Set Your Tivo: 01.18.11Posted by Brian Otskey on January 18th, 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 few teams face key road tests tonight, one night after the home squads went 3-1 in the season debut of ESPN’s Big Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#19 Michigan State @ #18 Illinois – 7 pm on ESPN (****)
The Spartans needed overtime to dispatch their last two opponents at home, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan State is doing just enough to get by as Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have struggled lately. Lucious went 0-8 from the floor against Northwestern while Summers has scored just seven points in the last two games. For MSU to have any sustained success going forward, Tom Izzo must get these two players going somehow. Luckily for them, Draymond Green has stepped up, averaging 21/8.5 over the last two games.
Illinois has lost two straight after starting Big Ten play at 3-0. Ohio State comes to Champaign on Saturday, making this Michigan State game very important for the Illini. A realistic goal should be to win at least one of the games this week, though Illinois has the talent to take both of them. