The Saint Joseph's Hawks and La Salle Explorers kick off of their Atlantic 10 schedules Wednesday night (see story) against two 12-2 opponents -- although one of those records has just a bit more credibility than the other -- and Villanova continues Big East play at South Florida.
Saint Joseph's (8-4) vs. No. 14 Butler (12-2)
Hagan Arena, 7 p.m., TCN
St. Joe's enters Wednesday night on a three-game win streak, its longest of the season, with wins over Iona, Drexel and Morgan State. Thanks to some exceptionally poor shooting from Morgan State -- who went 24 of 79 from the field (30.4 percent) and 1 of 13 from three (7.7 percent) -- St. Joe's won by 10, despite turning the ball over nine more times, 16-7.
Butler, meanwhile, has one its last nine straight since losing to Illinois on Nov. 21. The Bulldogs have knocked off two Top 10 opponents this season in No. 9 North Carolina and No. 1 Indiana.
St. Joe's is the second of four Big 5 opponents Butler will face this season -- the Bulldogs already beat Penn 70-57 on Jan 2.
Guards Carl Jones and Langston Galloway average 15.6 and 15 points per game, respectively, and shoot right around 42 percent from the field.
For Butler, senior guard and Arkansas-transfer Rotnei Clarke leads the way with 16.2 points per game. Clarke has gone for 20 or more points five times this season, dropping a high of 27 in his team's loss to Illinois. Clarke is shooting 40.9 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three but has scored just six points and four points in his last two games (against Penn and New Orleans).
The Bulldogs reached the NCAA national championship game in both 2010 and 2011 as a 5-seed and then an 8-seed before losing to Duke and Connecticut.
The Bulldog -- who, for the record, is an actual bulldog -- is expected in attendance tonight.
Hawks vs. the Top 25
Dating back to the beginning of last season, St. Joe's is 3-2 in its last five games against Top 25 opponents. Both losses came on the road, while the three wins -- over Creighton, Temple and Notre Dame -- were either at home or on a neutral court.
St. Joe's defeated No. 20 Notre Dame, 79-70 in overtime, in an early-season tournament at Barclays Center on Nov. 16, and got hammered at No. 11 Creighton, 80-51, on Dec. 1.
La Salle (10-3) vs. Charlotte (12-2)
Halton Arena, 7:30 p.m.
La Salle is off to its best start since 1989-90 Explorers began their season 12-1, but a 76-59 road loss at Miami on Jan. 2 has put a slight damper on La Salle's out-of-conference success. Prior to that game, La Salle put up an average of 86.6 points per game in its previous three contests, beating Iona, Sacred Heart and Siena by an average margin of 24.6 points. The Explorers bounced back last Saturday with a 74-57 Big 5 win over Penn.
Charlotte won its first nine games of the season before losing, like La Salle, at Miami. The 49ers also dropped a game to Florida State right before Christmas. Despite its 12-2 record, Charlotte's strength of schedule is just 276th in the country.
Senior guard Ramon Galloway leads La Salle with 17.8 points and five rebounds per game. In a five-game stretch from Dec. 8-29, Galloway averaged 22 points a contest. His 3.3 threes per game are third-most in the Atlantic 10 and the 15th-most in the country, while his 46.7 shooting percentage from behind the arc is fourth in the conference and 12th in the nation.
Six-foot-9 senior forward Chris Braswell leads Charlotte with 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds. In 14 games, he's proven himself equally likely to go for 18 or more or just nine or less. In his last two games, he hung 20 points on Florida State before finishing with only four in a 71-63 overtime win over UNC-Asheville.
La Salle junior point guard Tyreek Duren (15.3 points, 3.2 assists) is 29 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
See ya, Charlotte
Barring a meeting in the Atlantic 10 tournament, this will be La Salle and Charlotte's final matchup as members of the same conference. Charlotte is bolting from the A-10 and joining Conference USA (to play football) as an all-sports member.
Villanova (10-4) at USF (9-4)
Sun Dome, 8 p.m.
Following its Dec. 5 loss to Temple, Villanova has won its last six in a row and opened its Big East schedule with a 98-86 overtime win over St. John's last Wednesday. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono finished with a game- and career-high 32 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 26 off the bench.
South Florida won its final four out-of-conference games in a row before losing to No. 7 Syracuse, 55-44, on Sunday. Though the Bulls played their typically stout brand of defense, holding the Orange to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent from three, they were badly outrebounded, 36-26, and coughed up the ball one (or six) too many times, 15-9.
Pinkston and Arcidiacono lead the Wildcats with 13 points a piece, while Pinkston pulls down 4.7 boards and Arcidiacono hands out 3.4 assists.
For USF, Victor Rudd, Toarlyn Fitapatrick, and Jawanza Poland all score 11 points per game and grab five or more rebounds.
In a china shop
Known for operating at a slow pace, priding themselves on tough defense and playing generally ugly basketball, USF has allowed just four of its 13 opponents to score more than 60 points this season.
As the Big East continues to hemorrhage programs -- Villanova included -- USF is one of three all-sports members -- along with UConn and Cincinnati -- currently playing in and still committed to the conference.
E-mail Nick Menta at firstname.lastname@example.org