2:30 PM GMT
After Kansas was challenged by East Tennessee State, and SMU escaped Evansville on ESPN+ last week, we flip to Feast Week, when nonconference tournaments such as the Maui Invitational and Battle 4 Atlantis will dominate headlines.
While these fields offer perfect résumé-boosting opportunities, there are matchups on ESPN’s streaming service this week that should spark attention.
On the slate is a Pac-12 school playing a rare road game, many Atlantic 10 squads looking to stand out and a couple of superstars.
1.Arizona State Sun DevilsatPrinceton Tigers(Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
After traveling across the country for two games at the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut, Arizona State will wrap up its East Coast adventures with a matchup vs. Princeton. While the teams don’t have the same talent level, the Sun Devils have a similar roster makeup to their 2017-18 unit that knocked off No. 2 Kansas on the road and went unbeaten in nonconference play behind the play of two elite guards. This season’s bunch plays small and fast and features bucket-getters likeRemy MartinandRob Edwards. They also play exceptionally hard under coach Bobby Hurley. Princeton is 0-4 with blowout losses to Indiana and Duquesne so far, but Arizona State’s exciting offensive scheme combined with its opponents’ home-court advantage makes this an intriguing showdown to watch.
2.Alabama State HornetsatNo. 21 VCU Rams(Monday, 7 p.m. ET)
VCU’s weekly appearance continues as the Rams host Alabama State in another buy-game before the Emerald Coast Classic. We’ve talked in recent weeks about VCU’s style of play andMarcus Santos-Silva‘s breakout campaign, but what has been most surprising about the Rams is their production on the offensive end. The program has been stingy on defense for years — starting with Shaka Smart’s “havoc” system. However this season, it’s clear the Rams are capable of scoring without creating as many turnovers. VCU dropped 84 points in a victory over LSU and the Rams have three players averaging double figures with two others who are on the cusp. Alabama State held Missouri State to only 59 points — despite its 0-4 record — so this game is another chance to see if VCU’s offensive explosion is for real.
3.Vermont CatamountsatYale Bulldogs(Sunday, 2 p.m. ET)
Vermont takes theAnthony Lambshow to New Haven for what will already be its fifth true road game of the season. Lamb isn’t flashy, but the 6-foot-6 senior is the heart and soul of the Catamounts. He has been so good this season that even Virginia was unable to contain the forward as he dropped 30 points and kept Vermont within striking distance of a top-10 opponent. WithPaul AtkinsonandAzar Swainleading a group that is coming off a three-overtime thriller on ESPN+ against Siena last week and a near-upset of Penn State, Yale probably won’t be a cake walk for Vermont. How the Bulldogs try to limit one of the most productive players in the country will certainly be the key to which team comes out on top.
4.Southern Illinois SalukisatSaint Louis Billikens(Sunday, 4 p.m. ET)
Saint Louis was picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll last season after reeling in a talented recruiting class led by four-star forward Carte’Are Gordon and multiple high-level transfers. One year later, expectations are much lower with Gordon out of the picture and most of the transfers moving on. The Billikens were projected to finish seventh in their league and are led byJordan Goodwinand bruiserHasahn French, who had 21 points and 24 rebounds vs. Belmont. It might be too early to start labeling Travis Ford’s team as a sleeper in the A-10, but they certainly have the makings of a unit that could challenge for a top-four slot. With a difficult nonconference schedule that continues with Auburn and Kansas State, this is one that SLU can’t afford to lose.
5.St. Francis (PA) Red FlashatSaint Joseph’s Hawks(Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
In the first year of the post-Phil Martelli era, the Hawks were expected to be rebuilding under coach Billy Lange. While double-digit losses to Old Dominion and Loyola Chicago prove the process is just getting started, Saint Joseph’s has also displayed its potential when the Hawks dropped 96 points in a win over UConn and nearly came back to defeat Florida. This is a chance to gauge the progress of an improving Atlantic 10 team while also watchingKeith Braxton, St. Francis’ star guard. The senior is elite at getting to the free throw line and has developed other areas of his game that shined in a loss to Richmond when he nearly put up a triple-double. If Braxton can have a monster outing, the Red Flash could pick off an A-10 team on the road.
