Set Your Tivo: 12.01.10Posted by Brian Otskey on December 1st, 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.
It’s going to be hard to top the game of the year to date, Georgetown’s thrilling overtime win over Missouri last night, but we have some good matchups on the schedule tonight as we head into the second month of the season. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#25 Richmond @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on WSKY4 Hampton Roads, VA (****)
Richmond is coming off a huge win for their program, a 65-54 win over Purdue to take the Chicago Invitational crown. The Spiders star player, Kevin Anderson, led the way with 28 points and Richmond’s defense held the Boilermakers to 30% shooting. Old Dominion is coming off a tournament victory of their own as they defeated Xavier to win the Paradise Jam last week. Richmond is a solid offensive team, eighth in the country in effective field goal percentage. That will be the story of the game as they go up against an Old Dominion defense ranked #16 in efficiency. The one weakness for the Monarchs defensively is their three point defense, #193 in the country. Richmond is an outstanding three point shooting team averaging almost 43% on the season behind Anderson and quite a few other shooters such as Darien Brothers (64% from deep). Richmond is going to get points from the outside so Old Dominion must try to lock them up inside through physical play, rebounding and blocked shots. Key to that effort will be Frank Hassell who averages 13/10 and blocks almost two shots per game. He’ll have to stop 6’10 Justin Harper who has a height advantage on Hassell. However, Hassell outweighs Harper by 20 pounds so he should be able to get position and be physical with the Richmond big man. These are arguably the two best teams in the state of Virginia going at it, although we’re sure Seth Greenberg and the folks from Blacksburg may have something to say about that. If Richmond gets off to a hot start they should win this game as ODU lacks offensive punch and would rather win the game in the 50’s. Expect a hard fought, close game with the winner holding the edge on the glass and in the paint.
#18 Purdue @ Virginia Tech – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)
Coming off the aforementioned loss to Richmond, Purdue faces a tough road game in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. If there’s any good news for the Boilermakers it’s that Virginia Tech is struggling a bit itself when considering injuries and on-court performance. The Hokies escaped Oklahoma State but lost to UNLV in the 76 Classic, their second loss of the season. Malcolm Delaney has been doing it all offensively for Seth Greenberg but he’s not getting much help elsewhere. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson are Virginia Tech’s other main scoring threats but Allen has a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble and Hudson is nursing an injured finger on his shooting hand. After that, Greenberg is having a hard time figuring out a rotation. The Hokies are thin up front and that’s something Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson should exploit this evening. Purdue’s star big man is averaging 17/9 and three blocks but is just 11-29 (38%) shooting in his last two games. He’ll go up against Victor Davila in this game and should be able to break out against the thin Hokie front court. With Allen coming over to help, foul trouble could become a concern yet again for the Virginia Tech forward. Johnson and Purdue do have to get to the line more often, ranking #241 in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Boilers don’t shoot it very well from there, either. This should be a low scoring game as both teams are strong defensively and force turnovers. Extra possessions and rebounds will be something to watch as Virginia Tech averages only 34 RPG, giving Purdue second chance opportunities and leading to foul trouble for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is not a strong outside shooting team other than Delaney so they’ll have to get a lot of their scoring inside against a tough Purdue defense that will get in the passing lanes and really disrupt their half court offense. Virginia Tech definitely can win this game but more has to go right for them than for Purdue. Matt Painter’s team has more options plus the matchup advantages are in their favor for the most part. However, playing on the road is always difficult, especially in a nationally televised game such as this. Expect this game to come down to the very end with free throws possibly deciding the outcome.
#6 Michigan State @ #1 Duke – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)
This clash of titans was billed as the best game of the year by most observers as it would feature the #1 and #2 teams in the country. Alas, things don’t always work out the way we want. While this is still a tremendous matchup between two national championship contenders, Michigan State’s play in Maui took away their number two ranking. The Spartans were upset by Connecticut after struggling with Division II Chaminade the day before in what is becoming almost a yearly occurrence of Tom Izzo’s teams getting off to slow starts and then peaking in March. Who had Michigan State in last year’s final four after the way they ended the regular season? Hardly anyone as the team was said to be in turmoil and was not playing well. Yet somehow Izzo always finds a way and this year may follow the same script. There are not many ways to beat Duke but Michigan State is a team capable of doing it. One is limiting transition opportunities by rebounding well and not turning the ball over, something Michigan State has not done well so far this season. Another is keeping them off the free throw line, also accomplished through good rebounding and perimeter defense which prevents their dynamic guards and wings from penetrating. The third option is to get Duke’s bigs into foul trouble, specifically Mason Plumlee. Only one team (Colgate) was able to do that, but they obviously don’t have the talent to compete with the Blue Devils. Michigan State does and should take a page from Marquette’s game plan last Monday against Duke. The Golden Eagles kept Duke off the foul line (12 attempts) and limited their outside shooting (33%). Buzz Williams’ undersized team also held their own on the boards with only a minus-three margin. If Marquette had someone to defend against Plumlee in the second half, Duke could very well have lost that game. Michigan State defends the paint well and blocks shots but they are vulnerable on the perimeter, ranking #214 in defending the trey. Izzo’s team must come up with a strong defensive effort on the three point line if they hope to win. That starts with the K.L. guards, Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious. Duke’s backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith is certainly one of the top three, if not the best, in the nation and incredibly difficult to defend. Stopping Irving from penetrating and dishing is key for Michigan State defensively. The most important player in this game may be Sparty’s Draymond Green. The 6’6/235 Green is incredibly versatile on both sides of the ball. He’ll need to be the second layer of defense against the Duke guards in addition to slashing to the bucket on offense, using his superior quickness and athleticism to go right at Plumlee. Duke is a heavy double digit favorite at home and is definitely the better team. Michigan State must play their best game of the year on both ends and getting back to Izzo’s trademark rebounding would be a huge boost to their chances tonight. Duke should win but Tom Izzo’s teams often play their best basketball when backed into a corner. While not desperate, Michigan State may be out to prove the doubters wrong with a statement win. It’ll be difficult but it’s not impossible.
