At Indiana University, they look down their noses at in-state rival Purdue and chant “banners”.  Five times the Hoosiers have won the National Championship…and even though they haven’t won it all in 30 years, there are still lofty expectations for everyone who suits up in the red and white (often accompanied by striped warmups).  After reaching the regional semifinals last March, hopes were high in Bloomington as coach Tom Crean’s team was ranked 11th in the preseason.  Unfortunately, IU has been consistently uneven since dropping their Big Ten opener to Nebraska-and now they’ve lost guard OG Anunoby for the season when he tore his ACL against Penn State.  Juwan Morgan missed that game due to a bad ankle…and the Hoosiers’ depth will be tested against the likes of Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern between now and the end of the month.  Where the talk was once “what seed will they get?”, now the whispers around Bloomington is becoming “could they somehow not be getting in?”.  They play Purdue twice in February, and if things continue to proceed the way they have then Boilermaker fans will no doubt be chanting “NIT!”.  Thank goodness the IU faithful can still cling to the “banners!” refrain.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are 3-3 one third of the way through the ACC season…with six of their remaining 12 regular season games coming against ranked opponents.  Today at noon they visit Notre Dame;  the #15 Fighting Irish are currently tied for first place in the conference.  If SU is going to somehow avoid coming to McDonough Arena for an NIT game, they’ve got to start winning some of these road games against ranked foes.  Much easier said than done.

 

Saturday’s games-

1:30 p.m.-

Navy (9-10, 4-3 Patriot League) at Army (8-11, 2-5), CBS Sports Network.  Somehow this matchup doesn’t have the oomph their football showdown does.  The Midshipmen have won four straight to suddenly become a factor in the conference race thanks to solid defense (2nd in the conference) and rebounding (tops in the league).  The Black Knights may be second in the Patriot League in scoring, but both of their conference wins have come when they’ve allowed feweer than 60 points.

2 p.m.-

#16 Virginia (14-3, 4-2 ACC) vs Georgia Tech (11-7, 3-3), ACC Network.  Easy nights are few and far between in a conference with six ranked teams.  That’s why the Cavaliers’ tip-to- buzzer dominance of Boston College was so huge.  What isn’t huge is the lack of production UVa is getting from big man Jack Salt:  the New Zealander has scored just 11 points TOTAL in ACC play.  The Yellowjackets boast a big man in Ben Lammers who’s averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game…but they’re also carrying the emotional baggage of a heartbreaking loss at Virginia Tech.  

 

4 p.m.-

Howard (4-14, 1-2 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (1-17, 0-5).  If the preseason conference favorites fall again, they have no excuses.  The Aggies have lost 17 straight since beating Division III Greensboro College and average margin of defeat in league play is 12 points.  NC A&T ranks 351st in the nation in scoring (that would be last in Division I).  Coach Kevin Nickelberry’s team can’t worry about when /if James Daniel III returns to full strength.  Freshman Charles Williams is averaging 18 points per conference game this winter…they’ll need another big effort from the Richmond, Virginia product this weekend.

 

Sunday’s games-

1pm-

George Mason (12-6, 2-3 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (11-7, 5-1).  The Spiders are in a three-way tie for first place in the league with LaSalle and Dayton after losing to the Flyers Thursday.  ShawnDre’ Jones likely won’t be held to one point on 0-for-9 shooting over 38 minutes again anytime soon.  Will Marquise Moore and company at least be able to limit the senior?  Containing the offensive arsenal that is T.J. Cline (the senior leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists) will be a tougher task.

 

2pm-

Georgetown (10-9 , 1-5 Big East) at #22 Xavier (13-5, 3-3), CBS.  Could the season be slipping away for the Hoyas?  They play three of their next four away from DC…and their next three games are against teams in the top 25.  The Musketeers just went through that gauntlet; going 0-3 against Villanova, Creighton and Butler.  Edmond Sumner ripped the Hoyas for 28 points in their New Year’s Eve duel while Trevon Bluiett had an atypical 0-for-10 shooting day.  Will their five days off after a home loss to Providence rejuvenate coach John Thompson III’s team or will there be carryover from their flameout against the Friars?

VCU (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10) vs LaSalle (10-5, 5-1), NBC Sports Network.  This just in-the Rams are human.  The loss at league-leading Dayton wasn’t that much of a surprise…but the last-second defeat at sub-500 Fordham was the kind of stumble that butchers and at-large candidacy come Selection Sunday.  The Explorers come to the Commonwealth leading the A-10 in scoring with the one-two punch of guards B.J. Johnson and Jordan Price.  How well the league’s best assist-to-turnover team fares against the Rams havoc will go a long way towards determining if VCU stumbles further down the standings after its hot start.

6:30 pm-

Virginia Tech (14-4, 3-3 ACC) at Clemson (11-6, 1-5), ESPNU.  Hokies-Tigers is the natural pairing the league would air against the NFL Playoffs, right?  I’m looking forward to the old-school big man matchup of seniors Zach LeDay and Jaron Blossomgame.  While Buzz Williams’ team has been playing tag with the .500 mark in conference play, Clemson’s played well in losses to ranked foes North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia and actually led Louisville for the majority of the first half before getting blown out by the Cardinals.  Littlejohn Coliseum is not an easy place to visit…and with the season starting to slip away you can bet Brad Brownwell’s team will come out swinging.

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