6.Manhattan JaspersatRhode Island Rams(Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET)
BetweenFatts Russell‘s flash,Jeff Dowtin‘s effective leadership andCyril Langevine‘s physicality in the paint, Rhode Island has a big three that can compete with any in the Atlantic 10. But beyond those three, the Rams are searching for more consistency from their role players.Tyrese Martinhas been a pleasant surprise andJacob Toppinhas shown an ability to score in short bunches, but the sample size is probably too small — and both players are too young — for coach David Cox to feel comfortable during conference play. Will Martin and Toppin bring their A-game against Manhattan? Or will someone else unexpected step up? Rhode Island’s supporting cast won’t be solved this week, but a step in the right direction before a three-game stretch against West Virginia, Providence and Western Kentucky is necessary.
7.Oakland Golden GrizzliesatNorthern Illinois Huskies(Monday, 8 p.m. ET)
If you’re searching for under-the-radar pro prospects to watch this week, there are two gems in this mid-major matchup. We’ll start with Oakland’sXavier Hill-Mais, who stands at 6-foot-7 with the versatility to impact the game in numerous ways. The senior forward was the Golden Grizzlies’ leading scorer and rebounder last season, and is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds this season. On the Northern Illinois side,Eugene Germandoesn’t have the physical skill set of Hill-Mais, but he sports a natural gift of scoring the ball. The senior guard averaged more than 20 points the past two seasons and is on pace for another leap in 2019-20. While his efficiency needs to improve, German has an ability that every professional team is looking for.
8.Evansville Purple AcesatIUPUI Jaguars(Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
Despite a two-point loss to SMU at home and ugly defeats to George Washington and East Carolina, eyes continue to be focused on the Purple Aces. Was their victory over Kentucky a sign that they’ll be competitive at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference? Or was their projected eighth-place finish in the MVC more indicative of where they stand? The Purple Aces’ latest task comes against IUPUI, a squad that beat USF by 17 on the road and features talented guardMarcus Burk. The Jaguars were picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League preseason coaches’ poll, but, like Evansville, have exceeded those expectations through the first few weeks. Call this a matchup between two teams that are looking to ride their early season narratives into conference play.
9.Radford HighlandersatMonmouth Hawks(Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Radford came into this campaign as one of the more dangerous mid-majors because of its veteran duo ofLeroy Butts IVandCarlik Jones. Jones, in particular, has been a staple of the program by helping guide the Highlanders to the NCAA tournament in 2018 before coming 40 minutes away from a second straight berth in the Big Dance. Despite its experienced pieces, Radford has already lost three games — to Liberty, Georgia Southern and Bradley — and can ill afford to continue its slump on the road against Monmouth. The Hawks already have a four-game losing streak on their résumé, but every loss came on the road, including against three Power 5 teams in Kansas State, Kansas and Pittsburgh. King Rice’s unit also might’ve found the key to its success:Ray Salnave. The junior has averaged 12.4 points in just 24.4 minutes, proving that a larger role could be in store soon for the native of Elmont, New York.
10.Navy MidshipmenatBrown Bears(Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)
These schools might not jump off the screen, butBrandon Anderson‘s name will after tuning in to watch Brown. The senior guard is an offensive machine as he lit up Quinnipiac for 28 points, drilled four 3s on the way to 32 points against Canisius, and scored another 23 in a win over Bryant. Dating to last season, Brown has won its past six games when Anderson has put up over 20 points, and seven of its past eight when he scored over 15. Navy is giving up only 60.2 points per game this season and held undefeated Liberty to only 55. Anderson is a different challenge though, making this an underrated matchup of the week.