Men’s Basketball Games of the Week 1/9 -1/13
The highlight of the early-week schedule features a rematch of LSU and Alabama, this time in men’s basketball, as many teams are engaged in early-conference matchups. As usual the Big East has a strong contest, but a closer check shows lesser conferences like the Atlantic Sun, Mid-American Conference and Colonial Athletic Association have good games. Friday’s schedule is a lot lighter, and it will be from here out as most teams concentrate their games around the midweek or on Saturday or Sunday.
MERCER AT USC-UPSTATE (7:30 p.m. Monday at G.B. Hodge Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina)
No team in the Atlantic Sun Conference is undefeated, but USC-Upstate (9-7, 3-1) is a half-game back of league-leading Belmont in the standings. Mercer (11-7, 3-2) is a full game back, meaning the winner of this game could take a share of first place or sole possession of it should Belmont lose. Mercer just lost 76-61 to East Tennessee State despite 17 points and four rebounds by Justin Cecil. USC-Upstate had 28 points and 10 rebounds from Torrey Craig in a 68-53 win over Kennesaw State, which broke a modest two-game losing streak.
CINCINNATI at No. 9 GEORGETOWN (9 p.m. Monday at Verizon Center in Washington D.C.)
Four games into the Big East Conference season, Syracuse is the lone team atop the league with a 4-0 mark. Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) is one game back, and Cincinnati (12-4, 2-1) could stay involved in the league race if the Bearcats win. Cincinnati just lost 57-55 to St. John’s despite Sean Kilpatrick’s 21 points. The loss stopped Cincinnati’s seven-game winning streak, and things might not get much better. Three of the next five games are against high-ranked teams (Georgetown, Connecticut, Syracuse). As for the Hoyas, Hollis Thompson’s 20 points couldn’t stop Georgetown from falling 74-62 to West Virginia. The defeat snapped a string of 11 wins dating back to a December loss against Kansas.
No. 4 BAYLOR at No. 22 KANSAS STATE (8 p.m. Tuesday at Fred Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas)
Baylor (15-0, 2-0) is one of three major unbeaten teams left in the nation following Missouri’s loss last week. The others, Murray State and Syracuse, still cruise along. The Bears started Big 12 Conference play with wins over two Texas schools (A&M and Tech) and they hope Kansas State doesn’t just roll over and play dead. Pierre Jackson’s 19 points and seven assists were key in the 73-60 win over Texas Tech. Kansas State (12-2, 1-1) just came off a loss to Kansas to start Big 12 play, but the Wildcats handled Missouri in a 75-59 victory so Kansas State is definitely a formidable opponent. Kansas State’s 10th-ranked 40.4 rebounds per game could come in handy here.
ILLINOIS STATE at WICHITA STATE (8:05 p.m. Tuesday at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas)
A four-way tie has Creighton and Missouri State atop the Missouri Valley Conference with these two teams, one of which will fall out of first place at the conclusion of this key matchup. Illinois State (11-4, 3-1) has a two-game winning streak since an 86-71 loss to Southern Illinois. Jackie Carmichael had 17 points in Illinois State’s narrow 75-73 win over Evansville, in a game where the Redbirds almost fell out of first place without any help. Wichita State (12-3, 3-1) lost to first-place Creighton on New Year’s Eve but has beaten Evansville and Southern Illinois since then. Joe Ragland’s 20 points were key in an 83-73 win over the Salukis.
No. 5 OHIO STATE at ILLINOIS (9 p.m. Tuesday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois)
While Michigan State rests alone in first place in the Big Ten at 3-0 entering this week, five teams sport identical 3-1 records. A win here, coupled with a Spartan loss, could give the Buckeyes or Illini a chance to show off atop one of the toughest conferences in the nation. So far Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) has beaten Northwestern, Nebraska and Iowa but lost to Indiana, while Illinois (14-3, 3-1) has a loss to Purdue and wins over Northwestern, Nebraska and Minnesota. Ohio State could have the upper hand here with its eighth-best 17.4 assists per game and ninth-best 49.6 shooting percentage, while the Illini have top scorer Joseph Bertrand, who had 25 points against Nebraska.
