Thursday night scouting report
The Michigan-Penn State matchup features the top two scorers in the Big Ten
George Mason and Northeastern are among the favorites in the CAA
Western Kentucky and South Alabama have combined to beat four SEC teams
Giving you a rundown on the top three games on tonight's college basketball slate:
1. Michigan (7-6, 1-1 Big Ten) at Penn State (8-6, 0-2), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Welcome to the football national championship edition, which means almost every hoops team took the night off and will be tuning in to Texas-Alabama. Still, we've managed to dig up three games, one of which features a Michigan team with an opportunity to score a conference road win. Indiana, Iowa and Penn State represent the three easiest possible Big Ten road wins for Michigan, and the Wolverines failed in their first attempt, losing at Indiana to open league play. This game features the top two scorers in the Big Ten in Michigan's Manny Harris (19.8) and Penn State's Talor Battle (18.8). Penn State has beaten Michigan at State College the last two years, with Battle averaging 21.5 points and six assists in those two games. Michigan assistant Jerry Dunn, who coached Penn State from 1995-2003, is on indefinite leave for personal issues.
2. George Mason (8-6, 3-0 Colonial) at Northeastern (7-7, 2-1), 7 p.m. ET
Northeastern was supposed to battle Old Dominion for the CAA title after bringing back its three top scorers from an 18-win team, but it is George Mason that sits alone atop the CAA after three games thanks to an early win over ODU. Jim Larranaga's squad is led by junior Cam Long and sophomore Ryan Pearson, who had 17 points and eight rebounds in the upset of ODU. Northeastern is coming off its second win at VCU in as many years and is the only CAA team the past two seasons to beat the Rams on their home court. Matt Janning is the team's leading scorer, but Manny Adako has cracked the 20-point barrier twice and is a dangerous option for the Huskies.
3. Western Kentucky (8-4, 1-0 Sun Belt) at South Alabama (11-4, 3-0), 6 p.m. ET
This may not be an SEC game, but it may be SEC-quality. Western Kentucky is 2-2 against the SEC (topping Mississippi State and Vanderbilt), while South Alabama is 2-0 after nipping Florida and beating South Carolina. The Hilltoppers boast three seniors and two juniors in their starting lineup, led by do-it-all guard A.J. Slaughter, who had 24 in a second-round NCAA tournament loss to Gonzaga last year. The Hilltoppers are shooting for a third straight NCAA berth, but South Alabama will be a difficult challenge on the road. USA boasts three double-digit scorers, including DeAndre Hersey, who had the winning hoop against Florida with 1.8 seconds left.
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