Set Your Tivo: 11.19.10Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
Vanderbilt vs. West Virginia – 12:30 pm on ESPNU (***)
This is a really good under the radar game between two teams that were overlooked in the preseason discussion that went on in their respective conferences. Vanderbilt struggled a bit against a physical and plodding Nebraska team in a low scoring affair on Thursday. Today they’ll face another, even more physical (and talented) team in West Virginia. Vandy’s John Jenkins needs to get going in terms of shooting the three. Jenkins, one of the better shooters in the nation, has averaged 16 points in Vanderbilt’s first two games but he’s just 1-11 from three. Kevin Stallings needs a big game out of his star, as well as Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley (triple-double against Presbyterian). The Commodores need to shoot it well and adjust to the pace and physicality of West Virginia in order to come out victorious. For Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers, they should take a page out of Nebraska’s playbook. If they can get Vanderbilt into a tough grind it out game, they stand a good chance of winning. WVU is obviously much more talented than Nebraska so the same type of game with better players should cause a lot of problems for Vandy. John Flowers has been a pleasant surprise so far while Kevin Jones has yet to really get his game going. Huggins is going to need production out of Deniz Kilicli, who fouled out in only six minutes of action against Davidson. These teams will likely be in the NCAA Tournament but a quality non-conference neutral court win will help whoever comes out on top today with seeding come March.
Texas vs. #5 Pittsburgh – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)
Texas is loaded with talent and has played up to their potential so far this year. It seems when the pressure is off a bit, Texas and Rick Barnes excel. They won a terrific battle with Illinois on Thursday night with tough defense and big shots down the stretch. Though he only scored five points, Dogus Balbay was the story for Texas. The senior held Illinois star Demetri McCamey in check at the end of regulation and into overtime which forced the younger Illini players into very poor shot selection and eventually cost them the game. As a unit, the Longhorns limited Illinois to 38% shooting, held their own on the boards and blocked ten Illini shots. They’re going to need another superb defensive effort to knock off a physical Pittsburgh team that loves to grind games out. The Panthers killed Maryland on the boards, 43-25, to make up for a weaker than usual Pitt defense that allowed the Terps to shoot 48% from the floor. Texas will have a chance to win if Balbay can repeat his second half performance against McCamey and lock down Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs is the creator and leader for Jamie Dixon so shutting him down should significantly hamper the Pitt offense. The Panthers will counter that with excellent passing wings and big men like Gilbert Brown and Talib Zanna who are smart basketball players that always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Texas has been very efficient on defense so far this season, a nice improvement from last year’s dysfunctional group. If their defense continues to hold firm, this game could come right down to the wire. If that’s the case, players like Tristan Thompson are going to have to step up from the free throw line. Thompson had a great game everywhere else but his free throw shooting was abysmal. For Pitt, Gary McGhee and the aforementioned Brown must control Thompson and Jordan Hamilton in order to win comfortably. Pittsburgh is very good but Texas is a much better team than last year. We have a feeling this game could be another tight one at Madison Square Garden.
Minnesota vs. #17 North Carolina – 8:30 pm on ESPNU (****)
This may very well be the best game of the night. An upstart Minnesota team is looking for a huge early season victory against a UNC squad that looks totally different now that Harrison Barnes has arrived in Chapel Hill. Besides being an immense talent and first team preseason All-American, Barnes has taken the pressure off the rest of the Tar Heels. Guys like John Henson and Tyler Zeller have had a great start to their seasons now that Barnes is drawing defenders away from them, freeing up the inside for the UNC big men. This game intrigues us because Minnesota can match North Carolina in the front court, led by Ralph Sampson III (22/8/7 blocks vs. Western Kentucky) and Trevor Mbakwe. Both have had monster starts this year and are the reasons why Minnesota has a chance to compete with the better teams in the Big Ten. One area of concern for the Golden Gophers is rebounding. They were outrebounded by a smaller Western Kentucky team on Thursday, but that didn’t matter much since Minnesota shot a scalding hot 62.5% for the game, but it will play a role against the talented Tar Heels tonight. Roy Williams would love nothing more than to ramp this game up to maximum pace by making Minnesota uncomfortable handling the ball, leading to transition opportunities for North Carolina. Tubby Smith’s team had 19 turnovers against WKU and that’s not going to cut it against UNC. Minnesota is still without the suspended Devoe Joseph so it is paramount that Al Nolen takes good care of the ball against the aggressive Carolina guards. Blake Hoffarber is still in a bit of slump but keeps getting his teammates involved, dishing out nine assists yesterday. This is a tremendous game between a Gopher team looking to join the elite of the Big Ten and a North Carolina squad seeking to restore order in the ACC after last year’s train wreck. This game is going to come down to pace, ball control and front court production. North Carolina is immensely talented but Minnesota is clicking early. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Minnesota pull a mild upset this evening in Puerto Rico.
Two other games to monitor:
- Maryland vs. #16 Illinois – 5 pm on ESPN2 (***) One of these teams is going to leave New York without a victory. If it’s Illinois, there may be a bit of anxiety in Champaign. Illinois has more talent but questionable shot selection could bring Maryland right into this game. Both teams need an improvement at the free throw line after last night.
- Alabama vs. Seton Hall – 6 pm (no TV) (***) Both programs are fighting for respect under the direction of young head coaches. This should be a close game played at a quick pace. The Hall needs wins like this away from home while the Crimson Tide is looking to get into the NCAA discussion with a nice early season victory.