Let the infighting begin in college basketball. With the calendar about to turn to a new year, that means conference play will dominate the schedule.
The only ranked teams that had played a conference game before this week were No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 14 Notre Dame. Only No. 1 Kentucky and No. 13 Kansas won’t play a league game before next week.
The three ACC teams in the top five all play their league openers this weekend: No. 2 Duke plays Boston College on Saturday, while No. 3 Virginia is at Miami. No. 5 Louisville, coming off its home loss to Kentucky, is at Wake Forest on Sunday.
Notre Dame plays its second ACC game Saturday against Georgia Tech, while No. 19 North Carolina is at Clemson for its league opener.
WILDCATS’ IDLE WEEK: Kentucky, the unanimous No. 1 team for the fourth week in a row and top-ranked in all eight polls this season, got through the non-conference portion of its schedule without losing a game.
The Wildcats (13-0) have nine days off between their 58-50 win at No. 5 Louisville last Saturday and the opener of their 18-game SEC schedule Jan. 6 at home against Mississippi.
“The good news is we have another break,” coach John Calipari said after the win at Louisville. “We have (time) to get my team right. We have to put in a different zone because we’re going to face some different things. I want to put in a different rotating press. I want to do some different things offensively, because we have time.”
BUTLER AND THE BIG EAST: The Butler Bulldogs, who made consecutive NCAA championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, were ranked for three weeks earlier this season.
The Bulldogs (10-3) get a chance to impress the poll voters again this week, opening their Big East schedule with a pair of road games against the league’s highest-ranked teams: at No. 6 Villanova on Wednesday night and then at No. 15 St. John’s on Saturday.
Seton Hall also plays St. John’s and Villanova, getting both of them at home this week.
No. 25 Georgetown, ranked for the first time since being eighth in the final poll of the 2012-13 season, rings in the new year at Xavier, a game that starts at 10 p.m. EST on New Year’s Eve.
BIG 12 OPENING SHOWDOWN: The only game this week matching two Top 25 teams is a Big 12 Conference opener.
No. 22 Baylor plays Saturday at No. 18 Oklahoma. Both teams have non-conference home games earlier in the week, with the Bears hosting Norfolk State and the Sooners against George Mason.
SLIDING’ZONA: Arizona, after its first loss of the season to UNLV, is out of the top three for the first time this season. The Wildcats dropped five spots to eighth in the new poll.
The Wildcats (12-1) play their Pac-12 opener Sunday against Arizona State.
There are two Pac-12 openers Friday night involving ranked teams, when No. 10 Utah plays Southern Cal, and No. 21 Washington goes to California. The Utes then play at home against UCLA on Sunday, when the Huskies are at Stanford.
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