NO. 23 GONZAGA (13-2, 3-0 WCC) AT SAINT MARY’S (15-2, 4-0 WCC)
Time/TV: 11 p.m./ESPN2
While most of the country will be captivated by the BCS Championship Game, there are suitable alternatives on the college basketball schedule for those not interested in watching the rematch. The game that stands out has to be Cincinnati (12-4, 2-1) visiting #11 Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) with both teams looking to bounce back from losses suffered on Saturday afternoon. The situation may be even more important for the Bearcats, who despite their seven-game win streak ahead of their last-second loss to St.
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.
Thursday is the final "busy day" on the college basketball schedule before Christmas and there's important business to address in St. Louis: Braggin' Rights. Undefeated and eighth-ranked Missouri (11-0) looks for its third straight win over #24 Illinois (11-1) in the series, and despite the change in head coach the Tigers remain one of the most balanced teams in the country.
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.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have some impressive offensive performers that Washington State likely made themselves very aware of in preparation for their game at midnight. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre are formidable frontcourt players while Marquise Carter is a jet-quick point guard who is more than willing to attack defenses. But if the Cougars had a plan for how to slow down freshman guard Kevin Pangos it sure didn't look like it.
With the college basketball season finally on the horizon, the game that's been overlooked by many in conference realignment will once again have the center stage. Perennial contenders will once again make a run at a national title while some new faces will pop up as well. The first four-part preview will focus on the conferences, and more specifically who will win each of the 32 leagues. In the final part of this series, the final eight conference champions are selected.
Jon Teitel: Before becoming team captain at UCSD in the 1980s you played basketball at Mesa Community College for your father Tom (who never had a losing season in 19 years).