Set Your Tivo: New Year’s Weekend EditionPosted by Brian Otskey on January 1st, 2011
***** – 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 lot of the college basketball world was in action on Friday and we have just 27 games tipping off on New Year’s Day. However, a handful involve some pretty good teams. A number of games are on Sunday but not many happen to be compelling matchups. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
West Virginia @ Marquette – 11 am Saturday on ESPN2 (***)
An important game for both clubs, this one tips at a strange time (10 am local) on New Year’s Day. West Virginia suffered a surprising loss to St. John’s at home earlier this week and doesn’t look like a vintage Bob Huggins team. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit with defense and rebounding, two staples of Huggins’ coaching career. They rank just #278 in defensive rebounding percentage and aren’t as strong inside as they have been. West Virginia fouls a lot, leading to foul problems and many free throws for the opposition. Marquette will look to take advantage of that with their free throw rate against, ninth in the nation. Look for the Golden Eagles to have a significant edge at the line as a result. A big part of WVU’s struggles has been the reluctance of Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to explode and become big time players. Jones is still a good player but he hasn’t improved to the point where most expected him to. One player who has is Casey Mitchell, averaging 17 PPG which leads the team. The Mountaineer offense is very efficient (#9 in the country) due to effective point guard play from Darryl Bryant. “Truck” sets the tone for a very good half court unit. West Virginia does rebound well on their end, resulting in a lot of second chance points, but their defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor has let them down. St. John’s put up 81 points against them, a stunning number for a team that isn’t considered an offensive powerhouse by any stretch. Marquette will look to push the ball and work it inside in order to get easier looks and be fouled. Buzz Williams has an undersized team but they do a great job of using their athleticism by getting in the paint and creating good looks. MU gets 62% of their points inside the arc and is #11 in the country in two point percentage. They have a good turnover margin as well and will look to get points in the paint through lots of transition opportunities. Jae Crowder has added another dimension to the Marquette attack, giving them a good scorer inside and out as well as a solid rebounder. He and Jimmy Butler will be key players for the home folks today. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Williams is the play of Darius Johnson-Odom over the last two games. His struggles from three have been well documented this season but he’s hit seven of his last eleven trifectas. Keeping that hot shooting going will be tough against West Virginia’s #4 rated three point defense but you have to think DJO has some good vibes now. Marquette’s three point defense isn’t very good but they must try to contain Mitchell on the wing. This should be a fairly close game but we like the Golden Eagles to win at home. Nobody knows how the players will react to such an early start but Marquette is playing better right now and should take this one.
#16 Notre Dame @ #4 Syracuse – 3:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)
This matchup has turned into a really good one with the surprising success of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish picked Georgetown apart (no small feat) earlier this week and will look to grab a big time road win on Saturday afternoon. The keys here are Notre Dame’s rebounding and three point shooting. The Irish run a great offense at a relatively slow pace and will have to get comfortable in the half court against the Syracuse zone. If the three’s are not falling, this will be a long game for Mike Brey. However, we think they will and Notre Dame has an excellent chance to go into Syracuse and grab a win. Notre Dame is an experienced squad and knows what they need to do here. Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough will look to shoot over the 2-3 zone while Tyrone Nash will play a big role inside against Syracuse’s Rick Jackson. Nash is the best player in the country at drawing fouls, an important statistic against Jackson and Kris Joseph (52 points in his last two games) inside. If the Syracuse bigs are in foul trouble, Notre Dame has a tremendous chance to win. As a team, the Irish are one of the best at getting to the line and keeping their opponent off it. Their free throw rates are very good on both ends so Syracuse will have to get it done shooting the ball from the floor. That’ll be tough against a Notre Dame team coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Hoyas. Each team takes good care of the ball so turnovers don’t figure to be a huge factor in this game. The rebounding battle may decide the outcome. Both teams do a nice job on the glass but Jim Boeheim has the best rebounder on the floor with Jackson in the middle. He averages 12 RPG and can single handedly carry the Orange to victory. Getting the ball to Jackson on offense falls to Scoop Jardine, a very good point guard averaging six assists per outing. This is a great matchup between two teams that should contend for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament in March. Syracuse will be favored and obviously has a good chance to win but we’re going to go out on a limb here and take the Irish in an upset on the road.
