Now, the Big Ten has an even bigger challenge ahead — against a pair of undefeated top 10 teams on the same court and the same night.
After winning eight out of 14 games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week, the league will be represented by unranked 7-1 teams Indiana and Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. That includes another game against the ACC.
Illinois is playing seventh-ranked Villanova (8-0) from the Big East for the first time since a second-round NCAA tournament game in 1988, a game Villanova won 66-63 to get to the Sweet 16.
In the nightcap of the 20th anniversary of the Jimmy V Classic, Indiana plays fourth-ranked Louisville (7-0) in a series last played in 2003 but dating back to 1921.
Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals have won their last eight games at Madison Square Garden, where they were crowned the 2012 and 2013 Big East tournament champions before moving to the ACC.
Louisville and Indiana both won their ACC/Big Ten Challenge games last week, with the Cardinals winning 64-55 at home against Louisville and the Hoosiers beating Pittsburgh 81-69.
Villanova has already held three opponents under 50 points, and its 74-46 win over St. Joseph’s on Saturday was already the Wildcats’ fourth win by at least 20 points this season. Illinois is averaging 83.9 points per game.
2 SHADES OF WINNING BLUE: There is Kentucky blue and Carolina blue, and a lot of trophies between them.
Top-ranked Kentucky and No. 21 North Carolina, who have a combined 13 national championships, are no strangers on the court. Two of college basketball’s winningest programs play in the regular season for the 14th time since December 2000 on Saturday.
The Wildcats (9-0) are the unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll this week, but they were still growing up when they were ranked 11th and lost 82-77 to then-No. 18 North Carolina in Chapel Hill last December.
The perennial powers also met in a regional final in the 2011 NCAA tournament, a game Kentucky won 76-69.
SATURDAY SHOWDOWNS: The North Carolina-Kentucky game is the first of several quality matchups on the second Saturday of December, when there is a little lull between the conference football championship games and the first bowl games.
Anyone who wants a basketball-watching binge, there are four games in particular that are spread out Saturday — starting about noon and ending around midnight Eastern time.
Kentucky and North Carolina get things started, and lead into the only other game this week matching a pair of ranked teams.
No. 10 Kansas, back in the top 10 after a five-game winning streak since a 32-point loss to Kentucky, plays No. 13 Utah in Kansas City.
Third-ranked Arizona then plays Michigan, which fell out of the rankings this week after its stunning 72-70 home loss Saturday against New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Ninth-ranked Gonzaga plays Saturday night at UCLA, a week after the Zags lost 66-63 in overtime at Arizona.
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