Set Your Tivos: 01.17.09Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2009
Game of the Day #1
#12 Georgetown at #2 Duke on CBS at 1:30 PM
John Thompson III might want to think about asking the AD at Georgetown for a new schedule maker. I can understand wanting to get your team ready for the tournament, but this is ridiculous. Coming off a brutal start to their Big East schedule (Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Syracuse), the Hoyas get a respite by heading out of conference with a leisurely trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils have a 67-game home non-conference winning streak. Normally a trip to Cameron would be a major focus of any team’s season, but with the Hoyas’ recent schedule it will be interesting to see if they have anything left in the tank.
This has the potential to be an entertaining game with great matchups all over the floor. The most interesting matchup will be Greg Monroe against Kyle Singler. While Monroe has more potential and will be a higher NBA Draft pick, Singler is quite talented too and plays at a high level more consistently. I’m not sure how Duke will open up because I don’t think Brian Zoubek has a chance against Monroe, but with Monroe’s tendency to coast it might not be such a big issue for stretches of the game. The matchup will be made more interesting by the fact that Duke was the front-runner for Monroe (the #1 high school recruit at times last year) for most of the recruiting season before committing to Georgetown. If Monroe had joined Singler in the middle, Coach K could have had a legitimate title contender.
If Coach K decides to put Zoubek on Monroe, Singler will end up playing against DaJuan Summers who has really stepped up his game this year (15.1 PPG on 53.8% FG and 44.4% 3FG). Either way, it should be an interesting match-up on the inside. Singler probably has the most complete game of any of the 4 bigs in the starting lineup, but Zoubek is still the weakest link of the Duke starting lineup despite his tremendous improvement since he has been at Duke. Singler’s ability to shoot from outside brings up another intriguing aspect of this game about whether Monroe can come out and defend Singler if necessary. The Hoyas might be best served to put Summers on Singler to keep Monroe out of foul trouble because they will need Monroe to play 30+ minutes if they hope to pull off the upset in Cameron. In the end, it might be the battle on the inside and who controls the boards that will determine outcome of the game despite the talented guards on both sides.
The backcourts also provide some interesting match-ups: Nolan Smith vs. Chris Wright, Jon Scheyer vs. Jessie Sapp, and Gerald Henderson vs. Austin Freeman. All of these are intriguing match-ups with solid players who are capable of taking over a game at any time. Keep an eye on Henderson in this one since he’s the one world-class athlete on the Duke team and he has stepped it up recently including taking over the 2nd half of the game against FSU last Saturday.
Game of the Day #2
– #2 Wake Forest at #10 Clemson on ABC at 3:30 PM
To show just how stacked Saturday’s deck of games is, we have two GOTDs. Unbeaten Wake Forest (15-0) travels to unbeaten Clemson (16-0), meaning that somebody has to lose tomorrow, and depending on what happens in Louisville tomorrow night, the winner of this game may remain as the only undefeated team in America on Sunday. For Wake, this means potentially a shot at #1; for Clemson, this game means legitimacy. Even though Clemson’s strength of schedule is a relatively solid 48th in the nation (vs. Wake’s 125th), there is a sense that Clemson isn’t as good as it record indicates. Some of this perception is based on previous years’ collapses, but make no mistake, this Tiger team has the markings of an excellent team. They’ve won road games at tough venues such as Illinois, Miami (FL) and rival South Carolina, and have proven to be one of the most efficient offensive and defensive teams in the country halfway through the season (top 15 in both measures).
Wake, on the other hand, comes in as perhaps the hottest team in the land. In the last two weeks, the Deacs have ended BYU’s 53-game homecourt winning streak and taken down the presumptive “best team in America,” UNC, at home. One thing seems certain – the game will be a barnburner. Three of the last four contests between these schools have gone to OT, with the home team winning all four games (by an average of 3.5 pts). The attention throughout this week has been on the remarkable play of Jeff Teague for Wake, but we feel that this game will be won or lost in the frontcourt. Clemson is not a big team, but Wake is the fifth tallest team in basketball and secures more rebounds per game (40) than anybody. If Wake gets strong contributions from Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and/or Chas McFarland inside, we don’t think it will matter much what KC Rivers, Terrence Oglesby and Trevor Booker are doing on the wing. However, if Clemson can get their guards open for threes and they’re knocking them down frequently enough to rile up the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd (as tough a place to play in the ACC when Clemson is good), then the Tigers could shellshock the Deacs into the upset.
Vegas likes Clemson at home (-2), but they’ve lost seventeen in a row to Top 5 clubs (and 34 of 35), and we loved Wake’s performance at BYU a couple of weeks ago, so we look for Jeff Teague to continue to show his mettle down the stretch by making key plays for the Deacs to get the huge road win to go 3-0 in the conference.
Others to Watch/Tivo
– #13 Notre Dame at #8 Syracuse on ESPN and ESPN360.com at Noon
Both teams will be looking to rebound after tough road losses. In their last game (at Georgetown), the Orange were handed only their 2nd loss of the season. The Fighting Irish are looking to rebound from a loss at Louisville where they were outscored 16-2 in overtime. The key to this game will be how well the Orange are able to neutralize Notre Dame’s advantage on the inside and how well the Fighting Irish are able to neutralize Syracuse’s advantage on the perimeter.
Jim Boeheim will be depending on Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku to limit reigning Big East POY Luke Harangody from going for 30 points and 15 rebounds, which he is certainly capable of doing. Neither Harris nor Onuaku can match-up with Harangody individually, but thankfully for the Orange the Irish lack a strong second interior presence. If Harris and Onuaku combined can match Harangody’s totals the Orange should be in good position to win. Syracuse’s bigs will also have a chance to attack Harangody when they are on offense as he’s not quite the force on defense that he is on offense (see below–courtesy of Earl Clark)
On the outside, the advantage shifts back to Syracuse with Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf, who make up the most electric backcourt in the Big East. Mike Brey will need Kyle McAlarney “The Irish Bomber” to have a big game from the outside, which he has done before against very good competition this year (10-for-18 from 3 against UNC). Tory Jackson will also need to have a solid game controlling the ball for the Irish. A six assist, seven turnover game (like he had at Louisville) isn’t going to cut it in the Carrier Dome either. I think this game would be a toss-up on a neutral floor so give the edge to Syracuse at home.
– #16 Arizona St. at #7 UCLA on CBS at 3:45 PM
This game would have had a little more luster had ASU not laid a gigantic egg at crosstown USC in the second half of their 61-49 loss against the Trojans on Thursday night (USC outscored the Sun Devils 42-23 in the second stanza). The key to that loss was the enignmatic disappearance of their all-world guard James Harden, who went 0-8 from the field (4-7 from the line) for a measly four points. This coming from a guy who entered that game shooting a ridiculous 56% from the floor and was averaging 23 pts/game. The nation’s most efficient offense will have to find a way to get Harden off if they have any inclination of knocking the Bruins off in Pauley Pavilion tomorrow. Last year UCLA held Harden to 10 ppg on 6-16 shooting, and it was no coincidence ASU was destroyed by 33 and 21 pts in those two games.
UCLA, on the other hand, sliced apart Arizona on Thursday night in an 83-60 victory, putting five players in double figures (between 12 and 15 pts each) and absolutely shutting down every offensive threat UA had other than Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill (16-26; all others were 8-29 from the field). You probably last saw UCLA when they were losing to Michigan and Texas in early December, but this team has steadily improved behind not its star-studded freshman class, but upperclass role players such as Josh Shipp, Alfred Aboya, Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic. This quartet of players last year contributed 21/8; now they’re bringing a much stronger 36/14 to the table. The freshmen have been used primarily as for depth, and that has given Ben Howland the option of ten players who have varying skill sets that he can pull off the bench at any time.
ASU’s only true road wins this season have been at San Diego St. and at Stanford. We don’t exactly think that will prepare them for what they’ll face in Pauley. Still, if watching teams execute offensively is your thing, this game is the place to be. Both teams almost always work the ball until they get the shot they want, and their 50%+ field goal percentages prove it. This will be a close game for a while, but UCLA will pull away in the second half.
– #1 Pittsburgh at #20 Louisville on ESPN and ESPN360.com at 6 PM
The last time we thought Pittsburgh would lose on the road, they went into the Verizon Center in DC and humiliated Georgetown at home. So we’re going to be very careful in how we evaluate this game at Louisville tomorrow night. How this game is not the Gameday choice, but Miami-UNC is, is a mystery to us. Nevertheless, this game will be a true test for the Cards, who tend to struggle offensively yet will be playing the most bruising, in-your-face defense in the country. Frankly, unless Louisville’s Samardo Samuels channels Pervis Ellison and shows some big-time moxie in the post, we feel like DeJuan Blair is going to have a field day in the paint. His 6+ offensive rebounds per game leads America and it contributes to Pittsburgh rarely going through prolonged scoring droughts because of second-chance opportunities.
As usual for Louisville, though, their success will largely depend on what kind of production the Cards can get from their guards. After Edgar Sosa’s initial spike in production following Coach Pitino’s invitation to transfer, he’s settled back into mediocrity (13 total pts, 1-8 from three in the last two games). Jerry Smith hasn’t been much better, averaging 5.0 ppg in their last three games. We shouldn’t expect that to get better with the likes of Levance Fields and Jermaine Dixon checking them tomorrow. That really puts the entire burden on the capable shoulders of Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, either of whom could drop a triple-double on a given night, but neither of whom exactly blew up against the Panthers in two games last season (T-Will: 6/5; Clark: 12/6). It will take significantly more than those numbers to beat Pitt.
The wildcard here is the motivational techniques of Rick Pitino, who can convince kids that he hung the moon in situations like this (i.e., where #1 comes to town). Pitino is 2-0 versus #1 teams in the regular season at Louisville, although both wins came within two weeks of each other in the 2003-04 season, and it wouldn’t shock us in the least if guys like Andre McGee and Preston Knowles play out of their damn minds in this one. Still, we can’t get over the fact that Pittsburgh is built to shock-and-awe offensively challenged teams like Louisville, and we can’t get the image of what they did to the Hoyas a few weeks ago out of our heads. We like the Panthers to slowly pull away in this one once the adrenaline wears off.
– Miami at #6 UNC on ESPN and ESPN360.com at 9 PM
RTC’s East Coast Bureau will be in Chapel Hill to cover the GameDay festivities, to live blog the action, and answer your questions. Since I’m going to be spending the entire day covering the game while rtmsf handles the “Boom Goes the Dynamite” duty, I’ll keep this brief. The matchup, which seemed like it was going to be much better in the preseason, lost some of its appeal with UNC’s 0-2 start in the ACC and Miami’s early-season loss to Ohio State and Clemson. The Tar Heels appeared to have returned to form last night with their easy win at Virginia. While they are not the invincible team that some “experts” thought they were before their loss to BC, they still remain the title favorite. If they play at the top of their game, I don’t think there is a team in the country that can beat them. The question is whether they can string together 5 games in a row where they at least come close to that level. [I am assuming that they could win their first game playing as poorly as they possibly could play.]
At first glance it might appear like the Hurricanes have underperformed this year because they are unranked after being a preseason #17, but a closer look reveals that the Hurricanes have performed about as well as you could expect them to. Two of their losses were to current #4 UConn and current #9 Clemson. Their only other loss was at home to Ohio State in game that was marred by Jack McClinton’s ejection for slapping ex-Buckeye Anthony Crater in retaliation for a swipe that Crater had taken while guarding McClinton. Miami ended up losing by 5 with McClinton only playing 8 minutes after starting out on fire (4-for-4 from 3) against an Ohio State team that still had David Lighty. The Hurricanes also will be coming into this game on a bit of a high after coming back from 17 down to beat Maryland on Wednesday night. I’m not saying that I expect Miami to beat UNC tonight (although the Hurricanes are ahead of the Tar Heels in the ACC standings), but I expect it to be much closer than Vegas does (UNC -17). The key for the Hurricanes will be getting someone other than McClinton and Dwayne Collins to score.
For more on this game and the GameDay events, join me on my interactive live blog from Chapel Hill.
If You Have a Second Tivo
– #6 Oklahoma at Texas A&M on ESPN at 2 PM. TAMU is underrated so far, but OU has only had one blip (at Arkansas) this season.
– Illinois at #7 Michigan St. on ESPN at 4 PM. If Illinois wants to be considered “back,” they need to win a statement road game like this one at MSU.
– #22 California at Stanford on FCS Pacific at 8 PM. Former Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery heads back to The Farm as the head man across the bay at archrival Cal.
– Ohio St. at #25 Michigan on Big Ten Network at 8 PM. Two teams trying to separate themselves in the Big 10 race. Which OSU will show up – the one that beat Notre Dame or the one WVU incinerated?