Officials gone wild

It’s usually a coach or player that gets ejected. Today it was two former NC State players that were in the stands for the game against Florida State. Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani were sitting behind the scores table today when ejected by Karl Hess. CBSSports.com talked to Corchiani, who said “There were seven or eight different calls we were contesting, we were yelling, but we didn’t even yell a profanity or even threaten him.” Corchiani also told CBSSports that Hess tried to have another fan ejected earlier in the game.

Karl Hess is in his 16th season as an official (Google Images)

ACC Supervisor of Officials John Clougherty released a statement about the ejection. “Under Rule 10, when circumstances warrant, an official has the authority to request home game management to eject fans when the behavior, in the officials’ judgement, is extreme or excessive. It’s unfortunate in this instance that ACC protocol of communicating directly with the home game management was not followed, and instead, a building security officer was solicited. We will re-communicate this policy with all officials to ensure proper protocol is followed.”

According to statsheet.com, Hess is in his 16th season as an official and has 11 ejections in 1251 games, with 3 coming in the 2008-09 and 1999-2000 seasons.

This ejection had me thinking which ejection is more unbelievable; the ejections of Gugliotta and Corchiani or the ejection of Sammy the Owl from Rice in 2009 by Curtis Shaw?

What do you think, should officials be able to eject fans or mascots for yelling at them or is it just part of the game?

Back to the game, Florida State’s Ian Miller led the Seminoles from off the bench with 17 points in a 76-62 victory over the Wolfpack who was led by C.J. Leslie with 21 points. and 9 rebounds.

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One player makes a ton of difference, just ask Randy Bennett

Holt's knee injury kept out a key cog in the Gaels lineup. Especially one that would've gone a long way to stopping Isaiah Canaan.

MURRAY, Ky. — There’s plenty one could devour when looking at no. 16 Murray State’s 65-51 victory over no. 21 St. Mary’s. I mean, a lot. And afterward, the coaches, they agreed.

But one thing that Gaels coach Randy Bennett did talk about had nothing to do with the game. Well, one name, rather. That was guard Stephen Holt, who sat out with a knee injury suffered in their home loss to Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.

Normally, that wouldn’t be an excuse in a game like this. And if you ask Bennett, it still wasn’t. But the West Coast Conference’s leader in steals not being on the court to guard arguably the Ohio Valley Conference’s soon-to-be Player of the Year, Isaiah Canaan, hurt. Bad. Just look at Canaan’s stat line: 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 5-of-8 from 3-point range and only three turnovers.

“It was a big factor,” Bennett said. “You could argue he’s our best player for what he does defensively. We are in a tough spot without him. We didn’t have a lot of quickness out there and were pretty much on our heels.”

It doesn’t help that Holt was St. Mary’s third-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game, on 50-percent shooting on the season (87-for-174). Those numbers could’ve helped in a game that the Gaels couldn’t get a shot to drop from beyond the arch (2-of-14), much less overall (20-of-53, 37.7-percent).

Instead, St. Mary’s was forced to suffer through a 1-for-10 shooting night from guard Jorden Page — who finished with three points — and an overall 12-for-37 shooting night from the healthy starters.

In his post-game press conference, Bennett used Holt’s name too many times for a player who didn’t factor in to the contest. He understands his player’s value. One other thing Bennett knows? That Holt probably won’t play in the Gaels’ next game against Portland on Thursday.

This is definitely not the St. Mary’s team that had folks drooling just last month. Point guard Matthew Dellavadova limped his way to a team-high 17 points, 0-for-4 from three. Racers forward Ed Daniel, all 6-7 of him (eight), out-rebounded St. Mary’s starting front line of Clint Steindl, Rob Jones (10.4 board per game) and Kyle Rowley by himself (seven). They’ve lost three of their last four games and along with the L’s have also lost any hope of an at-large berth, meaning they’ll have to survive possible dates with Gonzaga and BYU in next month’s WCC Tournament to punch a ticket to the Big Dance for the fourth time under Bennett.

