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.
With the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on deck for Tuesday and Wednesday, it would be easy to think that the only matchups between ranked teams early in the week can be found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not so thanks to the matchup between #12 Xavier (4-0) and #22 Vanderbilt (5-1)in Nashville, but while Memorial Gym is always a tough place to play the Commodores have already lost at home once this season (Cleveland State).
Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
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.
On paper the matchup between Missouri and California looked to be a good matchup, with both teams fresh off of big wins in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. On the floor however, things got out of hand quickly for the Golden Bears as the Tigers rolled in front of a pro-Missouri crowd. Kim English scored 19 points and tournament MVP Marcus Denmon finished with 18 points and six rebounds as the Tigers won 92-53, and it could be argued that the 39-point margin doesn't do this result justice.
After both teams won their semifinal games at the CBE Classic in blowout fashion, Missouri (4-0) and California (4-0) should have a stiffer challenge on their hands as they play for the championship in Kansas City. Neither team has much of an issue with playing fast. but given their roots in the "40 Minutes of Hell" system used by former coach Mike Anderson the Tigers could be at an advantage if the pace becomes frenetic.