By AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Super Bowl and NFL season are past. Now it’s time for college basketball to take the stage for its stretch run.
And perhaps perfectly timed, the coming week offers plenty of big matchups for teams in the AP Top 25 .
It starts with third-ranked Purdue, which owns the nation’s longest winning streak and faces two ranked opponents — including a trip to fourth-ranked Michigan State for the week’s biggest game. There’s also the latest renewal of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, as well as interesting storylines surrounding two matchups for top-ranked Villanova.
Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for teams in Monday’s latest poll :
The Boilermakers can seize almost unshakeable control of the Big Ten this week.
Purdue (23-2, 12-0) first hosts No. 14 Ohio State (20-5, 11-1) on Wednesday night, then visits the Spartans (22-3, 10-2) on Saturday. Both are the only matchups of the season between the teams.
Purdue has won 19 straight games since a two-day hiccup in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.
It’s time for the latest renewal of the rivalry series between nearby neighbors Duke and UNC — and neither team comes into Thursday’s game in Chapel Hill with a particularly good vibe.
Ninth-ranked Duke (19-4, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is coming off a loss to a St. John’s team that started 0-11 in the Big East. Worse, Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski offered a harsh critique of a performance he described as “disgusting” and not up to the storied program’s standards.
As for the No. 21 Tar Heels (17-7, 6-5), they snapped their first three-game losing streak since 2014 by beating up on a Pittsburgh team that now sits at 0-11 in the ACC.
“In February every year, we’re working through issues,” Krzyzewski said. “And they are. . Nobody’s at their peak in February, and if they are, their issue is to keep that peak.”
The top-ranked Wildcats (22-1, 9-1 Big East) have two interesting matchups. First comes Wednesday at home against St. John’s, which will aim to carry over momentum from a weekend upset of Duke in New York. Then comes Saturday’s home game against Butler for the chance to avenge their only loss.
The week’s other matchups of ranked teams include No. 15 Tennessee carrying a five-game winning streak into Rupp Arena to face No. 24 Kentucky on Tuesday. And on Saturday, No. 11 St. Mary’s hosts No. 12 Gonzaga in a key West Coast Conference matchup.
Butler led the list of teams in the ” Receiving Votes” category and will get a shot to climb into the poll for the first time this season. The Bulldogs (17-7, 7-4 Big East) first host No. 5 Xavier on Tuesday, then visit Villanova during the weekend.
Florida State (17-6, 6-5) also has a chance at a big win, hosting No. 2 Virginia on Wednesday night.
And don’t overlook North Carolina State (16-7, 6-4 ACC). Already armed with wins against Arizona, Duke and North Carolina, first-year coach Kevin Keatts and his Wolfpack visit Virginia Tech on Wednesday then host rival UNC with a chance at the program’s first regular-season sweep of the Tar Heels since the 2002-03 season.
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