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).
There was one big question for North Carolina going into their game with Wisconsin in the final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge: would they be able to play effectively in a tempo nowhere near what they look to establish on a nightly basis? Thanks to a second half run from Harrison Barnes and the excellent defense of Dexter Strickland, the Tar Heels passed said test with a 60-57 win over the Badgers in Chapel Hill.
The game between #3 Duke and #2 Ohio State was a matchup expected to be a barnburner throughout. But in runs to begin and end the first half, the Buckeyes made a case to their fans and a national television audience that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky and North Carolina when talking about early favorites to win the national title. Thad Matta's team opened the game on an 11-0 run and finished the half with an 11-2 run on their way to the 85-63 win at Value City Arena, and four of their five starters finished in double figures.
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.
Sunday set up to be a big day for the Atlantic 10 with Dayton (Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (76 Classic) playing in the title game of their respective in-season tournaments. And even better for the conference is that both picked up wins, displaying the depth of a league thought by many to be Xavier, Temple and 12 other teams before the season began.
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).
Just one day after a Top 5 team (Connecticut) suffered its first loss of the season, the nation's top-ranked team fell in the title game of the Las Vegas Invitational. North Carolina (5-1) fell 90-80 to UNLV (7-0) in a game that featured two standout performances from forwards...and neither played for the team with the frontcourt that many judged to be the nation's best. Mike Moser scored 16 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out six assists while Chace Stanback scored a game-high 28 to go along with ten caroms to help first-year head coach remain undefeated at his alma mater.
The title game of the Old Spice Classic may not be the kind of matchup that leads off SportsCenter like say, North Carolina/Kentucky next week, but it is a contest that we could look back on in March when discussing tournament resumes. Dayton (4-1) and Minnesota (6-0) meet in the title game, with both surviving a pair of close games to reach this point.