GREAT ALASKA SHOOTOUT
-Both semifinal games were very exciting. Unfortunately, you needed ESPN 360 (the free network that hardly anyone seems to actually get) in order to see them. Butler needed overtime to get past VIRGINIA TECH, which was sort of a surprise. Still, its a big win for Butler and it looked like it would set up a showdown with GONZAGA. The only problem is that TEXAS TECH took down the Zags. It was close all throughout, but Texas Tech ended up building a comfortable lead in the final minutes. The Red Raiders have improved big time since their loss to Sam Houston last week. If they can play like that again tonight they may end up winning this thing, which would be a nice way to start the season. GONZAGA will face VIRGINIA TECH in the third place game. A win in that game would be good for a Virginia Tech team with so many young players. Its also big for Gonzaga, who Im sure does not want to rack up its second loss this early in the season.
LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL
-BYU jumped out to an early lead against LOUISVILLE and held it for most of the game. Louisville made a run in the second half, and actually got the lead, but the Cougars shot the ball well, looked like they owned the post, and pulled off the upset. The Cougars improve to 5-0 on the season and get a huge quality win on their resume. Theyll face top ranked NORTH CAROLINA tonight, who knocked off OLD DOMINION in the other semifinal game.
-During the broadcast of the Louisville vs BYU game, the commentators mentioned how Louisville is in the midst of five games in eight days (which everyone else in the tournament is as well), and how on top of that they had two full practices yesterday. Far be it from me to question a future hall of famer like Rick Pitino, but why in the world would they practice twice the day before such a big game?? Louisville played like they were tired down the stretch, and Im sure their practice schedule had something to do with it. They have another big game against a pretty good OLD DOMINION team today. ODU could make the NCAA Tournament, and an early season win against a high caliber team would make a world of difference.
-XAVIER had some trouble with KENT STATE in the first half, but ended up winning by a fairly comfortable margin. It was more of the same with INDIANAS win over ILLINOIS STATE.
ILLINOIS STATE really needs this win in the third place game if they want to set a standard early on that they are an NCAA Tournament team. It would be a neutral floor win against what looks to be a very good team from the MAC.
XAVIER VS INDIANA in the championship game is interesting. Xavier has a loss on the season already, but a win in this game would more than offset that. Theyre trying to prove that they can not just make the NCAA Tournament, but that theyre deserving of a good seed. Taking down a top ten team at a neutral site would certainly be looked at favorably by the committee. It would also most likely get Xavier in or very close to the Top 25.
-SOUTHERN ILLINOIS defeated MISSISSIPPI STATE somewhat handily, and will advance to the championship game to face USC. USC trailed MIAMI, OH at halftime and throughout most of the second half, but the game was close throughout. USC got a lead late, but Miami had a chance to win in the final minute. A missed three pointer with less than four seconds to go basically did in the Redhawks. As you would expect, O.J. Mayo
came up big for the Trojans. It was still an impressive showing by Miami, and they have another big game against Mississippi State in the third place game on Sunday. In March, the selection committee will take into account that Miami played Mississippi State and not really focus on the fact that it was a third place game, so this would have the same implications as it would if it were a regular season game.
USC vs Southern Illinois should be a fun championship game. Southern Illinois plays very tough defense, and it will be fun to see what happens when they get out there against USCs talent and athleticism.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND INVITATIONAL
-Two interesting games out of this tournament are BRADLEY VS VANDERBILT and IOWA VS UTAH STATE. Bradley had a nice win against Iowa yesterday, and the wins theyve strung together are helping them build up their NCAA Tourney profile. They have a chance at adding another quality win to their resume today when they take on Vanderbilt. This would be a nice early season for Vandy as well. Theyll get plenty of chances later on, but the sooner a team starts to make a case for itself the better.
Iowa is simply looking to rebound from their loss against Bradley, and pick up a win against a pretty decent Utah State team. OTHER HIGHLIGHTED MATCH-UPS
-MONTANA VS AIR FORCE. Montana is among the best in the Big Sky, and has a chance to beat what looks like a quality team in Air Force. Air Force is unbeaten on the season, but is also untested for the most part. A win in this game allows them to remain unbeaten going into a big time match-up against Washington State.
-SAN DIEGO STATE AT CALIFORNIA. Both teams are unbeaten, and both have looked impressive so far. These are the types of games that end up making a difference in March, so its a good opportunity for both teams. San Diego State has looked impressive, but they did struggle in their last game against crosstown foe San Diego. Nevertheless, they picked up the road win and have a chance to do the same tonight. This will be Cals toughest choice of the season, and a win by SDSU would not surprise me.
-GARDNER WEBB AT CLEMSON. Gardner Webb is 3-3 and their last game was a decisive loss to Connecticut. They havent been able to build on their resume all that much since their big upset win against Kentucky. Clemson is 4-0 and has looked very good on the year. It seems as though they always get off to a great start, but then run into problems once they enter conference play. Still, this is a chance for them to improve to 5-0 and continue to rise in the rankings. A win for Gardner Webb would be big as well because it would add another huge quality road win to their resume. Given the year the Atlantic Sun has had, its possible that someone from that league could get in without winning the conference tournament.
-NEBRASKA AT CREIGHTON. Both teams are unbeaten, but Creightons competition has been tougher. Still, its a chance for Nebraska to pick up a decent road win, which would be a nice thing to have early on. If Creighton wants to make another run at the NCAA Tournament, they need to be able to win games like this at home. The Bluejays have dominated this series as of late, but fell to the Huskers last year.