#14 Wisconsin @ #23 Illinois – 6 pm Sunday on Big Ten Network (****)
Bo Ryan’s Badgers just keep rolling along in a ho-hum way. They never get the respect they deserve but always put a quality team on the floor year after year. This is a big home game for an Illinois team that has lost two of three. The Illini’s best chance here is to use their superior three point shooting against Wisconsin’s vulnerable three point defense. The Badgers rank sub-200 in three point defense while Illinois is in the top ten in shooting at 42% led by Demetri McCamey. The senior point guard has had a fabulous senior season averaging over seven assists per game and shooting 52% from deep. He has a nice sidekick in D.J. Richardson, connecting on 46% himself. Wisconsin is a strong defensive team on the interior so the Illini may have to do most of their damage from the arc. Illinois has to shoot the ball well to have a good chance here otherwise Wisconsin will pick them apart using their fundamentally sound, deliberate offense as well. The Badgers play at the slowest pace of any team in the land but rank in the top ten in offensive efficiency. Their two best players will be involved in some interesting matchups on Sunday, point guard Jordan Taylor against McCamey and All-American contender Jon Leuer against Illinois’ Mike Tisdale. Taylor does a great job running their offense and takes excellent care of the ball. Wisconsin is the best ball protection team in the nation and Taylor is a big reason why. The Badgers average just nine turnovers per game and also rebound the ball very well making extra possessions a tough accomplishment for their opponents. Leuer can shoot from inside and outside making him a tough matchup for most defenders his size who are used to playing under the basket. This may actually be good for Tisdale, a seven-footer who likes to play more around the perimeter. However, Leuer may be too quick and athletic for Tisdale to handle when he drives into the paint. Illinois is vulnerable inside and Wisconsin will look to take advantage with Taylor and Leuer driving and even passing off to a guy like Keaton Nankivil. Illinois struggles with limiting offensive rebounds, ranked #207. The Illini must rebound well in order to win, otherwise Wisconsin will get second chance opportunities all night long. This game could come down to free throws and the Badgers will have a huge advantage there. They’re the best free throw shooting team in America at just over 80% with Bo Ryan’s top four scorers all shooting above that number. Illinois is a good team but Wisconsin has won seven straight and looks to be hitting their stride. Even on the road, we’d favor the Badgers by the slightest of margins. This is essentially a tossup game and a good one on Sunday evening in Champaign.
Other games of interest:
New Mexico @ Dayton – 2 pm Saturday on CBS College Sports (***)
The Lobos are 10-2 against D1 but their best win has come against a mediocre Colorado team. However, New Mexico has balanced scoring and can hold opponents down with good defense at times. Five players average at least eight PPG for Steve Alford on the offensive end. On the other hand, Dayton really struggles shooting the basketball. The Flyers shoot just 40% as a team but have two threats in forwards Chris Johnson and Chris Wright. Expect this game to be close with a nice boost coming to the resume of whoever wins.
Boston College @ South Carolina – 5:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (**)
South Carolina started 7-1 but has lost two of three since. One was excusable, a loss at Ohio State. The other was not, a blowout at the hands of Furman. This is an important game for a Boston College team looking to rebound after a road loss to Rhode Island on Wednesday. For all the talk about the Eagles being a possible contender for second in the ACC (not buying it), they’re awful defensively and would fall to 9-4 in the non-conference with a loss here.
St. John’s @ Providence – 7 pm on SNY/MASN/Cox Sports (**)
Coming off a big win on the road against West Virginia this week and facing Georgetown at home on Monday night, St. John’s has to avoid looking ahead to the Hoyas against a Providence team that can put points up in a hurry. The Friars played well at Syracuse before eventually falling to the Orange but they’re much improved this year and won’t be a pushover in the Big East. This is a game they can win at home. Steve Lavin’s club can’t slack off defensively if they hope to pull this one out and get the Johnnies to 2-0 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.