Bill Trocchi
Tuesday January 19th, 2010

Giving you a rundown on the top three games on tonight's college basketball slate:

1. No. 13 Purdue (14-3, 2-3 Big Ten) at Illinois (12-6, 4-1), 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Boilermakers, a popular Final Four selection after their New Year's Day dismantling of West Virginia, suddenly have lost three straight and are heading into an arena where the home team stands 10-1. Purdue coach Matt Painter insists his team's mentality is fine -- the Boilers simply need to get tougher on the glass after getting outrebounded 42-23 in Saturday's loss at Northwestern. Illinois flopped a bit in their first-place showdown at Michigan State, but the Illini were a bit of a paper tiger to begin with after piling up wins against the Big Ten's weaker teams. Still, Illinois has quality wins over Clemson (overcoming a 23-point deficit) and Vanderbilt and would love to get a third on its resume against Purdue.

2. No. 20 Northern Iowa (16-1, 7-0 MVC) at Wichita State (16-3, 5-2), 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Wichita State's one-point loss at Creighton on Saturday prevented this one from being a battle for first place, but it still ranks up there as one of the key Missouri Valley games of the season to date. The Shockers are led by point guard Clevin Hannah, who leads the nation in free throw shooting and is averaging 12.1 points and 4.6 assists. Northern Iowa, the preseason favorite in The Valley, has lived up to its hype and is currently on a 15-game winning streak following a curious loss to DePaul in November. The Panthers are fourth in the nation in scoring defense (55.9 ppg), thanks in part to big man Jordan Eglseder, a seven-footer who protects the rim. UNI is also the league's top three-point shooting team. With a current RPI of 15, UNI is in excellent position for an at-large bid even if it doesn't win the MVC tournament.

3. No. 17 Clemson (15-3, 3-1 ACC) at No. 19 Georgia Tech (13-4, 2-2), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Which Georgia Tech shows up at Alexander Memorial Coliseum? The Jackets have beaten bluebloods Duke and North Carolina, while losing to Florida State, Georgia and Virginia. Georgia Tech is good enough to beat anyone in the ACC, but Paul Hewitt's team has been maddeningly inconsistent. Senior Gani Lawal has been the most dependable player, but the young backcourt has been up-and-down. Point guard Iman Shumpert had a breakout game in Chapel Hill on Saturday with 30 points. Clemson comes in having almost given away a big lead in a road win at N.C. State -- which fits in with the inconsistency theme of this matchup. Trevor Booker gets to test his wares against Tech freshman Derrick Favors, who has somewhat modest numbers this year (11.5 points, 8.6 rebounds), but still projects as a top five pick in this summer's NBA draft.

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