Rhode Island 92, VCU 86
A wild and messy game that unfortunately was not on television nationally. The teams combined for 41 turnovers and 67 field goals in 40 minutes. Of course, college basketball is always obscured on college football saturdays. Still, this game represented a very nice win for Rhode Island. With Xavier, Saint Louis and others all looking good early in the Atlantic Ten, it was important for Rhode Island to toss their name into the Atlantic Ten ring with a solid win, and that's what they got here. They have a relatively easy overall out-of-conference schedule (at least when compared to the other A-10 powers), so it's very important that they avoid any bad losses. And since Penn State and Providence could end up as bad losses, Rhode Island needs to be very careful when those road games come up. The Atlantic Ten looks like a multi-bid conference, but it's not going to get five teams, so Rhode Island can't let themselves fall too far behind the leaders. As for VCU, this season is most likely coming down to the Colonial's automatic bid anyway, so the at-large implications of this game aren't that important. What is important are Eric Maynor's 10 turnovers, and the fact that he seems to actually have regressed a little bit over the past year and a half. The only way VCU wins the Colonial is if Maynor leads them there.
Clemson 71, Charlotte 70
Speaking of the Atlantic Ten pecking order, this tough loss was a big missed opportunity for the 49ers. It's still November, but Charlotte just feels like a team that is good, but just not good enough. Their last three games have been losses to Old Dominion, Appalachian State and Clemson by a combined five points. That's brutal. They've got a bunch of other good opponents left in the out-of-conference slate, so their season can be salvaged even before the A-10 begins. But they have to find a way to win the close game. As for Clemson, you have to be very impressed by their start. They deserve to be in the Top 25, even though they might not get in quite yet. Obviously North Carolina is the heavy favorite in the ACC, and Duke has looked outstanding in the early going, but Clemson is certainly very much in the running for third in that conference.
Missouri State 62, Arkansas 57
Arkansas fought back to take the lead late in this game, but a strong final surge made the difference for the Bears. I guess Missouri State was motivated by my declaration last week that they're not quite ready for prime time. Honestly, this game doesn't change my opinion too much. Arkansas just isn't that good this year. Missouri State might be good enough to keep an eye on, but there's no way that this game changes the fact that they're behind SIU, Creighton and a few other teams in the Missouri Valley pecking order right now. For Arkansas, this is their first loss, but not their first poor performance. The fact is that this is a rebuilding season for them, with three freshmen in the starting lineup. Sonny Weems, Patrick Beverley and Steven Hill weren't even the only key players to leave from last year's squad. I think John Pelphrey will have this team greatly improved next year, but they're just nowhere near a Tournament team at this point.