College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary
While the Coaches vs. Cancer event moves onto the semifinal round at Madison Square Garden tournament play begins in Puerto Rico and Charleston with some intriguing matchups on the radar. Ohio State/North Carolina and Syracuse/California will get the lion's share of the attention and with good reason; all four will encounter their first true test of the season following routine beatings in the opening rounds of the event. Villanova is the highest-ranked team in San Juan but they'll be tested by Jim Larranaga's George Mason Patriots, and the game of the day looks to be Dayton facing Georgia Tech in the opener.
In Charleston there are no ranked teams but the final game offers up an intriguing matchup between Darrin Horn's South Carolina Gamecocks and La Salle; be sure to check out guards Devan Downey (South Carolina) and Rodney Green (La Salle) at some point in the evening. Also, Rider visits Virginia in a game that is more than winnable for the visiting Broncs. The duel between Ryan Thompson and Sylven Landesburg could be worth the price of admission itself.
#6 Villanova vs. George Mason - 2PM - ESPNU (Puerto Rico)
UNC Wilmington vs. Penn State - 4PM - ESPNU (Charleston)
Indiana vs. Ole Miss - 5PM - ESPN2 (Puerto Rico)
#24 Syracuse vs. #12 California - 7PM - ESPN2
#15 Ohio State vs. #4 North Carolina - 9PM - ESPN2
La Salle vs. South Carolina - 9:30PM - ESPNU
#21 Dayton vs. #19 Georgia Tech - 11:30AM (Puerto Rico)
Miami (FL) vs. Tulane - 1:30PM (Charleston)
Rider @ Virginia - 7PM
USF vs. Davidson - 7PM (Charleston)
Long Beach State @ Notre Dame - 7:30PM
Rice @ Arizona - 10:30PM
Syracuse over California: The reason for this pick lies in the paint. Jamal Boykin and company will have their hands full with the tandem of Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson on the boards, and shooting against Jim Boeheim's zone is much easier said than done. The wings are able to get out to challenge shooters, which means that the trio of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson will be made to work for their looks. Wesley Johnson is a tough individual matchup for Cal and the Orange will enjoy a home-court edge at "Carrier Dome South", which should be enough to pull out the close victory.