GAME OF THE NIGHT: Indiana at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.
Indiana is coming off one of the weirder stretches we’ve seen from any team this season. Last Tuesday, they notched a big win over then-No. 3 Wisconsin at home, earning themselves some credibility as a legitimate Big Ten threat and a team with a real shot at getting an NCAA tournament bid. The Hoosiers followed that up with … losing at home to Northwestern? Indiana mustered all of 47 points in that game, which is concerning. Tom Crean’s club has offensive issues this season, and Northwestern was able to cut off any and all penetration by the Hoosiers. Can the Spartans do the same?
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 22 Kansas State at Texas, 7:00 p.m.
Is Texas actually a tournament team this season? It’s starting to look more and more like it. The Longhorns suddenly have one of the more productive front courts in the Big 12 and Rick Barnes has a handful of young and talented back court players at his disposal. Kansas State, on the other hand, is the only team currently in the Big 12 that is within a game of first place Kansas in the conference standings. Fall two games off the pace, and the Jayhawks could end up coasting to the league title.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1) Missouri and LSU are both currently sitting at 2-2 in SEC play after entering the season with expectations of competing for an NCAA tournament bid. They square off tonight.
2) No. 20 Pitt hosts Clemson, who is 4-1 in the ACC as of right now. The Tigers already own a win over Duke. Are they truly going to be a contender in the ACC this year? If they win at Pitt, they probably will be.
3) No. 14 Kentucky hosts Texas A&M. Will the Wildcats try to get revenge for getting tricked into hiring Billy Gillispie?
4) New Mexico and Boise State are the only two teams in the MWC that have a chance to earn an at-large bid outside of San Diego State. They play tonight at 9:15.
5) Four key bubble matchups: Temple at UConn, Rutgers at SMU, Notre Dame at Florida State and Butler at Providence
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)