It’s rivalry weekend and there are some seriously big time matchups. Connecticut could be playing its last game at Syracuse, while Stony Brook will look to take a commanding lead in the America East. LIU takes on St. Francis NY in the battle of Brooklyn, while Hofstra will be looking for the upset at Drexel.
Connecticut (15-8, 5-6 Big East) @ No. 1 Syracuse (24-1, 11-1): Could this be the last time we see the Huskies play in the Carrier Dome? Possibly, since the Orange are off to the ACC. Then again, if Big East officials are intent on holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia for the full 27 months, there could be one more game between the two at the dome next season. As for the on-the-court issues, Connecticut has been in a free fall and has lost five of its last six. Jeremy Lamb has hit just 10 of his last 37 shots and is just 5-for-23 from three over his last three games. Syracuse survived against Georgetown in overtime and is getting back to normal now that 7-foot sophomore Fab Melo is back.
No. 19 Virginia (19-4, 6-3 ACC) @ No. 5 North Carolina (20-4, 7-2): Virginia has yet to beat a quality team on the road this season. They lost a tough one at Florida State (58-55) last Saturday and suffered another three-point setback against Duke on January 12. Could the third time on the road against a ranked team be a charm for the Cavaliers? North Carolina, on the other hand, hasn’t really beaten a really good team at home. They lost a heartbreaker to Duke at the buzzer on Wednesday and got crushed by Florida State last month. Don’t expect those losses to carry over. Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller are going to dominate the paint on Saturday.
No. 6 Baylor (21-3, 8-3 Big 12) @ No. 4 Missouri (22-2): Baylor’s Perry Jones III had an awful time in Wednesday’s 68-54 home loss to No. 7 Kansas. The 6-11 sophomore had just five points and three rebounds in 25 foul-plagued minutes. Truth be told, Baylor doesn’t fare well against top 10 teams. That could change on Saturday for the Bears, who are 8-1 on the road this season. Missouri is on a four-game winning streak with wins over Kansas and Texas. Baylor has lost its last three games against ranked teams.
No. 13 San Diego State (20-3, 6-1 MWC) @ No. 14 UNLV (21-4, 5-2): San Diego State recovered from an inexplicable loss at Colorado State on January and has won three straight. That Aztecs already have a win over the Runnin’ Rebels this season and are looking for the season sweep. Jamaal Franklin had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the win over UNLV last month and had 24 points and 11 rebounds against TCU on Saturday. After dropping a winnable contest against Wyoming (68-66) on Saturday, UNLV can’t afford any more conference losses. It was Wyoming’s first win over an AP top 25 team since 2000. UNLV’s top three scorers Mike Moser, Anthony Marshall and Chace Stanback combined for just 25 points on 9-for-25 shooting.
Hofstra (8-18, 2-12) @ Drexel (20-5, 12-2): Hofstra is 1-9 in road games this season, while Drexel is 10-0. It stands to reason that the Dragons would be favored in this one big time. The Pride looked bad in a 59-43 loss against Georgia State on Saturday, but was better in a 72-62 loss at George Mason on Saturday. Mike Moore, who’s averaging 19.6 points over his last three games and Nate Lester is putting up 15.6 over his last three. If those two are on, Hofstra has a chance for the upset.
Stony Brook (17-7, 12-1 America East) @ Vermont 16-10 (10-2): After a thrilling 80-68 win over UMBC on Friday, Stony Brook is poised to continue its great conference run against Vermont. Offensively, the Seawolves have begun to turn the corner. Outside of a poor shooting performance against New Hampshire on Monday, the Seawolves have been pretty efficient lately. The scoring provided by Bryan Dougher, Dave Coley and Al Rapier has carried the squad for much of the conference season, with some help from Anthony Jackson. The Seawolves are going to need all four to produce on Sunday.
St. Francis N.Y. (13-11, 10-3) @ LIU (18-7, 12-1): Don’t think because LIU has a two-game lead over St. Francis that it doesn’t need the win. The Blackbirds still only lead Wagner by one game. Although they have the tie-breaker by virtue of its series sweep of the Seawhawks, a loss to the Terriers would make things really tight down the stretch for LIU. LIU point guard Jason Brickman has emerged as a legitimate playmaker and scorer, which has helped take some of the scoring pressure off forwards Julian Boyd and Jamal Olaswere. Shooting guard C.J. Garner (11.5 ppg) has also had a steady impact on the offense. St. Francis is on the verge of having its first winning season since the 2003-04 season. Although it would be a bit premature to say mission accomplished, you have to admire what the Terriers have done in conference play this season. Stefan Perunicic (12.1 ppg), Ben Mockford (12) and Akeem Johnson (11.2) are three capable scorers who could give the Blackbirds problems.
St. John’s (10-14, 4-8 Big East) @ No. 12 Georgetown (18-5, 8-4): St. John’s bench got shorter thanks to the departure of junior guard Malik Stith. It is going to put a lot more pressure on Phil Greene and D’Angelo Harrison. With just experienced rotation players, it’s going to be tough for assistant coach Mike Dunlap to spell his starters. Add that to the fact that Georgetown is 12-1 at home and the Red Storm could be in some serious trouble. The Hoyas’ trio of Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims can hurt teams from inside and out. The Red Storm has a huge mountain to climb in this one.