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).
On paper the matchup between Missouri and California looked to be a good matchup, with both teams fresh off of big wins in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. On the floor however, things got out of hand quickly for the Golden Bears as the Tigers rolled in front of a pro-Missouri crowd. Kim English scored 19 points and tournament MVP Marcus Denmon finished with 18 points and six rebounds as the Tigers won 92-53, and it could be argued that the 39-point margin doesn't do this result justice.
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Great" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former Robert Morris head coach Jarrett Durham. Coach Durham led the Colonials to three NCAA Tournament appearances in Moon Township and remains the school's winningest coach. Durham now works at his alma mater, Duquesne, as a Special Assistant to the Athletic Director in addition to calling the men's basketball games on the radio (WPBG-FM 104.7 in Pittsburgh).
The series of events that would underline the Huskies' pulling away in an 85-68 victory began with Gant forcing a bad pass inside to Aziz N'Diaye, resulting in a turnover. But instead of sulking and lazily getting back on defense, Gant hustled to the other end and blocked a Kevin Parrom shot...which was then kept inbounds by a diving Thomas. Wait for one of the premier point guards in America to get back into play...give him the ball and watch him go to work.
Robert Morris (21-10, 15-3 NEC) captured its second straight regular season title and eighth in program history, finishing three games ahead of Mount St. Mary's, Sacred Heart and Long Island.
For those of you not looking forward to the BCS National Championship Game there is a full slate of games in the NEC (LIU is off after beating future NEC member Bryant the other night) that'll most likely do more to muddle the conference picture than provide clarity. Monmouth may be the league's hottest team after impressive wins over Sacred Heart and CCSU over the weekend, and they'll head north to take on a struggling St. Francis (NY) club.
America East: Despite their loss at Binghamton on Monday night it was a good week for Stony Brook, who won games at Air Force and defending America East champ UMBC. Junior Muhammad El-Amin shared the conference Player of the Week award with New Hampshire's Alvin Abreu, and freshman Bryan Dougher was named America East Rookie of the Week. While El-Amin accounted for 19.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the two wins, Dougher averaged 20.5 points per game.
The final days of 2008, for most of the teams in the area (save the Ivies and NJIT), mean a transition into full-time conference play. Some schools still have a game or two outside of conference play later in the season, but for the most part it's all about focusing on the direct way of getting to the NCAA Tournament. Big East play begins early this week, and despite a big win over FDU Seton Hall fans have to wonder what the opener at Syracuse will bring for a team that lacks bodies inside. St.