There are three games set for today, with Ohio State playing in Maui, Northwestern heading to Mexico and Rutgers hosting Rider.
Game of the Night
Ohio State Buckeyes vs Arizona Wildcats / Cincinnati Bearcats
- Maui Invitational
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET ESPN2
In the opening round of the Maui Invitational the Buckeyes lost to the 17th ranked San Diego State. The Aztecs shot 50.8% from the field and hit 10 of 21 from deep on their way to 88 points while Ohio State struggled from three (7 of 22), shot 42.4% from the field and couldn’t get over the hump in the second half.
The Buckeyes started 3-0 but hadn’t played anyone of note and things likely won’t get that much easier in Maui, followed by a non-conference slate that still includes games against ACC powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. Ohio State has a good set of forwards in Zed Key, Justice Sueing and Brice Sensabaugh, but the backcourt has been a bit lacking in comparison.
Ohio State is set to play the loser between Cincinnati and Arizona, though their opponent isn’t determined at the time of writing as that game is set to tip after 11:30pm and I get to work at seven in the morning. With that in mind we’ll take a look at both potential opponents.
Cincinnati is heading into Maui on the heels of a 13 point loss at Northern Kentucky. The Bearcats have a trio of guards averaging 44.3 points per game and feature a guard heavy rotation that is at odds with Ohio State. While Cincinnati’s guards score a good chunk of their points, the Bearcats aren’t a particularly great three point shooting team and even worse from the free throw line. Cincinnati is at a notable talent disadvantage and unlikely to knock off their in-state opponent if they end up facing Ohio State today
Pick: Ohio State
The Wildcats are ranked in the top fifteen but haven’t faced anyone of note prior to their trip west to Maui. Arizona has been lighting the scoreboard up so far, averaging 105.3 points per game even though they’re committing 20.7 turnovers per game. Of course they’re also shooting 63.2% from the field and 46.7% from three. Azuolas Tubelis is leading the team with 20 points per game, while center Oumar Ballo has been a force inside with 17 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Guards Pelle Larsson and Kerr Kriisa are each averaging 15.7 points per game while none of the starters have had to play full minutes while running past all three opponents.
Arizona has both a dynamic frontcourt and a strong set of guards, runs a fast pace offense and can score from all over. Ohio State has some pieces but would not matchup well as they don’t have the offense to match the Wildcats. Arizona’s numbers will likely come down to earth as their schedule toughens, but they have a notable offensive advantage and it’s hard to see Ohio State winning if they end up facing Arizona.
Rider Broncs at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET BTN
- Line: Rutgers -16.0
Rutgers will look to bounce back tonight from their loss to Temple last weekend with a game against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are currently 3-1, though they missed an opportunity last time out for a solid win over the Temple Owls. Through four games Clifford Omoruyi has paced the Scarlet Knights with 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, while guard Cam Spencer is also adding 16.8 points per game. Rutgers has been defensively sound but still continue to struggle from range, hitting just 27.5% from three.
Rider almost upset Providence in the opener but have lost back to back games against Stetson and Central Arkansas. The Broncs are led by guard Dwight Murray Jr., who leads the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. He’s also hitting almost 50% from three. If Rutgers can slow down Murray they shouldn’t have much of an issue tonight.
Rutgers should land back in the win column tonight.
Liberty Flames vs Northwestern Wildcats
- Cancun Challenge - Riviera Division
- Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET CBSSN
- Line: Northwestern -3.5
Northwestern is off to Mexico where they face Liberty tonight and then either Auburn or Bradley on Wednesday. Northwestern’s opponent is a Liberty team that has won at least 20 games each of the past six seasons. The Flames haven’t gotten off to a great start with a loss to Southern Mississippi last time out and a 36 point loss at Alabama. Darius McGhee and Brody Peebles pace the Flames with a combined 36.1 points per game while no one else is averaging more than 7.5 points per game. That’s not a huge surprise as Liberty spreads minutes around, with no player averaging more than 26.5 minutes per game.
The Wildcats are undefeated and picked up a nice win over Georgetown last week. Liberty is probably the best team they’ve played this year based on recent success, but the Flames haven’t impressed much so far. Northwestern’s offense has hummed along relatively well even without a major presence inside, though they’ll need to improve on their 41.4% field goal percentage.
This should be a relatively balanced game and could go either way, but Liberty has struggled more than they usually do and there’s enough talent in the Wildcats backcourt to find a way to pick up the win.