Thursday's schedule is highlighted by three in-season tournaments, with action in Charleston, New York City and San Juan. The 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals will be played at Madison Square Garden with Texas A&M playing Mississippi State in the opener and St. John's and Arizona doing battle in the nightcap. The second game jumps out not only because of the fact that it will be a home game for the Red Storm but also due to the roles that newcomers play on both teams. The story of the Red Storm has been told countless times, and that's to be expected when your roster returns just one letterwinner (guard Malik Stith) from the previous season.
But the newcomers have played well in three games for the Red Storm, with junior college transfers Nurideen Lindsey and God'gift Achiuwa and freshmen Maurice Harkless and D'Angelo Harrison leading the way. Those four are all averaging double figures in scoring with Achiuwa leading the way in both scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg). His athleticism and strength could be a problem for an Arizona team that's seen its big men outside of senior forward Jesse Perry struggle thus far.
Angelo Chol and Kyryl Natyazhko have seen the majority of the minutes at center thus far, but Chol is young and raw while Natyazhko is more the "dirty work" type of big. What Arizona will likely have to do is use their depth as St. John's can only effectively go seven deep with Phil Greene and Sir'Dominic Pointer coming off the bench. St. John's will still look to get out in the open floor, and their trapping defense could be an issue for the Arizona guards. While talented they've also been a bit turnover-prone thus far, and along those lines it remains to be seen if the benching of Josiah Turner proves to spark his game.
Arizona can call on a number of players to handle the basketball, including Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg and Nick Johnson, and just as important is the return of wing Kevin Parrom. While still working into game shape the junior is essentially a jack of all trades for the Wildcats given what he provides on both ends of the floor. Can Arizona take care of the basketball? Can St. John's keep Achiuwa out of foul trouble against a deeper front line? The answers will provide the winner.
In the first game Texas A&M is without Khris Middleton due to a partially torn meniscus while it looks as if Mississippi State will have Renardo Sidney (groin), but the Bulldogs could still be at a disadvantage. Forward Ray Turner scored 20 points in each of the first two games and David Lobeau has a great deal of experience. The backcourt is deep as well for Texas A&M, and overall they've shown a greater ability to make smart decisions than Mississippi State. Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie will have to be the reliable forces that they can be, because it's anyone's guess which Sidney will show up underneath the bright lights.
The likely game of the day in Puerto Rico matches Purdue and preseason MAAC favorite Iona, with the Gaels looking for a BCS AQ scalp to add to their pre-conference resume. Given the additions of players such as MoMo Jones and Rashad James combined with a wealth of returnees led by Scott Machado, Mike Glover and Kyle Smyth, many expect this to be a big year for Tim Cluess' team. As for Purdue, Robbie Hummel is back and along with point guard Lewis Jackson will look to set the tone from the start. If the Boilermakers turn this into a half-court affair they'll be in better shape to pull off the win.
And in Charleston while there isn't a game that truly stands out from a national standpoint Northwestern can ill-afford a loss to an LSU team that's coming off of a loss at Elon. John Shurna and Drew Crawford lead the way for Bill Carmody's Wildcats, and it's only a matter of time before people ask the question of when this program that's never danced will make an NCAA Tournament appearance. Given the tournament field Northwestern may need to get to the title game in order to bolster their resume, but with many of these teams looking to be close with regards to skill level, just about anything can happen.
Other games to keep tabs on include USC visiting San Diego State, and you can bet that "The Show" will be ready to welcome the Trojans to San Diego, Fairfield visits Minnesota and Penn visits Rider in a game that both teams (especially the winless Broncs) need.
7:00 PM Maine at (4) Connecticut (Full Court)
8:00 PM North Florida at (8) Florida
5:00 PM Maryland vs. (15) Alabama* (ESPN2)
9:30 PM St. John's vs. (16) Arizona* (ESPN2)
8:30 PM Western Illinois at (17) Michigan (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (18) Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State* (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Niagara at (25) Missouri(Full Court)
NCAA Division I Games
10:30 AM Temple vs. Western Michigan* (ESPNU)
12:30 PM Tulsa vs. Western Kentucky* (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Purdue vs. Iona* (ESPNU)
3:00 PM LSU vs. Northwestern* (ESPN)
5:30 PM Virginia Commonwealth vs. Seton Hall* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Lyndon State at Yale
7:00 PM NJIT at Massachusetts
7:00 PM Fairfield at Minnesota (BTN)
7:00 PM Mercer at Furman
7:00 PM Hampton at Richmond
7:00 PM Alcorn State at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Northwestern State at Alabama State
7:00 PM Florida Christian College at Bethune-Cookman
7:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Campbell
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at UMBC
7:00 PM Asbury at Morehead State
7:00 PM NC Pembroke at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Rider
7:05 PM Prairie View A&M at Florida Gulf Coast
7:30 PM Wichita State vs. Colorado* (ESPNU)
7:30 PM Coker at East Carolina
7:30 PM Sacred Heart at Rutgers
7:30 PM Western Carolina at Presbyterian
8:00 PM Southern at Rice
8:00 PM Northern Illinois at Iowa
8:00 PM Georgia Tech vs. Saint Joseph's* (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Tennessee-Martin at Arkansas State
8:05 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Illinois State
8:30 PM TENN-Temple at Murray State
9:00 PM Idaho at Montana
9:00 PM Mont St Billings at Southern Utah
9:00 PM Lipscomb at Illinois (BTN)
9:00 PM Southern Miss at Denver
10:00 PM USC at San Diego State (The Mtn.)
10:00 PM Canisius at UNLV
10:00 PM Pacific at Nevada
10:00 PM Eastern Washington at Oregon
10:05 PM Sacramento State at Washington State