By Jeff Goodman
Baylor goes to College Station tonight and plays Texas A&M. UConn travels to Georgetown and Indiana will play Michigan in Ann Arbor.
But the Game of the Night will be played in the brand-new College Park Center when UT San Antonio faces UT Arlington tonight. Ok, maybe I'm getting a little carried away. But this is a huge matchup by Southland Conference standards.
UT Arlington is 15-5 overall, flawless in league play at 7-0 and carrying a school-record 11-game winning streak into the contest. Brooks Thompson's UTSA squad comes in with a 14-7 overall mark and a game back in conference play at 6-1.
Not a bad night to open up the 7,000-seat, $78 million facility.
"It should be a great atmosphere. It's been sold out for a while now," UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. "I think it's the nicest facility I've ever stepped foot in."
Scott was optimistic about his team entering the season, but one of the primary reasons was due to the addition of junior college point guard Jorge Redmon. Well, Redmon is no longer on the team due to academics, but Cross said that sophomore Shaquille White-Miller has been terrific in running the club.
"He mirrors my personality," Cross said. "He's a pit bull who makes enough shots, has a high number of assists and is a bulldog on defense."
Bo Ingram (11.7) and Kevin Butler (10.6 ppg) both average in double-figures and junior big man Jordan Reves (8.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has made strides to become of the Southland's top big men, but the primary reason for the Mavericks success is senior guard LaMarcus Reed III, who is averaging 16.1 points and has made big shot after big shot for Cross.
"We used to lose all the close games last year," Cross said. "But now anytime the game's on the line, he wants the ball. He's begging for it. You can see it in his eyes."
Cross said his team had UTSA down double-digits last season, but was unable to close out the victory. In the offseason, he made it one of his primary focuses to prepare against UTSA's stellar zone defense that is similar to the one Baylor's Scott Drew utilizes.
"We've worked on it plenty," Cross said. "They are really good at it."
Cross admitted Wednesday night's contest may be the second most important game in his tenure next to the league championship game in 2008 that gave the Mavericks their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.A victory would give the Mavericks a two-game advantage in the standings over UTSA -- and could put UT Arlington in position to win the league in its final year in the Southland.
UTA, UTSA and Texas State will all head to the WAC next season while Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist will enter the league.