|Derek Kellogg and UMass are off to a great start with two wins off game-winning shots. (US Presswire)|
Are there great college basketball games this weekend?
But there are some pretty good ones.
I'll tell you more in the Weekend Look Ahead.
Top game: The Puerto Rico Tipoff is an exempt tournament that brings us daytime basketball during the week, and for that I'm thankful (even if Puerto Ricans don't seem to be). But the weekday quarterfinals and semifinals lead us to a Sunday title game that should produce the weekend's best matchup -- Oklahoma State vs. Friday night's UMass-North Carolina State winner. Worth noting is that we could -- if UMass beats sixth-ranked NC State -- have a game featuring Travis Ford coaching against his former school. Ford led the Minutemen before Derek Kellogg took over the Minutemen. Now Kellogg actually lives in Ford's old house in Amherst, which means we're this close to college basketball's first matchup in history between two men who have at different times owned the same home. (Note: I'm not certain that's true. I'm just assuming it's probably true.)
Another interesting matchup: Florida looked great earlier this week in a blowout win of Wisconsin, but this is no time to relax because the No.10-ranked Gators have another test Sunday in the form of a game against a Middle Tennessee State team that returns 11 of its top 13 players from last season's squad that won 27 games. The Blue Raiders beat two SEC schools last season. The first was Ole Miss. The second was Tennessee. I don't think Florida is next. But it wouldn't shock me if the Gators were pushed on a neutral court in Tampa.
Yet another interesting matchup: Saint Joseph's was the Atlantic 10's preseason favorite and will have a nice opportunity late Friday to nab a quality nonleague victory when the Hawks meet 20th-ranked Notre Dame. The winner gets the Florida State-BYU winner on Saturday, which will be "yet another interesting matchup" regardless of who wins.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: Kentucky will play its first game inside Rupp Arena on Friday against a Lafayette team that opened with a double-digit loss to St. Francis. Unless Lafayette has Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon making 3-pointers for it (and it won't), the smart money has the third-ranked Wildcats cruising to an easy victory.
Guaranteed to be an upset: How about a conditional upset pick? If the Puerto Rico Tipoff final is Oklahoma State vs. NC State, give me the Cowboys in an upset. If it's Oklahoma State vs. UMass, give me the Minutemen in an upset. In other words, I'm predicting an upset in the Puerto Rico Tipoff title game even though we don't yet know who will be playing. I realize it's weird. Just roll with it.
Player trying to keep rolling: Chane Behanan has all the tools to be the nation's best 6-foot-6 rebounder, and he's doing it through two games this season. The Louisville sophomore grabbed nine in 24 minutes against Manhattan and 18 in 28 minutes against Samford. My guess is he splits the difference Sunday when the second-ranked Cardinals host Miami-Ohio at the KFC Yum! Center.
Player trying to get rolling: Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi missed Oregon's first two games while waiting to see if the NCAA would grant him a waiver to play immediately. On Thursday, that waiver was granted. So the senior from Iran who averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds last season will be uniform late Friday when the Ducks host Vanderbilt. Tipoff is at 11 p.m. ET. Kazemi should be on the court by 11:15 p.m. ET, at the latest.
Three things you should know before you go ...
- Lots of people considered Marshall an NCAA tournament team this preseason based in part on the arrival of point guard Kareem Canty. But the NCAA ruled the freshman ineligible this week, meaning the Thundering Herd won't have him for Friday's game against something called District of Columbia, for Saturday's game against South Dakota State or at any point this season. Tough break.
- Duke's Sunday game against Florida Gulf Coast will be its final tuneup before heading to the Bahamas for the Battle for Atlantis tournament that is essentially guaranteed to give the ninth-ranked Blue Devils three games in three days against teams currently ranked in our Top 25 (and one).
- Yes, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad remains ineligible. Yes, we'll let you know if that changes. (UPDATE: He's now eligible!)
Final thought: I spent Thursday writing about a kid named Luke Cothron who was once lured to New Orleans under false pretenses and incorrectly told he was cleared to play before being told otherwise and tossed aside after six minutes of action and less than a week on campus. Those six minutes currently count as one year of eligibility, which means he's now technically ineligible at Northwest Florida State junior college because of the mistakes of adults supposedly in a position to guide and help him.
But nobody is helping him.
As it stands, UNO is the only school that can help him; all most sensible people think it would take is UNO admitting its mistake in a letter to the NCAA. But even though I made UNO athletic director Derek Morel aware of this situation more than three months ago, he has to date done nothing, and there's no indication he will unless he caves to public pressure.
So here's hoping he caves.
Because it's the right thing to do.
To be clear, Morel isn't the man who created this problem; he wasn't even at UNO at the time. But he is the man who can help try to fix the problem now. And if he's an AD who cares about the well-being of student-athletes like all athletic directors insist, then he should be on the phone with the NCAA this afternoon figuring out what he needs to do next.