Small Conference Game of the Day – Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there from us here at HoopsHD.com!

While Turkey Day is traditionally a football day, recent years has seen a wealth of college basketball games available as well.  The Wooden Legacy, Battle 4 Atlantic and Old Spice Classic all have quarterfinals starting today.  In addition, there is a non-bracketed event in Las Vegas and the final two quarterfinals in the Great Alaska Shootout.

Today’s SCGD turns to the great state of Alaska, the only state in the country that does not have a Division I college basketball team, but the site every year for the Great Alaska Shootout, hosted by Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska-Fairbanks used to host the Top of the World Classic this time of year as well, but that event was cancelled about five years ago).  Last night, Tulsa upset Indiana State and TCU barely survived against Alaska-Anchorage to advance to the first of Friday’s semifinals.  Tonight, Green Bay will battle Pepperdine in the first game, while our SCGD turns to the final game of the night, Harvard vs Denver (Midnight Eastern tip time, CBS Sports Network).

Harvard enters tonight’s game with a 4-1 record, though their best win of the four was against Bryant.  They had appeared to be well on their way to winning at Colorado on Sunday, only to completely fall apart in the second half and end up losing by 8.  The Crimson’s non-conference schedule this season, however, should be more about obtaining a good seed in the NCAA tournament than obtaining an at-large bid, as there does not appear to be anyone in the Ivy League that can contend with them for the regular season title.  The Ivy is the lone conference without a postseason tournament, giving their automatic bid instead to the regular season champion.

Denver entered the season as one of a pair of teams that appeared to be ready to battle for the Summit League title.  They were predicted by some, yours truly included, as being good enough to contend for an at-large bid as well.  Joe Scott’s Pioneers have only played two games so far, but were beaten fairly easily at Cal and at home by Stanford.  With their toughest games after the Shootout being at Colorado State and home against Belmont, the Pioneers have almost no margin for error left if they are going to get on the board this March.  That makes winning tonight’s game, and in fact winning this entire tournament, almost an absolute must for Denver.

Two key players to keep an eye on tonight — Wesley Saunders for Harvard and Chris Udofia for Denver.  Saunders is a 6-5 combo guard/forward who averaged over 16 points per game last season and has netted 15.2 so far this year.  Udofia is a 6-6 forward who has averaged 14 points over the Pioneers first two games and should be the team’s top scorer all season long.

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