College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

December 1st, 2011

Thursday's schedule is highlighted by the first night of the SEC/Big East Invitational, and while the marquee games are tomorrow there are solid match ups to keep track of tonight. At the top of that list has to be Georgetown (5-1) heading south to take on #12 Alabama (7-0), and the question will be what John Thompson III's big men can do against JaMychal Green (15.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Tony Mitchell (14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg). To say the least this will be a tall task for Henry Sims, Nate Lubick and the rest of the Georgetown frontcourt, as Mitchell is one of the best athletes in the game and Green is considered to be one of the top interior players in the SEC.

Sims is averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and his ability to step out on the perimeter in Georgetown's system makes him a tough cover when on. But his performance will need to be consistent if the Hoyas are to have a serious shot at leaving Tuscaloosa with the win, and the season goes for Lubick. Georgetown will also use the versatile freshman Otto Porter (9.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and classmate Greg Whittington, and it's going to have to be a group effort as it wouldn't be realistic to expect any of these four to rise to the level of a Green or Mitchell on their own. 

The guard play should also be entertaining, and in Georgetown's Jason Clark (17.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Alabama's Trevor Releford (11.6 ppg, 2.4 apg) there will be two of the better guards in their respective leagues on display. Clark's really had to step up his offensive production with Austin Freeman and Chris Wright moving on, becoming more of a scorer in his senior campaign. Outside of he and wing Hollis Thompson (14.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) the Hoyas are young on the perimeter, as they look to the likes of Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick for minutes. 

As for Releford (11.6 ppg, 2.4 apg), he leads a young backcourt with just one season of experience under his belt. Freshmen Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper are all capable of being outstanding players for Anthony Grant in the future, and each has shown the ability to make plays now as well. The one concern for the Crimson Tide has to be the fact that they essentially break even in their averages for assists and turnovers per game, and Georgetown's opponents have averaged 15.5 turnovers per game this season. Both teams are good at attacking the offensive boards, but the Hoyas will need to take advantage of their superiority in offensive efficiency and valuing the basketball if they're to pick up what would be a big road victory. 

Also playing in the SEC/Big East Invitational tonight is top-ranked Kentucky, which hosts a St. John's team even younger than their rotation and lacking the depth that John Calipari's group brings to the table. A prohibitive favorite to win tonight, this is a good test for the Wildcats from a maturity standpoint. Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller need to lead Kentucky and make sure there aren't any signs of the team looking ahead to Saturday's game against North Carolina. Providence visits South Carolina and DePaul host Ole Miss in the other two games on the docket. 

But the bigger deal on Thursday night is the start of conference play in multiple conferences that tend to play their league tournaments on the first weekend of "Championship Fortnight" (nearly 12 days is not a "Week"). In the NEC games between St. Francis (NY) and Mount St. Mary's and Wagner visiting LIU will help shape the league race that takes a break until January after this weekend. In the Big South, defending regular season champion Coastal Carolina begins their quest to finally get to the NCAA Tournament after squandering opportunities in each of the last two seasons with VMI coming to town, and defending Big South Tournament champ UNC Asheville opens at Gardner-Webb. And Liberty at Campbell should be another solid opening night tilt in the Big South. 

Play in the Atlantic Sun, Horizon, MAAC, SoCon and Summit leagues also begins tonight, with gems including South Dakota State at IUPUI (Summit), Cleveland State at Wright State (Horizon) and Davidson visiting defending champion Wofford (SoCon) highlighting the slate. The conference games for this weekend may not get the major highlights on ESPN, but these are incredibly important games. League titles aren't lost on this weekend, but an 0-2 start makes it far tougher to win a conference title when getting back to that business a couple weeks from now. 

Top 25 Games
7:30 PM St. John's at (1) Kentucky (ESPN2)
9:30 PM Georgetown at (12) Alabama (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
5:30 PM UNC Asheville at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM South Dakota State at IUPUI
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Arkansas State at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Harvard at Vermont
7:00 PM Chattanooga at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM VMI at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Liberty at Campbell
7:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Colgate
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Detroit
7:00 PM Lehigh at Fordham
7:00 PM FIU at Georgia State
7:00 PM Savannah State at Hampton
7:00 PM Morehead State at Kent State
7:00 PM Wagner at Long Island
7:00 PM South Dakota at Oakland
7:00 PM Winthrop at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Providence at South Carolina (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Monmouth at St. Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Siena at St. Peter's
7:00 PM Davidson at Wofford (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Cleveland State at Wright State
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Bryant (MSG+)
7:00 PM Jacksonville State at USC Upstate
7:15 PM East Tennessee State at Stetson
7:30 PM UMBC at American
7:30 PM Radford at Charleston Southern
7:30 PM Marist at Loyola (MD)
7:30 PM UMKC at IPFW
8:00 PM Murray State at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM Citadel at Charleston (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Milwaukee (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Texas A&M-CC (ESPN3)
8:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Appalachian State
8:00 PM George Washington at Kansas State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Western Carolina at Samford
8:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Tennessee State
8:00 PM North Dakota State at Western Illinois
8:00 PM UIC at Green Bay (ESPN3)
8:05 PM McNeese State at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Cal State Fullerton at Wichita State
8:15 PM Mercer at Lipscomb
8:15 PM Kennesaw State at Belmont
9:00 PM San Francisco at Montana
9:00 PM Ole Miss at DePaul (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Paul Quinn at Sam Houston State
9:05 PM Westminster UT at Northern Colorado
10:10 PM Stanford at Seattle