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November 14, 2011
After the first week of the season, a couple of major programs that entered the season with high expectations already have taken a hit.
Mississippi State lost Wednesday to Akron. Two days later, No. 17 UCLA lost to Loyola Marymount. Sunday, No. 7 Vanderbilt lost to Cleveland State. All three lost at home. All three lost by double-digits.
[The Dagger: Skepticism about Vandy increases]
If the first week is any indication, the early part of the season could be a wild ride, even for ranked teams.
More early tests are on the way this week as teams begin tournament play in the Puerto Rico Tip-off and the 2K Sports Classic.
Here's a look at the top games and matchups for the second week of the season.
All times Eastern
Game of the week: Florida at Ohio State, Tuesday, 8 p.m., ESPN2. An early-season meeting between teams expecting to contend for the national title. This is the first display of Florida's deep backcourt, which added five-star freshman Brad Beal and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario to the duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. Meanwhile, Ohio State's super freshmen from last season, Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, now are sophomores. Can Florida handle Sullinger down low? Can the Buckeyes' backcourt hang with the Gators'?
Don't overlook this one: St. John's vs. Arizona in New York, Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN2. St. John's is loaded with newcomers, with junior college transfer God'sgift Achiuwa (yes, that's his name) leading a bunch of freshmen. Arizona is feeling its way without Derrick Williams. Veterans Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill are the keys for Arizona, and five-star freshman PG Josiah Turner already has landed in coach Sean Miller's doghouse after being late to a shootaround.
Interesting coaching matchup: Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson vs. Saint Mary's Randy Bennett, Tuesday, 2 a.m., ESPN. In 2010, Jacobsen and Bennett led their teams to the Sweet 16, but neither made the NCAA tournament last season. Both are among the top mid-major coaches in the country. This week, they meet in a matchup perhaps more fitting for a February BracketBuster game than ESPN's "24 hours of basketball" event.
Mid-major to watch: Long Beach State at Pittsburgh, Wednesday, 8 p.m., ESPNU. Long Beach State could be a team to watch come March. The athletic 49ers return four starters, including G Casper Ware and F Larry Anderson, from a team that won the Big West regular-season title. Long Beach State also has an experienced coach in Dan Monson. Keep an eye on this game and remember the outcome in March.
Storyline you might be missing: Providence at Fairfield, Monday, 7:30 p.m., local TV only. The fans in Fairfield are huge fans of Ed Cooley, who did everything at Fairfield but lead the Stags to the NCAA tournament. He recruited Derek Needham and brought in Rakim Sanders from Boston College. On the cusp of leading perhaps his best team, Cooley left for the Providence job. Fairfield, now led by former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson, may have the better team now, but probably not for long. Cooley has reeled in a top-10 recruiting class for 2012.
[Megargee: Missouri out to prove size doesn't matter]
Stat watch: Michigan State vs. Duke in New York, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski goes for the all-time Division I men's coaching wins record. Michigan State may as well be an honorary member of the ACC this month. The Spartans opened the season with a 67-55 loss to North Carolina on an aircraft carrier. Michigan State also faces Florida State on Nov. 30. Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo have faced each other five times since 1998, with Krzyzewski owning a 4-1 record against Izzo.
Tournament implications: Indiana at Evansville, Wednesday, 8 p.m.: Evansville made major strides last season, with a 9-9 finish in the Missouri Valley. In opening its new arena Saturday, the Purple Aces defeated Butler 80-77 in overtime. Led by swingman Colt Ryan, Evansville could build further clout for the MVC and for itself with a good showing against the rebuilt Hoosiers.
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