ESPN+ Week 5 viewers’ guide: Patrick Ewing’s young Hoyas a must-see

Feast Week consisted of Michigan cruising through the Battle 4 Atlantis, Stephen F. Austin stunning Duke and Obi Toppin making a national name for himself. The contests on ESPN+ were attractive, though, as Arizona State needed a last-second 3 to hold off Princeton in our game of the week.

Although attention will likely be focused on the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, there are matchups on ESPN’s streaming service this week that shouldn’t be ignored.

On the slate is an intriguing affair at Gallagher Iba-Arena and a look at a couple of ranked teams. Plus, as usual, cannot miss mid-majors will square off.


1. Georgetown Hoyas at Oklahoma State Cowboys
(8 p.m. ET Wednesday, Big 12 Now on ESPN+)

A rare appearance from a Big East school? An impressive-looking Cowboys squad seeking another quality win? Yes, please. With a stronger nonconference schedule than in years past and a young but talented roster, Georgetown is eyeing its first NCAA tournament berth of the Patrick Ewing era. Although the Hoyas have a flashy backcourt led by Mac McClung and James Akinjo, NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven has become the gem of the team with his combination of interior scoring, strong rebounding and rim protection.

On the flip side, the well-balanced Cowboys are hoping for better results in Mike Boynton’s third season on the job. OSU — which features four double-figure scorers — has already defeated Charleston on the road and pounded Syracuse and Ole Miss at a neutral site. If Boynton can get more production from his bench, Oklahoma State is capable of doing serious damage in the Big 12.


2. Houston Baptist Huskies at Dayton Flyers
(7 p.m. ET Tuesday)

This is the first look at Dayton after Anthony Grant’s team put itself on the nation’s radar with an impressive showing last week at the Maui Invitational.

While Toppin was nearly unstoppable in all three games — he averaged 22.3 points and burned opponents with his inside-out scoring ability — the Flyers proved that their roster is more than just the potential lottery pick.

In fact, Dayton played like one of the most connected units in the country, moving the ball with precision and controlling tempo. Jalen Crutcher, Rodney Chatman, Ibi Watson and Ryan Mikesell all complemented Toppin — and one another — very nicely and played their respective roles to perfection. If the supporting cast can continue to produce at that level, Dayton should be more than just a favorite to win the Atlantic 10.


3. South Alabama Jaguars at Richmond Spiders
(2 p.m. ET Sunday)

After Richmond played three Power 5 schools during Feast Week, the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with South Alabama on the slate.

The Spiders have been particularly impressive offensively, as they average 80.1 points — 62nd in the country — and feature multiple stars in their backcourt. Nick Sherod, Blake Francis and Jacob Gilyard are all averaging 15 points or more, and Grant Golden is nearly putting up a double-double.

If Chris Mooney’s team wants to take the next step, this is the type of game it must win. South Alabama almost knocked off Auburn at home and has four players scoring in double figures, including guard Andre Fox (17.8 points). This could turn out to be a quality win for the Spiders, as the Jaguars are heavy favorites in the Sun Belt and could reach the NCAA tournament.


4. UMass Minutemen at Harvard Crimson
(1 p.m. ET Saturday)

A battle in Massachusetts takes center stage this week, as UMass faces Harvard in Cambridge.

Although the Crimson still aren’t at full strength — Seth Towns remains sidelined — this is a chance to catch Bryce Aiken, who recently returned from injury to drop 30 on both Holy Cross and Maryland. The importance of the senior point guard showed in the Orlando Invitational, as Harvard defeated Texas A&M and took Maryland to the wire.

Aiken will have plenty of company in the star department with Tre Mitchell sharing the court. The 6-foot-9 UMass center continues to have his freshman lumps — eight turnovers against St. John’s and just two rebounds vs. Virginia — but his upside and potential could be on full display against a frontcourt that is missing Towns.


5. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks vs. No. 19 Baylor Bears
(7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, Big 12 Now on ESPN+)

Baylor is back in action for the first time since capturing the Myrtle Beach Invitational more than a week ago, giving us another chance to watch an elite scorer in Jared Butler.

