Set Your Tivo: 12.08.10Posted by Brian Otskey on December 8th, 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.
Two clashes featuring SEC East schools headline tonight’s slate, plus we have a couple interesting west coast games later tonight. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#24 Vanderbilt @ #15 Missouri – 9 pm on ESPNU (****)
Vanderbilt has flown under the radar for the most part but they’ve now been recognized and cracked our RTC Top 25 this week. Kevin Stallings seems to produce a solid program every year in Nashville, winning at least 20 games in five of the past seven seasons. Vandy is 7-1, their only loss coming by three to West Virginia in Puerto Rico. The Commodores knocked off North Carolina to finish third in that tournament, the first win in a five-game winning streak since the WVU game. Vanderbilt is a solid defensive club that also likes to play at a quick pace, something they’ll see a lot of from their opponent tonight. Missouri loves the pressure defense and fast pace, ranking #14 in tempo. Mizzou is a prolific offensive team because of all the extra possessions they create, averaging 85 PPG on 48% shooting. The Tigers love to force turnovers (#8 in defensive turnover percentage) and should get quite a few against a Vanderbilt team ranked #226 in turnover percentage, but defense has been a struggle for them. Missouri is ranked in the 200’s in effective field goal percentage against, three and two point defense as well as opponents free throws per field goals meaning they foul a lot. Mike Anderson’s team also gives the ball away an average of 15 times per contest, less than they force but still a cause for concern. Aside from the great game against Georgetown last week, Missouri hasn’t been tested by a strong opponent. They were down early against the Hoyas and it was interesting to look at the box score and see the minutes break down for the Mizzou players. Anderson stuck with his starters, playing them for 202 of the 225 (90%) available minutes in the game. While it’s inconclusive, that may have resulted in lots of tired legs towards the end of regulation and certainly in the overtime session. Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon anchor the Tiger back court. Dixon takes great care of the ball, averaging 2.56 assists for every turnover, and will match up against Brad Tinsley (9/5/5), also a good distributor. Denmon is Anderson’s biggest three point threat, hitting 56% of his treys this season. Denmon against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins will be a great matchup to watch. Jenkins, one of the best three point shooters in the nation last season at 48%, struggled early but has hit 14-29 (48%) over his last four games, right on his number from last year. Overall he’s still at 38% but leads the team in scoring at 19 PPG. Jenkins struggled in Vandy’s last game against Belmont but expect him to be fired up and ready to go against a guy like Denmon. The Commodores need a good outing from Jenkins to be able to win but they also have a secondary deep threat in Jeffery Taylor, something Missouri doesn’t have at this time with their other shooters struggling a bit. As a team, Vanderbilt attempts an average of 21 three’s a game. Another great matchup will occur in the paint between Mizzou’s Ricardo Ratliffe and Vandy’s Festus Ezeli. Ezeli has three inches and 15 pounds on Ratliffe but the Missouri forward is more athletic and can move the Nigerian center around. Ezeli averages 13/8 on 67% FG while blocking two shots a game. Ratliffe will have his hands full but should be able to draw fouls with his superior athleticism. With Ezeli in the fold, Vanderbilt has a rebounding advantage and they do a great job keeping their opponents off the offensive boards. That’ll be important against a Missouri team that’s always looking for extra shots and possessions. Should this game come down to free throws, advantage Vandy. The Commodores shoot 76% from the line as a team led by Jenkins’ 91%. Vanderbilt can definitely win this game but it’ll be tough in the raucous environment of Mizzou Arena. While this game probably won’t be as good as the Mizzou/Georgetown game, expect a great one in Columbia this evening.
