While bowl games will garner most of the attention on Monday college basketball won't be taking the day off with leagues transitioning into conference play. One such matchup is the first game of Big 12 play as Texas A&M (9-3) visits Waco to take on #6 Baylor (13-0), and Billy Kennedy's Aggies can definitely use a win for resume reasons.
The matchup between #10 Florida and Rutgers on Thursday night was hyped up due to the return of Mike Rosario, who transferred from the New Jersey school following two seasons in New Brunswick. But his return was a subplot in what turned out to be one of the best games of the calendar year, with the focus by the end being Mike Rice's young guards. Eli Carter led the way with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Myles Mack knocked down some big shots late in regulation and during the overtime periods to lead Rutgers to the 85-83 double overtime victory.
It can be argued that Vanderbilt's trip to #13 Marquette is the big game of the day on Thursday, especially when considering a Commodore resume that could use some added bulk. But there's also the first-ever conference game as a member of the West Coast Conference for BYU (11-3), and they're jumping directly into the fire thanks to the league schedule-makers. Dave Rose's Cougars visit Saint Mary's (11-2) in the league opener for both teams, and there are some very good individual battles to keep track of in Moraga.
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.
There is no doubt that the Xavier Musketeers have one of the best backcourt tandems in the country with Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, and the duo combined on Monday night to provide more evidence in the affirmative. Despite shooting a combined 13-for-38 from the field Holloway and Lyons scored 43 points for the Musketeers, with Lyons knocking down the game-tying shot with 6.5 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. From there it was the "Tu Holloway Show:, with the All-American scoring ten of his team-high 24 points in the extra session.
With the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on deck for Tuesday and Wednesday, it would be easy to think that the only matchups between ranked teams early in the week can be found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not so thanks to the matchup between #12 Xavier (4-0) and #22 Vanderbilt (5-1)in Nashville, but while Memorial Gym is always a tough place to play the Commodores have already lost at home once this season (Cleveland State).