Sorry power conference fans! With great mid-major matchups set to transpire in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama, "Sizzling in the Spotlight" turns its focus towards the best mid-major contests of December 1.
7:00 PM EST
3-3 Old Dominion @ 4-2 William & Mary
Old Dominion: 76-67 Loss @ VCU
William & Mary: 79-77 Loss - Howard
Players to Watch:
Trey Freeman (SR)
---17.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, & 1.2 SPG.
William & Mary:
Omar Prewitt (JR)
---17.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, & 2.7 APG.
Two of the premier mid-major programs go head-to-head on Tuesday night when Old Dominion goes on the road to face William & Mary. Despite the loss of Marcus Thornton to graduation, Terry Tarpey and the Tribe has opened the season with an impressive 4-2 record, highlighted by a 17-point win over NC State to open the season. Trey Freeman and the Monarchs will be a tough team to knock off on this night, and the visiting Monarchs will use their depth to score the minor upset win on the road.
---Old Dominion 74, William & Mary 70
Separated by a little over 44 miles (if you take I-64 to Norfolk), Old Dominion and William & Mary used to be one of the biggest rivalries the CAA had to offer. Looks like a new chapter will be written tonight. Both with top scorers suiting up (ODU's Trey Freeman and W&M's Omar Prewitt), this showdown could provide two of the top performers for this evening college basketball schedule. Yet that's look past the superstars for a moment, and consider who they have around them. Standing beside Freeman, the Monarchs have Aaron Bacote and double-double threat Brandan Stith while the Tribe upperclassman options in Daniel Dixon, "little big man" Terry Tarpey, and Sean Sheldon surround Prewitt. Throw in home-court advantage being a big factor and William & Mary is bound to prove a bigger conference does not lead to a better team.
---William & Mary 72, Old Dominion 68
3-3 Fairfield @ 1-2 Iona
Fairfield: 82-81 Win - Columbia
Iona: 92-77 Win - Delaware
Players to Watch:
Marcus Gilbert (SR)
---21.3 PPG & 5.2 RPG.
A.J. English (JR)
---19.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, & 1.0 BPG.
Conference play in the MAAC officially gets underway on Tuesday night, and what better way to kick things off than with Fairfield paying a visit to Iona. On one side of the ball, there’s Marcus Gilbert, who is the key cog for the Stags on both ends of the floor. For the hometown Gaels, the high-scoring guard duo of A.J. English and Schadrac Casimir are capable of putting up a combined 40 points on any given night. The Gaels’ guard tandem will lead Iona to victory over Fairfield to kick off conference play.
---Iona 88, Fairfield 80
Here we go: The beginning of MAAC play! Unlike most conferences, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, home of Iona and Monmouth, starts their league play with a two-game mini slate that begins in December. Therefore, right on time, the preseason favorite Iona hosts Marcus Gilbert's Fairfield Stags to start conference contests. Which team will steal an early half game lead on the others? The Iona Gaels! Despite Schadric Casimir having a very rocky start to his second collegiate campaign, he shall right his early season woes with season-highs in points, rebounds, and assists while A.J. English continues to do what he does best (shine as a star) with a 20 plus point, 5 rebound, 5 assist performance. For Fairfield's Gilbert, he will have a good night of his own but not good enough to win on the road.
---Iona 84, Fairfield 67
8:00 PM EST
4-1 Utah State @ 1-4 Missouri State (ESPN3)
Utah State: 85-52 Loss @ Duke
Missouri State: 77-56 Win - William Woods
Players to Watch:
Chris Smith (SR)
---16.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, & 1.2 SPG.
Camyn Boone (JR)
---12.0 PPG & 4.6 RPG.
Unlike the B1G/ACC Challenge, which is condensed into a three-day period, the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge is spread out throughout the non-conference season on fairly random nights. Tuesday night is one of those occasions, as the Utah State Aggies take a mid-week trip to Springfield, Missouri, to face the Missouri State Bears. The Bears have struggled this season, and their troubles will continue on Tuesday. Despite playing on their home floor, Utah State will roll to a double-digit victory behind the play of Jalen Moore and Chris Smith.
---Utah State 81, Missouri State 68
What MVC team's start is more surprising? Southern Illinois putting together a 6-1 seven-game stretch or Missouri State possessing only one win, which came against a non-Division I opponent. This journalist tends to agree with the latter. Struggling to produce offense without Marcus Marshall, the Bears have been rocked by very good competition. Utah State shall not do as past opponents have. Although the Aggies enter today with a 4-1 mark, their best win has come against Weber State. Through most eyes, that isn't too impressive. Even with experienced point producers in Chris Smith, Jalen Moore, and Lew Evans, can USU really be thought of as much better than Dequon Miller and Camyn Boone's Missouri State team. No sir! Prepare for Miller to break out for a season-high point total while Boone dominates the offensive boards in a one-possession win.
---Missouri State 69, Utah State 68
5-1 Texas-Arlington @ 2-3 Texas (Longhorn Network/WatchESPN)
Texas-Arlington: 92-74 Win @ Rice
Texas: 78-72 Loss - Michigan
Players to Watch:
Kevin Hervey (SO)
---17.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, & 2.2 APG.
Isaiah Taylor (SO)
---15.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, & 4.8 APG.
The UT-Arlington Mavericks have quietly started the 2015-16 season with a 5-1 record while notching big wins over both Memphis and Ohio State to boot. They will get a chance to complete the trifecta of big wins for the program when they take on instate rival Texas. The Longhorns have talent across their roster, but have underachieved thus far. On Tuesday, expect Isaiah Taylor and Connor Lammert to lead the Longhorns to a hard-fought victory.
