Central Michigan

Your guide to the pre-marathon Monday night games

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With a matter of minutes left until the first Monday night slate of the college basketball season, here’s a list of game that you might be interested in before midnight hits and the world completely turns its collective attention to the 24-hours of Marathon Madness.

A few games will be of interest for certain players, certain matchups and certain minutiae that all hoopheads loves.

So if you need to turn the 24-hours of hoops into 29, here’s your guide. Choose wisely. And take it easy on the caffeine.

Games of Note (and why)

North Dakota State at Indiana (7 p.m., no TV listed)Why: It’s the no. 1 team in the nation, first off. But this isn’t just another cupcake for the Hoosiers. The Bison were selected to finish behind only South Dakota State in the Summit League and have leading scorer Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorkland back from last season. Newcomer Mike Felt scored 23 in the team’s first game of the season, a blowout win over Valley City State (yea, I know, but still….).

Toledo at Minnesota (8 p.m., no T.V. listed) – Why: Trevor Mbakwe. He only played 14 minutes in the Golden Gophers’ first game of the season, a rout of American. It’s fair to believe that Tubby Smith is bringing the sixth-year senior along slowly. No reason to rush recovery of a torn ACL. But what does he do now with a game under his belt and against a Rockets’ team that just got rolled by Loyola (Ill.)? Will Tubby release the Mbakwe on the world tonight?

Morehead State at Maryland (8 p.m., ESPN3) – Why: Do the Terrapins overcome a Big Blue hangover? Alex Len led Maryland through a nail-biter against Kentucky, coming up short but showing a lot of promise for a season that was in limbo after leading scorer Terril Stoglin was suspended, then bolted. Ironically, they play an Eagles team that took the court right before them in Brooklyn on Friday night, beating a solid LIU-Brooklyn team in what essentially was a road game at the Barclays Center. So this is no buffer game for coach Mark Turgeon. How will the Terps respond?

Central Michigan at Iowa (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) – Why: The Keno Davis era begins. Davis parlayed one dream season at Drake into three sub-par seasons at Providence. After one year away from coaching, which Davis will we see? The Drake coach that was able to develop a guard like former Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Adam Emmenecker? Or a coach who failed to get things started at Providence despite having a player like Marshon Brooks to build around? We’ll see.

Rhode Island at Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ESPN3) – Why: Dan Hurley gets his first true test. And this comes after a really bad game in a 67-55 loss to Norfolk State at home. And that Spartan team doesn’t have Kyle O’Quinn on it. Now they head to Blacksburg against a fellow first-year head man in James Johnson, who got an 80-62 victory over East Tennessee State to open his career with the Hokies. This will be the true barometer of how much work Hurley has to do to get the Rams back to respectability.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Trey Zeigler to transfer, will bolster Pitt’s transition to the ACC

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Pitt had an abysmal 2011-2012 season. The Panthers’ 22-17 record provides definitive proof that a 20-game season is no longer a meaningful measure of success, as it includes a 6-14 conference mark and an 8-game losing streak that effectively put the perennial contender out of the running in late January. With the team scheduled to move to the ACC, many Big East fans may have considered the flop to be just desserts.

As of right now, however, the Panthers have something else to celebrate other than that CBI championship banner. Sought-after sophomore transfer Trey Zeigler announced via Twitter minutes ago that he will be attending Pitt next season.

The message was concise: “Just committed to the University of Pittsburgh! #hail2pitt”

For those who don’t know a Chippewa from a Bronco from an Eagle in the directional-Michigan depths of the MAC, the name Trey Zeigler might not mean much. The fact is, Zeigler was a major recruiting coup for the Chippewas of Central Michigan. Unlike the majority of Mid-American Conference starters, Zeigler fielded interest from the likes of Duke, Michigan and UCLA before deciding to stay and play for his pops, Ernie Zeigler, in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. When the Chippewas failed to capitalize on the 6’5″ prep star’s game, winning just 10 and 11 games in his first two seasons, Ernie was fired.

Rather than play for his dad’s replacement, Providence cast-off Keno Davis, Trey opened up his recruitment, and we now know that he has chosen to throw in his lot with Jamie Dixon. This is very good news for the Panther faithful. Zeigler was considered to be an NBA-level talent before his profile stagnated along with Central Michigan’s prospects. The younger Ziegler has been doing his part all along; he averaged 16 points per game over his first two seasons, and showed an impressive ability to kick in rebounds, assists, steals and even blocks as he attempted to will his team to a few more wins. Perhaps even more impressively, Zeigler didn’t foul out of a single game while basically carrying the team last year.

Watching what has become of Dixon’s mentor and predecessor Ben Howland in his sojourn at UCLA, observers may wonder if Dixon is due for a similar dropoff. The successful recruitment of Zeigler – by all accounts a model citizen – should put some of those fears to rest.