Set Your Tivo: 11.24.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 24th, 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 tivobut 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 lived up to the hype. Kansas City? Not so much. We’ve got two more good ones from paradise today, Thanksgiving Eve. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Third Place Game: #3 Michigan State vs. #15 Washington – 5 pm on ESPN2 (****)

All Walker, All the Time in Maui

How’s a top 15 matchup for a third place game? Courtesy of Connecticut’s upset of Michigan State, that’s what we have. The Spartans were the latest team to fall victim to the Kemba Walker show as the Connecticut point guard put up 30 points yet again on 10-19 shooting. Tom Izzo’s Spartans did not hold their customary edge rebounding wise which cost them and poor games from Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious certainly didn’t help the cause, either. Washington lost one of the hardest fought, intense games you’ll ever see this time of year to a Kentucky club that dominated the boards and got to the line enough to win. Former Washington commit Terrence Jones torched the Huskies with 16/17 as he and Brandon Knight (24 points) led Kentucky to the championship game. This figures to be another war but Michigan State must get meaner and more physical if they hope to beat Washington. The Huskies are going to get it up and down quick meaning Michigan State has to hold their ground defensively, be active in the passing lanes and stay in front of the Washington guards. Lorenzo Romar hopes Isaiah Thomas can rebound from a sub-par outing and help prevent a 1-2 finish in Maui. The unbelievable thing is that a top 15 team is going home 1-2 no matter what happens in this game tonight. This is a noon local tip so one or both teams may get off to a sluggish start. If Washington can get better looks and shoot it well, Michigan State will have their hands full. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday need to be strong in the post against a tough Spartan front line for Washington to get an edge on the glass. We don’t think it’s crazy to think Michigan State will be the top 15 team to leave Maui with two losses on the young season.

NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal: #6 Villanova vs. UCLA – 9:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Villanova has defended much better so far this year, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency. That’s a big improvement from last season’s 62nd ranked defense which failed the Wildcats down the stretch and ultimately resulted in a second round exit to St. Mary’s after being pushed to overtime by #15 seed Robert Morris. Offense is not a problem for Villanova but defense will determine how far they can go this year. So far, the early returns look good. Jay Wright loves to get his team out in transition by causing turnovers. Villanova is in the top ten in steal and turnover percentage and ranks 30th in two point FG%, probably a result of all the layups created through turnovers. One thing the Wildcats have not done, surprisingly, is shoot the trey well. That’ll play right into UCLA’s hands as they rank 8th in three point defense. There is reason for optimism in Westwood after last year’s disaster as the Pac-10 is weak yet again and Ben Howland’s team has a great chance to finish second and get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have been led by 6’8 sophomore forward Reeves Nelson (19/10) and Tyler Honeycutt (16/8). These two more athletic players could cause problems for Villanova’s Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou inside tonight. While UCLA can hold their own there, the Wildcats will have a big advantage in the back court. Malcolm Lee is listed as probable for UCLA but will still be hampered by a bum ankle. The Bruins will count on Lazeric Jones to steady the ship and control the basketball against the aggressive Villanova defense. Try as they might, Villanova is too tough for UCLA to handle behind a trio of stud guards. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns lead the way and Corey Stokes is a big guard who can really shoot it. Villanova simply has too much talent and depth for the thin Bruins, playing with just ten scholarship players. It’s not impossible for UCLA to win but it seems highly unlikely tonight under the bright lights of the big city at Madison Square Garden.

Maui Invitational Championship: #10 Kentucky vs. Connecticut – 10 pm on ESPN (****)

After knocking off Washington, Kentucky looks primed to take home the Maui title. Still, they’re going to need an answer for Kemba Walker and Connecticut. Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson played productive minutes for John Calipari last night and they’ll have to be on their games to defend UConn post man Alex Oriakhi. The sophomore from Lowell, Massachusetts, went for 15/17 against a solid Michigan State frontcourt but he’s going to face a different challenge from the athletic and versatile Jones. The Wildcats should have an answer to Walker in freshman star Brandon Knight. He’s capable of going off for a big game so he should be able to mitigate the damage Walker will likely cause. Even if Walker goes for 30 again, Connecticut needs someone else to step up. Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb may be the players to do so but Kentucky can turn to guys like Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins to offset any contributions made by those Connecticut players. Kentucky should win this game if they defend well again and control the boards. The Huskies don’t have the depth that Kentucky does and you’ll see that become clear as they play their third game in three days. The subplot in this game is Calipari going up against old time rival Jim Calhoun. These two weren’t separated by much when Calipari was at Massachusetts, a short drive from Storrs, Connecticut. While they publicly say they’ve moved on, deep down you can tell they really don’t like each other. A win by Connecticut could very well push them into the rankings next week and back on the national radar, but we feel Kentucky is too deep and too talented for the Huskies to overcome. UConn will need a monumental defensive effort to win this game.

Two other games to watch:

NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal: Tennessee vs. VCU – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

The Bruce Pearl scandal has clearly turned the headlines away from the basketball court for Tennessee but they’ve started 3-0 behind freshman Tobias Harris. VCU is 3-0 as well, having creamed a pitiful Wake Forest team last week to advance to New York City. Senior point guard Joey Rodriguez had a stunning 17 assists against UNC-Greensboro and is averaging 10.3 APG and 18.3 PPG through three games.

Utah @ Utah State – 9 pm on CW30 Utah (**)

This is not a pivotal game when compared to the others on this list but it’s an interesting rivalry. Utah State played very well at BYU and shouldn’t have a problem against the Utes, who are struggling from long range this year.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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