College basketball today: Why Baylor vs. Xavier is the high-quality, non-conference matchup you'll want to watch
Here's what you need to know for Tuesday, Nov. 28:
1. Baylor at Xavier: Scott Drew and Chris Mack get it. Deliver to their fans, high-quality non-conference games outside of the ones created by their respective conferences in challenges or tournaments. Baylor has quite a week. Fresh off beating Wisconsin and Creighton to win the CBE in Kansas City, Baylor is at Xavier tonight and then hosts Wichita State Saturday.
These are games that will resonate with the selection committee because Baylor chose to play these games. Xavier always does this, too. The Musketeers will also play Colorado and travel to Northern Iowa. Tonight’s game will test the Musketeers’ ability to shoot over length and penetrate a zone over disrupted passing lanes. The Bears, meanwhile, will be pushed by Xavier’s interior toughness and hustle. Love this matchup!
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The Yellow Jackets got Tadric Jackson back from his three-game suspension and he scored 14 points off the bench in a win over North Texas. But Josh Okogie still has two more games to serve on his suspension. A win by Northwestern here would do wonders to re-write the early-season narrative. Georgia Tech is simply trying to hold serve until it’s whole for the Tennessee game Sunday.
3. Louisville at Purdue: This is the Big Ten’s best chance for a win tonight in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. And that says a lot, considering it’s a matchup between two top 20 type teams. The Boilermakers finally rebounded well in the last game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, taking out Arizona in the seventh-place game. Purdue coach Matt Painter told NCAA.com the Boilermakers must be more consistent on defense, as well as on the backboard and shot selection in grind-out games.
That didn’t happen in losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Bahamas. But this shouldn’t be a slog fest. Louisville wants to run under David Padgett, like it did under Rick Pitino. The Boilermakers can get out in the transition, but they do and should have an advantage inside. Mackey should be rocking for this one as the Boilermakers attempt to get back to being and looking like a Big Ten title contender.
4. Illinois at Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons still can be a factor in the ACC. There’s just too much talent to not see Wake in the mix for a postseason berth if they can decide who will be their go-to player and settle on a rotation in the post. That’s where the Illini may have trouble tonight. Wake has great size and that could pose problems for Illinois. If Keyshawn Woods has a similar performance to his game against Greensboro (20 points off the bench) then Wake can win this game and begin to turn its season around.
Woods was suspended for the Quinnipiac game at the Paradise Jam. But he’s been productive since. Illinois coach Brad Underwood told NCAA.com the Illini have been committed to the aggressive offensive style and have gotten to the free-throw line. He said the Illini are taking charges, diving on the floor and doing the little things. He’s loved how freshman Mark Smith and junior Aaron Jordan have played so far. Illinois is undefeated through six games, but haven’t had a test like they will tonight.
5. Iowa at Virginia Tech: The Hawkeyes were a trendy pick to be a sleeper in the Big Ten, despite losing Peter Jok. Well, the Hawkeyes haven’t been healthy enough to do so yet and that’s one of the reasons why they lost to Louisiana and South Dakota State. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told NCAA.com that not having Nicholas Baer, Connor McCaffery and Ahmad Wagner (who didn’t play against UAB) has been a factor. But the play of freshmen Jack Nunge and Luka Garza has been a positive development. “We have to be more consistent defensively,’’ said McCaffery. “We’ve given up too much penetration and ultimately points.’’
The aggressive play of Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon in the win over UAB is a positive step. But Virginia Tech will attack and how Iowa handles their downhill play at them will be key defensively. This is a Virginia Tech team that got stung by Saint Louis at the 2K Classic but since then has been rolling in the past three games. The Hokies are entering a difficult stretch with road games at Ole Miss and at Kentucky looming in the next two weeks, too.