Set Your Tivo 02.21.10Posted by THager on February 21st, 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 Ohio State @ #11 Michigan State – 12 pm on CBS (****)
The Buckeyes blew a golden opportunity to advance in the Big Ten standings when they lost at home to Purdue last week, but they have another great chance this afternoon against possibly the best team in the conference. They are still only one game behind the Spartans in the standings, and if they can beat Michigan State on the road, they are once again in the running to win the Big Ten title. In addition to potentially deciding the conference champion, Big Ten player of the year honors may also be on the line, as Evan Turner will try to wrest the POY award away from Kalin Lucas. Both players have suffered injuries this year, but appear to now be at 100% for this game. With Turner in the lineup, the Buckeyes are a completely different team with his ability to create shots for himself and find open players. They rank #13 in offensive efficiency, and are third in the country in two-point field goal percentage, so the Spartans may have a tough time defending them (MSU is #41 in defensive efficiency). These teams play different styles, as OSU uses a guard-heavy lineup and three of MSU’s top scorers are forwards, so I expect the Spartans to exploit the Buckeyes in the paint. Among Ohio State’s top four scorers, no player is taller than Turner at 6’7, so Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green may try to carry their team at home. Michigan State is 13-1 at home this year, and shoots over 53% from inside the arc, so look for the bigger team to take one step closer to a Big Ten title.
#3 Villanova @ #19 Pittsburgh – 12 pm on CBS (****)
If somebody told you two weeks ago that entering the Villanova vs. Pitt game, one of these teams would be coming off a loss and the other was in the midst of a four-game winning streak, that wouldn’t surprise too many people. What does surprise fans is that the losing team is Villanova, while the Panthers seem to be firing on all cylinders. Pitt had lost four of their five games from January 20 to February 3, but now has wins over three quality teams since that slump, with victories over Seton Hall, West Virginia and Marquette. These teams have not met since their classic last year in the NCAA Tournament, when Scottie Reynolds sent the Wildcats to the Final Four with a last second shot. Reynolds has carried his great play into this season, and shoots 49% from the field, an impressive percentage for a smallish guard. Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, on the other hand, had no points in their last game against Marquette, and will have to be a contributor for the Panthers to have a chance in this game. This contest may come down to Villanova’s unbalanced play, as they rank fifth in offensive efficiency but are #68 in Pomeroy’s defensive rankings. Their points per game is also deceiving, as they only rank 45th in field goal percentage, so look for the Panthers to at least give Villanova a run for their money at home.
Virginia Tech @ #6 Duke – 7:45 pm on FSN (****)
The Hokies continue to be one of the most underrated teams in the country, as they have failed to make the top 25 despite just four losses on the season. They are coming off a big win against Wake Forest, and if they beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, they could make a serious jump in their first ranking of the year. Virginia Tech has the defense to beat anybody in the country, as they rank fifth in efficiency, but they will have their hands full with Duke’s offense, which is ranked #1 in the country. The Blue Devils use three star players, Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith, to outscore opponents. Virginia Tech’s problem is that their offense is a liability, as they rank #99 in offensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy. Leading scorer Malcolm Delaney averages over 20 points per game, but he shoots less than 40% from the field, and he will have to limit his bad shots against a solid Duke defense. Delaney stepped up against the best teams the Hokies have faced this season, with 32 points against Temple, 30 points against Clemson, and 31 points against Wake. One of the main reasons people don’t consider VT a lock for the tournament is because those were the toughest teams the Hokies have faced this year, and their strength of schedule lacks big wins. They are also the luckiest team in the ACC, as they play Duke, Maryland, and Wake Forest only once, and they play the five worst teams in the ACC twice, so if they can win one game against Maryland or Duke in their remaining schedule, they will have a great shot to make the tournament. However, given Duke’s home record, look for the Blue Devils to end Virginia Tech’s five game winning streak.