Virtually every Saturday from now until Championship Week is going to be a big one in terms of conference races. That’s just how Saturday’s work.
This week, it seems especially true in the Southern Conference and the Sun Belt.
In the SoCon, East Tennessee visits Wofford. If the Buccaneers can win that game, it will go a long way toward helping them to a regular season conference championship, as they would now own wins over the Terriers and UNC Greensboro. And ETSU is projected to win each of its remaining games as it is.
If Wofford wins, then suddenly this is a race again. You already know about their wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina. You already know about Fletcher Magee. Wofford is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, and with that comes upset potential every night.
Then there’s the Sun Belt, where the season has not gone even close to how it was supposed to. Louisiana is atop the standings at 8-0, and barring something crazy happening, should be able to take care of Troy this afternoon. But the two teams behind the Ragin’ Cajuns are Texas State (7-2) and Georgia State (6-2). They face each other today in Atlanta. Below them, Georgia Southern (5-3) just took back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Bobcats. They host an under-achieving UT Arlington team that, on paper, still has as much talent as anyone in the conference.
We’ll have updates here throughout the day, but for now, sit back and enjoy the games. Here are a few more to keep an eye on:
Duquesne at No. 24 Rhode Island: RIGHT NOW! NBC SPORTS!
VCU at George Mason, 2 p.m. ET, CBS Sports
Campbell at Winthrop, 2 p.m.
St. Francis-Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s, 4 p.m.
Harvard at Brown, 6 p.m.
Albany at Stony Brook, 7 p.m., ESPN3
Iona at Manhattan, 7 p.m.
Jacksonville at Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m., ESPN3
Marshall at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m.
UPDATE: 9:33 p.m.
It happened! Every Div. I team now has a win after Mississippi Valley State knocked off Jackson State behind 23 points from Kylan Phillips. Take a look at that glorious green:
The game also had a not insignificant effect on the SWAC regular season race. Second place Jackson State (6-2) dropped further behind front-running Arkansas Pine Bluff (7-0), which visits a salty Grambling State team later tonight.
UPDATE: 8:27 p.m.
Southern Illinois got a layup from Armon Fletcher off a nice offensive set in the final seconds to win at Missouri State. It moved the Salukis to 6-4 in the “you make sense of it” Valley.
But let’s check in on the Bears. MSU has sunk to 5-5 in league play, losing five of their last seven games. Here are the losses:
- Illinois State (KenPom #164)
- Evansville (#144)
- Drake (#166)
- Bradley (#116)
- Southern Illinois (#128)
All were on the road besides today against SIU, but over the past week the Bears have been blown out by Bradley and dropped a game in Springfield. Armed with Alize Johnson and a deep roster, MSU was supposed to seize on Wichita State’s departure from the MVC. Instead they’ve slumped, and it’s hard to imagine Paul Lusk’s seat not getting toasty.
UPDATE: 7:48 p.m.
New Mexico State’s top challenger in the WAC made a statement today. And it wasn’t Grand Canyon.
Utah Valley picked up a big win over GCU, getting 14 points, six rebounds and the dunk above from Akolda Manyang. All eyes in the WAC remain on NMSU, which dominated the Wolverines in Las Cruces last weekend. But there’s a return trip to Orem on Feb. 15, and UVU dusted itself off in a game featuring the only two top-103 KenPom teams (other than the Aggies) in the league.
UPDATE 6:02 p.m.
UPDATE: 5:47 p.m.
Death, taxes, Louisiana so far this year in Sun Belt play.
The Rajin’ Cajuns used a big second half to defeat Troy, and now sit at 9-0 in Sun Belt play. Since the start of conference play, Louisiana has risen up the Kenpom ranks. They started at 103, and are currently knocking on the door of the top 50 at No. 53.
Louisiana has lost just one time since Thanksgiving, which was on the road at Clemson. Kenpom projects them to go undefeated the rest of the way in the Sun Belt. However, a tough three-game road trip that includes games against Georgia State and Georgia Southern could end up as a bump in the road. If they survive that, we could be looking at a Louisiana team that hasn’t lost in two months heading into postseason play.
UPDATE: 4:15 p.m.
Does anybody know what to make of the CAA? If you do, please come forward and share your knowledge because we sure don’t.
Northeastern came into the day at 7-2 and in sole possession of first place. Naturally, they lost on the road to a Drexel team that had only mustered two wins in league play thus far.
Elsewhere, Elon went on the road to take down Towson, and both teams now sit at 5-5 in league play. Pat Skerry’s crew has come back down to earth after their 10-1 start, and have now gone 5-7 since then.
Charleston is currently in a dogfight with James Madison, but the Cougars will be tied for first place with a win. This race is going to be one of the most chaotic in the country.
UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.
It’s still early in the afternoon but today is starting to get the feel of a wild day in college basketball. The craziest game of the day so far featured some MACTION, where Ball State outlasted Akron in a double overtime thriller.
The Cardinals wound up prevailing 111-106, but not before some heroics by Akron’s Jimond Ivey at the end of the first overtime:
The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Ball State after the Cardinals started off MAC play with a 3-4 record. At 4-4, the Cardinals trail Toledo in the MAC West race, but a road win against the Rockets on Tuesday can get them right back in it.
UPDATE: 1:58 p.m.
WE TOLD YOU TO SWITCH OVER TO NBC SPORTS BUT NOOOOOOO YOU DIDN’T LISTEN. YOU WANTED TO WATCH UNC-NC STATE.
And now you regret it.
Tied at 58 with time running down, Stanford Robinson hit a buzzer-beating three to lift Rhode Island over Duquesne, 61-58.
Stanford Robinson wins it for URI at the buzzer! pic.twitter.com/iwq0LHHdkz— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) January 27, 2018
Rhode Island stays undefeated in the Atlantic 10, while Duquesne proved it is every bit as legit as its record indicated. Though Robinson hit the game-winner, it was EC Matthews who brought the Rams back into it after a rough first half. He finished with 20.
Next time you’ll listen to me. UNC-NC State are in overtime now. You wouldn’t have missed anything from that game.