Light schedule tonight with Ivy League Fridays not really getting going on a consistent basis until next weekend, but there are some entertaining matchups to keep fans occupied. Both MAAC matchups consist of top-half (of the standings) teams taking on squads hoping to avoid "First Round Friday" in March's conference tournament. One such game is Iona hosting Rider on ESPNU, and while Tommy Dempsey's Broncs have been a major disappointment this year they have the firepower necessary to keep up with the Gaels.
With the Baylor Bears achievig the highest ranking in school history on Monday it would have been easy for Scott Drew's team to suffer a letdown against Texas A&M. But the fourth-ranked Bears were ready from the start, scoring the first eight points of the game on their way to a 61-52 win that wasn't as close as the margin would indicate. The Bears shot just 35.7% from the field in the first half but still went into the break with a 30-17 lead thanks to their defense, which limited the Aggies to 21.4% shooting.
With suspensions ruling out two of their key interior players for the next six games, many wondered what Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats would do to make up for the absence of Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj. Without a consistent scoring option in the paint the strategy was to let the guards go to work, and that they did in the Bearcats' 78-58 win at Wright State. Sean Kilpatrick, who was a non-factor in their loss at Xavier on Saturday, scored a game-high 20 points (6-12 3PT) while JaQuon Parker added 14 points and all five starters finished in double figures.
To this point in the season Dion Waiters was playing more minutes per game than senior starter Scoop Jardine, as the Syracuse sophomore was playing good basketball. But Jardine displayed his value in the second half of Friday's game against Florida, scoring eight of Syracuse' nine points during a critical stretch that put the Orange in control of a game they went on to win 72-68. Jardine finished with 16 points and seven assists while Brandon Triche (20 points) and Kris Joseph (14) also finished in double figures.
The Friday night schedule may be light in quantity but it certainly doesn't lack for quality, with a pair of Top 20 matchups in the HTC Big East/SEC Invitational. #9 Florida (5-1) visits #3 Syracuse (7-0) in a game that promises to be played at a fast tempo, and given the offensive weapons that will be on display it should be high-scoring as well. This is the Gators' second true road game against a Top 5 opponent this season, as they fell at Ohio State in mid-November, which should pay off for this group when the stakes get raised in SEC play.
Prevailing wisdom had Florida State and Connecticut playing on Saturday in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Well, they'll be playing on Saturday...but with third place on the line as both lost their semifinal games in disappointing fashion. The Huskies looked to be in good shape as they held a 50-33 lead on UCF early in the second half, despite a lackluster shooting performance from Jeremy Lamb. But it was almost as if UConn turned off their "power source", and the Knights took full advantage.
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.
Friday marks the first big day of the college basketball season with more than 100 games on the schedule. Sure most of the games look to be of the "opening sacrifice" variety, but a closer look reveals some intriguing matchups. It only makes sense to begin with the game that needs little introduction, the Carrier Classic game matching preseason national title favorite North Carolina and Michigan State. The game will be played on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego, which will likely cue a few "I'm on a boat" jokes.
Glover is joined on the first team by Fairfield University junior guard Derek Needham and senior center Ryan Olander, Iona senior guard Scott Machado and Rider University senior guard/forward Novar Gadson.
Iona received eight of the first-place votes and 97 points, followed by last season's preseason pick Fairfield University,which received two first-place votes and 92 points. Loyola University (Maryland) finished in third with 76 points.