Friday's schedule may be light but there's some good action to take in as direction of the Ivy and Metro Atlantic races will be determined. Iona (19-5, 11-2) and Loyola (MD) (18-5, 11-2) are tied for first place with two games separating them from the pack (Manhattan and Fairfield leading that group), and the winner would take a big step towards grabbing the regular season crown. What should viewers look forward to? One of the better guards matchups in the MAAC this season as Iona's deep corps led by Scott Machado and Momo Jones takes on a group of Greyhounds led by Dylon Cormier and Robert Olson.
Freshman R.J. Williams leads Loyola in assists with an average of 2.6 assists per game, and he's one of five Greyhounds averaging at least 1.6 assists per game. Jimmy Patsos may not have one guy who dominates the ball at the top of the offense but he's got versatility, as a number of players in the rotation can get things going. Machado runs the show but the Gaels also have Jones and Jermel Jenkins while wings Kyle Smyth and Sean Armand rank among the best shooters in the MAAC.
The interior play, especially concerning the work on the glass, may be the deciding factor in Baltimore. The Greyhounds are one of the best when it comes to attacking the offensive glass as they grab an average of 14.0 offensive boards per game. Erik Etherly and Shane Walker lead the way in the frontcourt for the Greyhounds while the versatile Justin Drummond grabs more than four rebounds per game. Mike Glover and Taaj Ridley start for Iona and while Randy Dezouvre is also a factor in the rotation, the fact that Machado's their second-leading rebounder could be something that comes back to haunt Iona if others don't step up.
Keep an eye on offensive rebounding and turnovers (Iona forces an average of 15.8 turnovers per game while Loyola forces 14.9), especially those of the live-ball variety. If Iona can get running, look out, because while Loyola has the bodies needed to run on occasion it won't be in their best interest to turn the game into a track meet. The battle in the Ivy matches Harvard and Penn, with the Quakers likely being the only team left that can provide some serious intrigue to the title race.
Zack Rosen's been outstanding for Penn this season and with classmate Tyler Bernardini forms one of the best guard tandems you don't see on TV every week. Harvard is deep and experienced, and with Keith Wright and Kyle Casey in the frontcourt Tommy Amaker's Crimson end up being a tough matchup for anyone in the Ancient Eight. They've already blown out Yale on the road, and a win over Penn at the Palestra would go a long way towards punching their first NCAA tournament ticket since 1946.
Milwaukee's trip to Detroit is an important game in the Horizon League from a tournament seeding standpoint as the Panthers are currently third and the Titans are looking to force a four-way tie for third (with Youngstown State and Butler). The Titans have talented pieces with Ray McCallum Jr. and Eli Holman leading the way, but they have issues at times when it comes to making sound decisions and that could be an issue against Milwaukee's tough defense. Saturday's slate is huge and without a doubt the best of the season, but tonight is a good appetizer for the main course.
Top 25 Games
7:00 PM (21) Harvard at Pennsylvania
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Princeton
7:00 PM Brown at Columbia
7:00 PM Yale at Cornell
7:00 PM Mercer at Kennesaw State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Milwaukee at Detroit (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Iona at Loyola (MD) (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Green Bay at Wright State (ESPNU)