Gathered from game notes by Paul Casey Gotham.
A look at this weekend’s games of note.
This thing lightin’ got your thunder want to crack’n
Struttin’ blues want to find me again.
Saturday, December 17
Iona (8-2/2-0) at Vermont (4-6) 1 PM
“Flying ‘cross the land. Tryin’ to get a hand. Playin’ in a travelin’ band.” Tim Cluess and his Gaels continue their road show with a trip to the Green Mountain State. Sixth of nine consecutive Iona will play away from New Rochelle. Scott Machado leads a Gael offense that averages 88 a game. The senior point guard dishes out nearly 11 dimes per contest. Four McGlynn sparks the Catamounts with 10.6 ppg. Vermont has lost its last four, but two of those came to teams that have spent time in the top 25 (Harvard and St. Louis). After losing its opener to Purdue (91-90), Iona’s only other loss came to Marshall last week (82-63). Not only has the Herd toppled Iona, but it won at Cincinnati and lost by six (62-56) at Syracuse. Something to keep in mind for later. Vermont will try and slow the Gaels, but it won’t work. Iona takes this one running away. If you haven’t already read the ESPN article on Cluess click here.
Duquesne (6-4) at Western Michigan (2-7) 2 PM
The Dukes are coming off a 66-59 triumph over Penn State. Two of DU’s four losses have come to ranked teams: 67-59 at No. 16 (AP) Arizona and 80-69 to No. 17 (AP) Pitt at CONSOL Energy Center (neutral-site). Duquesne has shot better than 50 percent five times and posted 20 or more assists three times this season … four regulars – including three starters – are shooting 50 percent or better: Andre Marhold (.533), T.J. McConnell (.511), Sean Johnson (.510) and Jerry Jones off the bench (.583) … a fourth starter, B.J.Monteiro, is shooting .482. The Broncos were predicted to win the MAC West division. The Broncos are 86-25 at home under Steve Hawkins including a 30-11 mark against non-conference opponents. Duquesne’s defense will create enough turnovers for the single-digit win.
Temple (6-2) at Texas (8-2) 2:30 PM
Owls invade the Lone Star state. Temple has recovered from the loss of starting center Michael Eric to win their last three. Fran Dunphy is frequently deploying a four-guard set. Texas has one of the youngest teams in the nation this season with six players on its 11 -man roster being true freshmen. Four freshmen are among the Longhorns top five scorers with three – Myck Kabongo (10.1 ppg.), Julien Lewis (10.0 ppg.) and Jonathan Holmes (9.5 ppg.) – in the starting five. Junior guard J’Covan Brown leads UT in scoring (18.9) with freshman reserve guard Sheldon McClellan (12.0 ppg.) ranking second on the team. It is possible for Temple history to be made. For the first time in the program’s 114-year history two players may score their 1,000th point in the same game. Senior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore need eight and 13 points, respectively, to reach the milestone. The closest time gap between two Owls scoring their 1,000th point was during the 1978-1979 season. Walt Montford notched his 1000th against Dayton at the Palestra on Feb. 24, which was only two games before Rick Reed did it on March 2 against Lafayette in the ECC Championship game. This will be the 10th time two Temple players will score their 1000th point in the same season. The Owls have too much experience to lose this win. Temple by two.
Fordham (4-5) at St. John’s (4-5) 2:30 PM
The Rams can’t sneak up on the Red Storm this year. Fordham surprised the Johnnies a year ago with an 84-81 win at Rose Hill. Chris Gaston leads the way for Fordham with seven double-doubles thus far. Freshman, Devon McMillan is proving himself as a crafty playmaker at the point. St. John’s is reeling. Head coach Steve Lavin is still recovering from prostate cancer, and the Red Storm has not found a lineup that can create a rhythm on the floor. Fordham wins by five.
Richmond (6-4) at Bucknell (6-4) 7 PM
The Bison beat the Spiders 62-61 in Richmond last year on a buzzer-beater by Mike Muscala. The Spiders are coming off an 88-79 loss to Iona. The Bison lead the Patriot League in scoring defense at 61.8 points per game, and also top the chart in field-goal percentage defense (38.8) and rebounding margin (+6.1). Joe Willman continues to lead the Patriot League in field goal percentage at 60.5 for the season, also placing him among the top 30 nationally. Richmond has been vulnerable to full-court pressure this year. Wake Forest, VCU and Iona all exposed the inexperience in the Richmond backcourt. Bucknell’s defense is stingy, but they don’t get up in passing lanes enough to bother Richmond. The Spiders get some revenge with a single-digit win.
