It’s rare when we see TV networks do something even remotely outside the box when it comes to scheduling (sorry, pairing powerhouses against each other doesn’t count). Given this, yesterday’s announcement of the Big 12 and SEC moving their Challenge event to late January certainly qualifies as big news.
All 10 games in the event in the 2015-16 season will take place on Saturday, Jan. 30. The idea is to maximize exposure and separate the event from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, as well as the glut of other tournaments and one-day events around late November. Of course, it also will keep it separated from football season, which with the way-too-long college football docket now results in games regularly played into December.
Moving the event should accomplish both of those things, but it should be good for even more than that. Non-conference matchups in January and February are a nice change-up and treat during a time of season when conference play, while far better than a diet of guarantee games, can also get a little bit stale for fans and even teams. The practice has unfortunately diminished in recent years, so it’s nice to see it come back a little.
The truth is, this really isn’t much different than what Bracket Busters once accomplished before the plug was pulled on it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Just like Bracket Busters, this will provide a jolt of excitement at a time of season that can use it. Bravo to the decision makers who hatched this idea and made it happen.
- The most notable performance of the day came in the first game of the day, where Providence’s Kris Dunn was magnificent with a triple-double of 27 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in an 83-72 win over DePaul. The Friars are now 16-5 and looking very good for the postseason.
- Ohio State made a statement for the now. We’ll see if the game also was a statement for Maryland going forward. The Buckeyes hammered the Terps 80-56, dominating the glass 51-32 and limiting Melo Trimble to three points and 0 of 8 shooting.
- Cincinnati got another important win while Connecticut continues to struggle. The Bearcats won 70-58 behind 20 points from Troy Caupain, who later was ejected after his second technical foul.
- UCLA beat Utah 69-59, avenging a 32-point beating in their first matchup this year. Don’t count out the Bruins yet, while the Utes’ road performance is starting to become worthy of concern. Also in the Pac-12, Colorado and USC went to three overtimes before the Buffs came out ahead 98-94. Askia Booker scored 43 points.
- Murray State’s win streak is now 16, but it took overtime on Thursday before the Racers put away pesky Eastern Kentucky 85-78.
- Massachusetts has been exceptionally quiet this year, but the Minutemen put a crimp in Dayton’s run of late with a 66-64 win in Amherst. Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki was there.
- Ho-hum results for top three teams: Kentucky won at Missouri 69-53 and Gonzaga drilled Portland 64-46.
- Louisiana Tech is now keeping Western Kentucky company at the top of Conference USA. Both are 7-1 in C-USA after the Bulldogs’ 69-56 win over WKU. Tech has now won 23 straight at home.
- Georgia Southern is an unlikely leader in the Sun Belt, and the Eagles stayed there with an 83-46 blowout of Appalachian State.
- The Big West tri-leaders all won. UC Davis held off UC Santa Barbara 70-64, UC Irvine topped Cal Poly 67-57 and Long Beach State rallied to beat Cal State-Fullerton 91-85 in overtime.
- Mercer let a big first half lead slip away but rebounded to defat Tennessee-Chattanooga 74-72 in overtime. Both are one game out of first in the Southern behind Wofford, which cruised past UNC-Greensboro 58-42.
- Big news from Duke, where Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed from the Blue Devils yesterday. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement that Sulaimon “has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.” The junior guard had been averaging 7.5 points and two rebounds in just over 19 minutes per game this season. Obviously it will be intriguing to see how Duke responds going forward.
- A rotten season for Southern Mississippi just gets worse. The Golden Eagles lost to Marshall 69-54 last night, and earlier in the day it was reported that Jeremiah Eason and Rasham Suarez are no longer part of the team. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish is reporting that both were declared ineligible as the result of findings from an ongoing NCAA investigation.
- Bradley leading scorer Warren Jones was arrested early Thursday morning on charges of obstruction of identification and criminal trespass, according to the Peoria Journal-Star. Teammate Ka’Darryl Bell was also ticketed for underage drinking, as was Jones, who was using teammate Omari Grier’s ID. Coach Geno Ford has promised discipline is coming for all three guards, who if/when they miss time will leave the Braves without three of their top players in the backcourt. It’s been a bad year for Bradley, which is 7-15 overall and tied for last in the Missouri Valley at 2-7, and it should go without saying that this taking place the same night as a loss at home to fellow basement-sharer Drake (on a school night, no less) is not a good reflection at all on a once-proud program.
Tonight’s Menu: Fridays start getting a little busier with Ivy League play now
Oregon State at Arizona, Oregon at Arizona State The Wildcats look to avenge their earlier loss to the Beavers. Much as it feels like otherwise, Oregon is not at all out of NCAA tourney at-large consideration, making this a big weekend.
Kent State at Buffalo (10 p.m. EST, ESPNU) The MAC gets some late-night air time, and it’s an attractive matchup between the East Division-leading Golden Flashes against Bobby Hurley’s Bulls.
Harvard at Princeton (6 p.m. EST, ESPNU), Brown at Cornell, Yale at Columbia Not even a full two games into the schedule, Yale (2-0) and Princeton (1-0) are the only unbeaten in the Ivy. With Harvard’s relative struggles, who wins this competitive league is anybody’s guess right now.
Monmouth at Fairfield (8 p.m. EST, ESPNU), Quinnipiac at Canisius Monmouth is hanging still just half a game behind Iona at the top of the MAAC. Canisius has been a pleasant surprise in the conference at 6-4.
Have a great Friday.