-NIAGARA AT DUQUESNE. I only mention this game because both teams are undefeated. They are also both untested. Niagara is 2-0 and Duquesne is 4-0. Duquesne could end up being a sleeper in the Atlantic Ten, and for a team that has been so bad for so long, starting off 5-0 is a big deal regardless of who theyve played.
-TOLEDO AT RHODE ISLAND. In their last game Rhode Island led Boston College most of the way, but couldnt hold on and ended up dropping a close one. Toledo had an impressive win in their season opener, but hasnt done much since then. Rhode Island should be able to win this one at home, which would get them to 6-1 on the season. If Rhody takes care of business like theyre expected to, they should be 8-1 going into their rivalry game against Providence.
-PACIFIC AT SAINT LOUIS. Right now, these look like two teams who could end up on the bubble. Saint Louis dropped a close one to Missouri State in their last game and really needs to take care of business today at home. Pacific is 4-1 on the year with a decent win against Western Michigan, but still has quite a bit of work to do if they want to be considered a tourney team. Winning this one on the road would really help out Pacific. At the same time, its a game that would hurt SLU if they were to lose.
-COLORADO STATE AT STANFORD. Colorado State went 3-0 in the Top of the World Classic, but has a much tougher assignment against Stanford today. The Cardinal have a surprise loss to Siena, but they still look like a solid team and can continue to prove that by winning games such as this.
-NEVADA AT UNLV. Right now Im not projecting either team to make the NCAA because I still have more questions than answers about each of them, but both have opportunities to elevate their status. UNLV is pretty inexperienced, but theyre a tough defensive team that plays well at home. Nevada also has quite a few new players, and a road win like this would really help out their cause. Its a rivalry game, which makes it even more intense. I expect both teams to improve as the season goes on, but this is an important game for two teams that are trying to establish themselves.
-GEORGIA AT WISCONSIN. Both teams are unbeaten, but neither has been tested. This looked like it would be a huge year for Georgia, but injuries and suspensions could take a major toll. A win on the road against Wisconsin would go a long way toward Georgia being able to establish themselves as an NCAA Tournament contender. Wisconsin lost a lot of talent from last season, but again looks to be pretty good. Its hard to say for sure how good either team is, but the fact that both teams need to make a statement as to how good they are makes this a big game. BUY GAMES
-DELAWARE STATE AT ARKANSAS. Arkansas can improve to 4-1 on the season. This is their first game since going 2-1 in the Puerto Rico Invitational.
-CENTENARY AT BAYLOR. Centenary is off to a decent 3-2 start, but shouldnt put up much of a fight today. This is Baylors first game since winning the Paradise Jam, so hopefully their fans will come out and support them. A win will get the Bears to 5-0.
-NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL AT DAVIDSON. Davidson cannot afford to lose this game. They need to rebound from their loss to Western Michigan in a big way.
-SMU AT DAYTON. A win for the Flyers will get them to 3-1, which isnt a bad way to start the year.
-GRAMBLING AT HOUSTON. The Cougars wont have much trouble improving to 5-1. They really arent going to get a serious challenge until they host Kentucky on December 18th.
-TEXAS SOUTHERN AT KENTUCKY. Kentucky can improve to 3-1 on the year. For the first time in history, Kentucky fans are probably more interested in a Kentucky football game than a Kentucky basketball game on a day where both teams play. The football team will be facing Tennessee.
-MORGAN STATE AT MIAMI, FL. Miami won the Puerto Rico Invitational, and is 3-0 on the season. They look to have a team that could make the NCAA Tournament, and should be able to improve to 4-0 today.
-OAKLAND AT MICHIGAN STATE. Michigan State had a very good showing in the CBE Classic and nearly upset UCLA. They should win big today against Oakland.
-CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT MINNESOTA. Minnesota had a nice road win against Iowa State in their last game, and should be able to win today and get to 3-0.
-LOUISIANA MONROE AT MISSISSIPPI. Ole Miss was a sleeper in the SEC last year, and could end up doing the same thing again this year. They should be able to improve to 4-0 today. They could be undefeated when they face New Mexico next Saturday.
-YOUNGSTOWN STATE AT NOTRE DAME. The Irish have suffered back to back heartbreaking losses. They desperately need to take care of business in this game and improve to 3-2.
-SAN FRANCISCO AT OREGON. Im beginning to think that the Ducks are trying to win the West Coast Conference as well as the Pac Ten. This is their third WCC opponent already this year. They just fell on the road to Saint Marys, but should be able to rebound at home today.
-HARVARD AT PROVIDENCE. Providence can improve to 3-1 with a win.
-LOYOLA, IL AT PURDUE. Purdue is definitely the favorite, but UIC wont be a pushover. They could step up and give the Boilermakers a challenge. A win will get Purdue to 3-0.
-NICHOLLS STATE AT SAINT MARYS. Saint Marys is coming off a huge win against Oregon, and can improve to 5-0 with a win today. They may not crack the Top 25, but they are well on their way and have already made a statement to the committee with their win against Oregon.
-MONTANA STATE AT UC SANTA BARABARA. UCSB can improve to 4-1 on the year. Theyre a good team and need a big record if they want to make a case that they are an NCAA Tourney team.
-ELON AT VCU. VCU needs to string together several wins to get themselves back on track. They dropped two games in the Puerto Rico Shootout, and although their defense is tough, their shooting needs to improve.