Villanova (6-4) at St. Joseph’s (7-3) 8 PM
The 69th meeting between these Big 5 rivals. Villanova has won three in a row, six of the last seven and leads the series 44-24. This is the first time the two will meet on the campus at St. Joseph’s. The Hawks received five votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll for this week. SJU’s C.J. Aiken is the nation’s leader in blocked shots with his 4.8 average, while the Hawks rank third (8.2) as a team in the NCAA. Villanova has attempted 217 threes this year while taking just 229 free throws. The Wildcats struggle to get the ball in the paint. At the same time, hitting 32 percent from long range does not equate success. The Hawks perimeter defense will need to stop dribble penetration. SJU comes away with a one-possession victory. PHILAHOOPS has all your coverage for this game.
Alabama State (2-6) at St. Louis (9-1) 8 PM
SLU leads the A-10 and ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense as opponents have scored just 55.8 points against the Billikens this season. The Billikens held Vermont to 25 percent shooting in the second half of Wednesday’s win at Chaifetz Arena. Against Portland, they forced 16 turnovers, including 10 in the first half, and held UP’s leading scorer to just two points. The Billikens scored 24 points off 12 Villanova turnovers last Friday and forced 20 Boston College turnovers last Thursday. SLU held the potent Washington offense to 23 points under its average and limited the Huskies to 42 percent shooting in the win Nov. 20. Kenderek Washington leads Alabama State with 15.4 ppg, while Ivory White and Washington collect a team-best 5.1 rpg. The Billikens will take the sting out of the Hornets winning by 20.
Sunday, December 18
Oral Roberts (7-3) at Xavier (8-0) 1 PM
One week ago this looked like a promising matchup between an ORU team that is scoring 68 a game while holding opponents to 62 and a top ten team in Xavier. After last Saturday’s altercation, the Musketeers will take the court Sunday minus three starters including their entire backcourt. ORU’s Warren Niles should enjoy his homecoming. Dominique Morrison (16.2 PPG) and Michael Craion (7.5 RPG) lead the Golden Eagles. Dee Davis, Brad Redford and Justin Martin will have to pick up the slack for the undefeated Muskies. Redford has the potential to carry X if he gets hot from the outside. The Musketeers will struggle defensively trying to stop ORU off the dribble. The Golden Eagles will struggle to keep Xavier off the boards. Xavier is deeper than people realize. The game will give players like Martin a chance to prove his worth. Xavier stays undefeated with a ten-point win.
Loyola (MD) (8-1) at St. Bonaventure (4-4) 2:30 PM
MAAC meets A-10 at the Reilly. It’s a Pickin’ Splinters exclusive. Smitty and I will cover the baseline. The Greyhounds with high-flying Dylon Cormier and Erik Etherly come in with an eight-game winning streak and gaining steaming. Loyola sits at #15 in ESPN’s Mid-Major Poll and ranked among CollegeInsider’s top 25. A victory in Olean would be akin to Carlito breaking through the chain lock of Gail’s bedroom in Carlito’s Way (“Charlie, where’s my cheesecake?”). Three of Bona’s losses have come on the road. The Bonnies are nothing if they aren’t resilient. Mark Schmidt and his staff are getting contributions from everyone. Chris Johnson played just 24 minutes in the Bonnies first seven games. Last weekend the junior scored 19 in 25 minutes. Charlon Kloof is now starting at point. Of course, there is always pre-season POY candidate, Andrew Nicholson (15.3 PPG and 8.1 RPG). Demetrius Conger is due for a big game. The Greyhounds will make it interesting, but the Bonnies pull away late with a 10-point victory. “These Greyhounds got a good future if they can live past next week.” Loyola visits Rupp Arena on Thursday.
Canisius (1-7/0-2) at South Dakota (4-5/0-2) 3 PM
The Griffs will look to right their ship a time zone away from home. Without Gaby Belardo in the lineup, Canisius fell at the KAC to South Dakota 67-55. Louie Krogman connected five times behind the arc to lead the Coyotes past a Blue and Gold club that looked uninspired at best. With Belardo back in the rotation more space is created for Harold Washington to work. Chris Manhertz goes for a double-double inside as the Griffs get revenge with a five-point triumph.
Other games of note
#17 Mississippi State (10-1) at Detroit (5-7/0-2) Noon
Ray McCallum and the Titans play their second ranked opponent (lost 62-54 at Alabama last time out) in a row and fourth Power 6 team (lost at ND 59-53 early in the season and 69-63 to St. John’s). Injuries and suspensions might subside soon. The Bulldogs might find Motown not so inviting. The Titans win in overtime.
Indiana State (7-2) at #25 Vanderbilt (6-3) 5:30 PM
The Sycamore fell to Minnesota (before the season-ending injury to Trevor Mbakwe) and at Boise State. Vanderbilt is not looking so formidable at home with losses to Cleveland State and Xavier at Memorial Gym. The Commodores will struggle to contain Jake Odum off the dribble (triple-double in the Old Spice Classic – the first Sycamore to accomplish since Larry Bird) while limiting Jay Printy and R.J. Mahurin from behind the arc. The Sycamores will hand Vanderbilt their third loss at home.
What games are you watching this weekend?