College hoops fans have a local feast Saturday

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Tremont Waters
Tremont Waters and the LSU Tigers look to stay hot in SEC play at home Saturday night versus Alabama (Photo: Terrill Weil).

Very simply, Saturday could be the biggest day of college basketball in southeast Louisiana in recent memory.

Five area teams – all in the midst of good seasons – are all at home. Even better, the game times are staggered in such a way that hoops fans can make multiple games.

Let’s run down the games and the significance…

UConn at Tulane, noon

The Huskies are one of the sport’s blue-blood programs, winning four national titles in the last two decades and two since 2011.

This UConn team is 9-7 and 2-2 in American Athletic Conference play after a win over UCF at home Wednesday night.

Tulane (11-5, 2-2) needs a better start than it had against Memphis on Tuesday, and if they get it, Mike Dunleavy’s squad has a great chance in this one.

A win would allow the Green Wave to match its conference win total of each of the last two years.

Central Arkansas at Nicholls, 3 p.m.

The Colonels are 10-8 overall and 4-1 in Southland Conference play after a win over McNeese Wednesday night.

Nicholls ranks 16th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 86 points per game. The average went down slightly after only scoring 85 on Wednesday – the 11th time Richie Riley’s squad has surpassed the 80-point mark this season.

Saturday marks another opportunity for Nicholls to take advantage of a front-loaded Southland schedule that features five of the first seven league games at home.

A&M-Corpus Christi at New Orleans, 4:15 p.m.

Like Tulane the night before, UNO got off to a slow start Wednesday night at Stephen F. Austin and never could completely recover from it.

Still, the Privateers (7-9, 4-1) are in the race for a second straight Southland Conference title, and Mark Slessinger’s club opens a three-game home stand against Corpus Christi (4-10, 1-3).

This game figures to be decided in the paint. UNO and AMCC take the fewest three-point shots in the league, and the Privateers are the league’s best rebounding team, besting their opponents on the glass by 4.4 per game overall, 5.0 in Southland play.

McNeese at Southeastern, 5 p.m.

The Lions were picked to finish third in the preseason Southland poll and made an early statement with a home win over league favorite Stephen F. Austin. They haven’t let up since and are now the conference’s only unbeaten, remaining that way with a second-half comeback Wednesday night at Lamar.

Like UNO, Southeastern (10-7, 4-0) opens a three-game home stand on Saturday as McNeese makes another trip east on I-10.

Former Helen Cox standout Marlain Veal leads the conference in assists.

Alabama at LSU, 7:30 p.m.

Will Wade’s Tigers are a surprising 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play and 11-4 overall, with the latest win coming Wednesday night in a dominating effort at Arkansas.

Alabama, coached by New Orleans native Avery Johnson, was a preseason top 25 team but is 2-2 in SEC play and 10-6 overall.

Wade – whose team has already surpassed the overall win total and matched the conference win total of last season – has challenged his fan base to get out to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Saturday night.

“We need people hanging from the catwalks Saturday night,” Wade said Wednesday night in his postgame radio interview. “We need to try to sell this thing out … because our guys deserve it.”

Judging by the early state of area college basketball, the Tigers aren’t the only team that needs local fan support. In fact, you’ve got five really good choices to support on Saturday.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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