Sunday set up to be a big day for the Atlantic 10 with Dayton (Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (76 Classic) playing in the title game of their respective in-season tournaments. And even better for the conference is that both picked up wins, displaying the depth of a league thought by many to be Xavier, Temple and 12 other teams before the season began.
Prevailing wisdom had Florida State and Connecticut playing on Saturday in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Well, they'll be playing on Saturday...but with third place on the line as both lost their semifinal games in disappointing fashion. The Huskies looked to be in good shape as they held a 50-33 lead on UCF early in the second half, despite a lackluster shooting performance from Jeremy Lamb. But it was almost as if UConn turned off their "power source", and the Knights took full advantage.
The championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational provides undefeated UNLV (6-0) with not only a great opportunity but also a great measuring stick, as they take on #1 North Carolina (5-0) at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels fought off a USC team that may not be long on talent but they do make you earn everything, and UNC wasn't challenged much by South Carolina in the nightcap. Whether or not Dave Rice's team can beat the Tar Heels likely depends on the play of their most recent UCLA transfer, forward Mike Moser (15.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 3.2 spg).
While people didn't necessarily give up on Santa Clara when it came to discussing who could win the West Coast Conference, there weren't a lot of outside believers in Kerry Keating's team once forward Marc Trasolini was lost for the season in the summer due to a knee injury. And there were even fewer folks left in the aftermath of their 89-56 loss at UCSB just over a week ago. But if their 79-76 overtime win over New Mexico in a 76 Classic quarterfinal showed anything it's that Santa Clara remains capable of being a factor in the WCC race.
Tommy Amaker's Harvard Crimson came into this season loaded, with all five starters and many of their key reserves back looking get to the NCAA Tournament. After blowing out Utah on Thursday night the Crimson will take on a far stiffer challenge on Friday afternoon, as Florida State is one of the best half-court defensive teams in the country. This will offer an interesting contrast, as Harvard is one of the better teams in the country when it comes to points per possession.
Happy Thanksgiving! And while football tends to take center stage on this day there are also four in-season tournaments playing games, with action spreading from the Bahamas to Alaska. There really isn't a marquee matchup so to speak but there are games that could become important once March arrives, with New Mexico's game against Santa Clara in the 76 Classic being one. The Lobos were the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, and with players such as Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams there's no doubt that they can win this event.
The game between Duke and Kansas more than lived up to the pregame expectations on Wednesday night, but it was an unsung hero who stepped to the forefront late. Tyler Thornton, essentially a defensive substitute when Austin Rivers picked up his fourth foul, knocked down a pair of critical three pointers late to catapult the Blue Devils to the 68-61 win. Duke earned their fifth Maui Invitational title and moved to 15-0 all-time in the prestigious early season event.
One of the keys in playing against Michigan is to remain composed and execute your game plan. Getting away from what you do well in attempts to get the Wolverines to play a style other than their own more times than not results in a loss. That was the lesson for the Memphis Tigers, who in spite of their athletic talents have some maturing to do before referring to themselves as sure-fire national title contenders. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Monday marks the beginning of one of the most prestigious in-season tournaments as the Maui Invitational begins at the Lahaina Civic Center. The big game of the day: Michigan taking on Memphis, with both teams having designs on bigger things after seeing their seasons end in tough fashion on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament last year. Josh Pastner's Tigers have played just one game on the season but they were impressive in that appearance, beating Belmont 97-81 on Tuesday.