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The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 6, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Pac-12 may not have impressed in non-conference play, as big wins were a bit scarce and embarrassing losses were a little too plentiful. But if the last two nights are any indication, it’s going to be a fun conference to pay attention to from a competitive standpoint.

And Friday night showed that it won’t be alone in that regard, as a number of mid-major conferences are off and running with some surprising results.

Thursday night was quite a night, with two games needing overtime to decide and Arizona making a great run to ward off Utah and win in Salt Lake City. Friday night had just one game on tap, but it was a rivalry game as Oregon traveled to Corvallis to play Oregon State. The Ducks appear to be reloading reasonably well, though they have yet to beat a lock NCAA Tournament team. Oregon State has the potential to be an NCAA Tournament team, but thus far they look more like a disappointment than that.

The Beavers, however, managed to open up a lead in the second half and slowly grow it in the latter part, led by Tres Tinkle, who missed a lot of last season with an injury that was a big blow to the improving Beavers. Tinkle had 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to lead the Beavers to a 76-64 win and what could end up being their best win of the season.

Right now, this is a damaging loss for Oregon, as the Beavers entered the night with an RPI of 201, owing largely to losses to Long Beach State in the Advocare Invitational and a loss at Kent State. It’s Oregon’s worst loss of the season by far, and they lack a top 50 win. And unless teams like UCLA and Washington start winning to get their RPIs up, opportunities for such wins may be lacking later on, though they have two good ones next week as they go to Arizona State and Arizona.

For Oregon State, this helps them trend in a better direction, but if they are to follow up on the promise of two seasons ago with their core, they need to win a lot more, including against the conference elite.

If nothing else, though, the Pac-12 appears primed to be intensely competitive.

Meanwhile, Rutgers beat Wisconsin 64-60 in Piscataway, with the Scarlet Knights’ home floor again proving to be an equalizer. But give them credit, too – this team is clearly improved and on the way up, and let’s also understand that the jury is still very much out on Wisconsin, whose RPI has three digits right now.

The Horizon League had a dandy on Friday night, with Northern Kentucky going to Oakland and handing the Golden Grizzlies their first home loss of the season by a score of 87-83. The Norse join Wright State at 3-0 in the league early on, with the Raiders getting a road win of their own. Oakland may be 1-2, but one is wise to not underestimate Greg Kampe’s club, especially after the run they made last year to secure the top seed in the league tournament.

The CAA had a couple of surprising results on Friday night, with homecourt a key in two of them. Preseason favorite College of Charleston was upended 87-82 at Drexel, while Northeastern beat Elon 72-60 thanks largely to a big first half where they held the Phoenix to just 18 points. William & Mary, meanwhile, a team picked in the second division, is now the only 3-0 team after they went to Delaware and blew out the Blue Hens 90-65 as Nathan Knight posted his third straight double-double and the Tribe shot nearly 60 percent from the field, including 11-23 from long range.

We then go to the Patriot League, where both Boston University and Colgate lost, leaving no undefeated teams there and a seven-way tie at 2-1 early on. The surprise is that the teams that beat them – Loyola (Md.) over BU in Baltimore and Lafayette over Colgate in Hamilton – both entered the night with 3-10 records overall.

The Horizon, CAA and Patriot will be one-big leagues, so a competitive race is great for all of them. For the Pac-12, it could become a problem if their best teams lose too many games to teams further down in the standings. Losses like UCLA’s double overtime loss at Stanford on Thursday night and Oregon’s loss at Oregon State on Friday night could hurt the conference’s chances of getting more teams in the NCAA Tournament.


Side Dishes

Minnesota big man Reggie Lynch may be on borrowed time at the program, as he has been suspended indefinitely through conflicting reports about his status. The senior, who was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, was investigated after a woman accused him of sexual assault back in April 2016, and the school found him responsible for it. It’s the second time this has been the case, as he was arrested on suspicion of doing that in May 2016, but was never charged. Lynch is appealing a ruling that he will be suspended from athletic competition until 2020 – well after his eligibility clock expires – unless he appeals. Even then, it is not a given that he will play again considering that this has become public knowledge.

Staying in the Big Ten, Indiana will be without forward De’Ron Davis for an unknown amount of time after he suffered a lower leg injury in practice on Thursday. The sophomore suffered a non-contact injury, and it’s a hit to their depth as he averages nearly ten points and over four rebounds per game.


Tonight’s Menu

Another busy Saturday is ahead, with plenty of good matchups as usual.

  • ACC play starts with Louisville at Clemson and a pair of 0-2 teams in Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech (noon), then North Carolina visits Virginia (1 p.m.), Notre Dame travels to Syracuse (3:15 p.m.)
  • Big 12 matchups start with an interesting one as Texas visits Baylor (2 p.m.), then Texas Tech tries to keep the momentum going as they host Kansas State and two teams look for their first conference win as Oklahoma State hosts Iowa State (4 p.m.) Later, Oklahoma travels to West Virginia for what should be a dandy (7:15 p.m.) and Kansas tries to bounce back at TCU (9:15 p.m.)
  • The Big East matchups start with Xavier at Providence (noon), then Butler hosts Seton Hall in a good one (2:30 p.m.) and Marquette travels to Villanova (8 p.m.)
  • In Big Ten play, Purdue hosts Nebraska (2:15 p.m.)
  • The first Ivy League game is on tap with Harvard hosting Dartmouth (2 p.m.)
  • In the Mountain West, Boise State puts their 3-0 mark on the line in a tough road trip to Wyoming (8 p.m.)
  • Pac-12 action includes a rivalry game as Washington State hosts Washington (4 p.m.), as well as Cal hosting UCLA (6:30 p.m.)
  • In the SEC, there are several good matchups, starting with Alabama at Georgia (noon), then Florida at Missouri (1 p.m.), LSU at Texas A&M (2:15 p.m.), a rivalry game as Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State (4:30 p.m.), Arkansas at Auburn (6 p.m.) and Kentucky at Tennessee (9 p.m.)
  • In Sun Belt play, South Alabama is off to a 2-0 start, but travels to take on a UT Arlington team that should be hungry for their first conference win (5:15 p.m.)
  • The West Coast Conference may have the best game out west on the day as Saint Mary’s hosts San Diego in a big test for the Toreros (11 p.m.) in a game that unfortunately is not being televised.

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