ROAD WARRIORS (NEWS AND NOTES)
-There were three great road performances last night, but only one ended up a winner.
Purdue fell behind by as many as 16 in the first half against Michigan State, but regrouped, kpet their composure, and kept making big plays. They just ran out of gas and couldnt stay with MSU in the final minute of the game. Michigan State ended up winning 78-75 in a very intense, white knuckled game. This is a bitter pill to swallow for Purdue, but its not their only chance at a big road win. They need to realize that theyre better than their resume and begin to win conference games. A bitter pill is bad medicine, but bad medicine can be good for you.
-Seton Hall hung in with, and actually led Connecticut, for most of the game, cut couldnt come up with the win as Marquette pulled ahead and won 61-56.
-De Pauls early performances that raised a few highbrows were discontinued tonight. Georgetown blew them out on their home floor 76-60 in a game that wasnt even that close.
-Florida trailed Alabama for most of the game, but actually ended up winning it 90-83. It was a good game between two teams that are very desperate. Florida is improving and tonight was clearly their best win, but they have A LOT more to do.
-MISSISSIPPI AT TENNESSEE (SEC). Ole Miss is unbeaten on the year, but this is above and beyond any of their previous tests. If they lose this it wont hurt, but if they win this its the kind of game that says they can play and beat top ranked caliber teams on the road, and warrants consideration for a very good seed. Ole Miss doesnt have anything close to Tennessees athleticism, but they have managed to find ways to win. Everything on paper points to a huge advantage for the Vols, but on the court Ole Miss has played well and kept it close. It will be interesting to see if they can do that against Tennessee tonight.
-RHODE ISLAND AT DAYTON (Atlantic Ten). This is the conference opener for both teams, and both appear to be good enough to win the league. More than that, they have a potential to earn a very good seed, which would mean preferential geographic placement. This is one of the biggest Atlantic Ten conference games since 2004. Both teams are nationally ranked and both are playing for what currently looks like a high caliber conference win. Dayton is unbeaten at home and recently blew out Pitt, but has also struggled against teams that arent as good as Rhody. Rhode Island has been road tested, and passed a few of their tests. This game should be great.
-ARIZONA AT ARIZONA STATE (Pac Ten). The Sun Devils are off to a much better than expected start under second-year coach Herb Sendek. Beating Arizona is something that they havent done much of lately, but if they were to do it tonight, theyd pick up another quality win, improve to 3-0 in the Pac Ten, and gain all the bragging rights that comes along with it. This is the first time in awhile that there have been these kinds of stakes on the table for both teams. Arizona would love a quality conference road win, and Arizona State would love a statement win. Add in the rivalry factor to everything else thats at stake and you see what a big time game this is.
-SYRACUSE AT CINCINNATI. Games on the road are never easy, especially for teams that arent used to it, which Syracuse isnt. Syracuse has won six in a row, and looked pretty good in their last outing against a South Florida team that had been playing some pretty good ball. Cincinnati is young and inconsistent, but has shown signs of improvement and confidence, and I expect them to play well at home tonight. UC would have to string together several wins such as this one to even have a shot at the postseason, but they are capable of playing well and even though Syracuse is better considering the fact that the Orange arent exactly the most consistent team either.
-CHARLOTTE AT CLEMSON. Charlotte has managed a few big wins this year, but theyve pretty much all been at home. Clemson has played very well, even in their two losses, which were to Mississippi and North Carolina. Both teams are undefeated and both losses were in close games. Charlotte has potential, but hasnt always played up to it. This would be a huge road win for them, but even then theyd need to back it up. This would be a standard win for Clemson seeing as how theyre at home. It has the potential to be a good game, but it may not be. Clemson could win big.
-INDIANA STATE AT DRAKE (Missouri Valley). Drake is under the radar, but theyve played great basketball and appear to be among the frontrunners in the MVC. This is very winnable for them, and if they can pull it off they should be able to keep themselves in the conference race, and as a result remain in the NCAA Tourney picture.
-GEORGIA TECH AT GEORGIA. This is a rivalry game, and it could end up meaning something, but right now Id have to say it probably wont. Both teams are young and talented and should improve as the year goes on, but other than a blowout win by Georgia against Wake Forest neither team has shown very much. A win for either team will award bragging rights. It will also sustain what is at best a fragile resume to present to the committee. A win would be big for either team, but both need a whole lot more.
-TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI AT KENT STATE. Kent State is having a great year, but a loss like this at home could wreck their at-large chances, which are flimsy as is. They should be able to win and improve to 12-3 without too much trouble. TAMUCC hasnt done much this year and isnt likely to do much tonight.
-MISSISSIPPI STATE AT LSU (SEC). Mississippi State needs to start winning or forget about the NCAAs. They havent been a huge disappointment, but theyve been anything but impressive. This is the kind of road game they really need to win, especially at this point.
-SAINT JOSEPHS AT MASSACHUSETTS (Atlantic Ten). Saint Josephs has played well enough to beat several NCAA caliber teams, but hasnt actually done it yet and has had to settle for gut-wrenching losses. However, they have won three in a row since losing in overtime at Creighton, and should be playing with a major purpose tonight in their league opener. SJU is also road tested with a 4-2 record away from home. UMass played well in their last outing at Vanderbilt and built up a pretty big lead early on, but couldnt hold onto it. This is a huge game for them as well because how well they do in this league will be a huge determining factor on whether or not they make the dance. They face a good team tonight, but theyre at home. Its a game that both teams should win if they believe themselves to be worthy of a bid.
-EAST CAROLINA AT MEMPHIS (Conference USA). This is one of the best teams in the conference taking on one of the worst. Even more extreme than that, its one of the best teams in the nation taking on one of the worst. East Carolina is improving as a program and has some nice wins this year, but this one is probably way over their heads. Memphis should roll.
-NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE. NC State appears to have hit their stride, and they shouldnt get any trouble tonight from a program that has yet to put its shoes on.
-IOWA AT OHIO STATE (Big Ten). The Buckeyes have really hit their stride lately. Theyve been playing great and have strung together several wins, and continue to build on their status. Iowa has a long way to go and doesnt look like theyll get there at all the way. Ohio State should win this, pick up another conference win, and sustain/grow their status as an NCAA Tourney team.
-UNC ASHEVILLE AT NORTH CAROLINA. UNC Asheville has a significant amount of talent and has played well recently, and this is an exciting opportunity for them. Having said that, as great as North Carolina has been playing at home lately, it may be like trying to stop a bullet with a catchers mitt. UNCA will be a force in the Big South and be a contender to win it, but the Tarheels are contenders to win the ACC and make the Final Four
and the way theyve been playing, win it all.
-RUTGERS AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). Rutgers has not performed like an NCAA team. Providence has at times, but not all the time, and at this point not enough of the time. Theyre currently outside the bubble of my projections, and need to take care of business in games like this.
-SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA AT SAM HOUSTON (Southern). Sam Houston is 12-1 with an RPI in the 20s. The RPI will drop as the season goes on due to not having the big time opponents, but if they can win out or come close to it there should be a spot for them in the NCAAs.
-PITTSBURGH AT SOUTH FLORIDA (Big East). Pitt defeated Duke a few weeks ago, but hasnt experienced or performed all that much in the way of impressiveness since then. Dayton blew them out and they lost to Villanova in their most recent game. The good news is that they played Villanova close despite being depleted by injuries and still appear to be a competitive team. South Florida has played well, but they still need a few big wins to get them into the NCAA Tourney discussion. Theyre at home against a beaten-up Pitt team, so if they are an NCAA team, then these are the kinds of games that they need to come through on.
-DUKE AT TEMPLE. This game is at the Wachovia Center, but its still Temples home game. Despite that fact, it shouldnt be much of a game. Temple is well coached, but theyve yet to show the ability to play with a team like Duke. The Blue Devils have a chance to pick up a road win and then move on to full blown ACC play.
-SOUTH CAROLINA AT VANDERBILT (SEC). Vandy is unbeaten, but this is their conference opener. They havent struck me as an overly impressive team, but theyve impressed me a whole lot more than South Carolina has. I expect that theyll remain unbeaten and improve to 1-0 in SEC play, especially since theyre at home.
-SAINT BONAVENTURE AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier has blown out their last four opponents and this game could be number five. This is the conference opener for both teams, and it should be an absolute cakewalk for Xavier. This is the kind of game that hurts XU if they lose, but doesnt really help if they win.
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