Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.
1. Which team -- Xavier or Providence -- is better equipped to challenge Villanova during the rest of this Big East season?
Andy Katz: Providence. The Friars have one of the best players in the country in Kris Dunn. They've got a physical presence in Ben Bentil, and they possess another potential big-time scoring option in Rodney Bullock. Providence beat Villanova in Philadelphia. Xavier did not.
C.L. Brown: Providence. Beating the Wildcats in Philadelphia was a huge statement. And the Friars essentially have the best player on the floor every time they suit up with Dunn. Villanova had no answers for Dunn and his 14 assists, so even when he's not scoring, he makes everyone else better.
Eamonn Brennan: As hard as it is to say so from this vantage, staring down the back end of a recent Friars win at Villanova (and XU's home loss to Georgetown), I'm going to stick with Xavier. Let's not forget Providence already owns home losses to Marquette and Seton Hall. Or that as great as Dunn and Bentil have been, this team can frequently fail to keep pace on the offensive end. Or that Xavier is deeper and more balanced on both ends of the floor. If we're talking about the better team, I might -- might -- say Providence. If we're talking about the rigors of keeping up with the Wildcats for the next 11 games, surviving injuries and minimizing weaknesses as a team in the long haul, I'd lean, if barely, toward the Musketeers.
2. What has led to Indiana's resurgence?
Katz: Indiana coach Tom Crean said the Hoosiers have been more aggressive, the younger players have taken up more scoring roles and there has been even more of a commitment to defense. You can see that to be true ever since the blowout loss at Duke. The Hoosiers didn't wilt after that loss. Instead, they stayed the course and blocked out the noise -- even after losing James Blackmon Jr. to a season-ending injury.
Brown: Indiana has improved defensively. The Hoosiers rank No. 1 in adjusted defense among Big Ten teams, according to Ken Pomeroy. During their 12-game win streak, they've allowed more than 70 points just three times. In their first eight games to start the season, that number was five.
Brennan: Simply put, the Hoosiers are guarding drastically better. Better than last season, better than November or December, better than anyone not named Tom Crean could have reasonably expected by this point in the season. Why they're guarding so much better is a far more complex answer -- likely some mix of general improvement, a favorable cost-benefit outcome on the personnel side (Blackmon's injury hurt IU's offense but took its worst defender off the floor, in other words), and a very soft first half to Big Ten play. Tuesday night at Wisconsin is a great first test of how real this is. The final verdict is still a few weeks off, when that backloaded schedule turns brutal. Still, any time you smash high-major conference foes into billions of tiny carbon atoms, you're doing something right. And Indiana is doing plenty right.
3. Do you think it's going to be hard for Duquesne to focus on basketball after the weather misery it endured this past weekend?
Katz: No. They are young and resilient. Had the Dukes stayed yet another night on the bus, they may have been more scarred. But not now. They should be fine and ready to take out La Salle on Tuesday night.
Brown: It should end up being nothing more than a good story for Duquesne players to tell once they get older. I'd imagine they were already back focused on basketball the moment they got off the bus.
Brennan: Misery? Ha! In my day, when our team bus was stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a frightening and legendary snowstorm, we pushed it all the way home! Uphill! Both ways! No emergency responders brought us grocery store chicken on all-terrain vehicles. We couldn't play Downwell on our phones. Know why? The bus had no outlets! And we never complained! Bah. Kids these days.