Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.
1. What did Iowa do well when it took down Michigan State on Dec. 29? And can the Hawkeyes do it again with Denzel Valentine playing for the Spartans this time around?
Andy Katz: Can they? Sure. Will they? Probably not. Denzel Valentine is back, and while he may not be 100 percent, he should be healthy enough to cause problems for the Hawkeyes. The Breslin Center will be pumped for this rematch. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the Hawkeyes will need to rebound and be intelligent on offense to win. Iowa can do both. But I would expect a Spartan win to even the series and put Michigan State back on top of the Big Ten.
Jeff Goodman: Iowa played well, but let's be real here: Michigan State was without Valentine, and it was just the Spartans' second game without him. He means more to his team than just about anyone else in the country not named Ben Simmons. For me, it was Iowa's aggressiveness in that game and Mike Gesell's attacking in particular.
Myron Medcalf: They hit 3-pointers (6-for-13 from beyond the arc) and they drew 27 fouls, which led to 31 free throw attempts (the Hawkeyes connected on 23 of them). They can duplicate that effort on offense. But it'll be much harder to hold Michigan State to another weak offensive effort (0.99 points per possession in the first game) with Valentine in the mix in a matchup in East Lansing.
2. Gonzaga has fallen out of the national spotlight. Are the Bulldogs still the team to beat in the West Coast Conference?
Katz: Yes. The Zags will get pushed by Saint Mary's and BYU, but the talent level isn't the same this season. The Zags may not run the table, but it's hard to see them losing the league when they have Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer.
Goodman: Of course. It's like Kansas in the Big 12. Until someone gets them, it's Gonzaga's to lose. The Zags still have a great one-two punch up front with Wiltjer and Sabonis, but they lack a big wing and their guard play is still suspect (and inexperienced). BYU has struggled. Saint Mary's has played well thus far, but the Gaels are young.
Medcalf: Well, they'll be back in the national spotlight soon with the HBO special that was announced this week. But Gonzaga is still a dangerous team and the team to beat in the WCC. Saint Mary's is a good team with a strong offense, but the Gaels' defense couldn't stop Pepperdine over the weekend. BYU is tough too. But the Zags are putting up ridiculous offensive numbers in league play thus far (1.31 PPP). They'll be hard to stop.
3. Pitt is 14-1 and undefeated in the ACC. Are the Panthers getting the respect they deserve?
Katz: Not yet. But Pitt will. This team is for real. The Panthers are scoring easier lately than they had been. Expect them to be in the mix for a top-four finish in the ACC.
Goodman: Sure. Jamie Dixon's club doesn't play a good enough nonconference schedule to warrant a ton of respect. The Panthers beat Syracuse and Georgia Tech at home -- which are decent wins -- and the one that surprised me was the road win in South Bend against Notre Dame. I love the forward duo of Michael Young and Jamel Artis, and these guys have a chance to earn some real respect if they can take care of Louisville at the Yum! Center.
Medcalf: It's easy to get respect. You just have to beat a few good teams, and Pitt hasn't done that yet. Their road win at Notre Dame probably helped their cause. But they'll have to defeat one of the league's powerhouses to prove that they're truly in the mix for that ACC title.