St. Mary’s @ #13 San Diego State – 10:30 pm on The Mtn. (****)
Earlier we said Old Dominion and Richmond may be the two best teams in Virginia, well these two may be the best the great state of California has to offer. This NorCal/SoCal battle features the ultimate contrast: inside power against terrific perimeter shooting. The Aztecs are undefeated while the Gaels are coming off a heartbreaker against BYU after getting an all too personal look at the Jimmer Fredette show. BYU’s star hit the game winning three pointer with ten seconds left to win the South Padre Invitational. Steve Fisher’s team hasn’t been tested since their win at Gonzaga but the schedule now toughens a bit as Wichita State and California are next after tonight’s game. Both St. Mary’s and San Diego State are incredibly efficient on offense, each ranking in the top 20. The Gaels hold a strong edge beyond the arc behind sharpshooter Mickey McConnell but San Diego State has a significant advantage inside with Kawhi Leonard and Billy White. The 6’8 White is shooting a remarkable 33-49 (67%) in six games but doesn’t even come close to leading the team in scoring. That honor belongs to Leonard, an absolute beast on the glass considering his 6’7/225 frame. Leonard is averaging a double-double and leads the team in scoring at 18 PPG. He can also stretch his game out to the arc, making 37.5% of his three’s this year. While the strength of his team is in the back court, Randy Bennett has some quality forwards of his own. Three are averaging double figures and rebound the ball very well. St. Mary’s actually averages more rebounds per game than the Aztecs. Tim Williams is averaging 13/8 for Bennett in only 20 minutes a game while Rob Jones has also been a solid presence on the glass. San Diego State is second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage while St. Mary’s is eighth in clearing the defensive boards. This will have a big impact on the outcome of the game as both teams shoot the ball well and rebounds will not be plentiful. St. Mary’s has the talent to get a big road win but they have to be completely on their game from three and receive above average games from their forwards, especially on the defensive end against Leonard and White. This game should be fairly close but the Aztecs will likely pull away in the latter stages of the second stanza. St. Mary’s is going to need a three point barrage to win and while they’ll shoot it well, that appears unlikely.
Don’t sleep on these games, either:
#19 Florida vs. Central Florida (in Orlando) – 7 pm on FSN/ESPN3.com (**)
Florida earned a good win at Florida State on Sunday night but they can’t take the Knights for granted. UCF is a potent offensive team led by Michael Jordan’s son Marcus Jordan (17 PPG) and Keith Clanton (16/8). Central Florida has blown out inferior opponents and can get to the line effectively where they pile up a quarter of their points.
NC State @ Wisconsin – 7:15 pm on ESPN2 (***)
The Badgers suffered a stunning collapse against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic finals but return home to the friendly confines of the Kohl Center where they have lost only eleven times under Bo Ryan. These two teams have only played once before, a 65-56 Wisconsin victory in the 2005 NCAA Sweet Sixteen. With Tracy Smith still out, NC State needs a big win to gain some confidence going forward.
Butler @ Loyola Chicago – 8 pm on ESPN3.com (**)
The Bulldogs open a crucial three game stretch in Chicago with their first Horizon League game of the season. They’ll play Duke and Xavier after this but they shouldn’t look past the Ramblers. Five players average double figures for coach Jim Whitesell.
Maryland @ Penn State – 9:15 pm on ESPN2 (***)
Gary Williams knows this is an important game for his Terrapin squad. Maryland hasn’t beaten anyone of note and while the Nittany Lions are not exactly a name brand in basketball, this would still be a road win against a team from the nation’s best conference. Maryland hosts Temple on Sunday and visits Villanova in January for their only other opportunities for a good non-conference win. Talor Battle is averaging 18 PPG in his senior season for Penn State and fellow senior Jeff Brooks (16/8) has really stepped up his game this year.