– Stony Brook at #2 UConn at 7 PM on ESPN Full Court, ESPN360.com, and the Big East Network: The only way this game stays within 20 is if the Huskies actually have to take final exams. Nothing to see here unless you know one of the Huskies benchwarmers and want to see him get some PT.
– Cleveland State at #11 Syracuse at 7 PM on Time Warner-New York: Should be another snoozefest, but you might want to check the Orangemen out to see how they are adjusting to life without Eric Devendorf (or not). If Time Warner-New York is on their game, they will run a feature on the 1985-86 Cleveland State team that upset Indiana in the NCAA tournament that was documented in John Feinstein’s classic “Season on the Brink” (great winter break reading for the erudite RTC fan).
– South Florida vs. Vanderbilt at 7 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: This game is officially at a “neutral” location, but the game is being played in Nashville. Even Coach K would be embarrassed to call that a neutral site. The Commodores could use a win here as they have been disappointing so far while the Bulls have been surprisingly competitive. However, since Vanderbilt plays in the SEC and USF plays in the Big East the reverse will be true during league play.
– #23 Marquette vs. #19 Tennessee at 9:30 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: The game of the week (before Saturday). Another “neutral” site game in Nashville. The Volunteers will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Dionte Christmas Temple. The loss dropped them 11 spots from a #8 ranking. They can make a case for a top 10 ranking again if they can beat Marquette. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles have been playing well (7-1) and come into the game with a top 25 ranking. Unfortunately, that only makes them the 8th highest ranked team in the Big East. I know it’s early and sounds ridiculous for a top 25 team, but Marquette could use a win here to start building a case for a NCAA tournament bid in case they fall back a little in the Big East because I still have a hard time believing the Selection Committee will give the Big East 10 bids.
– Cram for your last finals or go through the games you missed while studying for those finals/writing that term paper because this is a weak set of games.
– Mississippi State at Cincinnati at 6:30 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: The Bearcats (6-2) are off to a respectable start–losses to FSU and Xavier–by almost any league’s standards except for the Big East where they will struggle to stay out of the bottom third of the conference. The Bulldogs (7-3) are also off to decent start, but may be without coach Rick Stansbury who was admitted to a local hospital for new-onset migraines (the administration expects him to be able to coach that night). The Bearcats will have their handful trying to score inside with “The Human Eraser” Jarvis Varnado who comes into the game with a 6.2 blocks per game average.
– Evansville at #1 UNC at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: I’m expecting the line for this game to be UNC by 20, but don’t sleep on Evansville. They come into the game with a 7-1 record including a 32-point win over a Western Kentucky team that handled preseason Final Four favorite Louisville its only loss. The Tar Heels may also be a little off their game if they start buying into the hype (we aren’t) or if they continue to have late-night trysts with America’s sideline princess.
– Mississippi at #9 Louisville at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Rebels shouldn’t really present a challenge Louisville, but I haven’t bought into Rick Pitino’s Cardinals yet. In their only game that could be considered moderately challenging, they fell apart losing to Western Kentucky. If Pitino hopes to contend for a national title this year, his team needs to be able to put away teams like Mississippi early. We’ll also be watching to see Samardo Samuels, who is playing like the best freshman in the country right now.
– Get some sleep or go get some sun because you’re going to be glued to your couch all day tomorrow.