With so many of the early season tournaments starting this weekend, we have the possibility of being treated to some great games. But that requires a lot of upset victories by some of the mid-major squads.
Not to imply that it couldn't happen. It just is very unlikely given the preseason odds we previously discussed in relation to a lot of the tournament fields.
But you can easily fill out your Friday afternoon and evening watch list with games that could end up being very important further down the road. Here is what we will be keeping an eye on tonight:
1. North Carolina at Long Beach State - It is rare that a team from the Big West is going to be able to attract a Top 25 program not named Gonzaga to come and play at their arena. Demand is so high for this game that the 49ers athletic department has already invited students to come line up for entry into the game. The game will be televised on ESPNU, beginning at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight, so you can watch what should be a train wreck for the 49ers. The team is still not functioning as a whole and this could be an embarrassing moment on television for a program with a lot of promise. But if you want something to watch, keep an eye on James Ennis and what he is able to do out on the wing against the likes of James Michael McAdoo and the rest of the North Carolina squad.
2. Sacred Heart at Hartford - Will the real Shane Gibson please stand up? Gibson went from a non-factor for 20 minutes against Yale, to the main reason for the Pioneer victory in the second half. He followed that up with a nothing performance against Rutgers, not exactly the cream of the crop in the Big East. So which Gibson will be on the court tonight against Hartford? The good news is that the Hawks aren't exactly the best defensive team out there in terms of preventing scoring. Key Matchup: Hartford has a set of strong shooter inside the arc. We don't even mean close to the basket, but just inside the 3-point line. Sacred Heart is woefully bad right now at stopping that kind of shooting (No. 318 according to Ken Pom). Can the Pioneers stop enough shots to keep the Hawks contained?
3. South Dakota State at Hofstra - Nate Wolters drool fest. Our Adam Hermann will be following this one for you tonight. Key Matchup: Wolters vs. Pride. Mark me down for 40.
4. Long Island at Maryland - This could go badly. Maryland with Dez Wells is now not only a contender in the ACC, but nationally. Long Island has looked out of sorts ever since the opening tip of the season, and helped contribute to a brutal evening for the Northeast Conference earlier this week: eight games, eight losses. This one feels like a rubber-necker's dream game. Key Matchup: So far Long Island has been pretty bad shooting the ball, especially from long range. Against the bigger and stronger team, you would think that the 3-point would have to be their friend tonight in order to hang with the Terrapins. Maryland has been allowing just 25.9 percent shooting from 3-point range. As we said, this could get ugly.
5. BYU at Florida State - This matchup could be a nightmare for Florida State and could stake the Cougars to a nice resume building win come March. Florida State is going to be good, but they have been dreadful at field goal defense (thanks in large part to how well South Alabama shot in the opener). You have to like the ability of the Cougars to contend though just based on size. Brandon Davies will anchor the inside and the front line of the Cougars is as good, or could at least play with the front line of any team out there. Key Matchup: Davies battling against Terrance Shannon and Okaro White for every rebound tonight should be fun to watch. Controlling this aspect of the game will go a long way toward success tonight as BYU can't allow the Seminoles to have extra possessions.