Men's Basketball Games of the Week 1/23 - 1/27

Syracuse at Notre Dame Men's Basketball Action

Men’s Basketball Games of the Week 1/23 – 1/27


This week’s early schedule doesn’t have a lot of big conference showdowns on tap. Then again, who thought Florida State would replicate its success against North Carolina by beating Duke? Who thought Notre Dame would top Syracuse? Any matchup can be exciting, but the reality is on paper the top conferences don’t have big games in the early week, for the most part. That will enable these high-major and mid-major conferences to get a little love and respect.


No. 2 SYRACUSE at CINCINNATI (7 p.m. Monday at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio)

Ideally, in a perfect world, the Orange would be 21-0 and cruising to victory in this game. Academic issues with sophomore Fab Melo appear to have sidelined the star for at least two games, the first one being Syracuse’s 67-58 loss to Notre Dame. The Orange (20-1, 7-1) still lead the Big East by one game, but another loss in this game would send the conference into a tailspin. James Southerland will likely pace the Orange in scoring one more time. Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2) is one of a host of teams chasing Syracuse and a win here would greatly elevate the Bearcats’ standing. Like Syracuse, Cincinnati is coming off a loss, this one a 77-74 setback against West Virginia. Cashmere Wright’s 17 points and Yancy Gates’ 13 rebounds weren’t enough to prevent the loss, which was Cincinnati’s second in five games.


BELMONT at EAST TENNESSEE STATE (7 p.m. Monday at MSHA Athletic Center in Johnson City, Tennessee)

Belmont and Mercer share the lead in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but East Tennessee State is one game back and a win here would give ETSU a chance at first place. Belmont (13-7, 6-2), which sports the nation’s 11th-best scoring offense (80.2) and the 12th-best assists per game (16.9), just lost a 79-78 heartbreaker to USC-Upstate, another of the Atlantic Sun contenders. Kerron Johnson paced the Bruins with 18 points and eight assists. East Tennessee State (10-8, 5-3) suffered a similar fate when it fell to Lipscomb 73-65. Jarvis Jones’ 18 points and Isiah Brown’s 13 rebounds didn’t help East Tennessee State in this game. Six teams are at or within two games of first place, so the A-Sun is definitely up for grabs.


AKRON at BALL STATE (7 p.m. Tuesday at John E. Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana)

Wait a second… didn’t the Mid-American Conference’s leaders JUST meet recently? Welcome to the crazy life of the MAC, as two divisional leaders face off thanks to adjustments in the standings. Akron (12-7, 4-1), the leaders of the MAC East, beat Kent State 84-75 as Nick Harney scored 21 points. The Zips’ only league loss came against Buffalo, which is tied with Ohio for second place in the division. As for Ball State (12-5, 4-1), it shares the MAC West lead with Eastern Michigan (West? East? There may be a quiz on this later). The Cardinals ride a two-game win streak into this contest thanks to victories against Central Michigan and Northern Illinois.


No. 15 SAN DIEGO STATE at WYOMING (8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyoming)

The Mountain West Conference has a strong game on tap when San Diego State trades the balmy Pacific Ocean air for the cold and snow of the Rockies. San Diego State (17-2, 3-0) has a 10-game winning streak in this contest, having not lost since an 85-83 setback against Creighton. The Aztecs’ other loss came against Baylor, which just suffered its first two losses of the season. Chase Tapley’s 16 points led the way in SDSU’s last win, a 57-44 victory over Air Force. Wyoming (16-3, 2-1) picked up a solid game from Leonard Washington, whose 32 points and 14 rebounds all but stuffed away the 70-51 win over Colorado State. A win here would be nice for Wyoming, whose next two games are against bottom-feeders TCU and Boise State.


SAINT LOUIS at XAVIER (7 p.m. Wednesday at Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio)

The Wednesday lineup of games is largely lackluster, devoid of solid top-25 matchups. This will enable you to check out games in conferences like the Atlantic-10, where the Billikens of Saint Louis travel to Xavier for a matchup of two top teams. Saint Louis (15-4, 3-2) is in a four-way tie for fourth place with La Salle, St. Bonaventure and George Washington. It has scored 68 points apiece in two wins over Charlotte and Duquesne, two middle-pack teams in the A-10. Brian Conklin’s 14.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game lead the way, although Dwayne Evans dropped a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards against Duquesne. Xavier (13-6, 4-2) was just knocked from a share of first place when it lost 87-72 to Dayton despite Tu Holloway’s 21 points. Xavier won’t face Dayton again until February 18.


UCF at TULSA (8 p.m. Wednesday at Donald Reynolds Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Another option for a lower-profile conference showdown comes in Conference USA. Central Florida (15-4, 5-1) is all alone in first place, a half-game ahead of Memphis, Marshall and Southern Miss and one game ahead of Tulsa. The Knights’ lone conference loss came against Marshall in a 65-64 setback on January 14. UCF has beaten Memphis and UAB in its last two games, and Keith Clanton’s 10 points were high score in the 48-41 win over UAB. Tulsa (11-9, 4-2) has a four-game winning streak riding in this contest, with victories over UTEP, East Carolina, Tulane and Rice. Those four teams aren’t exactly lighting Conference USA on fire, but wins are wins.


LAMAR at NORTHWESTERN STATE (8 p.m. Wednesday at Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches, Louisiana)

Continuing our tour of high and mid-major conference showdowns, the next stop is the Southland, where a key Eastern Division showdown takes place between these two squads. Southland employs the two-division format and Lamar, Northwestern State and McNeese State share first place in the Southland East. Lamar (12-7, 3-2) happens to have the nation’s fifth-best rebounds per game mark (41.4) but it has had trouble holding a long winning streak. The Cardinals just beat Central Arkansas 92-78 after two losses to McNeese State and Texas-Arlington, which leads the Southland’s West Division. Northwestern State (10-9, 3-2) just beat McNeese State following losses to Central Arkansas and Texas-San Antonio. This could be an interesting race to the finish.


NORTH CAROLINA STATE at No. 5 NORTH CAROLINA (7 p.m. Thursday at Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

Thanks to Duke’s last-second loss against Florida State on Saturday, the Atlantic Coast Conference is a lot closer now in the standings. Duke and Florida State share the top spot with North Carolina State (15-5, 4-1), which sports the eighth-best assists per game mark in the country at 17.4. The Wolfpack have won nine of their last 10 games, with only a surprise 82-71 upset loss to Georgia Tech marring that stretch. Its last three wins aren’t against stellar competition (Wake Forest, Boston College and Miami), but the Wolfpack are tied for first. North Carolina (16-3, 3-1) has won 10 of 11 games, the only loss being that uncharacteristic 90-57 setback against Florida State. Harrison Barnes’ 27 points were key in UNC’s 82-68 win over Virginia Tech.


HARVARD at YALE (7 p.m. Friday at John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Connecticut)

An IVY League showdown? Don’t laugh. Tommy Amaker has done wonders for his Harvard squad ever since taking over the Crimson program, and now Harvard and Yale share the Ivy lead with Penn. Harvard (16-2, 2-0) picked up 13 points from Corbin Miller in a 54-38 win over Dartmouth, and that extended the Crimson’s winning streak to four games. Harvard’s losses have come against Fordham and Connecticut. Yale (12-4, 2-0) has a four-game winning streak after losses against Wake Forest and Florida; in a scheduling quirk, Yale played its league games with Brown back to back and won both.