Set Your Tivo: 02.09.10Posted by THager on February 9th, 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
#12 Tennessee @ #24 Vanderbilt – 7 pm on ESPN (****)
These two teams have taken different directions since their meeting on January 27. In that game, the Commodores shot over 50 % from the field (including 57 % from the three-point line) in Tennessee’s only home loss of the season. The Volunteers responded with close wins over Florida and LSU, as well as a win over South Carolina on Saturday. Vanderbilt has now lost two of their last three games, including a recent 14-point defeat at Georgia, who is still below .500 on the year. The difference for the recent trends is that Vanderbilt has given up at least 70 points in the last six games, while UT has surrendered fewer than 56 points per game since the loss at Thompson-Boiling Arena. For the entire season, Tennessee has played much better defense, with a defensive efficiency ranking of #9 (Vanderbilt is ranked #63 according to Ken Pomeroy). Both teams score in the high 70s per game, but the Commodores could use some more help from A.J. Ogilvy, who scored just six points on 2-8 shooting against Georgia. The Volunteers may be the hotter team, but Vanderbilt has already figured out how to beat UT and has the luxury of playing at home, where they are undefeated on the year. The winner of this game will be right behind Kentucky in the SEC standings, but the loser will essentially be eliminated from a top seed in the SEC tournament, so look for this game to be played at maximum intensity.
Illinois @ #13 Wisconsin – 7 pm on Big Ten Network (****)
With the Big Ten so packed at the top of the conference, each matchup between the league leaders could see huge gains or losses in the conference standings. Depending on what happens in tonight’s Michigan State vs. Purdue game (previewed below), Wisconsin could share the Big Ten lead with a win or fall to fifth place with a loss. Michigan State is the only two-loss team in conference play, but Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue all have three losses, so the conference title is still up for grabs. Wisconsin was predicted to finish seventh in the Big Ten this year by some experts, but has recovered from Jon Leuer’s wrist injury with wins in four of their last five games. Illinois, who has come out of nowhere to join the Big Ten leaders, has won four games in a row, but they have played Penn State, Indiana, and Iowa before their upset against Michigan State. They will now begin a crucial stretch in which they play much better teams in Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue. If they have any hopes of a Big Ten title, the Illini will have to win at least two of those games. RTC will be live at this game, with some interesting matchups to look out for. Illinois averages 74.2 points per game, but the Badgers rank fifth in points per game and defensive efficiency. Illinois’ recent win raised some eyebrows in the Big Ten, but the Badgers don’t beat themselves (#1 in fewest turnovers per game) and don’t lose at the Kohl Center, so look for Wisconsin to win this one and make another run at a Big Ten title.
#6 Purdue @ #10 Michigan State – 9 pm on ESPN (*****)
Unlike the other games, not only will conference standings be at stake in this showdown, it will also feature a pair of top ten teams. The Spartans did not look very impressive without leading scorer Kalin Lucas against Illinois, and will certainly need him against a Purdue defense that only gives up 62.1 points per contest. Lucas is questionable for the game, and if he unable to play, Michigan State will need one of their other three other players who average over 10 points per game to step up. Although MSU has three players capable of handling the scoring duties, none of them is a big scorer. Fortunately for the Spartans, the game will take place in East Lansing, where they are 13-0 this year. Michigan State ranks in the top five in the country in assists per game, but with the absence of Lucas, the Boilermakers are actually better at distributing the ball, and they rank better in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have won their last five games, four of which were close, which shows that they can make the necessary plays in crunch time. Depending on the Lucas situation, Purdue could be making a huge jump in the Big Ten tonight.