Set Your Tivo: 12.10-12.12Posted by Brian Otskey on December 10th, 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.
Friday’s schedule is barren but Saturday has a bunch of terrific matchups. Two ACC conference games highlight a soft Sunday to close out the weekend. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#13 UNLV @ Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)
Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are a surprising 7-0 but when you really look at their schedule you realize they haven’t played top teams. Louisville’s best win is over Butler, a team clearly not even near the level it was last year. Including Butler, Louisville’s opponents have an aggregate record of just 25-31. That changes on Saturday when 9-0 UNLV heads to the KFC Yum! Center. The Rebels have already played five games away from home so they’ll be ready for a tough environment. UNLV is a strong team on both sides of the ball but they’ve really piled up the numbers on offense. They’re in the top ten in effective field goal percentage behind Chace Stanback and his 59% shooting. Stanback is a 6’8 wing/forward type player who can cause a lot of problems for the opponent matching up with him. His game extends to the three point arc as well, hitting 41% of his treys this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Pitino puts Rakeem Buckles (10/9) or Terrence Jennings (56% FG) on Stanback. Buckles is the better rebounder so Louisville may not want him drifting away from the basket trying to defend UNLV’s leading scorer. Buckles has made significant strides in his sophomore season, a theme seen throughout Louisville’s starting lineup. Pitino’s top five scorers have increased their scoring by a total of 31 PPG, making up for a lot of what they lost from last year’s team. We recall Pitino saying he’d have a bunch of guys averaging 8-15 PPG and that’s exactly what he has so far. Louisville is a strong defensive club, rated eighth in defensive efficiency. UNLV gets a lot of points from two point range (#5 in two point %) so Louisville will have to live up to their defensive billing in order to win. The Cardinals rank in the top ten in three point defense and effective field goal percentage against so UNLV point guard Oscar Bellfield (53% from three) has to have a good game controlling the ball and getting quality shots for himself and his teammates. Louisville will look to use their pressure defense to push the pace and create turnovers. Pitino said he’s been using a 24-second shot clock in practice so expect Louisville to really get up and down the floor looking for extra possessions. The Cardinals like to shoot a lot of three’s but they aren’t very good at it (32%). Mike Marra should hoist the most, averaging nine three point attempts per game while converting just 30% of the time. With Tre’Von Willis back in the fold, Lon Kruger can go nine-deep if he so chooses. Fresh legs will be needed against Louisville and could play a role late in the second half. UNLV should look to get to the free throw line to stop the flow of the game and take advantage of a Louisville team rated just #252 in opponents’ free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Cardinals should have an edge on the boards (42 RPG) as UNLV struggles to keep opponents off the offensive glass. This is going to be a really good game, one that may come down to the very end. Louisville will probably be favored to win at home but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Runnin’ Rebels pick up a key road victory, either.
Wisconsin @ Marquette – 2:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (****)
This annual rivalry is one of the most underrated in the country. Wisconsin holds a 63-53 edge but there’s an added twist this season. Marquette freshman Vander Blue originally committed to Wisconsin before signing with Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles giving Marquette a valuable piece for the future. Each team has a star player going at it in this one, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer. They’re similar, but Leuer is taller and has a better three point game. The UW big man shoots 48% from deep and is the key man in Bo Ryan’s deliberate offensive system. With Marquette giving up 39% shooting from three on average, expect Leuer and his Badger teammates to have a big game from long range. Wisconsin’s tempo is one of the slowest in the country but they run their offense well and take terrific care of the basketball with Jordan Taylor running the show at the point guard position. Taylor has a stunning 3.92 assist to turnover ratio and teams with Leuer to provide Wisconsin with just under half of their points. Taylor is also a strong defender who will look to disrupt Marquette’s offensive flow. With Dwight Buycks questionable for this game (he did not play Tuesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Buzz Williams will turn to the inexperienced Junior Cadougan who missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Wisconsin is solid just about everywhere but they’re vulnerable on the three point line. Unfortunately for Marquette, they shoot just 31% as a team from three and that’s where Darius Johnson-Odom comes in. When hot, the dynamic junior can be one of the best shooters you’ll see. He broke out against Milwaukee on November 27 (29 points, 5-7 from three) but struggled in the two games since. For the year DJO is shooting just 29% from three, down almost 20% from last season’s 47% mark. He can get it going at any time though and that’s what makes this game unpredictable. If Johnson-Odom is on, Marquette has an even better chance to pick up a home win over their rival. Tuesday night’s Marquette game saw Vander Blue break out, scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting. However it also included the loss of Joseph Fulce, an important glue guy for Marquette. The 6’7 Fulce went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, the same knee that had been giving him problems before. How Marquette responds to the loss of one of their emotional leaders will be important in this game. Don’t expect Wisconsin to get to the foul line much at all so they’ll have to make up for that disadvantage with strong defense and efficient offensive sets. Marquette is third in the country in keeping opponents off the line while Wisconsin is near the bottom of D1 in getting there. The Badgers are a very good rebounding team and they should hold an edge there against smaller Marquette. Though inexperienced, Cadougan is a talented player who’s capable of replacing Buycks at the point if necessary. Look for Marquette to use Butler and fellow forward Jae Crowder inside the arc, trying to penetrate the stout Wisconsin defense. Rivalry games are usually close and this one figures to be no exception. There are a lot of unknowns on the Marquette side in this game but it would be a very big resume-building win if they can get it in front of the home folks at the Bradley Center.
