Eric Atkins

Pregame Shootaround 1.7.2013: Notre Dame plays … Cincinnati?

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Game of the Day: 6:30 p.m.: No. 21 Notre Dame at No. 14 Cincinnati (ESPN2)

We know how good Louisville is and we think we know how good Syracuse is, but what we don’t quite have a firm handle on yet is where Notre Dame and Cincinnati fall in the Big East’s pecking order. We should get a chance to gauge that on Monday evening, as the Irish visit the Queen City to take on the Bearcats. (Note the 6:30 tip!)

I think Notre Dame is a better team than the Bearcats this season. I love their back court almost as much as I love Jack Cooley. The problem, however, is that Cincinnati matches up particularly well with Notre Dame. The Bearcats can really pressure the ball defensively — watching Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins go up against Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick may be the best back court battle we get in the league this year — and they play four perimeter players, just like the Irish. They also have enough size inside to potentially negate Cooley.

How does Cincinnati respond to losing their last two games at home?

Who’s Getting Upset?: 7:00 p.m.: No. 5 Indiana at Penn State (Big Ten)

Ranked Big Ten team on the road in league play. That’s usually my standard for picking an “upset”. The problem here? Penn State isn’t all that good and Indiana is really, really good. We’ll call this the exception that proves the rule.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Illinois-Chicago at Cleveland State

UIC has been one of the nation’s most pleasant surprises after putting together wins against the likes of Mercer, Iona, Northwestern and Colorado State. A recent three-game losing streak aside, the Flames look to be a serious contender in the Horizon. Cleveland State was a favorite to win the league in the preseason, but after a series of injuries — including one to stud sophomore Anton Grady — the Vikings have fallen back to the pack.

Five Things

1. Parker Smith of North Florida went for 33 points and hit nine threes on Saturday. The last two times he’s suited up against Florida-Gulf Coast, he went for 23 points, combined for 11 threes in those two games. How many can he hit tonight?

2. Southern Utah is currently sitting at 3-0 in the Big Sky, two games ahead of the teams behind them but a half-game behind Weber State and Montana at the top of the league. SUU travels to Sacramento State tonight. Can they keep pace with the Big Sky favorites?

3. Afternoon hoops! Florida International and Bethune-Cookman tip-off at 1 p.m.

4. The Southland title will likely go through Oral Roberts or Stephen F. Austin, but neither Northwestern State not Sam Houston State have a league loss yet. They play tonight at 8:45 p.m.

5. Lipscomb’s Stephen Hurt and USC-Upstate’s Torrey Craig are two of the better forwards in the Atlantic Sun. They go toe-to-toe at 8:15 p.m.

No Other Top 25 games scheduled

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.