College hoops has a light schedule Thursday, but there are still a few games that have high importance.
1. Valparaiso at Northwestern: The Crusaders got smacked by 30 last week at Purdue. Northwestern destroyed Chicago State, just days after losing a heartbreak at Purdue. The Wildcats will be tested in this game, especially inside. They will have a quick turnaround, playing at DePaul Saturday.
This is exactly the type of game the Wildcats need/should win to show that they can duplicate what they did a year ago. Valpo is smarting after losing at the buzzer to Ball State, meaning they could be headed for a three-game losing streak if they fall to Northwestern.
2. Santa Clara at USC: The Trojans desperately need something positive to happen after losing three straight games. Now, the three losses were against high-level competition in Oklahoma, SMU and Texas A&M, but the Trojans were supposed to be able to handle themselves in these games, even if one of them (SMU) was a true road game.
The Broncos have struggled this season and should be perfect fodder for the Trojans. But until USC can put together a complete performance, nothing can be taken for granted with this former top 25 team.
3. Who needs a win more than any other team tonight? South Florida. The Bulls have lost four in a row. Brian Gregory is going through a rebuilding process unlike any he had at Dayton or Georgia Tech. South Florida can’t score on a consistent bases. Beating Bethune-Cookman isn’t going to solve their offensive woes, but they need something positive to happen.
4. Who could be a star tonight? Tulsa’s Junior Etou. He might be one of the most prolific scorers who gets little to no national pub. The senior forward is averaging 17 points a game and has seen his production elevate from 12 to 17 so far this season. Etou scored 22 in a win against Kansas State last week. Prairie View A&M probably won’t slow him down, either.
After going for 22 points, behind a season-high 5 3-pointers, and 7 rebounds to lead Tulsa to a 61-54 win over Kansas State last Saturday, Junior Etou was named to this week's @American_MBB Honor Roll! #ForOurCity #ReignCane pic.twitter.com/eJkGRKJaCJ— Tulsa Basketball (@TUMBasketball) December 11, 2017
5. There are seven teams that still haven’t won a game this season. Five are in the SWAC and two in the MEAC. The reason? These teams usually have to play a slew of road games or buy games against high-level teams. Texas Southern is playing its 13th-straight road game. Next up? Baylor. Mike Davis’ crew has pushed teams, losing at Toledo by only three and Oregon by only six in Eugene. Demontrae Jefferson will try to penetrate the Baylor zone, the length of the Bears and the overall size. Jefferson is averaging 22 a game and has shown no fear about scoring against high-level competition.