Set Your Tivo: 11.23.10Posted by Brian Otskey on November 23rd, 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.
Maui Invitational Semifinal: #3 Michigan State vs. Connecticut — 7 pm on ESPN (***)
Each team played relatively close games yesterday. One was expected to, one was not. Connecticut got by Wichita State behind a 29-point second half from Kemba Walker. On the other hand, Michigan State actually trailed against Division II Chaminade for most of the first half and traded baskets with the Silverswords in the early part of the second half before pulling away with a 20-3 run and hanging on for an eight point win. Kalin Lucas was the star for the Spartans, scoring 28 points on 11-20 shooting. Lucas against Walker will be one of the better matchups of point guards you’ll see all season and it occurs here in late November. Walker is averaging 30 points in three games this year and is clearly Jim Calhoun’s go-to guy. Neither team played well defensively in their opening game in Maui but we don’t know if that can be attributed to the setting or maybe a lack of focus. Michigan State in particular, known for its tough defense and rebounding, had been playing well defensively coming into the game but gave up 46% shooting to Chaminade. This game will be a war on the boards as both coaches pride themselves on interior defense and rebounding. For Michigan State, the key could be shutting down Alex Oriakhi. Walker is going to get his share so if Tom Izzo’s big men can lock up the Connecticut sophomore big man, the Huskies will need someone else to step up because Walker won’t be able to do it all himself against a team as good as MSU. UConn is going to have to shoot the three ball very well in order to win, something Walker has struggled with throughout his career (35.3% this year however). Averaging 17 turnovers per game, the Spartans have to protect the ball against a Connecticut team that would like to get out in transition in order to prevent Michigan State from settling in on defense. Anything can happen in an early season tournament on a neutral floor but Michigan State should win this game.
CBE Classic Consolation: #23 Gonzaga vs. Marquette – 7:45 pm on ESPNU (****)
These two teams get together tonight heading in opposite directions. Gonzaga was flat out exposed, but not just by Kansas State last night. San Diego State also took care of the Bulldogs in the Kennel last week. Gonzaga has no clear point guard and that’s forcing Steven Gray to handle the ball much more than he should, often resulting in turnovers. Gray turned it over six times last night and as a team the Zags had 16 turnovers. Gonzaga also was dominated on the glass, not a good combination when you can’t stop anybody either. That was just the case as Kansas State shot 51% for the game. They now face a Marquette team brimming with confidence after a competitive loss to #1 Duke last night, a game we told you would be closer than you thought in this very feature 24 hours ago. MU was led by Jimmy Butler’s 22/6. We don’t know why people always underestimate Buzz Williams and his team as they have an awful lot of talent and looked like a top 25 team yesterday. Marquette may not actually be a top 25 team yet but they’re knocking on the door. A win tonight against Gonzaga should earn them some votes next week, if not actually make it in. The Golden Eagles turned Duke over 19 times, something that probably kept Mark Few tossing and turning in bed last night. Marquette needs a better outing from Darius Johnson-Odom and they should get it against the suspect Bulldog defense. The junior guard was just 1-6 from three and 4-15 overall. As a team, MU shot a dreadful 4-20 from deep, often leading to long rebounds and transition opportunities for Duke. One thing going for Gonzaga is their front court going up against Marquette’s interior. While they have defended fairly well in terms of two point FG% against, Mason Plumlee went off in the second half against the weaker Marquette bigs. Gonzaga has guys such as Robert Sacre who can score in the post and that will pose a problem for Buzz Williams. That said, we expect Marquette to turn Gonzaga over enough to win by getting more field goal opportunities. Gonzaga is not going to win many games against top competition until their point guard situation is under control.
