CONNECTICUT (15-8, 5-6 Big East) AT NO. 2 SYRACUSE (24-1, 11-1 Big East)
Time: 1 p.m.
Quite a bit was made of the team meeting called by UConn forward Alex Oriakhi on Friday, and how it may have sparked a revival of the reigning national champions. But maybe that should have been another red flag, given the first couple of paragraphs in the Hartford Courant recapping the Huskies' 69-46 win over Seton Hall.
Rivalry games bring more to the table when it comes to intensity, and that was definitely the case in the battle between #4 Missouri and #8 Kansas in Columbia on Saturday night. In a game that featured many momentum swings and neither team leading by more than eight points, it was Frank Haith's Tigers who landed the final blow. Kansas led 71-63 with 3:25 remaining but they would not score again, as Missouri finished the game on an 11-0 run to win 74-71.
One of the consequences of conference realignment has been the ending of some of the best rivalries in college sports. With #4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2) headed to the SEC after this season Saturday night's game with #8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1) could be the last time for a while these two teams meet in Columbia. But that's a mere subplot in this one as the Tigers are looking to move into a tie for first in the Big 12 while Kansas can strengthen their grip on the top spot with a win.
Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun knew heading into Wednesday's game that his struggling team, losers of three straight, needed some kind of spark to get things going. That meant shuffling the lineup, with Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi being replaced as starters by Ryan Boatright and Roscoe Smith, and for a short time on Wednesday night the move paid off. UConn got out to a 13-7 lead at the first media timeout and generally played better basketball on the offensive end, which was likely the desired effect of the move.
With the announcement that starting center Fab Melo would miss Saturday's game due to an unresolved academic issue, the chances that top-ranked Syracuse would remain undefeated took a hit. But few would have thought that the Orange would have few (if any) answers in the paint as a result of his absence, and that's exactly what happened at Purcell Pavilion. Jack Cooley scored 17 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Notre Dame led by as many as 18 points on their way to the 67-58 win, the eighth in school history over a top-ranked opponent.
Following Shabazz Napier's game-tying three-pointer most coaches would choose to call a timeout to draw up a play, risking the chance of the defense aligning and taking away the primary scoring option. But with the man he wanted to take the final shot already in possession of the basketball, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin decided against calling a timeout and as a result his Bearcats are now 5-1 in the Big East.
It looks as if the schedule-makers in the Mountain West wanted to spark some serious national conversation about the conference from the beginning of league play because the first full week of play will feature all three expected contenders facing each other. Wednesday's slate features #16 San Diego State (15-2, 1-0), fresh off of their two-point win over UNLV, visiting The Pit to take on a New Mexico (15-2, 1-0) squad that's quietly won thirteen in a row.
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