Set Your Tivo: 12.14.10Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 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.
A pair of games on the “U” highlight tonight’s schedule, the best of this slow week. Can the two home favorites avoid a letdown after big wins this past Saturday? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
Oakland @ #4 Tennessee – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)
After their huge win over Pittsburgh on Saturday behind Scotty Hopson’s career-high 27 points (10-13 FG), the Volunteers return home to face a 5-5 Oakland team out of the Summit League. Sounds easy, right? Not true, Oakland is not your ordinary .500 team. The Golden Grizzlies are in the midst of a brutal non-conference schedule, one that has already included games against West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State and still has Michigan and Ohio State to come after tonight’s game. Oakland nearly upset Michigan State on Saturday, falling by just a single point. Tennessee will look to use its speed and athleticism against Oakland as Bruce Pearl features a lineup of versatile guards and forwards. By contrast, Oakland features a solid front line of Keith Benson and Will Hudson. The 6’11 Benson averages 18/12 plus three blocks a game, a dominant force in the paint. Tennessee needs a strong effort out of Brian Williams in order to defend him. Stopping Hudson will also be key to a Tennessee win as he shoots 66% from the floor. Pearl may even look to a zone in order to defend the Oakland bigs or just use a double team on Benson. Tennessee, which shot 7-11 from three against Pitt, has the potential to outshoot Oakland from deep as the Golden Grizzlies rank just #281 in defending the trey. Reggie Hamilton (16 PPG, 4 APG, 39% 3pt FG) has to be on his game along with Benson and Hudson for Oakland to have a chance to win. Oakland doesn’t shoot it well from deep but Hamilton is their biggest threat, though he’s just five for his last 19 (26%). With Hopson and Tobias Harris, Tennessee has two extraordinary weapons at 6’7 and 6’8 that Oakland can’t quite match. Greg Kampe’s team is going to have to get the job done in the paint with his front court duo and that’s where rebounding comes in. Both teams are excellent rebounding units, especially on the offensive end. Each ranks in the top 15 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage though Oakland could only muster 30 total rebounds against Michigan State. Winning the rebounding battle is critical to any success Oakland hopes to have in this game. Turnover margin is the other key battle to keep an eye on. The Vols struggle handling the ball, averaging 17 turnovers a game including 20 against Pitt. Point guard Melvin Goins does a nice job but it’s really the other players that cause most of the turnover problems. They made up for that with 56% shooting against the Panthers but don’t expect that to happen again. Oakland turns it over 16 times per game so they’ll need to pay attention to this as well since they don’t force many turnovers at all. Tennessee gets to the foul line better than anyone else in D1 and Oakland’s starters play a lot of minutes. Combine those two statistics and you have a potential depth issue for the Golden Grizzlies. If players start fouling out, particularly Benson or Hudson, it’s going to be very difficult, almost impossible, to win. Expect an up-tempo game with Tennessee trying to avoid a letdown after Saturday’s terrific performance. If the Vols don’t take this game seriously, Oakland will hang around all night and have a chance to win. If Tennessee plays their game and doesn’t turn the ball over, expect the home team to come away with a nice win.
Drexel @ #20 Louisville – 9 pm on ESPNU (***)
Drexel enters this game at 6-1 but their best win came in their last game against Rider. The Dragons are not a bad basketball team however, they’re on par with teams like California and Virginia, two clubs that scored significant upsets over teams with a similar ranking as Louisville. While Cal and UVA are not major contenders, Drexel is in the Colonial Athletic Association and is not an opponent Louisville should take lightly. This is not a game that suits Rick Pitino’s style. Louisville loves to launch three pointers and they’ll be facing the best three point defense in the country in Drexel. The Dragons allow just 23% shooting from deep, a fact that has to concern Pitino when you consider his team shoots just 32% (#221 in the nation) itself but loves to bomb away, attempting 27 treys per game. Drexel matches up very well statistically but the overriding question in this game will be whether they can score against the #8-rated Louisville defense. Drexel is just #111 in offensive efficiency, averaging 71 PPG. They’ll count on sophomore guard Chris Fouch to do most of the work. Fouch has scored at least 27 points in three of his last four games including a 30-point performance against Binghamton on November 28. He’s shooting 43% from deep and has to keep doing what he’s been doing in order for Drexel to win. Coach “Bruiser” Flint also has a unique weapon in Samme Givens, averaging an astounding 11 rebounds per game at a height of just 6’5. In fact, Drexel is a terrific rebounding team, rated in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Despite Pitino’s love of the three point shot, Louisville is going to have to work inside with Peyton Siva splitting the defense and distributing the basketball. Drexel’s opponents get 64% of their points inside the arc, fourth in the nation. Louisville is the #11 team in two point percentage so that’s one area where Drexel needs to tighten up their defense. The Cardinals have no real star but Siva has done a decent job running the offense while almost all of Pitino’s players have increased their production from a year ago, a testament to just how good of a college coach Rick Pitino is. Drexel’s slower tempo, strong rebounding and three point defense should cause Louisville a lot of problems tonight which should enable the Dragons to stay in the game. Getting Mike Marra (one for his last 14 treys) back on track would certainly help but Louisville needs to rely on dribble penetration and the inside play of Terrence Jennings and Rakeem Buckles to win this game. It’s very possible that the Cardinals experience a letdown during finals week after their big win over UNLV on Saturday. Louisville is a strong favorite and rightfully so but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dragons go into the brand new YUM! Center and give the home crowd and team a lot to worry about tonight. Chances are they won’t win but don’t put it past them. We like Louisville, but expect this game to be pretty close.