Maui Invitational Semifinal: #10 Kentucky vs. #15 Washington – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)
Finally, the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. After Terrence Jones verbally committed to Washington but didn’t sign his letter of intent, John Calipari and Kentucky swooped in and got him to sign with the Wildcats. To say Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was miffed is an understatement. The Washington players and fans have been looking forward to this matchup for a long time now and you may want to periodically check out Isaiah Thomas’ twitter account today for some possible pregame fireworks. He hasn’t been shy in the past about sharing his feelings on this situation so maybe we’ll get something good leading up to the game. Oh yeah, about that game. This is a matchup of two top-15 teams who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (Washington) and Elite Eight (Kentucky) last season. In fact, these two would have met up in the East Region final last year if the Huskies had been able to get by eventual regional champion West Virginia. The Huskies are coming off a 43-point thrashing of hapless Virginia in the opening round of this tournament while Kentucky didn’t exactly blow the doors off another bad team, Oklahoma. Washington loves to get out in transition, playing fast and creating turnovers. They rank seventh in the nation in tempo and 14th in defensive efficiency, surprisingly high for such an up-tempo team. Washington is also an incredibly deep team, a necessary attribute for a team that loves to play fast and press. The Huskies have a lot of quickness and size on the wing as well as inside, making them tough to penetrate against. The 6’9 Jones has been the star of the season for Kentucky so far, averaging 22/10, and will give the Huskies all they can handle inside and outside by extending out to the perimeter as well. Brandon Knight must take good care of the ball against the active Washington defense that likes to overplay and jump the passing lanes. Washington has done a tremendous job rebounding the basketball and Kentucky needs to counter that by doing some board work of their own or by creating turnovers. Kentucky doesn’t have the dominant inside presence that they’d have had if Enes Kanter were eligible so Jones and UK’s wings have got to rebound effectively. This figures to be a high scoring, intense battle between two teams that really do not care for each other. Expect to see one of the better games of the season in paradise this evening.
CBE Classic Championship: #1 Duke vs. #5 Kansas State — 10 pm on ESPN2 (*****)
The season’s first matchup of two top five teams occurs late tonight in Kansas City. Duke is accustomed to crowds supporting them at neutral sites but that won’t be the case at this technically “neutral” site in Kansas City. Kansas State executed its game plan perfectly against Gonzaga, causing turnovers and exposing its subpar defense. The Wildcats need another great shooting performance in order to knock off the explosive Blue Devils. Mason Plumlee was the star for Duke last night and he was the reason the Dukies pulled away from feisty Marquette. Plumlee dominated the low block and boards to the tune of 25/12 on 12-16 shooting. Duke can be scary good when they get anything out of their frontcourt, but Marquette was able to keep it close last night. Why? They forced turnovers and limited Duke’s bench to 12 points. Kansas State will have to do the same through defensive ball pressure and their physical strength. The Wildcats play a very physical brand of basketball, especially in the paint. Subjecting Plumlee to this treatment without fouling will be important. Curtis Kelly played 15 minutes in his first game of the season but will have to be counted on a bit more against Duke, especially if Wally Judge, who fouled out last night, hits the bench early with foul trouble. Jacob Pullen led K-State with 18 points against Gonzaga and the All-American candidate will need a big game scoring and leadership wise if Frank Martin’s team hopes to win. He’ll be going up against fellow All-American possibility Nolan Smith of Duke. Smith has been outstanding yet again for Mike Krzyzewski, leading the team in scoring while dishing out over six assists a game. Kyle Singler hasn’t really broken out yet this year but that could come at any time for the potential National Player of the Year. This game is going to be intense, personified by Frank Martin’s facial expressions and attitude on the K-State sideline. The crowd will be decidedly in favor of the Wildcats so they will have the intangible advantage of being near home and the underdog. Kansas State limited Gonzaga to 33% shooting and they’re going to have to do something like that against Duke. It’s incredibly difficult to hold such an offensively talented team like Duke to that low of a percentage so anything under 40% should be enough for Kansas State to have a chance. They won’t shoot the ball as well as they did last night but they’re going to need some three’s to drop. Duke probably wins this game 65-75% of the time but if Plumlee gets into early foul trouble or Duke struggles from the perimeter, #1 may go down.
Two other games of interest:
#22 Butler @ Siena – 7 pm on Time Warner Cable Sports NY/WNDY 23 Indianapolis (***)
The Bulldogs looked bad against Louisville last week but rebounded with a home romp over Ball State. Siena lost its first two but picked up their first win at Northeastern on Saturday behind Ryan Rossiter’s 28/15. Rossiter against Matt Howard and Clarence Jackson versus Shelvin Mack will key matchups to watch in this game.
Portland vs. Washington State – 10:30 pm on FSN Northwest and FSN Pacific (**)
These two teams will meet on a neutral floor at Key Arena in Seattle. Washington State could surprise in a still bad Pac-10 and needs a decent win away from home against a Portland team that is somewhat down but not terrible. Klay Thompson is back and in the running for Pac-10 POY and Luke Sikma cleans the glass for Portland.