“It’s not easy to figure out what the problem is,” Bennett said.

This isn’t the same team we’re used too. And while Stephen Holt may not be the whole solution, tonight, in a game that the Gaels had to win to keep up their at-large hopes, his absence spoke volumes about how far this team has slid in a short amount of time.

PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES/FOXSPORTS.COM


Murray guards lift Racers to win over Gaels

Murray State's Zay Jackson drives to the lane against St. Mary's Rob Jones in their game Saturday night in Murray, Ky.

MURRAY, Ky — Murray State made a statement in their 65-51 victory over St. Mary’s on Saturday . Meanwhile, the Gaels missed out on a big chance to impress the NCAA Tournament bracket committee.

The Racers didn’t let go of their lead once, as Isaiah Canaan went off for 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 5-of-8 from three. With the game still well within reach for the Gaels eight minutes into the second half, Canaan scored all eight points in an 8-2 run for the Racers, extending their lead to 16 points. He had two 3-pointers and layup in the stretch.

“He can shoot it so well,” St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said following the game. “He reminds me of (Weber State’s) Damian Lillard. His ability to shoot makes him exceptional.”

Canaan was the spark-plug, but it was Donte Poole who provided the big lift to begin the game. He scored all of his 11 points in the first half. Murray’s starting guards (Canaan, Poole and Jewuan Long) combined to shoot 16-of-24 in the game.

“When you play a team like Murray who is a very good team, they will expose you,” Bennett said. “Their guards are really good. Their bigs are better than you’d think. With those type of teams, if you don’t do anything right you’ll get exposed.”

St. Mary’s was forced to play without top defender and third-leading scorer Stephen Holt due to an injury he sustained in Wednesday’s loss against Loyola Marymount. To make matters worse, Matthew Dellavedova played nowhere near 100 percent after a recent ankle injury. Dellavedova still managed 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, adding in six assists.

“He’s a stud — he essentially played on one leg,” Bennett said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor. I didn’t want him to play, but he wanted to play. But he was dragging his leg up there, he can’t accelerate. I hope he didn’t set himself back at all. We need him too much down the stretch.”

With Canaan and Poole nearly lights out shooting threes for the Racers, it wasn’t quite the same for the Gaels, who shot 2-of-14 from deep.

Murray got the big win they so desperately needed and proved they were worthy of not only an NCAA Tournament bid, but a top-15 ranking as well.

“Anyone who is 26-1 at this time is really good,” Bennett said. “There are good teams in their conference, and they have played on the road at some tough places.”

St. Mary’s will likely fall out of the top-25 in the rankings, after losing three-of-four games. The losing streak will also mean they will probably need to win the West Coast Conference Tournament next month to receive a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Bennett said the tough late-season schedule and the recent injuries should be put into perspective.

“You could have predicted we’d lose the (games at Gonzaga and Murray),” he said. “We got beat up a little. Losing will surface. We just have to get back to work and identify what the problems are and what we can control.”

Murray has two games left in the year, at Tennessee Tech and Tennsssee State, who handed the Racers their first loss of the year. St. Mary’s faces Portland and San Fransicso to close out the year.

-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES/ESPNPENSACOLA.COM


Media Mock Bracket Released

Getting the March Madness itch? Selected members of the media gathered in Indianapolis Friday to get a feel for what it is like as a member of the selection committee. Let’s take a quick look at the simulated bracket that they released today.

The first round, which most know as the first four in Dayton include Alabama/Illinois and Seton Hall/Arizona as well as UTSA/Southeast Missouri State and Mississippi Valley/Stony Brook. The first two match-ups are the only two that seem like they would be good games.

Your number one seeds: Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri, Syracuse.

New Orleans is the place every teams wants to be at the end of the season

In the South Region Kentucky is on the top line. This is the region that would be one to watch if this was the actual bracket. Other teams in the region include Louisville, North Carolina, Baylor and Wisconsin. A Louisville/Davidson match-up makes for a fun start to this region.

