Indiana University-Purdue Univerisity at Indianapolis. Now, that's a mouthful. But not only is that lengthy title more commonly known as IUPUI or "Oooey Pooey" a mouthful, but in the Mid-Con the IUPUI Jaguars have been a handful for opposing teams as well. They went to the NCAA tournament as a 16-seed in 2003, and have been at or near the top of the conference for the last three seasons. In addition to Oral Roberts and Valpo, they have been one of the most consistent Mid-Con programs over the past few seasons. They are currently 1-1 this season after splitting two games at the Marquette Blue/Gold Classic. They were hammered by a solid Winthrop club (73-50), but defeated WAC member Rice, 58-56. Tonight, they venture into Diddle Arena to take on Western Kentucky (1-0) in an 8 pm CT tip.
Blue Ribbon picked the Jaguars to finish second behind Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con this season. The Jags have a lot of talent returning and have a real shot at competing for the MCC title. Senior F Brandon Cole (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg last season; 18 ppg through 2 games this season) is a do-it-all, workhorse type. In addition to being the leading returning scorer, Cole logged 37 minutes per game last year, shot 40% from 3-land, and hit 86% at the free throw line. He is an All-Mid-Con level player and could challenge for the conference MVP, although that will likely go to Ken Tutt or Caleb Green from Oral Roberts. The other returning starters are senior G Maushae Byles (8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), 6’9” C Michael Vavrek (3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg), and 6’2” sophomore G George Hill (10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.2 apg). Hill put up nice numbers as a freshman last year and could be the most talented player on the team.
The big addition is Xavier transfer Angelo Smith (6’9”, 230 pounds). He is a powerful presence on the block that IUPUI has lacked on recent squads. Smith served as AP Player of the Year David West’s backup three seasons ago at Xaver, and he figures to be a major contributor for the Jags. He tallied 14 points and 13 rebs in IUPUI's recent win over Rice. In addition to this strong starting five, the Jags return a bevy of solid perimeter role players in guards David Barlow, Blair Crawford, Troy Shanks and Matt Burks. In the frontcourt, seven-footer Bill Van Senus and freshman F Andy Hampton should provide serviceable depth.
The Tops cruised over Austin Peay without either of their point guards and without freshman F Daniel Emerson. If the Tops walk over IUPUI, it will be a bit of a surprise. This is a veteran team that has played in three of the last four conference title games in the Mid-Con. After being out-rebounded 35-32 against Winthrop, the Jags out-rebounded Rice 48-28 in their last outing. The Toppers still hold a distinct advantage on paper and will have the Diddle faithful on hand to cheer them on, but the Jags should offer a much stiffer test than did Austin Peay.
Last Night's GOI (Games of Import) Results
--Texas 76, West Virginia 75. The 'Eers let a huge win slip away late. As advertised, Texas has a lot of talent. I really like Texas' team.
--Iowa 67, Kentucky 63. A point guard with 19 rebs? Despite what you may be thinking, this is NOT a good thing. UK has three seven footers, and Rajon Rondo grabs 19 boards? Big win for Steve Alford's Hawkeyes, and this loss will have Tubby-haters out in full costume in Lexington.
--Arizona 61, Kansas 49.
--Miami-OH 58, Dayton 42.
--UConn 77, Arkansas 68.
--Gonzaga 88, Maryland 76. The Zags are good. They need to deliver in March this year.
--Georgia 76, Eastern Kentucky 68.
--Wisconsin 84, Old Dominion 81. The Monarchs could have used a major scalp to start their at-large resume, but Bo Ryan and the Badgers are always a tough out. No one is talking about Wisconsin, but they will be there in the end...just as they always are.
--Middle Tennessee 60, Utah State 59. Hold the phone! This is a HUGE win for the Blue Pegasi. Maybe this group with NINE new players will jell more quickly than anticipated.
--Mississippi State 68, Arkansas State 63. Different story if this game was in Jonesboro. Alas, that is the life Sun Belt scheduling. This is why all WKU fans should relish the upcoming Georgia and Virginia games in Diddle Arena.
--Iowa vs. Texas. For the Guardians Classic Championship.
--Kentucky vs. West Virginia. To avoid two consecutive losses in two days.
--UConn vs. Arizona. To establish themselves as Final Four contenders.
--Kansas vs. Arkansas. To bolster their at-large resumes, because both could be bubble teams when it's said and done.
--Gonzaga vs. Michigan State. For the Zags, to solidify their status as a player as a Final Four-calibre team. For the Spartans, to somewhat offset the bludgeoning that they took from the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (84-62!). And I'm talking about a good, old-fashioned, medieval-style bludgeoning with an old rusty mace in a dirty castle dungeon by an executioner named Olaf.
--Virginia at Richmond. We'll see what the Cavs (future WKU opponent) have on the road against an in-state team.
--Bucknell at Syracuse. The Bison struggled in their first game at Rider. They need to come strong if they want to start building an at-large case.
Sun Belt Games
Navy at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Central Conn at FIU.
South Alabama at Purdue.
UL-Lafayette at Tennessee.
New Orleans at Tulane.
North Texas at UNC-Wilmington.
Game log of the IUPUI game coming tomorrow.