Nebraska at Purdue – The dismissal of guard Kelsey Barlow from the team puts Purdue in a “by committee” situation at the two-guard spot. Previously suspended junior D.J. Byrd will return to the lineup tonight and likely start in Barlow’s absence. Byrd has been better than Barlow almost across the board in offensive categories and with his minutes bumped, should be able to fill that void. The problem will be on the defensive end where, as star F Robbie Hummel said “he was our lock down guy, when the other team had a hot hand we looked to Kelsey to shut him down.” Against Nebraska’s backcourt tonight, having a defensive stopper may not hurt the Boilermakers but with Michigan and Indiana on the horizon, Purdue will need their “committee” to provide an answer.
West Virginia at Notre Dame – The first time around in Morgantown, ND walked out with a slim 55-51 upset as a +6.5 point underdog. The number one reason for the loss from West Virginia’s standpoint was its 2-of-16 12.5% three-point shooting and 0, yes ZERO points scored from their second leading scorer (16.7 ppg) Darrell “Truck” Bryant. Bryant, who leads the team in free throw taken, made and percentage did not even visit the charity stripe once in 40 minutes of play. Highly doubt any semblance of a replay in his performance occurs tonight.
Temple at LaSalle – While Wichita State, Murray State and Creighton are the toast of the national media’s mid-major conference coverage, the Owls at this stage are as good as any. Their veteran guard trio of point guard Juan Fernandez, and top scorers Ramon Moore and Khalif Wyatt are as diverse as any in the country. All three are 6-4 and long with the ability to shoot from the perimeter (all 38.7% or better from three), handle the ball, blow by defenders and drive to the rim (Wyatt’s a fantastic finisher), rebound (combined 9.7 rpg) and shoot free throws (all 77% or better). Add in 6-3 T.J. DiLeo, and it’s the perfect matchup for LaSalle’s vaunted four-guard arsenal led by South Carolina transfer Ramon Galloway. Temple center Michael Eric did not play in the earlier meeting between these teams which was won by LaSalle.
Richmond at St. Joseph’s – The Hawks are charging hard winning and covering five of their last six but the schedule has been somewhat soft and the only loss was a decisive one to conference leader Saint Louis. It’ll be interesting to see if the run is a signal that head coach Phil Martelli’s squad is making even further strides because they have the makeup of a team that could cause the league leaders trouble in the A-10 tournament. St. Joe’s has a solid backcourt tandem in point guard Carl Jones and shooting guard Langston Galloway, a legitimate defensive presence in 6-9 shot swatting C.J. Aiken, and a defense that is allowing just a 39.7 FG% in league play. They rebound well enough and their offense is efficient enough but the concerns are lack of consistent perimeter threats and youth. Despite the fact that the core group of heralded sophomores went through the tough times last year, this team still has seven underclassmen in their eight-man rotation. Richmond’s season has gone by the wayside as they are 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight games and they’ve allowed at least 45.8 % FG shooting to seven of those eight opponents.
Mississippi at Tennessee – There doesn’t seem as if there will be a lack of effort and focus on the part of either team tonight despite the pair of disappointing seasons. "The goal is to try to win them all," Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway said. "That's been the goal all year. It might not go your way, but you have to compete and try to win them all." Holloway said motivation won't be an issue down the stretch. "I think I speak for everyone when I say everyone is still motivated to play basketball," Holloway said. Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy will not change the minutes in his eight-man rotation even though four spots are occupied by freshmen whom he could get a better look at if he increased their playing time. From the Tennessee camp, the message is much the same. “It’s definitely a must-win game for us,” junior forward Jeronne Maymon said. “We have to get back in the gym, get refocused and come ready for Ole Miss.” Expect this to be a hotly contested game.
VCU at NC-Wilmington – Strong fundamental edge to watch out for in this contest as the Seahawks freshman point guard Tanner Milson takes on the relentless VCU pressure defense. Milson, who is not a true point guard, was forced into action out of necessity six games ago and has 59 assists to 39 turnovers in those contests. Figure the Rams to go right after him early and often.
Central Florida at Rice – Laying the short price on the road could deserve some consideration here. UCF is only one game behind league leaders Memphis and Southern Miss and are currently playing very good basketball going 4-1 SU and 4-0 ATS in their last five games. Team chemistry appears to be at a high point right now according to G A.J. Rompza. “This is the closet team and the best chemistry in my four years here,” Rompza said. “Guys hang out with one another and get along with one another and they don’t care who scores. That’s why we’re being successful.” Rice and its 1-4 ATS slump over their last five present a good “go against” here.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – Since going 10-1 during pre-conference season, the Sooners have now won just three of their last 14 games. Point guard Sam Grooms and power forward Romero Osby have each described how different Big XII play has been for this very young team which may not have been ready for the reality. Head coach Lon Krueger has made mention of the fact that he doesn’t feel any positive consistency will come until his team finds a leader. Regardless of their youthful woes, OU has what amounts to their Super Bowl this season in their home revenge tilt against in-state rival Oklahoma State. The Sooners do however have matchup problems defensively with red-hot Oklahoma State point guard Keiton Page and star freshman power forward LeBryan Nash. The Sooners are last in the Big XII at defending the three point arc which really makes Page dangerous. An angle that could pop up in this game and be worthy of a play is…fade Oklahoma if they are a second half favorite. The Sooners have now been outscored by their opponents in the second half in nine straight games.
Bradley at Northern Iowa – At first glance, the -15.5 point price tag attached to the methodical UNI squad seems a bit excessive. However, if you’ve heard head coach Ben Jacobsen speak of the revenge motive associated with this game, maybe it’s not. Jacobsen seems adamant that his team is ready to take their home floor tonight and atone for the earlier loss to Bradley in which UNI held a 16-point lead and subsequently lost by 11, 78-67. He attributed the collapse to the employment of a zone defense by Bradley but insists and statistically backs up his team’s offensive improvement versus zone defenses since that January 9 loss. Their chances for blowout style revenge increase a bit as Bradley’s leading scorer Taylor Brown (14.8 ppg) is out for tonight’s game. Without him last Saturday, the Braves scored just 44 points and lost at home by 12 to Loyola-Chicago.
Southern Mississippi at Texas-El Paso – After failing to take hold of first place in C-USA on Saturday night, USM needs this one to likely stay even with Memphis which hosts East Carolina tonight. They’ve had plenty of time to stew over their loss at Houston and figure to be ready from tonight’s opening tip. However, UTEP is on a three game winning streak and feeling pretty confident after winning at Memphis on Saturday afternoon. Prior to defeating Memphis, Miners point guard Jacques Streeter said: “We feel good as a team. “We’ve come close to beating a lot of good teams on the road. And now we feel like we can play with anybody in the country.” Southern Miss has played six consecutive “overs”. Five of the six games have totaled between 143 and 152 points and the other posted 132. The current total for tonight’s game against the defensive minded Miners is 128.