Syracuse claims the one seed in the East Region. This region has some match-ups that could be some of the best in the entire tournament. 8 Memphis/9 Purdue, 6 Vanderbilt/11 Texas, 7 Murray State/10 Connecticut. Other teams in this region include Duke and Indiana.

Ohio State is the leader in the West Region. Some of the teams that would try to advance to New Orleans include West Virginia, Iowa State, Florida, UNLV, Georgetown and Kansas. The first match-up in this region would be a classic 8/9 seed battle between West Virginia and Iowa State.

Finally in the Midwest Region Missouri is on the top line. Some of the other teams in this region include St. Mary’s, Florida State, Michigan, Xavier, Marquette and Michigan State.

Yet again the Big East led all of the Conferences with 8 bids. The Big Ten had 7 teams and Big 12 had 6 in the dance.

Now we just have to wait for the real bracket to be revealed. 2012 Media Mock Bracket


Murray State-St. Mary’s game a must-win on both sides

Murray State's Isaiah Canaan will need to have a big game to get the Racers the win over St. Mary's

Just because they each had a couple hiccups within the last week doesn’t mean tomorrow’s Murray State-St. Mary’s game won’t be the biggest game of BracketBuster Saturday. In fact, the game might be bigger now.

The Racers lost last week on their home court to Tennessee State, 76-68, to end their shot at a perfect record. Meanwhile, the Gaels dropped two games last week in double figures — one against their rival Gonzaga and another to Loyola Marymount. Suddenly, this is a must-win game for both teams.

After the St. Mary’s game, Murray’s last two games of the year are against Tennessee State on the road, the fourth place team in the Ohio Valley, and a rematch AT Tennessee State. A loss to one of those teams could all of a sudden put the Racers on the bubble and in a position where they would have to win the OVC Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

But a win against St. Mary’s would be huge for the Racers, and it would finally give them a marquee win and something to show the bracket committee besides a bunch of wins against lowly competition. The campus will be abuzz as well, with Dick Vitale (and myself for that matter) in attendance. Add in the fact that it’s Senior Night, and the Racers have a lot to play for.

But so do the Gaels. You can’t drop two out of three games by double-digits in the West Coast Conference and have people not at least be a little concerned. This will be their last big chance before their conference tournament. A win against the Racers, and St. Mary’s should be in.

I expect a good, high scoring-game tomorrow night in Murray. The Racers will need to get out to a good start in this one — they have had a tendency to be forced to come back in ball games. If they let the Gaels get out to an 8-10 point lead, they will have a tougher time coming back than they would against a team in the OVC.

It’s not often you have a “win-and-you’re in” game in non-conference play, but that is certainly the case in this one. It’s also not often these two squads, especially Murray, get national exposure — so they will need to make the most of it.

All week I’ve wanted to pick St. Mary’s to win, but this is the Racers’ biggest regular-reason game in years, and it will be played in front of a loud, sold-out home crowd. Racers win this tight affair 74-69.

And stay glued here tomorrow, as me and David Harten will be at the CFSB Center to provide extensive coverage of this big game.


So, exactly how bad is Binghamton?

Yea, that about sums it up.

-For those not up on it, the Binghamton Bearcats of the America East Conference are as bad as it gets when it comes to Division I basketball talent. They’re the last winless team in D-1, and it’s not even close.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.

First of all, they aren’t dead last in the KenPom Ratings. But damn it, they’re consistent when it comes to being at the bottom. In their 0-25 record, 14 of the L’s have been by 15 points or more. And it’s not like this team is playing a bunch of world beaters, the highest-rated team in any of the systems that they played? Drexel and Boston University at 57 in the KenPom at the time of defeat. Legit teams, but by no means anyone that most fear come tournament time. Their strength of schedule is 314th in the nation. Swoon.

