National Notes

Published on Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

–Akron (3-5 straight up, 3-4 against the spread) appeared to be a team to watch when it went into The Hump and upset Mississippi St. on Nov. 9. However, the Zips have fallen on hard times since then, losing five of seven games. Starting sophomore point guard Alex Abreu missed a pair of games due to suspension, but he’s now back in the lineup. The hope for head coach Keith Dambrot is that his 7-foot junior center Zeke Marshall can simply stay on the court. Marshall, whose defense had MSU’s Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie completely out of sorts in Starkville, has seen limited playing time because of chronic foul trouble. I’m suggesting that gamblers don’t give up on this team just yet, though. We still have a lot of season to play and I won’t be surprised if the Zips still represent the MAC in the NCAA Tournament.

–Only one of 12 teams in the MAC (Buffalo) is showing a profit for the ‘over’ so far this season.

Utah St. senior forward Brady Jardine is out for the season with torn ligaments in his foot. Jardine averaged 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in the Aggies’ first three games. They are struggling mightily to date with a 4-5 SU record and a 3-3 ATS mark.

–Since Mississippi St. lost to Akron, it has won nine in a row including victories over West Virginia, Arizona and Texas A&M. Senior point guard Dee Bost is playing like one of the nation’s best at his position, averaging team-highs in scoring (18.5 PPG), assists (4.5 APG) and steals (2.5 per game).

–Middle Tennessee (10-2 SU, 8-2 ATS) has emerged as the team to beat in the Sun Belt Conference, not to mention a spread-covering machine. The Blue Raiders won at UCLA by 20 and has split a pair of games against Belmont. They drilled Akron by 20 as well. MTSU’s losses came at UAB and at Belmont in overtime.

–Elon (7-2 SU, 5-1 ATS) is a team to watch in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix have taken the money in all three of its underdog spots, including a pair of outright wins at Princeton and vs. South Carolina.

–Speaking of the Gamecocks, Darrin Horn is on a serious hot seat in Columbia. South Carolina (4-5 SU, 2-5 ATS) is 0-for-3 in terms of hearing its name called on Selection Sunday under Horn, and things aren’t looking good for this year, either. The ‘Cocks won at Clemson on Dec. 4 but haven’t looked good otherwise.

–I thought Mick Cronin talked a good game in the aftermath of the melee in the final seconds of Cincinnati’s blowout loss at Xavier this past Saturday. However, the sixth-year coach didn’t back up his talk when he suspended Yancy Gates for only six games. Gates punched a pair of Musketeer players, including a sucker punch that left Kenny Frease bloody and with swelling around his right eye.

–After stunning top-ranked Kentucky on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating trey last Saturday, unbeaten Indiana has an excellent chance to go into Big Ten play with a 12-0 record. Here’s a tip of the cap to Tom Crean, who has stayed the course even while enduring frustrations galore in his three previous campaigns in Bloomington after inheriting a colossal mess from the Kelvin Sampson Saga.

–Earth to Kentucky’s Terrence Jones: Tighten up that atrocious body language! You have NBA scouts monitoring your every move and facial expression. Jones’s effort and mental approach in the loss at IU was abysmal. I’ve never liked John Calipari and never will, but I’ll certainly give him tons of credit for benching Jones at crunch time at Assembly Hall. That pine time was well deserved and I’ll applaud Calipari for one of his best assets – not taking [stuff] from big-time players when they try to act like divas.

–Larry Shyatt is off to a 9-1 start at Wyoming in his second tour of duty in Laramie. Shyatt, who left the Cowboys for Clemson more than a decade ago, spent the last several years on Billy Donovan’s staff at Florida.

–This time of year, there are always a number of eye openers when viewing the RPI Rankings. Here are a few in the Top 20 that might surprise you: No. 2 Saint Mary’s, No. 4 Northern Iowa, No. 6 Vandy, No. 8 Creighton, No. 9 Southern Miss, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 13 Indiana St. and No. 19 Murray St.

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