College basketball today: Don’t underestimate Valparaiso, Iowa-Iowa State a hidden gem game

Here is what you need to know in college basketball for Thursday, December 7: 

1. Valparaiso at Purdue is one of those danger games for the high-major team. Valpo is good, as in this team can upset a team in the first-round of the NCAA tournament good if they get a bid out of the Missouri Valley. The Crusaders are undefeated at 8-0 and have a couple of big-time scorers in Tevonn Walker and Bakari Evelyn. And the other thing that Valpo has, which most teams don’t, are a couple of 7-footers in Derrik Smith and Jaume Sorolla. Purdue has great size with Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms. So this will be quite a test for the Boilermakers. Mackey Arena was rocking for home games against Louisville and Northwestern. It needs to be again for this one against nearby Valpo. This game is no joke.

2. Iowa at Iowa State is one of the those hidden gem in-state, non-conference games. This game rarely disappoints. But it comes at a tough time in the schedule for the Hawkeyes, losers of three straight overall, and two in a row in the Big Ten. This four-game stretch of ACC-Big Ten-Big 12 is a brutal stretch for a team searching for confidence that has been dealing with injuries. Iowa State was supposed to be rebuilding mode and still may in the Big 12. But the Cyclones have quietly ripped off five in a row, including winning the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a win over Boise State. Freshman Lindell Wigginton has been a constant scoring presence so far for the retooled Cyclones.

 

3. UT-Arlington at Northern Iowa is a game that won’t resonate nationally but trust us here with this one since both teams could be first-round trouble spots if they make it to mid-March. Kevin Hervey has received plenty of love in this space for his ability to score. The Mavericks have only one loss, a one-point defeat at Alabama. Northern Iowa has an at-large resume — already — with wins over SMU and NC State and a home win over UNLV. The only losses were to Villanova on a neutral court and at North Carolina. The Panthers don’t score as well at 68 points a game, but lock teams up at 58 on average.

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4. Drexel at La Salle: Drexel is beat up and depleted and yet still won two in a row. La Salle is coming off a road trip to Northern Ireland where it split games against Towson and Holy Cross. But the reason for mentioning this game is that it shouldn’t be held on a random Thursday in December. I’ve said it in this column: Make the Big Five the Philly Six and play all of the City games over a weekend. Make it a tournament. Villanova is about to finish up its Philly games after beating Penn and winning at Saint Joseph’s, the Wildcats scheduled La Salle and at Temple around Tuesday’s game against Gonzaga in New York. Villanova would love to just play all the Philly games at once, on one weekend, with a tournament to start the season. The other Philly schools probably wouldn’t balk, either. And Drexel should be included. Stop with the archaic rules that Drexel wasn’t an original member of the Big Five. They are a Division I school in the city, across the street from Penn essentially. The whole thing is silly. Make the games matter more with a tournament-style set up.

5. Ohio at Maryland could be a Loyola (Ill.) at Florida if the Terps aren’t careful. This is probably not a MAC-title Bobcats team, but Maryland cannot take this team lightly. The Terps got a split of the weekend Big Ten games by surviving an overtime game at Illinois. Momentum is back for Maryland. But turnovers cannot return if Maryland wants to avoid a slip up. This is the type of game Maryland should/needs to win so it doesn’t have blemishes on the resume in March.

Andy Katz is an NCAA.com correspondent. Katz worked at ESPN for 18 years as a college basketball reporter, host and anchor. Katz has covered every Final Four since 1992, and the sport since 1986 as a freshman at Wisconsin. He is a former president of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter at @theandykatz.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NCAA or its member institutions.

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