GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Kentucky at UCLA, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The Wildcats and Bruins meet at Pauley Pavilion, and hopefully this game is more competitive than last season’s matchup in Chicago. Kentucky dominated from start to finish, posting a halftime score more fitting of a college football “buy” game than a college basketball game between two of the sport’s storied programs (41-7). Many of the faces have changed for John Calipari’s team but the results remain the same to this point, although it remains to be seen how healthy sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is (hyperextended right elbow). That, along with UCLA’s front court tandem of Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh, will be keys to keep an eye on tonight.
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Valparaiso, 8:00 p.m.
Two of the top mid-major programs will meet in Valparaiso, with the Crusaders hosting the Bruins in a matchup of the preseason favorites in the OVC (Belmont) and Horizon League (Valparaiso). Bryce Drew’s Crusaders have been stingy defensively with senior Vashil Fernandez serving as the anchor, and they’ve got a number of scoring options including forward Alec Peters. That defense will need to be at its best to slow down Rick Bryd’s team, which features guard Craig Bradshaw and forward Evan Bradds.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 6 Oklahoma is the only other ranked team in action tonight, with the Sooners hosting Central Arkansas (8:00 p.m., ESPNU). The perimeter triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard have played well thus far, as has senior forward Ryan Spangler. If anything, this game should give front court players such as Akolda Manyang, Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin added reps with the struggling Bears arriving in Norman with a 1-5 record.
2. USF, which has won two of its last three games after starting the season 0-4 (the lone loss to Kentucky, so no shame there), hits the road to take on Delaware. This is an important game for Orlando Antigua’s team, as their next two contests are against South Carolina and NC State. If the Bulls are to have any shot at leaving Newark with a win, they’ll need to slow down a balanced offensive attack that boasts five players averaging between 8.3 and 13.5 points per game led by forward Cazmon Haynes (13.5, 7.0 rpg).
3. UT-Arlington, which already has wins over Ohio State and Memphis to its credit and lost at Texas in overtime earlier this week, hosts North Texas in a game they should take care of. Scott Cross’s Mavericks haven’t been great when it comes to shooting the ball but they’re one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, as they’ve rebounded 42.5 percent of their missed shots (fifth nationally). Leading the way has been forward Kevin Hervey, who’s averaging 17.3 points and ten rebounds per game.
4. Colorado State, which has won five of its first six games, hosts a tested Long Beach State team in what should be an entertaining contest. And if you like transfers this game’s loaded with them, with Nick Faust (Maryland) leading the way for the 49ers and junior college transfer Emmanuel Omogbo being one of five averaging double figures for Colorado State while also leading the team in rebounding (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). CSU’s Gian Clavell has been one of the Mountain West’s most improved players thus far, averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
5. USC will look to rebound from their 1-2 weekend in Orlando by winning at UCSB. The Gauchos are led by senior guard Michael Bryson, who accounted for 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in a two-point loss at Arizona State over the weekend. He’s joined in the backcourt by John Green, who will look to bounce back from a 2-for-12 outing against the Sun Devils. USC doesn’t lack for talent on the perimeter either with Jordan McLaughlin leading the way, and forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Bennie Boatwright can score as well.
6. Louisiana and ULM meet in the Sun Belt opener for both, with the Ragin’ Cajuns pegged as the preseason favorites to win the league. Shawn Long will lead the way for the Ragin’ Cajuns, with ULM countering with its own 6-foot-10 senior big man in Majok Deng. These are two of the top offensive teams in the Sun Belt, with the Ragin’ Cajuns shooting a league-best 51.3 percent from the field and the Warhawks third in the conference at 45.5 percent. But ULM has been the better defensive team thus far, which should make for an interesting matchup.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- UMass-Lowell at LIU Brooklyn, 7:00 p.m.
- Central Michigan at Grand Canyon, 9:00 p.m.
- IPFW at Cal Poly, 10:00 p.m.