstart Penn State, No. 21 Rutgers against unbeaten Syracuse and No. 22 Ohio State visiting Notre Dame.
The matchup between the Big Ten and ACC, each with six teams in the Top 25, continues Wednesday when fourth-ranked Michigan State faces No. 18 Virginia in Charlottesville.
The Big East dominated the Big 12 in the first year of their alliance, winning nine of 13 games spread out over the course of a month last season. The Big Ten-ACC series has been around since 1999 with the ACC holding the edge overall but the Big Ten winning eight of 14 games last season.
Gonzaga had its entire week wiped out by positive tests and contact tracing within its program, which also forced officials to call off last weekend’s highly anticipated showdown with No. 2 Baylor.
But the Bulldogs aren’t the only Top 25 teams to have games called off. No. 7 Houston and No. 12 Tennessee had games wiped out Wednesday night and the Cougars had their game against Rice postponed on Saturday. No. 16 North Carolina will not be playing Elon and Virginia had its game against William & Mary called off.
The pandemic caused some schools to push their rivalry games to next year — we see you, Kansas and Missouri — but others are still going on this week. And with their teams off to impressive starts, a few in particular are worth watching: unbeaten Florida visits No. 20 Florida State on Saturday, while the annual Braggin’ Rights game between unbeaten Missouri and Illinois will be played in Columbia after the Tigers won a coinflip to decide the venue.
Most conferences are beginning play earlier this season because of the pandemic, and that means some good games as early as this weekend. Ninth-ranked Villanova opens Big East play at Georgetown on Friday while second-ranked Baylor plays No. 13 Texas meet Sunday in Waco.
The Bears haven’t played since beating Illinois last week after its game against Gonzaga was postponed and another against Nicholls was canceled. They play Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday night before facing the Longhorns.
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