College basketball today: Key Ivy League opener, Big Ten matchups serve as start to busy weekend
Here is what you need to know in college basketball for Friday, Jan. 5:
Game of the night
UPDATE (Friday, 11:44 a.m. ET): The game between Princeton and Penn has been moved to Saturday at 4 p.m. ET due to weather. It was originally scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.
Princeton at Penn (Saturday), 4 p.m. ET: Harvard and Yale were supposed to be back on top in the Ivy. And maybe they still will. But they have struggled mightily in the non-conference. So, that opens up the top for a possible reset of the Ivy, back to its dominating ways where Princeton and Penn were the teams of record. The Ivy knows how to get everyone’s attention to start the league by having these two historic programs face off against each other in the opener. Penn has won six of its last eight games, including winning at Dayton. That’s the same Dayton team that just beat St. Bonaventure on its homecourt. Penn coach Steve Donahue is no stranger to competing for a league title, after doing so at Cornell. He is back in his sweet spot. Meanwhile, Princeton has a big-time scorer in junior Devin Cannady, who lit up Hawaii for 28 points in a win in Honolulu on Christmas Day, the last time the Tigers have played. Princeton has won five of its past six games, including beating USC 103-93 in OT. Yes, the Tigers have true road wins at USC, Hawaii, and if we want to keep going also at Cal Poly and FDU for four. Not too bad at all.
Wisconsin at Rutgers, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Badgers beat Indiana for their sixth win in a row. OK, so if you’re not that impressed, then understand this: The Badgers are doing it with a skeletal crew with injuries to D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King. Trice is hoping to be back within two weeks from his foot injury. King is done for the season. Former scout team players T.J. Schlundt, Aaron Moesch and Walt McGrory have been called into action. Aleem Ford, a freshman, has surprised of late and Greg Gard is finally getting productive minutes out of Charles Thomas. Of course, the anchors are Ethan Happ inside and Brad Davison on the perimeter. Beating Rutgers, which got destroyed at Purdue earlier in the week, isn’t going to move the needle for a bid. But it’s a necessity to make more important games matter. Another road win (they won at Penn State last month) would be another plus. The journey continues to keep the streak alive of NCAA tournament appearances: at 19 now, with the goal to make it 20 in March.
The need for something positive
Northwestern at Penn State, 8 p.m. ET, FS1: These two programs were supposed to be battling for a top five finish in the Big Ten. But neither has been able to get out and create any momentum this season. The Wildcats have been dealing with the injury to Bryant McIntosh, who didn’t play against Nebraska. Northwestern coach Chris Collins told NCAA.com the Wildcats played hard for 35 minutes against the Huskers, but finished the game poorly. He said they got tired and struggled to score. It didn’t help that Scottie Lindsey, Dererk Pardon and Vic Law all shot poorly. “We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,’’ he said. They’ll have to find the basket against the Nittany Lions. Penn State cannot afford another home loss after losing to Wisconsin in December and to Rider at the buzzer in a non-conference game. “We need to be able to finish,’’ Penn State coach Pat Chambers told NCAA.com, echoing Collins’ feelings. Chambers said they aren’t finishing the possessions, unable to secure rebounds and not foul defensively late in the possession. He also said the Nittany Lions must get to the free throw line by driving the ball to get fouled. Both of these teams need a win.
GAMEDAY! CLIMBIN!— Penn State Men’s Basketball (@PennStateMBB) January 5, 2018
: Penn State vs. Northwestern
: 8 p.m. ET
: FS1 & FoxSportsGo https://t.co/u5v9hbpyvv
: https://t.co/38TZzhCub7#ClimbWithUs pic.twitter.com/Y3cMRyZCYv
Where have you gone, Oregon?
Oregon at Oregon State, 10 p.m. ET, FS1: The Final Four Ducks have been all over the map this season. But they are on a bit of a good run, save a dud of an offensive game against Utah at home. Oregon has won six of its past seven, including a much-needed road win at Fresno State. Elijah Brown is starting to find his shooting touch. The two-time transfer (Butler to New Mexico to Oregon) scored 17 in the win over Colorado. He needs to be a reliable option for Dana Altman’s crew. Meanwhile, Tres Tinkle needs to do the same for Oregon State. He lit up the Buffs for 23. But then was just 3 of 11 against Utah in a two-point home loss. Both teams are 1-1 in the Pac-12, hoping to get out of the muddled middle of the league.
Game off the grid
Canisius at Quinnipiac, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3: Yes, we’re not kidding. Both of these teams are 2-0 in the MAAC. The Bobcats struggled in the non-conference but have found their groove in conference and got a huge lift when Abdulai Bundu blocked Ahsante Shivers’ shot to beat Siena. The Golden Griffins have won four in a row, including knocking off Iona and Rider at home, the latter the same team that won at Penn State.
#Griffs Game Day! #BombCyclone2018 was no match for Canisius, as the team made it to Connecticut last night w/ zero travel trouble. #Griffs and Quinnipiac play tonight at 8 pm on ESPN3.#DefendMainStreet #MAACHoops pic.twitter.com/t9XBsGKmDv— Canisius Basketball (@Griffs_MBB) January 5, 2018