College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary
There really aren't any headline games on the college basketball schedule Monday but there are some games that may be able to hold one's interest for a little while. First off, Rutgers heads south to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill. To say the least it would be a serious disappointment if Fred Hill's team were pasted like they were in last season's meeting (97-75). North Carolina won the battle on the boards 40-26 and shot 51.5% from the field, but that was a far more seasoned outfit than the one the Scarlet Knights will face on Monday. One way to avoid that fate: don't turn the ball over nineteen times.
Rutgers will also be a team to observe due to the absence of Gregory Echenique. The sophomore, who is also their best big man, will miss the remainder of the season due to an eye injury suffered a couple of weeks ago. But in his absence senior center Hamady Ndiaye has played arguably the best stretch of basketball in his career. Ndiaye (9.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.7 bpg) has more than doubled his blocks per game from a season ago and nearly doubled his scoring average. RU has won six straight, the last four coming with Echenique out, and Ndiaye has averaged 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.3 blocks in those games.
Of course guys like Mike Rosario, James Beatty and Jonathan Mitchell will have to do their share but a performance along those lines from Ndiaye (albeit against far stiffer competition) would do wonders for Rutgers. As for other games on the schedule, DePaul regains the services of Mac Koshwal just in time for their Big East opener at Pittsburgh. DePaul was on the road to being a far more efficient team offensively early in the season before Koshwal went down with foot injury, but Jerry Wainwright't squad has also improved defensively. But the offense still needs to catch up if they're to avoid a fate similar to last year's run through the Big East (0-18 regular season).
Lastly there are a pair of solid games out west featuring the cream of the crop in the Mountain West, WAC and West Coast conferences. BYU visits Arizona in a game the Wildcats desperately need for their resume should they make enough of a run to entertain at-large thoughts in March. The point guard matchup should be worth the price of admission itself with BYU's Jimmer Fredette taking on Arizona's Nic Wise.
And Portland, who's fallen off of the table when it comes to national consciousness in some circles, remains a contender in the WCC but they need at the least a solid performance at Nevada. The Wolf Pack were impressive in Las Vegas last week outside of a 110-104 loss to BYU and the number of offensive options could get the Pilots in trouble should they allow the game to become a shootout. In regards to competitive basketball these two games could be the best of the night, but they aren't the only ones that offer something to focus on.
7p ESPNU DePaul at Pittsburgh
8:30p ESPN2 Rutgers at North Carolina
9p BTN Bryant at Indiana
9p FCS BYU at Arizona
1p IUPUI at Memphis
7p Bowling Green at Temple
7p Saint Peter's at Stony Brook
8p Marshall at Troy
9p Niagara vs. Air Force (Sun Bowl Invitational, El Paso)
9p Denver at Northern Colorado
10p Colorado St at Fresno St
10:05p Portland at Nevada
BYU over Arizona: The Cougars have won seven straight, most recently outgunning Nevada in Las Vegas and following that up with a whipping of Nebraska in the final of the Las Vegas Invitational the next night. Dave Rose's team simply has too many offensive options for the Wildcats to keep up with, from the aforementioned Fredette to Jackson Emery, Tyler Haws and a player in Jonathan Tavernari who has struggled a little bit so far. He's averaging six points per game fewer than he did as a junior and while there are other options from which to choose the better he plays the better the Cougars become. Look for them to pick up the road victory.
Game of the Weekend: West Virginia 90, Seton Hall 84 (OT)
Three Notable Performances
1. F Devin Ebanks (West Virginia): 22 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in the Mountaineers' win over Seton Hall. F Kevin Jones finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
2. G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall): Hazell led the Pirates with forty-one points on the afternoon. He also knocked down the game-tying three pointer with seconds remaining in regulation.
3. G Greivis Vasquez (Maryland): Vasquez put up 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Terrapins' 72-59 win over Florida Atlantic.