They aren’t much better in the Sagarin Ratings, ranking 344 of 345 at 52.18 with a schedule he ranks as 326th in the nation. Both places, they outrank only Grambling State, which is ineligible for the postseason due to low APR over the last few years.

When looking at the KenPom, the Bearcats rank 300th or worst in 11 different categories, including 340th in both Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (84.1) and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (115.3).

As a team, Binghamton shoots — ahem — 29.3 percent from 3-point range and 38. 7 percent overall. Two players, Rick Mansell (14.4) and Ben Dickerson (12.6) are in double-figures in scoring. The team’s average margin of defeat is 16.3 per game. By comparison, Kentucky’s average margin of victory this season? 19.9.

It really takes effort to suck as bad as Binghamton is. They’re getting shout-outs from alum Tony Kornheiser on Around The Horn. They’ve earned the negative pub, but this, in fairness, this is a squad that has fallen on hard times. Two seasons ago, five players were kicked off the team, due to a wealth of reasons, including Tiki Mayben, who was popped for selling crack cocaine and juggling a Division I scholarship (priorities!). The program imploded as a result of the internal academic investigation, and former coach Kevin Broadus, the man who led the team to the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament, lost his job.

To save face, they pulled themselves from 2009-10 postseason play and since then, coach Mark Macon, who took over for Broadus after he was forced out, has been having to reinvent the wheel. This is a team without a senior, which could served them well next season with everyone coming back.

This team was in Division III in the late 90’s. They moved up quickly and as a result, thought that to compete, they had to cheat. Everyone knows you need runners for that, which Binghamton can’t afford (Hi UCF!). But just ask Towson, when you have no expectations, the pressure is off.  That’s positive, right?

PHOTO: Deadspin/Google Images


On The Edge (2-14)

Every week leading up to the NCAA Tournament we will feature several bubble teams with their current chances of making the tournament and key games ahead for them.

Illinois: The Fighting Illini have had a free-fall as of late, losing six of their last seven conference games. This is a team that has a solid resume though, with wins over Michigan State and Ohio State heading it. They still have three more games against top-20 teams. If they take care of the games they should win (Nebraska, Iowa) and win one of those three games against ranked teams, they should be in. If they don’t, losses to Penn State as well as fellow-bubble teams Northwestern and Purdue could be crucial. They play Purdue again on Wednesday night — a loss to them for the second straight time this year could be detrimental, especially if bracket-builders are forced to decide between the two. Feb. 14 status: In

Illinois and Purdue will both be searching for a crucial when, as they face each other Wednesday night at Purdue.

Purdue: Speaking of the Boilermakers, they have a solid 6-6 conference record, but those six wins won’t impress many, as none of them have been against teams with winning records in the conference. They are 0-6 for the year against top-25 teams and aside from solid-but-not-astounding victories against Miami and Illinois, don’t have many wins to brag about. They face three more ranked Big Ten foes this year, which may be the difference for the Boilermakers. Feb. 14 status: Out

Texas: The Big 12 has been a very top-heavy conference, and surprisingly Texas has not been one of those teams at the top. They have lost to all of the teams at the top of the conference this year, the last three coming by a combined nine points. The Longhorns best victory this year is against Temple, but a win over the weekend against bubble-team Kansas State did help. They face both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this week on the road, and although those two teams are in the bottom tier of the conference, they would still be two quality and much-needed wins. Feb. 14 status: Out

Alabama: The Crimson Tide could be on the down slope, as coach Anthony Grant suspended four of his top players over the weekend due to a violation of team rules. The timing was bad, as they have a home date with Florida tonight. Alabama is in desperate need for a big one — they have some of the top teams close, but haven’t gotten that marquee win. If they don’t beat the Gators, a win over the suddenly surging Tennessee Volunteers this weekend will be necessary to keep their chances alive. Feb. 14 status: Out