The sophomore guard is averaging a cool 19.3 points, including 22 in a nine-point win over Villanova and 30 in the Bears’ season opener. Although the Bears have played only six games, Butler has significantly increased his efficiency from last season — shooting 53% from the field overall and 53% from 3 — and he has taken on more responsibilities.

Maryland-Eastern Shore is unlikely to put up a stiff test, but any game with Butler involved is must-see television.


6. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Wright State Raiders
(7 p.m. ET Tuesday)

Two of the stronger mid-majors in the country duel in a showdown of the bigs, as Western Kentucky sophomore and pro prospect Charles Bassey goes head-to-head with Wright State’s Bill Wampler.

The Hilltoppers have five scorers averaging in double figures while possessing experience and solid guard play. But if WKU is going to pull off a critical win on the road, Bassey (15.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG) must have a strong showing on both ends of the court.

Wampler doesn’t have nearly the shot-blocking abilities and athleticism of his counterpart, but he has dropped 20-plus points in two outings this season. Will Wampler be able to pull Bassey away from the rim with his shooting? Will he be able to handle the Hilltoppers’ big man without his teammate, center Loudon Love, who is likely to miss the game due to injury? The answers will likely decide what should be an entertaining matchup.


7. Hofstra Pride at St. Bonaventure Bonnies
(2:30 p.m. ET Saturday)

Hofstra is trying to shed the early season jitters, and St. Bonaventure is looking to reemerge as a threat to finish in the top half of the Atlantic 10. This gives us a matchup in Olean between two teams with questions and intriguing upsides.

Despite being projected to finish first in the CAA preseason coaches’ poll, Hofstra began the season with a dud of a loss to San Jose State and a road defeat at the hands of Bucknell. But the Pride bounced back in massive fashion, as Eli Pemberton & Co. stunned the college hoops world with a victory over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

Meanwhile, the Bonnies went 1-3 after losing one of their top defenders, Osun Osunniyi, to a knee injury. The sophomore forward returned against Mercer, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, to give coach Mark Schmidt another piece to flank Kyle Lofton.


8. East Tennessee State Buccaneers at North Dakota State Bison
(8 p.m. ET Saturday)

East Tennessee State and North Dakota State are both veteran bunches with well-balanced offenses and NCAA tournament expectations. The squads will face off in North Dakota, with bragging rights and a résumé-boosting opportunity on the line.

The Buccaneers gave Kansas a scare at Allen Fieldhouse and have passed every other test with flying colors. Coach Steve Forbes’ group is led by Bo Hodges and Tray Boyd III, but they move the ball offensively — 85th in the country in assists per game — and play disciplined defense.

The Bison have lost games to Utah Valley and Stony Brook; however, Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward are still two of the better players in the Summit League. NDSU is also elite defensively, as it is allowing only 60.9 points per game, which is 47th in the nation.


9. Old Dominion Monarchs at No. 20 VCU Rams
(8 p.m. ET Saturday)

Old Dominion has lost four straight and is struggling mightily offensively, and VCU has been solid on offense without compromising its defensive identity.

Why is this a matchup to watch? To check on the progress of Marcus Evans.

The guard finally broke out vs. Alabama State, scoring 25 points on 73% shooting and five 3-pointers, but in VCU’s next game, he registered six points and turned the ball over five times in a loss to Purdue. A lack of ball security and less playmaking have highlighted what has been an inconsistent start to the senior’s final campaign. Which Evans shows up in critical situations will likely determine the Rams’ potential ceiling in the Atlantic 10.


10. Florida A&M Rattlers at Kansas State Wildcats
(8 p.m. ET Monday)

Despite losing Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown Jr., Kansas State was likely going to be a physical defensive unit under Bruce Weber. What we didn’t know was how the offense would adjust without veteran Dean Wade.

Those questions have yet to be answered, as Kansas State has scored more than 70 points in only one game this season. Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra have played well, but there still isn’t a go-to bucket-getter like the Wildcats had the past couple of seasons.

Gauging the improvement of KSU’s offensive flow is the No. 1 reason to tune in, as Weber’s squad needs answers before facing Marquette and Mississippi State before Christmas.

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