Set Your Tivo: 12.29.10Posted by Brian Otskey on December 29th, 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 terrific Big East game and two Pac 10 games highlight tonight’s schedule while Marquette seeks a quality win on the road against an underrated SEC squad. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#8 Georgetown @ #16 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)
Two highly efficient offenses meet in each team’s first Big East game of the season. The visiting Hoyas are the top team in the nation when it comes to effective field goal percentage and rank in the top five in both two and three point shooting. Each team scores 81 PPG and is highly experienced, their key players all being veterans. Notre Dame starts four seniors, one of the most experienced teams in the entire country. Georgetown will look to take advantage of their superior marksmanship against an Irish defense that’s better but wouldn’t be confused with any of the top defenses in college basketball. Austin Freeman doesn’t need much room to shoot (49% from deep) and should find ample opportunities for good looks against Notre Dame tonight. Georgetown’s talented guards have the advantage but you can make the argument that the Irish have more balance. Notre Dame’s freshman point guard Eric Atkins has played well but Mike Brey counts on his seniors to do most of the damage. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis can stroke it from deep and have the ability to score inside as well. Notre Dame has to rebound the ball well and get to the free throw line to win. If they do both, Julian Vaughn should be minimized. The Georgetown big man has had a nice year and gives them a threat up front where teams can’t just concentrate on the perimeter. However, foul trouble will open up the interior for Tyrone Nash and company while making it easier for the Irish to rebound. Notre Dame is already #3 in keeping opponents off the offensive boards and third in opponents free throw rate as well. Playing at home, ND should hold a significant advantage at the line against a Georgetown team that doesn’t get there often. Both teams shoot it well from the stripe but the Hoya offense doesn’t offer many chances to get fouled. Georgetown has played in quite a few tough environments this year and has emerged victorious all but once. The Irish are good but we love this Hoya team and expect them to earn another solid road win in a difficult atmosphere.
Marquette @ #22 Vanderbilt – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)
The Golden Eagles desperately need a quality win out of conference and this is their final chance to get one. However, it’s a tall order playing on the road against a Vanderbilt team that hasn’t received the respect it deserves. This is Marquette’s second true road game and the first was against city rival Milwaukee at U.S. Cellular Arena, literally a short walk from the Bradley Center. Memorial Gym will be an entirely different test for Buzz Williams and his team. Looking at this matchup, one immediately notices the height advantage the Commodores will enjoy. Marquette doesn’t really have anyone near the size of Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, having a tremendous season. Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler are good players but it’s hard to see them containing Ezeli for the whole game. Williams may have to turn to Davante Gardner, though the big freshman hasn’t been able to play any kind of extended minutes. Getting the Vanderbilt big man in foul trouble is highly encouraged if you’re a Marquette fan considering MU scores 61% of its points inside the arc. Ezeli has the potential to disrupt the flow inside and keep the men in gold off the boards. Kevin Stallings puts a balanced starting five on the court, a unit that’s efficient on both ends of the floor. Vanderbilt has a smart point guard, a three point gunner, good forwards and a strong interior presence. John Jenkins is the three point gunner and he’s caught fire of late, shooting 52% from deep over his last three games. He’ll look to take care of a soft Golden Eagles perimeter defense, ranked just #258 against the triple. Marquette will need an answer to Jenkins’ shooting prowess and Darius Johnson-Odom figures to be the most likely candidate. DJO has struggled most of the year with his shot but you can never count him out. He took the Big East by storm last year, making himself known to thousands of opposing fans. While he hasn’t been nearly the same shooter he was last season, you have to respect his ability and potential to break out at any point. Marquette needs a good game from their dynamic guard in order to pull the road upset tonight. Also key for Buzz Williams and his team will be turnover margin. Vanderbilt should have the edge on the glass so Marquette must come up with extra possessions by forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball on their own end. Vanderbilt has lost just two games, each by three points. On paper this looks like a bad matchup for Marquette but that’s why they play the games. Still, we expect Vanderbilt to come away with a good home win against a middle of the pack Big East team that should improve as the season moves along.
Washington State @ UCLA – 11 pm on FSN (***)
Pac 10 play opens this evening with the city of Los Angeles hosting two key games. UCLA has won five in a row, including a win over BYU, but struggled with UC Irvine in their last outing, a one point win. The Bruins were without leading scorer Tyler Honeycutt but he’s expected to play tonight against the Cougars of Washington State. Ken Bone’s team is back on the mainland after a fairly successful trip to Hawaii, though Wazzu fell to Butler in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic. The Cougars are a well-coached squad that runs their offense well and can defend, especially against the three. Washington State is tenth in the country in three point defense and should hold a significant edge in trifectas going up against a UCLA offense that’s just under 35% from deep. Klay Thompson leads the way for the Cougars at 22 PPG and 42% from three. He moves well and uses his bigger body to create space and get his own shot. UCLA does not defend the trey well and when you throw in Faisal Aden in addition to Thompson, we expect the Cougars to dominate this part of the game tonight. The Bruins will have to get most of their work done inside with Reeves Nelson as well as Honeycutt getting into the lane. One area where UCLA can do damage is on the glass. Washington State has a capable post player in DeAngelo Casto but the Cougars do not rebound well as a team. Ben Howland’s team also has to limit turnovers, currently averaging 15 per game. Getting Malcolm Lee going would be a huge shot in the arm for the Bruin offense. He’s struggled most of the season but did shoot 4-8 from deep in his last game. He’ll be needed to counter the Thompson, Aden and Reggie Moore perimeter attack. Neither team shoots well from the free throw line so a close game could come down to whoever doesn’t miss as many free throws. This is a tough road game for Washington State against a UCLA team that’s been rather unpredictable and although we wouldn’t be surprised by anything in the Pac 10, the Cougars excellent shooting and shaky Bruins defense should be enough to get Washington State off to a 1-0 start in the conference on the road.
Keep an eye on these games as well:
Boston College @ Rhode Island – 7 pm on Cox Sports (***)
Rhody hasn’t played all that well but this is not an easy game for Boston College. The Eagles run a highly efficient offense under first year head man Steve Donahue but they’re really lacking on the defensive end. The Rams are vulnerable inside but do a nice job defending the trey, a weapon utilized often by BC. Rhode Island has a couple questionable losses but this seems like a good time for an upset. The Eagles may go down on the road tonight at the hands of Delroy James and the Rams.
Washington @ USC – 10:30 pm, no television (***)
It’s a crying shame this game isn’t televised because it’s shaping up to be a good one. USC is playing much better now that Jio Fontan is eligible while Washington is still seeking a respectable win, more importantly one away from home. Lorenzo Romar’s team is just 1-3 away from Seattle though all three losses have come against teams currently ranked in the RTC, AP and Coaches top 25. The high-octane Huskies will look to speed up the pace against a USC club that averages almost ten possessions less per game. The Trojans defend well overall but are vulnerable on the arc, an area where Washington ranks fifth nationally in shooting. Getting to the foul line will be highly important if USC is to win. Washington’s free throw rate is poor on both ends and it will slow down the pace of the game down while putting the Washington big men on the bench.