OLD DOMINION at DELAWARE (7 p.m. Wednesday at Bob Carpenter Center Acierno Arena in Newark, Delaware)
The teams may not have the most stellar of records, but what matters most is their status near the top of the Colonial Athletic Association. Old Dominion (8-8, 3-1) and Delaware (7-7, 3-1) are tied with Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington for second place in the CAA, one game behind George Mason. Old Dominion has gone 3-5 since Dec. 9, with two of its losses coming against Kentucky and Missouri. Kent Bazemore scored 14 points as ODU topped Towson 75-38 in its last game. Delaware has beaten Hofstra and William and Mary in its last two games, coming on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Old Dominion’s loss is to George Mason, while UNC-Wilmington has beaten Delaware in CAA play.
AKRON at BOWLING GREEN (7 p.m. Wednesday at Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio)
The Mid-American Conference’s East Division has an early-season showdown Wednesday night when these teams meet. Akron and Bowling Green share the division lead with Buffalo, so the winner of this game could be all alone in first if Buffalo loses. Akron (9-6, 1-0) just came off a 65-60 win over Miami of Ohio as Quincy Diggs scored 14 points. Akron has won six of its last seven games, the only black mark coming in a 76-75 overtime loss to Virginia Commonwealth on Dec. 29. Bowling Green (7-7, 1-0) beat Ohio 67-57 behind 16 points and five assists by Jordon Crawford. Prior to the Ohio win, Bowling Green had lost four of the previous five contests.
LSU at No. 20 ALABAMA (9 p.m. Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
The top two teams in the nation meet to decide who gets the crystal ball… oh sorry, my apologies. That’s the script for the national championship football game. The loser of that game may want to get revenge on the basketball court in the first of two Southeastern Conference games involving these teams. LSU (11-4, 1-0) and Alabama (12-3, 1-0) are two of six teams tied for the top spot through just one game of SEC action. The Tigers have won eight of their last nine contests, the lone miss coming in a 57-52 loss to Virginia, and Justin Hamilton’s 23 points and 16 rebounds proved formidable in an 81-55 win over Ole Miss. Alabama has won four straight after a 1-3 stretch, and Jamychal Green’s 10 rebounds and five assists were key in a 74-59 win over Georgia. Alabama has won four straight against Georgia, Oklahoma State, Jacksonville and Georgia Tech. These teams meet again on February 11.
No. 17 VIRGINIA AT No. 7 DUKE (9 p.m. Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina)
It’s still quite early, but the ranks of the unbeaten teams in the ACC will be winnowed following this week’s games. This contest could be one to watch, if only because Duke has proven it can be vulnerable at times despite a strong lineup. Virginia (14-1, 1-0) hasn’t lost since falling to TCU 58-55 back in November, a string of 12 straight victories. The last three wins, against Towson, LSU and Miami, have been by a combined 13 points. Michael Scott, the team’s leading scorer, stayed firm with 23 points and eight rebounds against Miami. The Blue Devils (13-2, 1-0) recovered from their surprise loss to Temple by beating Georgia Tech in the ACC opener and earning their sixth win in seven games. Ryan Kelly’s 21 points paced Duke in the win.
GONZAGA AT SAINT MARY’S (11 p.m. Thursday at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California)
Control of the West Coast Conference is at stake in this game, which pits regular favorite Gonzaga against Saint Mary’s in a big contest. Gonzaga (13-2, 3-0) has won eight in a row, including an 82-60 win over Santa Clara behind 17 points from Sam Dower. About the only conference Gonzaga hasn’t had much luck with this year is the Big Ten, with losses to Illinois and Michigan State. Saint Mary’s (14-2, 3-0), which has 16.8 assists per game this year (15th in the nation), has a more modest four-game winning streak following a loss to Baylor. The Gaels have beaten Missouri State, Brigham Young, Pepperdine and San Diego, the latter a 78-72 victory where Rob Jones hit for 31 points and 12 rebounds. Saint Mary’s only other loss came against Sun Belt Conference opponent Denver.