SEC/Big East Invitational: #11 Tennessee @ #3 Pittsburgh (CONSOL Energy Center) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (*****)
This is a fabulous matchup between two undefeated teams, one that was expected to be and one that wasn’t. With all the trouble surrounding Bruce Pearl, Tennessee responded in a big way by winning the NIT Season Tip-Off which included a win over Villanova in the finals. The Volunteers have not played since the last day of November so they’ve had plenty of time to prepare for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Pearl, Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon has not been declared eligible by Tennessee officials despite meeting his academic responsibilities. He was not on the plane to Pittsburgh but there’s a small chance he could join the team in time for the game. Tennessee shouldn’t count on it, even though they’ve practiced with the assumption that Maymon would play. Tennessee will look to speed up the game against the methodical Panthers. The Vols rank first in the nation in getting to the foul line, attempting an average of 33 free throws per game. Not surprisingly they’re in the top five in percentage of points scored from the line. The problem for Tennessee is they put opponents on the line at a high rate as well and don’t shoot the three very well. Pittsburgh is one of the deepest and most well-coached teams in the country. Jamie Dixon has built a spectacular program in the Steel City and has a star leading the way in Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs is an incredibly disciplined player, getting good shots and knocking down 46% of his three pointers. He also takes great care of the ball, a trait most of the Panthers have. Pittsburgh commits just 12 turnovers a game and assists on two thirds of their made field goals behind guys like Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Travon Woodall (13 APG combined). Those terrific numbers contribute to the #2-rated offensive efficiency in the nation. Pittsburgh is the best offensive rebounding team in the land and pulls down 45 RPG as a whole. That will be an important number to watch against a Tennessee team that also rebounds the basketball very well. Tennessee is also a strong defensive club, tenth in efficiency. Stud freshman Tobias Harris leads the way on the offensive end having scored no less than 15 points in every game this season. Harris is 6’8 but shoots it well and can even stretch the defense to the three point arc if he wants to, making six of eight three pointers. Scotty Hopson has picked up his game this season giving Pearl a legitimate option on the wing. Tennessee struggles with turnovers however, committing 16 per game. Melvin Goins has done a good job running the offense as a senior but Hopson and Harris average six turnovers between them. Perhaps the most important player on Tennessee’s roster is junior Cameron Tatum, though you’d never know it from just looking at the stat sheet. RTC’s own Zach Hayes observed on twitter this nugget from Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings article: With Tatum on the floor, Tennessee is +103. Without him they’re -25, a stunning 128-point margin. We’re not sure why that is (perhaps a Tennessee fan can tell us) but it’s just an amazing statistic. Pittsburgh is one of the best interior passing teams you’ll ever see so look for them to get a bunch of points in the paint through guard penetration and their bigs. A steady diet of Gibbs from the outside should be enough for the Panthers to emerge victorious on a “neutral” floor in their home city.
Arizona vs. #20 BYU (EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT) – 6 pm Saturday on BYUtv/KJZZ 14 Salt Lake City (****)
We’re really looking forward to this game. It is about as underrated as it gets as you have two good teams with bonafide stars matching up. Derrick Williams of Arizona may be the most productive player in America, averaging 20/8 on 66% FG and 77% from three in only 26 minutes per game. The 6’8/240 forward is a matchup nightmare for any Arizona opponent and BYU is no exception. The Cougars will count on Noah Hartsock to defend Williams but good luck with that. That’s not a dig at Hartsock but a compliment to Williams who’s scored at least 15 points in every game. The good news for BYU is they have another star, guard Jimmer Fredette. Coach Dave Rose scheduled a game in Glens Falls, NY this week, Fredette’s home town, in order to give him a chance to play in front of his friends and family in his senior season. Jimmer responded accordingly, scoring 26 points and leading BYU to a rout of Vermont on Wednesday. He’ll need another big game against a strong Arizona team that averages 83 PPG and ranks in the top ten in four important offensive categories. The Wildcats shoot 59% inside the arc, good for fourth nationally and are fifth in effective field goal percentage. Arizona does rebound the ball well but BYU may have an advantage as they get 42 RPG. Arizona does rank ninth in offensive rebounding percentage but averages 37 RPG, possibly due to all the shots they’re actually making. Sean Miller would probably like Solomon Hill to rebound a bit better but he and Arizona have done a good job on the glass so far. Surprisingly, BYU has struggled from the three point line. The Cougars were #3 in the nation last year but have dropped to #159 at just 34%. Fredette has not been immune to the struggle from deep either at 34% himself. Jackson Emery, BYU’s other three point specialist, is marginally better at 37%. Arizona attempts 23 treys a game with BYU not far behind at 22 so expect a lot of deep shots in this game. Whoever holds the edge there likely will win the game but there are other factors in play as well. The Cougars are one of the best teams at preventing turnovers, committing just ten per game. They must control the ball and run their offense effectively against an Arizona team that doesn’t force many turnovers. Giving the Wildcats extra possessions off unforced errors will only give Williams and Arizona a better chance to win. Coach Miller has his go-to guy in Williams but the team is pretty deep. Miller’s top three players are all 6’6 or taller but he has a balanced back court led by junior Kyle Fogg. Fogg has seen his shooting, points and minutes drop this year but his assists have increased, a sign of a guy who knows his role. Getting the ball to Williams is the primary goal for Arizona but having a steady point guard is an invaluable asset. Both teams defend well but are prolific on offense so a game in the mid 70’s to even the 80’s is a good possibility. This game is not at the Marriott Center but it is in Salt Lake City. BYU will have the home crowd edge but likely not the same advantage they enjoy on campus. Arizona is very capable of winning this game and we would not be shocked if they do. These teams are pretty evenly matched and we expect a thrilling game in Salt Lake on Saturday night.
