Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 3:18 PM
Akron @ Mississippi State – 7:00 PM (E) – (ESPNU) – 2K Coaches Vs Cancer Classic
In their opener on Monday night Mississippi State was less than overwhelming as they dispatched Eastern Kentucky in a non-cover 10 point win. The Bulldogs return most of their scoring and rebounding from last year’s 17-14 squad and add UTEP transfer Arnette Moultrie and freshman Rodney Hood. Both saw considerable action as HC Rick Stansbury went with only seven players due to injuries, ineligibility and personal reasons hindering four key members. Last year the Bulldogs opened in similar fashion, winning close games in November and one has to wonder if that will be the pattern again this year as they welcome the Akron Zips. Akron is in another rebuilding phase as six new players will don the blue and gold, but it is worth noting that HC Keith Dambrodt has been through this before and that the Zips have been in the MAC Conference title game the last five years and been to the NCAA in two of the last three. Akron lost both starting guards to graduation but returns a solid front line in forward Nikola Cvetinovic and center Zeke Marshall plus swing man Brett McClanahan. This gives them match up strength with Mississippi States front line power. And if UMBC transfer Chauncey Gilliam and freshman Nick Harney play the way they do during the summer five game trip through Canada, retooling or not, the Zips could be right back in their accustomed spot at season’s end.
Lehigh @ St. Johns – 7:00 PM (E) – (ESPN2) – 2K Sports Coaches Vs Cancer Classic
Despite returning 4 of 5 starters from last year’s edition, HC Dr. Brett Reed appears in the same position he was a year ago. He has arguably the best player in the Patriot in wing C.J. McCollum, who was conference player of the year two years ago as a freshmen and runner up last year, but beyond that has a number of wing players without a leadership type guard, only one on-the-blocks potential asset in 6-9 junior Gabe Knutson and a lack of proven depth. Even with McCollum’s 21.8 points/7.8 rebounds and Knutson’s 12.2 points/5.8 boards, the Mountain Hawks struggled to a 6-8 conference and 16-15 overall mark a year ago. With the newcomers still not established as to rotation and the defense appearing a step slow again this year, one has to wonder how they will matchup with the athletic ability of a much faster and bigger St. John’s squad that has either taken a step forward as evidenced by their second half onslaught against William & Mary on Monday night…A WIN FOR JIM HURLEY CLIENTS…or is still in the maturing stage.
Liberty @ Texas A&M – 8:00 PM (E) – 2K Sports Coaches Vs Cancer Classic
Last season came as quite a surprise to opponents in the Big South as Liberty, picked sixth in the pre-season finished second in conference play with a 13-5 mark…and 2010-2011 conference Coach of the Year Dale Layer does have a number of key performers back from a squad that faced a rather tough non-conference schedule in 2010…they faced Notre Dame, UNC-Wilmington, Texas Tech and South Florida all on the road in a 10 day stretch in November…which probably went a long way towards getting the Flames prepared. Liberty was a tenacious team a year ago that won many close contests in large part because of their defense, but it also helped to have the Big South Player of the Year in PG Jesse Sanders (11.3 points/6.5 rebounds/5.7 assists) who is back to run the 2011-2012 show. However, Layer will also have to find replacements for forward John Brown (11.2 points/10.8 rebounds) who will red shirt due to a knee injury and second-team all conference Evan Gordon who transferred to Arizona State. It is worth noting during this early phase that in those four tough November games a year ago the Flames were 0-4 SU and ATS. Once again the lessons should be learned hard as Liberty faces a pre-season nationally ranked Aggie squad that will likely be looking to prove from the start that they are worthy of the accolades. First off is new HC Billy Kennedy, who parlayed his success at Murray State into this position as he takes over for the departed Mark Turgeon. And Kennedy has to be beaming to look out and see that Texas A&M returns the essence of last year’s 26-9 squad which was as tough nosed a defensive unit and as precise an offensive sets group as a coach could want. And Kennedy will probably have even more depth this year with a few very strong transfers, and will use that depth as he moves towards the more up tempo style he utilized with his aptly nicknamed Racers. If Kennedy decides to spread the minutes while he discovers rotation possibilities and introduces his up tempo play, Liberty could hang for a while. But if the cohesiveness that defined last year’s retuning Aggie core expands further. Liberty could be getting another of those tough lessons.
Duquesne @ Arizona – 9:00 PM (E) – ESPN2 – 2K Coaches Vs Cancer Classic
Although undermanned and rebuilding Valparaiso might not have been an ultimate test in their opener Monday night, one thing is for certain…HC Sean Miller should get plenty of effort every night given the depth of this year’s Arizona squad. With Derrick Williams gone to the NBA and Mercurial PG “Momo” Jones having transferred to Iona, there are plenty of established role players and incoming studs that will vie to put their stamp on the program and that showed as more rusty than polished in their opening two exhibition games and Monday night. But beyond the early struggles and spotty defense in the open court, there was a definite step forward as the game unfolded. Nine guys saw 15 or more minutes and six scored between 7 and 16 points (3 in double digits.) Miller says “we are definitely not the #16 team in the country, and he is right at this point. The question on Wednesday night is…do the Wildcats move further a bit more as they attempt to harness the apparent talent of freshmen Turner and Johnson under the leadership of veteran guard Josh Fogg? Miller should know much more about his backcourt after this meeting with the Dukes, who have a deep and talented guard corps led by last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year T.J. McConnell, fellow sophomore Mike Tally, junior Sean Johnson and senior B.J. Montiero. Duquesne HC Ron Everhart will have to answer questions on the front line, but he is enthused about his influx of big youngsters. This is an interesting matchup given that Duquesne is experienced enough in the backcourt to handle the developing Wildcat Wonderkids but will have to find out up front if they can deal with the Arizona edge in that department.
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