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Top-ranked Louisville, two others put perfect records on the line tonight

Louisville head coach Chris Mack reacts to a play (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Top-ranked Louisville (9-0) will put its perfect record on the line Tuesday night against Texas Tech (5-3) in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

Although the Red Raiders, last year’s national runner-up to Virginia — losing to the Cavaliers 85-77 in overtime — have dropped three in a row, including its last two games in overtime, and dropped out of the national rankings, this could be an interesting matchup, one that the Cardinals can’t afford to take lightly.

“We’ve been in three really close one-possession games where a basket or a stop there and our record and our mood feels a lot different,” said fourth-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard.  “To me, you stay the course.  We could be sitting here with an 8-0 record instead of three losses but we’re still the same team.  The idea is to get better each game and I think we are doing that.  It hasn’t shown on the scoreboard yet, but I remain confident that it will.”

While it’s not the same team it was a year ago, Texas Tech is nevertheless a much better — and potentially more dangerous team — than its youth and early 5-3 record might indicate, particularly if freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey, the team’s leading scorer who missed the last two overtime losses with a hamstring injury suffered against Iowa, is able to play tonight. 

That’s doubly true if crisp-shooting Davide Moretti, the team’s lone returning starter and one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters, finds his rhythm.     

Maryland, too, will try to keep its perfect record intact tonight. 

Although they led for only two seconds — the final two seconds, thanks to Anthony Cowan Jr.’s last-second heroics — in Saturday’s thrilling 59-58 victory over visiting Illinois in their Big Ten opener, the Terps, who trailed by as many as 15 points, nevertheless kept their unbeaten streak alive while improving to 10-0 on the season.

It’s Maryland’s best start since opening the 1998-99 season with ten straight victories. 

Tonight the Terrapins, who looked sort of sluggish — if not a little selfish — against the Fighting Illini, will play their first true road game of the season when they visit Penn State (7-2) in Happy Valley. 

Penn State is coming off a 106-74 drubbing by Ohio State on Saturday.  It’s only other loss this season was a heart-stopping 74-72 setback to Ole Miss at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in late November.

This could be a tough matchup for Maryland considering that the much-improved Nittany Lions — a team that posted a dismal overall record of 14-18 a year ago, including a woeful 7-13 in the Big Ten — have defeated Maryland in each of the past two seasons, routing the Terps 78-61 in State College, Pa., last February and again prevailing at home 74-70 a year earlier.

Eighteenth-ranked Butler (9-0) could also find its unblemished record in serious jeopardy when the Bulldogs play No. 11 Baylor at the Ferrell Center in Waco this evening.  The Bears knocked off previously unbeaten Arizona on Saturday.  It was their second win over a nationally-ranked team this season.

Baylor, which has won six consecutive games after losing to Washington by three points in the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage during the opening week of the season, is 3-0 on its home court.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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