By Paul Casey Gotham
Ringing in the New Year with a full slate of games before conference play kicks into high gear. Conference play? Yes, when counterfeiters are brought out into the open. When everyone starts “driving all night chasing some mirage.”
Friday, December 30th
St. Bonaventure (6-5) at Niagara(5-8/0-2)
The Bonnies head to Monteagle Ridge trying to get momentum against Big 4 rival, Niagara. The Purple Eagles toppled the Bonnies 69-61 at the Reilly Center last year. Juan’ya Green leads Niagara. The Bonnies attack starts with National Player-of-the-Year Candidate, Andrew Nicholson. Niagara is at its best when Green is getting into the lane off the dribble. Charlon Kloof and Eric Mosley will share the responsibility of keeping Green in front of them. Demitrius Conger has scored at least 16 in each of Bona’s last three. That trend will continue as SBU wins by eight.
Ole Miss (9-3) at Dayton (9-4) 7pm
After winning nine of ten, Ole Miss fell to Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee. Dayton looks to take a second game from the SEC. The Flyers bounced then #14 Alabama, 74-62. Chris Johnson played injured as the Flyers lost to Seton Hall ten days ago. UD only hits 34 percent from behind the arc, but they have to be defended from long range, or the Flyers can win games by virtue of the three. Ole Miss opponents have attempted 209 shots from long range. UD has let it fly 268 times from behind the arc. Kevin Dillard’s ability to create will lead the Flyers to a three point triumph.
Temple (8-3) at Delaware (5-5/1-0) 7pm
Atlantic 10 meets Colonial Athletic. Temple is averaging 75.5 PPG – more than any Owl team in the past 20 years. Backcourt play of Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Khaliff Wyatt dictates the tempo, but the absence of Scootie Randall and Michael Eric is holding back TU as evidenced by the negative rebound margin. Temple wants a game in the 70s. The Hens prefer 60s. Temple hits 39 percent from behind the arc, and Delaware holds opponents to 32 percent from long range. Wyatt will lead the Owls to a seven-point victory.
Manhattan (8-5/2-0) at Binghamton (0-11) 7pm
Coming off a 20-point loss at George Mason, the Jaspers will have plenty to prove. The Bearcats should try to get head coach Mark Macon out of his suit and into the lineup. George Beamon leads the Jaspers with 16 ppg, but the offense runs through Emmy Andujar. Manhattan by 16.
New Year’s Eve
Colgate (5-7) at New Hampshire(4-6) 1pm
Patriot meets American East in a battle played below .500. Pat Moore and Mitch Rolls contribute 10 a piece for the Raiders. Alvin Abreu and Chandler Rhoads score 13 each for the Wildcats. Despite their losing record, New Hampshire is scoring more points per game than their opponents. Colgate turns the ball over 17 times a game. New Hampshire takes advantage for a 16-point win.
St Francis-NY (4-8/1-1) at Army (5-8) 2pm
Ella Ellis (17.5ppg) and Julian Simmons (9.8ppg) lead the Black Knights. Ben Mockford heads a trio of Terriers in double figures including Stefan Perunicic who has is capable of filling it from long range. Army’s losing record masks their success from behind the arc. The Black Knights hold a modest advantage from the three point arc 34 percent to 32. This will prove the difference as Army wins by six.
Cornell (4-7) at Bucknell (8-6) 7pm
The Big Red bring their 3pt attack to Bucknell. Cornell has attempted 253 shots behind the arc to just 178 at the free throw line. The Bison limit opponents to 35 percent from outside the arc. Of Bucknell’s five losses, two are to ranked teams and another to a team from a Power conference. Patriot League Player of the Year, Mike Muscala steadies the the Bucknell attack from the paint. The Bison win by 20.
St. Joe’s (10-3) at Harvard (11-1)4pm
The Hawks have won five straight. The Crimson three. St. Joe’s ranks third in the nation with more than eight blocks per game and are holding teams to 37 percent from the field including 34 percent from behind the arc. Harvard connects 45 percent of the time and nearly 38 percent from long range. Harvard’s only loss was 67-53 to UConn. Kyle Casey leads three Crimson in double figures. Carl Jones heads four Hawks scoring ten or more. Can St. Joseph’s win a game played in the 60s? That is where Harvard wants this contest. Hawks by five.
St. Louis (12-1) at New Mexico (11-2) 6pm
St. Louis visits one of the toughest gyms in college basketball in this clash of top 20 defenses. SLU holds opponents to 53 ppg and 39.6% from field. New Mex 56.4 and 36.7%. The Billikens beat Washington, Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma in succession before stumbling at Loyola-Marymount. New Mex carries a nine-game streak into Saturday’s soiree including wins over USC, Oklahoma State, Washington State and Boston College. The Lobos haven’t faced a tandem like Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell. SLU by two in overtime.
Gonzaga (10-2/1-0) at Xavier (9-3) 8pm
“When you hang a man, you better look at him.” Pundits and puppets are enjoying the recent struggles of the Musketeers making sure the X-Men serve the sentence dictated by the court of public opinion. Like Marshal Jed Cooper coming back to town in Hang ‘Em High, there might be a comeuppance in the future. Xavier gets its full lineup back for the first time since that infamous Saturday earlier in the month. How quickly can Dez Wells get back into the flow of the game? Time to start playing with a chip on the shoulder. The Muskies have some payback for the Zags. Gonzaga beat X by 10 a year ago. Gonzaga’s two losses have come at the hands of Big Ten teams (Illinois by 7, Michigan State by 7). 7′ Robert Sacre vs. 7′ Kenny Frease could go a long way to proving how these teams will fare in March. Xavier by four.
Charlotte (7-4) at Memphis (7-5) 9pm
Charlotte head coach Alan Major continues in search of his 49er team. It’s not like Peter Griffin, Quagmire and Joe in search of a replacement for Cleveland. Which Charlotte team will show Saturday night? The one that beat Davidson by 23, or the one that fell to East Tennessee. Josh Pastner has his own struggles like the Drunken Clam trio. A team with so much promise has come up short in every contest of significance this season. The 49ers will keep it close, but the Tigers outlast the 49ers by four.
New Year’s Day
Canisius (3-9/0-2) at Fairfield (7-6/2-0) 1pm
“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” The Griffs will need to do something like that when conference play resumes. Fairfield comes in losing a pair on the road to Drexel and UConn (a game which the Stags could have made it a single-possession affair in the final minutes). Canisius kept it close when the two met at the Koessler early in December. The same could be true here unless the Stags get out in transition. Then the “dodge a wrench” comes into play. Fairfield wins by eight.
“Mister, I ain’t a boy. No, I’m a man. And I believe in the Prah-ha-ha-missed land.”