Set Your Tivo: 01.27.10Posted by THager on January 27th, 2010
***** - 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
#23 Vanderbilt @ #14 Tennessee – 7pm on ESPNU (*****)
This should be an absolutely fantastic game. It features one of the country’s favorite teams right now in Bruce Pearl’s new-look Volunteers, as well as the most underrated team in the country in Vanderbilt. These teams are in-state rivals, and a win will be huge for either team. Tennessee just suffered their first loss since the arrest of four players earlier this month to Georgia over the weekend. This group of “new” players has not had to face adversity yet this year on the court, so it will be key for their confidence to win this one at home. Vanderbilt is on a tear, winning their last nine games en route to becoming the only undefeated team remaining in the SEC. They have shown the ability to play both sound offense and defense at times, but tonight’s game will truly test their grit when they play in Knoxville, where the Volunteers have not lost since last season. As Wayne Chism goes, so goes the Vols. He only scored six points in UT’s loss to Georgia and eight points in their loss to USC, but he has shown the ability to carry the team on his back as well (Ole Miss comes to mind). If Chism gets going against the Commodores, Tennessee will keep their home winning streak alive.
Notre Dame @ #3 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN (***)
This is a fantastic game, but it may be lost among the plethora of incredible matchups available tonight. The Irish are right on the bubble if the season ended today, and they have six winnable games coming up on the horizon, so a victory over Villanova tonight could spark the fire they need to push through this season. Notre Dame is not getting much love in the polls, at #68 in the RPI and #80 according to Ken Pomeroy, but they are comparable to Villanova statistically. They average over 80 points a game and give up just 0.6 points more per contest than the Wildcats. Villanova is one of those teams that finds ways to win games, but Notre Dame has already beaten a top ten team previously this season in West Virginia. That victory was at home, though, and they will need to step up their game to win at the Wachovia Center, where the Wildcats are undefeated. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are the two guards to watch in this game, but Notre Dame also has some underrated guards in Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson that get overshadowed by their big men. Those two average more than five assists per game (Villanova has just one guard averaging over 3.5 per game) to complement forward Luke Harangody who can get down the court fairly quickly for a 246-pound player. Villanova has had more success this season, and is probably more talented as well, so expect the Wildcats to get off to their best start in school history tonight.
Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)
This matchup between the Aggies and Cowboys will not feature the two best teams in the Big 12 tonight, but it will certainly feature the most even. Both teams average in the low 70s per game, both teams give up exactly 64.2 points per game, both 11-0 at home, both have three losses on the road, and they both have won two straight games. Not surprisingly, their records are almost identical at 14-5 for A&M and 15-4 for OSU (both started out 9-1). Texas A&M is ranked #47 according to Ken Pomeroy, while Oklahoma State is ranked #48. Derrick Roland’s injury put a dent in the similarity between the guards, but these teams still both have four players who average 9.5 points per game or higher. Each has one win over a ranked team, and both had a two-game losing streak before their recent run. The only noticeable difference for these teams is who those losses came to. Oklahoma State suffered defeats to Oklahoma and Baylor, while Texas A&M lost to Kansas State and Texas. Donald Sloan has been playing well all season, and he will likely lead the Aggies to a victory. Regardless of who wins this game, I have a feeling this game will need overtime to determine which team is better.
Florida St @ #7 Duke – 9 pm on ESPN (****)
What will the Seminoles have to do in order to get some respect among the pollsters? As the buzzer expired in Atlanta Sunday, Florida State showed many people across the country that they are a legitimate team. If they give Duke its third loss in six games, they will solidify everyone’s beliefs about FSU just as much as it will give the selection committee some serious concerns about giving Duke a high seed. Although the Seminoles beat Georgia Tech on the road, that would not come close to the shock of beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. These two teams are successful in different ways, as Duke is the best team in the country in offensive efficiency, while Florida State ranks 99th. FSU ranks third in defensive efficiency, and holds opponents to just 60.2 points per game. If they can slow down Duke’s trio of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, the Seminoles certainly stand a chance, but that is a lot easier said than done. The Blue Devils are quick, versatile, shoot the ball well from the three-point line, and can have huge scoring spurts. Duke is still the best team in the ACC, and I think they will start playing like it again tonight.
#10 BYU @ #23 New Mexico – 10 pm on The Mtn. (****)
Now that Kentucky lost its first game of the season, BYU owns the nation’s longest winning streak at 15 games. Number 16 won’t be so easy, as they are facing New Mexico in the infamous Pit. With four consecutive wins of their own, the Lobos are now back in the AP Top 25, and a win against BYU will push them into the top 20. These two teams have not met thus far this year, and this could be the best opponent either of these teams see this season. The Cougars are ranked fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings, and if they run the table, there is a chance they could be looking at a #2 or #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Jimmer Fredette, a guard who averages over 20 points and five rebounds per game, is a lock for first place all-MWC team. He shoots 45 percent from beyond the arc, and if he gets going he can embarrass defenses like he did Saturday against San Diego State (33 pts) or against Arizona (49 pts). He has scored at least 20 points eleven times this year, and I expect him to go for number twelve tonight against a strong Lobos team.