GAME OF THE NIGHT: VCU at Davidson, 6:00 p.m.
There were questions as to how VCU would adjust to life under new head coach Will Wade, and at this point in the season it’s fair to say that the Rams have been just fine. VCU is 7-0 in Atlantic 10 play, and while they’ve been solid defensively throughout the season the Rams have also been the A-10’s most efficient offensive team in league play. They’ll face a significant test in the form of Davidson and its high-scoring guard Jack Gibbs, who scored 40 points or more in three games this season, but the triumvirate of Melvin Johnson, JeQuan Lewis and Korey Billbury has been very productive for the Rams. A win at Davidson keeps VCU in sole possession of first place, with Dayton currently 7-1 and Saint Joseph’s 6-1.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Wright State at Oakland, 8:00 p.m.
Valparaiso has company atop the Horizon League standings, as Billy Donlon’s Raiders are 7-1 in conference games and have won ten of their last 11 games. Friday night they visit one of the nation’s most electrifying guards in junior Kay Felder, whose ability to both score and distribute the basketball makes him a tough matchup for any opponent the Golden Grizzlies encounter. But the key for Oakland will likely be their ability to defend, as Wright State has four players averaging at least 9.6 points per game led by sophomore guard Mark Alstork (12.2 ppg). The Raiders aren’t a prolific scoring team, but their ability to defend makes it imperative that Oakland get stops at a higher rate than it has thus far.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. The final weekend in January bring about the start of Ivy League back-to-backs, with tonight’s schedule including Harvard hosting Cornell. The Crimson have won the last three league titles, and with Columbia and Yale both off to 2-0 starts not losing any more ground is important for Tommy Amaker’s team (1-1 in Ivy League play).
2. One of the northeast’s best rivalries will have its latest installment, as Manhattan visits Iona. The Gaels (7-3 MAAC) are tied for second with Siena, a game behind first-place Monmouth, with the Jaspers a game back in the loss column at 5-4. With A.J. English leading the way one would expect Iona to take care of business due to their offensive firepower, but these match-ups tend to be close affairs.
3. Another key matchup in the Horizon League is Green Bay’s game at rival Milwaukee, with both sporting 5-3 records in league play. The Panthers, who have been the Horizon League’s most efficient offensive team in league play, have five players averaging double figures led by senior forward Matt Tiby (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg).
4. Kent State looks to remain atop the MAC East standings as they visit Ohio, with the Bobcats having won two of their last three. The teams have already met once this season, with Xavier Pollard scoring 23 points and Kellon Thomas 20 in the Golden Flashes’ 89-82 win January 16. In conference games only Northern Illinois has been better than Rob Senderoff’s team when it comes to defensive efficiency.
5. Penn looks to avoid an 0-2 start in Ivy League play as they visit undefeated Yale. James Jones’ Bulldogs, who have won six straight games, have a very good guard in leading scorer in Makai Mason and their front court tandem of Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears combines to average 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.