Connecticut: The reigning champion Huskies surely still have some work to do. They sport the top strength of schedule in the nation and the No. 19 RPI, but are just 15-9 for the year and 5-7 in the Big East. They’ve beaten Florida State, Harvard and Notre Dame, but they have double-digit losses in their last three games against ranked foes. They are sitting in the bottom-half of a weakened Big East, but a win against Marquette this weekend may put them in for the time being. Feb. 14 status: Out

Notre Dame: The Irish are rolling right now, winning six straight games, including three over top-15 teams. Right now they should be in, especially since they sit third in the Big East at 9-3. Five of their last six games are against unranked teams, and although that might sound good, if they drop a couple of those this is suddenly a team that might need to win a couple of games in the Big East Tournament to get into the dance. They have the victories (Louisville, Syracuse, Connecticut, Marquette) but have also suffered conference losses to Cincinnati and Rutgers. They face Rutgers tonight, which will be a big revenge game for the Irish. Feb. 14 status: In

Miami: The Hurricanes will always have that win over Duke, but that’s their only marquee win. They missed out on a chance against Florida State over the weekend, but will get another chance this month to beat them. Miami faces the Tar Heels at home tomorrow night, hoping to avenge a 17-point loss to them last month. If they upset the Tar Heels, there shouldn’t be much doubt about letting the Hurricanes in, but if not, there won’t be many more chances to impress the committee. Feb. 14 status: Out

Virginia: The Cavaliers sport a solid 19-5 record, but just one win over a ranked team (Michigan). If they win their four games against teams with sub-500 ACC records and one of their games against Florida State and UNC, it will be hard to bypass Virginia. I don’t see both Miami and Virginia getting in, however, so their 52-51 win last month over the Hurricanes could be a deciding factor. Feb. 14 status: In


What to watch this week

Here is a quick look at a game each day this week that may catch your attention.

Monday: Syracuse @ Louisville (7pm ESPN) – ESPN’s Big Monday crew rolls into town with Louisville off a win at West Virginia, and Syracuse comes into the KFC Yum! Center with a five game winning streak.

Tuesday: Buffalo at Kent St. (7pm ESPN Full Court) – 2nd and 3rd place in the MAC East Division take the court in a Valentine’s Night game. The Bulls won by one point when these teams met January 7th.

Wednesday: Missouri St. at Wichita St. (8pm ESPN Full Court) – 1st place Shockers host 3rd place Missouri St., the Shockers took the previous match-up at the start of the month by seven.

Thursday: Wisconsin at Michigan St. (7pm ESPN) – 2nd and 3rdin the Big Ten, the Spartans won by three in Overtime last month in Madison.

Keith Appling (Left) and Draymond Green (Right) combine for 27.3 PPG and 14.1 RPG for Michigan State (Google Images)

Friday: Northern Iowa at VCU (7pm ESPN2) – The kickoff game of this years BracketBusters event, two teams that have been busting brackets in March make for a great start to the 10th year of the BracketBusters series.

Saturday: St. Mary’s at Murray State (6pm ESPN2) – The match-up that everyone wanted in BracketBusters. This game should still be a great game even without the Racers being undefeated, plus Dick Vitale is calling the game, should be a great atmosphere.

Sunday: Michigan State at Purdue (1pm CBS) – The Boilermakers get a shot to get a quality win over the Spartans under the lights of CBS.


Memphis: How their departure affects the Big East and C-USA

Just when you thought the Big East Conference was about to fall apart, they go and do something like this —and totally redeem themselves!

Since they are losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia after this season, the Big East had to do something big to stay at/near the top of the college basketball stratosphere. Enter Memphis. The Conference-USA powerhouse is set to join the Big East in 2013, adding a bit of life to a conference that needed a jolt.

They have already added Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist — but none of those teams can provide the star-power that the Tigers will provide. It is a great move for both sides, certainly as far as revenue is concerned. And Memphis will no longer have to beef up their non-conference schedule to impress the NCAA come March.