SEC/Big East Invitational: #21 Kentucky vs. #22 Notre Dame (in Louisville, KY) – 9:30 pm on ESPN (****)
With this game being played at Freedom Hall in Louisville, you can expect quite the contingent from Big Blue Nation to make the trip over from Lexington. The ride from South Bend is about five hours so you may see some arduous Fighting Irish fans in attendance as well. Kentucky has lost two of three after dropping a 75-73 decision at North Carolina on Saturday. Doron Lamb was a bright spot for the Wildcats as he scored 24 points. UNC shut down Terrence Jones, holding him to 3-17 from the floor. Look for Notre Dame to try to do the same with Tyrone Nash but he’ll have a much tougher time than the long-armed John Henson did against Jones. Notre Dame has a bunch of 6’8-6’9 players but most like to drift away from the paint aside from Nash. Mike Brey may look to a zone defense to try and contain Jones while keeping Nash out of foul trouble. Kentucky has a lot of options offensively in this game as they can look inside with Jones or play on the wing and use their #20 three point percentage to their benefit. Both teams attempt at least 20 three’s a game on average so expect to see a lot of perimeter offense tonight with Ben Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis and Brandon Knight doing most of the shooting. Kentucky has others who can shoot the three such as Lamb and Darius Miller, but Knight has taken almost double the number of treys as his closest teammate. The problem for the dynamic Knight has been turnovers. With an assist/turnover ratio under one and averaging almost five turnovers a game, John Calipari has become concerned about leadership on the court with such a young team and a turnover-prone point guard. The good news for Kentucky is they actually take good care of the ball aside from Knight, averaging just 12 turnovers as a team. Notre Dame is equally as good taking care of the ball and neither team forces many giveaways on the other end. In fact, the Irish are in the bottom five in D1 in defensive turnover percentage and dead last in defensive steal percentage. ND’s strength is getting to the foul line and they’ll have a distinct advantage when they get there as Kentucky ranks #274 in free throw percentage. Brey’s team shoots 75% from the charity stripe and gets to the line two times as much as their opponents with 27% of their total scoring output coming from the stripe. ND has made 97 more free throws than their opponents. Kentucky should use their interior strength and defense, ranked #13 in block percentage, against the Irish by forcing them to the perimeter where they haven’t shot it as well as last year. Notre Dame is a fundamentally sound and experienced team, assisting on 69% of their made field goals. That could be a big factor against a Wildcats team that is talented but young and inexperienced. This is a hard game to get a good read on because of the contrasting styles and make up of each team but it’s probably safe to say it’ll be close and come down to the last few minutes. Kentucky will try to feed off the crowd and speed up the game while the well-coached Irish need to slow down the tempo and run their offense effectively to win.
Other games to keep track of tonight:
Providence @ Boston College – 7 pm (**)
This game is not on television but it does bear some monitoring as Providence is a surprising 9-1, their best start since the 1988-89 season when Rick Barnes was roaming the sidelines in P-town. However, the Friars have not been challenged by a strong opponent, their best win coming over 5-3 Rhode Island. BC has looked good in Steve Donahue’s first season in Chestnut Hill though the loss to Yale was discouraging.
SEC/Big East Invitational: Arkansas vs. Seton Hall (in Louisville, KY) – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)
The undercard to UK/ND at Freedom Hall features a 5-1 Razorbacks team, untested against the #341 rated schedule, going up against a Seton Hall club trying to hold its head above water while they await star Jeremy Hazell’s return from a broken wrist. The Pirates are just 3-3 and can’t afford to drop many more games if they want to get back in the NCAA hunt when Hazell returns.
#11 San Diego State @ California – 10:30 pm on CSN California (***)
Cal has won two straight after a strange Old Spice Classic where they looked good in knocking off Temple but lost their next two in an uncompetitive fashion. San Diego State keeps trucking along, sitting at 8-0 after knocking off Wichita State in convincing fashion on Saturday behind 24 points on 10-12 FG from Billy White.
Gonzaga @ Washington State – 11 pm on FSN (***)
This battle of eastern Washington is renewed for the 145th time with the Cougars holding a 97-47 edge, though Gonzaga has won the last two meetings. WSU lost to Kansas State late Friday night but gave the Wildcats all they could handle. Reggie Moore made his season debut for Wazzu, scoring ten points in 38 minutes of action. Gonzaga lost to Illinois in Seattle on Saturday, shooting just 3-16 from three. The Bulldogs are 4-3 with their best win coming against Marquette. This is a key game for both teams as each needs a good non-conference win.