Be sure to check out these games as well:
#6 Michigan State vs. Oakland (Palace of Auburn Hills) – 12:30 pm Saturday on FS Detroit/FCS Atlantic (***)
It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan State responds to their third loss of the season which came Tuesday night against Syracuse. Oakland can really play behind 6’11 big man Keith Benson (18/12), sharpshooter Reggie Hamilton and senior forward Will Hudson (14/7, 68% FG). The Golden Grizzlies actually led Illinois early in the second half on Wednesday so Michigan State better be prepared for this game.
#23 Washington @ Texas A&M – 4:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (****)
The fast-paced Huskies are just 1-2 away from home with a win in Maui over Virginia. This is a game of contrasting styles and Washington has the better guards. Texas A&M needs a good game from its front court against a terrific U-Dub front line in order to earn a quality home win.
Indiana @ #21 Kentucky – 5:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)
Tom Crean finally has some players this year and the Hoosiers are out to a 7-1 start. Granted the wins have come against poor competition but it has to be encouraging if you’re an IU fan. Maurice Creek is back this year and Christian Watford has been outstanding so far. He had 23 points in a loss to Boston College. The young Wildcats rebounded from the loss to UNC with a solid win against Notre Dame on Wednesday night. UK now enters a soft part of the schedule before a trip to rival Louisville on New Year’s Eve.
Missouri State @ Oklahoma State – 8 pm Saturday on ESPN3.com/FS Oklahoma
Oklahoma State is a quiet 8-1 but hasn’t defeated anyone of note. This is the beginning of a crucial four game stretch for the Pokes before Big 12 play begins. Alabama, Stanford and a trip to Gonzaga follow. If they make it through this stretch at 3-1 or 4-0, folks won’t be able to take OSU for granted. The Bears are 6-2 behind forward Kyle Weems’ 15/7.
Gonzaga @ #22 Notre Dame – 8:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (***)
Gonzaga is 4-4 and another loss probably means they will have to win the WCC Tournament to get into the NCAA’s. They’re just not playing good defense and getting poor point guard play. Notre Dame lost its first game to Kentucky on Wednesday and looks to be a surprise team in the Big East. Look for the Irish to try and get Tim Abromaitis going again. He was a non-factor against Kentucky.
Penn State @ Virginia Tech – 1 pm Sunday on CSN Washington (**)
You hate to call any game in December a must-win but this one basically is for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 4-4 and 0-1 in league play after losing to Virginia. They’ve dropped two straight at home and their confidence seems to be shot. They have got to win out in the non-conference meaning they’ll have to beat Mississippi State as well and then hope that 10-6 or 11-7 will be good enough in ACC play. In a down ACC, the Hokies might be toast already unless they find themselves immediately. The Talor Battle vs. Malcolm Delaney matchup will be one to watch in this game.
Boston College @ Maryland – 4 pm Sunday on FSN (***)
The first ACC game for these two teams is actually a pretty important one. The ACC is wide open and each team has a chance to move into the top third of the league and contend for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. BC is going to have a tough time guarding Jordan Williams in this game. In fact, they may want to focus their defense elsewhere and let Williams get his points while shutting everyone else down. Steve Donahue has his work cut out for him in this game.
Clemson @ Florida State – 6:15 pm Sunday on FSN (***)
Clemson ran out of opportunities for quality wins out of conference, losing to Old Dominion, Michigan and South Carolina. While that’s not a murderer’s row, two wins there would have helped their cause a lot. The Tigers look to be an NIT team while Florida State may find a way into the NCAA Tournament if they can ever find a way to score. Even so, the #1 defense in the nation should keep them in every game and give them a chance to finish in the top half of the ACC. The Seminoles did nothing out of conference and have no quality non-conference opponents left on the schedule. They’ll have to win at least ten ACC games to have a chance. Getting a victory here, a game they should win, will certainly start things off in the right direction. After a hot start to the season, Chris Singleton has struggled in his last four games averaging just nine points per game on 10-36 (28%) shooting.