Memphis entering could be a big move in trying to keep Louisville from joining the Big 12 as well. Rick Pitino has publicly vouched for the Tigers entering the conference, and now the Louisville-Memphis rivalry can possibly get back to what it used to be in the mid-2000’s, when the Cardinals were a member of the C-USA. They played this year for the first time since Louisville defected, and this really has a chance to be one of the premier Big East rivalries.

With Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova, the Big East was already going to be a top conference even with the departing teams, but it was likely that the Atlantic Coast Conference or Big 10 could have overtaken them. With Memphis coming in, they will still have a strong chance to be near the top still.

Right now, Memphis would not be a top-tier Big East school, but that’s no fault against the Tigers. The guys they have on their team were recruited to play in the C-USA. Think about the new, different recruiting pitches Josh Pastner and his staff can make with his team now being able to play at Madison Square Garden every year for the Big East Tournament. It’s a win-win for every party. They should be a top five team in the conference in the foreseeable future.

But what happens to the C-USA? They already had three schools leave, and now their most relevant school is on its way out. You’d think this would kill them, but with a scheduled merger with the Mountain West Conference on the way, this will still be one of, if not the top, mid-major conference. After the merger, their conference will span literally the whole country.

C-USA will lose much of its exposure in the key markets of Memphis, Houston, Orlando and Memphis — that’s why a merger is. necessary. Memphis leaving won’t be the end of the world for the C-USA, just as it was not when Louisville and Marquette left in 2005.


Midday Report: Fountains of Wayne

GAMES WRAPPED

Wayne Blackshear had 13 points in his first regular season game as a Cardinal.

No. 23 Louisville 77, West Virginia 74

-Wayne Blackshear made his debut (24 games in) four Louisville, and scored 13 points. While there was a lot to talk about in this game — we’ll get to it — that has to be the most encouraging part for Louisville fans. Blackshear obviously kept himself in basketball shape while rehabbing. The future is bright…. Now, talk about going in opposite directions. The Cardinals (20-5, 8-4 Big East) reached 20 wins and have won  six straight now, while the loss is the Mountaineers’ (16-10, 6-7) have lost five of their last six. WVU led for most of the game until a Kyle Kuric 3-pointer and a steal-and-score by Russ Smith on the ensuing inbounds play gave Louisville a 73-71 lead with 2:17 left. Kyle Kuric would steal a Gary Browne pass inside to Kevin Jones with 10 seconds left, hit two free throws after being fouled, and Truck Bryant’s left wing 3 went begging as time expired.

Butler 52, Cleveland State 49

-A big win for the Bulldogs (15-12, 9-6 Horizon League), who really needed this just for confidence heading into crunch time and the Horizon League tournament. The Vikings (20-6, 10-4) had a shot at an at-large bid, but those hopes are dashed now. All a matter of who gets hot in the tourney. Butler held Cleveland State to 26.3 percent from 3-point range and forced 16 turnovers, all the while overcoming an 0-for-8 3-point day and shooting 38 percent on their own.

No.5 North Carolina 70, No. 20 Virginia 52

-It was a game in the first half, with the Tar Heels (21-4, 8-2 ACC) leading just 35-32 at the half. The second half made a lot of people believe that the Cavaliers (19-5, 6-4) might not be the team everyone expected, what with Mike Scott getting completely owned and UNC showing no ill effects from that tough loss to Duke. Tyler Zeller had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Heels, with John Henson (10 and10) and Harrison Barnes (14 and 11) notching double-doubles. The bigs were obviously the difference in this one. Mike Scott has been carrying the Wahoos all season and had 18 in the loss.

No. 2 Syracuse 85, UConn 67

-I’m not saying that UConn (15-9, 5-7 Big East) can’t bounce back from a game that they basically quit in at Louisville, but they didn’t start with a loss at the ‘Cuse (25-1, 12-1). Four players finished in double-figures and Andre Drummond has 13 points and seven boards in the loss. But they never could match up athletically with the Orange, which if you’ve seen the Huskies, shouldn’t happen. They’ve got as much talent and athletic ability as any team in the nation.

