College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

February 24th, 2011
One night after Cincinnati picked up a resume-building road victory it's Marquette's (16-11, 7-7) turn as they visit Connecticut (20-6, 8-6) at the XL Center. The Huskies need the win to keep pace with the other squads in the race for one of the four single byes in the Big East Tournament with an outside shot at grabbing a double bye, but they'll be without head coach Jim Calhoun. Coach Calhoun won't be present due to a death in the family, meaning that George Blaney takes over the reins. Marquette's just 3-6 on the road and 3-10 against the RPI Top 50 this season, and a win Thursday night would go a long way towards bolstering their computer numbers. But the question remains the same for Buzz Williams' team: can they close out games late?

Outside of wins over Notre Dame and Syracuse the Golden Eagles have yet to beat a team they weren't expected to knock off, and in order to change that they'll need more than the consistent trio of Jimmy Butler (15.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Jae Crowder (13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Darius Johnson-Odom (16.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg). Guards Vander Blue, Dwight Buycks and Junior Cadougan will all need to become more consistent of Marquette is to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid, and if they can do so Thursday night it could be the beginning of such a charge. Defensively the Golden Eagles force more than 14 turnovers per game, and given the overall youth of the Connecticut backcourt maybe they can force some unforced errors.

But that wasn't the case in the first meeting, a 76-68 UConn win that featured 24 points from freshman wing Jeremy Lamb. Marquette was able to slow down Kemba Walker on that night but the three freshmen stepped up: Lamb finished with 24 while Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith scored 11 apiece. Connecticut also turned the ball over just 11 times in the game, putting together one of their better offensive performances in Big East play in the second half. The Huskies are also a slightly better rebounding team but the recent play of Chris Otule has helped out Marquette inside. If the Golden Eagles attack offensively while doing a solid job defensively on Walker they've got a chance to leave Hartford with a much-needed victory, setting themselves apart from the many teams who have squandered similar chances of late.

Georgia is another team in need of wins at this stage in the season and they've got quite the task in front of them with a trip to Gainesville on deck. The Gators won the first game in an overtime thriller, but with Chandler Parsons being a game-time decision Florida may be short a player in their rotation. The Ohio Valley regular season title will likely be decided on Thursday as well with Murray State hosting Morehead State in a battle of the two preseason favorites, and Arizona can take one step closer to a Pac-10 title with a win at USC. West Virginia visits Pittsburgh in the second installment of the Backyard Brawl this season, Gonzaga visits Saint Mary's in a crucial WCC battle and there are also important games in the NEC with regards to not just seeding for the upcoming conference tournament but who will qualify for the event.

Top 25
9:00 PM West Virginia at (6) Pittsburgh (ESPN)
10:30 PM (10) Arizona at USC
7:00 PM Georgia at (13) Florida (ESPN)
7:00 PM Marquette at (15) Connecticut (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
6:30 PM Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee-Martin (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Old Dominion at James Madison (ESPNU)
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Milwaukee at Cleveland State
7:00 PM Charleston at Appalachian State
7:00 PM Boston University at Binghamton
7:00 PM Elon at Davidson
7:00 PM Troy at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM Radford at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Northeastern at George Mason
7:00 PM Buffalo at Kent State
7:00 PM Bryant University at Long Island
7:00 PM Washington Adventist at Longwood
7:00 PM High Point at North Carolina-Asheville
7:00 PM Virginia Military at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Monmouth at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart
7:00 PM Carver Bible College at Savannah State
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM Wagner at St. Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Citadel at Western Carolina
7:00 PM Liberty at Winthrop
7:05 PM Green Bay at Youngstown State
7:30 PM Lipscomb at Kennesaw State
7:30 PM Jacksonville at Florida Gulf Coast
7:30 PM East Tennessee State at Campbell
7:30 PM Belmont at Mercer
8:00 PM Florida International at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM Western Illinois at Centenary
8:00 PM Birmingham Southern at New Orleans
8:00 PM Hannibal-LaGrange at SIU-Edwardsville
8:05 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at South Alabama
8:05 PM Oakland at UMKC
8:05 PM IUPUI at Oral Roberts (ESPN3)
8:05 PM North Texas at Arkansas State
8:05 PM Loyola (IL) at Valparaiso
8:15 PM North Florida at Stetson
8:15 PM Denver at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM Eastern Illinois at Austin Peay
8:30 PM Southeast Missouri State at Tennessee State
9:00 PM Penn State at Northwestern (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Morehead State at Murray State (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Stanford at Oregon State
9:00 PM N.J.I.T. at South Dakota
9:00 PM IPFW at Southern Utah
9:00 PM California at Oregon
10:00 PM Pacific at UC Riverside
10:00 PM Pepperdine at San Francisco
10:05 PM Northern Arizona at Sacramento State
10:05 PM Cal Poly at Long Beach State
10:05 PM UC Davis at UC Irvine
10:05 PM Montana State at Eastern Washington
10:05 PM UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Northridge
10:05 PM Montana at Portland State
10:30 PM Idaho at Nevada (ESPN3)
11:00 PM Arizona State at UCLA (FSN)
11:00 PM Boise State at Fresno State
11:00 PM Portland at San Diego
11:00 PM Gonzaga at Saint Mary's (ESPN2)
11:30 PM Loyola Marymount at Santa Clara (ESPNU)
12:30 AM Louisiana Tech at Hawaii