Small Conference Game of the Day: January 18

After last night’s Belmont win over Eastern Kentucky (in a game that Belmont looked to be cruising through early only to see EKU come storming back to take a second half lead before Belmont finally put them away), it is time to turn our attention to the Friday night schedule.  With only three games on the entire Division I slate tonight, the most tempting pick is a potential battle among the top two teams in the America East, Stony Brook and Vermont.  However, instead we are focusing tonight’s attention on the 7PM Eastern game between Jacksonville and North Florida in the Atlantic Sun.

In terms of great rivalries, North Florida has only been a member of Division I for a handful of seasons and thus these games do not have a great history.  But both universities are located in Jacksonville, Florida, which means that this could bud into a great rivalry as time goes by.  It is billed by some as a Braggin’ Rights game, though the current “official” name is the SunTrust River City Rumble.  Tonight’s game is being played at UNF Arena (there will be a second matchup next month at Jacksonville’s arena).  North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll has stated that the two Jacksonville-North Florida games are the second and third biggest sporting events each season in the city of Jacksonville (after the Florida-Georgia football game).  I guess that says a lot about the professional football team that allegedly plays in Jacksonville as well.

The Atlantic Sun standings are a complete jumble this early in the season, with Jacksonville tied for first at 4-2 in conference and North Florida only a game back at 3-3.  Neither team has registered a marquee win as of yet on the season, but with Belmont gone from the A-Sun, this conference should be wide open for anyone to win.

Keep an eye out during this game for North Florida’s Parker Smith.  Smith is currently leading the NCAA’s with 76 3-pounters made on the season.  He will be matched up with Jacksonville’s top player, Keith McDougald, who has scored 58 points in his last four games after returning from a shoulder injury.  The two players should provide an entertaining matchup in what hopefully will be a high-scoring affair.

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