No. 4 Missouri 72, No. 6 Baylor 57

-The Tigers (23-2, 9-2 Big 12) got the sweep over the Bears (21-4, 8-4) on the season, and wow, they did it quick. This team is guard-heavy, and they ran on Baylor’s athletic big men in the second half, using a 17-1 keyed by three 3-pointers midway through the second half to propel them to the W. Phil Pressey had 19 points and four three’s in the game and Mizzou shot 50 percent from 3-point range (14-for-28). They bombed it. Baylor still has to figure out it’s identity, which is scary considering it’s identity. They have long athletic forwards who play essentially like swingmen in Perry Jones III and the Quincy’s (Miller and Acy) but seem inept at finishing down low, though Acy has improved. Most telling stat? They out-rebounded Mizzou 35-22.

No. 17 Florida State 64, Miami 59

-The Hurricanes (15-8, 6-4 ACC) didn’t necessarily hurt their at-large hopes with this loss to the Seminoles (17-7, 8-2), but if they don’t get in, this is one game that Jim Larranaga will look at and shake his head. Reggie Johnson was held to four points (which can’t happen) to go with six rebounds, which really was the difference being that the game was never more than a three-possession game late. Bernard James ha 18 points, six boards and four blocks in the win.

UPCOMING GAMES

Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN)

-A lot of folks taking Vandy (17-7, 6-4 SEC) in this one, especially being at home in Memorial Coliseum and the magic that seems to ensue in big games there for the Commodores. Kentucky (24-1, 10-0) is still Kentucky, they still have Anthony Davis and his Stretch Armstrong arms. It’s going to be tough for Festus Ezeli to be effective by himself, they’ll really need guys like Steve Tchiengang to show up down low and 6-8 Lance Gilbourne to provide a mid-range to draw out Davis and Kentucky’s other lengthy bigs.

No. 15 Creighton vs. Wichita State (5 p.m., ESPN2)

-Just another day in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton (21-4, 11-3 MVC) is somehow surviving in the  Top-25 despite losses to Northern Iowa and Evansville on the road. Granted, they’ll fall come tomorrow, but a win over the Shockers (21-4, 12-2) would not only help them stay in the rankings, but also go a long way to help their confidence and steady their at-large hopes. Which to me, is the best a conference win can do, being that teams see these opponents automatically every year. Wichita State has won three in a row after a loss at Drake.

No. 16 UNLV vs. No. 14 San Diego State (4 p.m, The Mtn.)

-This one is set for a classic. The Rebels (21-4, 5-2 Mountain West Conference) losing at Wyoming in their last game took some luster off this game, but it’s still a battle of Top-20 teams. The Aztecs (20-3, 6-1) have only lost one game since Dec. 4, a bad one at Colorado State, but other than that have been soaring.

No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Michigan State (6 p.m., ESPN)

-It seems like every week, the Buckeyes (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) play the second-best team in the B1G. Whoever it is. This week, it’s Michigan State (19-5, 8-3). It’ll be Jared Sullinger vs. Draymond Green for the most part, but can any of the Spartan’s guards get past ball-hawking Aaron Craft? That will probably be a big reason if Tom Izzo’s bunch can get a win. Look for William Buford to have a big game for tOSU, he had a career-high 29 last game, a victory at Purdue.

Temple vs. Xavier (9 p.m., ESPN2)

-What do the Owls have to do to get some serious poll love? They’ve beaten Duke this season, have a KenPom rating of 30 and have won eight in a row after a bad loss to Richmond on the road. They’re 18-5 overall and 7-2 in the Atlantic 10 and also have wins over Wichita State and Penn, two teams deep in the NCAA Tournament conversation. They won’t help themselves that much with a win over the Musketeers (16-8, 7-3), but it would certainly make me look stupid if they took a loss. Chris Mack’s squad, on the other hand, desperately needs a confidence W, losing three of their last six.

-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES