Set Your Tivo: 01.26.10Posted by THager on January 26th, 2010
SYT Star System
***** - quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** - best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** - set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** - set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* - don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
#5 Michigan State @ Michigan – 7 pm on ESPN (***)
This rivalry game has a different meaning for these two schools, as it could be the difference between a #1 or #2 seed for Michigan State, while Michigan is fighting for its postseason life. UM coach John Beilein refused to call the game a must-win, but he obviously thinks so as he lifted Manny Harris’ recent suspension in time for the game. Harris, Michigan’s leading scorer at 19.2 points per contest, will need to have a performance similar to his effort against UConn if Michigan has a shot to win this game. The Spartans, who have won eight games in a row, are a well-rounded team. Led by guard Kalin Lucas, they have one of the highest shooting percentages of any team in the country. They are also exceptional at rebounding and play consistent defense, holding opponents under 65 points in their last three games. Although most fans will tell you the Spartans are top ten team, Ken Pomeroy has them ranked 16th and the RPI ranks them at #14. If they blow out the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, they will at least make some progress towards advancing in the computer ratings.
#11 Kansas St. @ #24 Baylor – 8 pm on ESPN360 (****)
This is tonight’s only matchup between two ranked teams, and it should be a good one. Not many people saw KSU’s loss to Oklahoma State coming, but now they will try to avoid their first losing streak of the season. The Wildcats are 16-3 and ranked #11 in the latest poll, but the Bears are 15-3 and are playing at home where they are 10-0 this season. Baylor features a few impressive players in LaceDarius Dunn, who averages over 19 points per game, and Tweety Carter, who ranks third in the nation at 6.7 assists per game. Lost in the mix is Quincy Acy, a sophomore who leads the country in field goal percentage at an outstanding 71%. As a team, Baylor ranks fifth nationally in field goal shooting, while the Wildcats rank 69th. On Saturday, the Wildcats went over seven minutes without a field goal in the loss to OSU, and they will lose again if Jacob Pullen is held below his season average. Both teams are struggling right now following their 13-1 starts, as Baylor has gone 2-2, while KSU has gone 3-2 since. Tournament seeds and conference standings are on the line, and look for Baylor to give the Wildcats a second consecutive loss. With a game against Kansas on Saturday, are the Wildcats in the midst of a three-game losing streak?
Northwestern @ Minnesota – 9 pm on BTN (***)
Most people across the country are pulling for the Wildcats this year, as they have a legitimate chance to make their first-ever NCAA tournament. They are 14-5 and have shown the ability over the past few years to beat just about anybody in the Big Ten on a given night. Minnesota probably should have beaten Michigan State on Saturday and will be anxious to take out their frustration from that loss on Northwestern. Both of these teams are 3-4 in the conference, and if NU wants to make the Tournament they will likely have to make a push into the top half of the Big Ten. Their RPI currently stands at #56, so they have some work to do before they are free of the bubble. Northwestern runs a frustrating zone defense that holds opponents to just 63 points per game. The zone forces many offenses to pass away from the hoop, which gives the Wildcats the ability to slow down the game. Minnesota’s defense is equally effective, limiting opponents to 63 points per contest, and they are ranked 12th in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency. Minnesota has played well at home this year, but they have struggled in close games. Six of their seven losses have been by single digits, and they have three losses by a combined five points. Northwestern, with the exception of their collapse against Wisconsin, has played well in the clutch, as the Wildcats have seven wins by a margin of ten points or less. Look for John Shurna and the Wildcats to continue their push into March.
North Carolina @ N.C. State – 9 pm on ESPN360 (**)
As recently as week eight, UNC was still ranked ninth in the country. Now the Tar Heels are ranked 11th in the ACC, and find themselves in serious danger of watching the Tournament from home. To be honest, the Wolfpack probably have a better shot of playing in March at this point, as they have more wins on the season and a victory over Duke. Still, at 73rd and 84th in Pomeroy and the RPI, respectively, UNC and N.C. State need to focus on avoiding an eighth loss before they can think about that. North Carolina is not the most experienced club, but N.C. State is even younger, with only one senior among their top five scorers. N.C. State’s Tracy Smith, a junior, is their leading scorer and rebounder, and had 23 points in the Wolfpack’s upset of Duke last week. The Tar Heels average over 80 points per contest, but have yet to win a game on the road this year, and tonight may not be any different. The road loss to Kentucky was understandable, but the stunner at Charleston and 19-point defeat to Clemson were inexcusable. As poorly as UNC has played on the road, N.C. State has played nearly as bad at home, with only a 7-4 record. Excluding a late run for either team in the regular season, the loser of tonight’s game could be looking at their bubble bursting.