---Texas 78, UT-Arlington 72
Down goes Ohio State! Wow, and Memphis! Next to Monmouth and Radford at the top of November giant killers has been the Texas-Arlington Mavericks. However, can they finish the trifecta of upsets with a victory in Austin against THE University of Texas. With their top five scorers playing high school basketball within 30 minutes of UTA's campus, one can only imagine the Mavs want this victory over what is known as "the school" of Texas college sports more than a young boy craves candy. Sadly for them, they will not be able to collect the victory as there is no way Isaiah Taylor and Cameron Ridley will allow such a demoralizing loss to occur on their court.
---Texas 76, Texas-Arlington 67
2-3 Alabama State @ 5-1 Evansville (ESPN3)
Alabama State: 66-64 Win - Chicago State
Evansville: 75-56 Win - UC Irvine
Players to Watch:
Jamel Waters (SR)
---15.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.0 APG, & 2.2 SPG.
D.J. Balentine (SR)
---20.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, & 5.8 APG.
Evansville is coming off of a 5th place finish in the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, and that’s something they should be proud of. They went 2-1 over the three-game stretch, taking down solid west coast teams in Santa Clara and UC Irvine. Big man Egidijus Mockevicius has started to pick up steam as the season has progressed, and he was dominant during the three games in California. Expect his dominance to continue as the Purple Aces roll all over the Hornets.
---Evansville 85, Alabama State 70
"D.J. Balentine! Downtown!" After leaving Southern California with two must-win games (Santa Clara and UC Irvine), the Evansville Purple Aces are staying the course to be in consideration for an at-large bid when Selections Sunday rolls around. Granted, Marty Simmons' group needs to collect some resumé wins like versus Wichita State and at Arkansas, yet as of now they are golden. But, that could quickly change if Alabama State's Jamel Waters plays out of his mind tonight. Waters, who was a 2014-2015 All-SWAC first team selection, has started off his last collegiate campaign very well, for he has netted double-figures in all five contests prior to tonight. However, this journalist does not foresee him dropping 25-30 (which will be needed for the upset) with a combination of defensive specialist Duane "Boo" Gibson and Jalen Brown guarding the 5'9" guard. Do look for the aforementioned Balentine and big fella Egidijus Mockevicius to have very good performances against the Hornets.
---Evansville 80, Alabama State 63
3-2 Indiana State @ 0-4 Eastern Illinois
Indiana State: 67-66 Win - Hofstra
Eastern Illinois: 81-72 Loss - Green Bay
Players to Watch:
Khristian Smith (SR)
---14.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, & 1.2 SPG.
A.J. Riley (JR)
---17.0 PPG & 5.3 RPG.
Through their first five games of the 2015-16 season, Khristian Smith and the Indiana State Sycamores have shown signs of promise. While they are only sitting at 3-2 on the year, which is a record that may not scream potential, they have the look of a team who could creep up on a few teams, as they did last year, when conference play commences. Taking on a winless Eastern Illinois team, the Sycamores should roll to their fourth-win of the season, despite the best efforts from EIU guard Trae Anderson.
---Indiana State 69, Eastern Illinois 60
0-4? Wow! With last season's CIT Sweet Sixteen appearance, hopes were high for another good season in Charleston, Illinois. Unfortunately, that has not been the case so far. 2014-2015 Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Cornell Johnston seems to have regressed after a very good season as a "fab freshman" considering his measly statline of 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. This evening he will be lucky to post those numbers because the Indiana State Sycamores have arguably the best backcourts in the Missouri Valley Conference (considering the injury to Wichita State's Fred Van Vleet) while the production from Matt Van Scyoc and Brandon Murphy has not been too shabby. While this annual matchup shall be very close in score, Greg Lansing's Sycamores will be moving to 4-2 prior to a huge matchup with Kellen Dunham's Butler Bulldogs.
---Indiana State 70, Eastern Illinois 60
9:00 PM EST
3-1 Georgia State @ 3-3 UAB
Georgia State: 78-72 Win - IUPUI
UAB: 82-77 Loss - Virginia Tech
Players to Watch:
Jeremy Hollowell (JR)
---19.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, & 2.3 SPG.
Chris Cokley (SO)
---15.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, & 1.2 BPG.
The two darlings of last season’s NCAA Tournament face off in Birmingham, Alabama, as the UAB Blazers play host to the Georgia State Panthers. Both teams sent shockwaves through the college basketball landscape with their opening round upset wins in the Big Dance last season, and they will go head-to-head on Tuesday night. Georgia State’s experienced group, led by Markus Crider, Kevin Ware, and T.J. Shipes, will lead the Panthers to a big road victory over the Blazers.
---Georgia State 80, UAB 77
Don't let Georgia State's record deceive you my friend, the Panthers only have one win against Division I opposition thus far! UAB will not be the second. Although Ron Hunter has two potential All-Sun Belt first teamers in "jazzy junior" Jeremy Hollowell and former Louisville Cardinal Kevin Ware, the supporting case around them is average at best. Yes, Isaiah Williams and Markus Crider have the ability to chip in ten plus points on any given night, but both shall not against the Blazers. Led by "stud sophomore" Chris Cokley, UAB has silently had a good season considering they stood toe-to-toe and traded blows with Auburn and Virginia Tech in single digit losses. Please don't have too much pride to refuse to tune into this mid-major battle because you never know if one of these teams could be ruining your bracket again this March.
---UAB 70, Georgia State 66
1. Bennett 127 pts (100-50)
2. Wesner 122 pts (97-53)
***The Spotlight Game is worth two points in opposed to one.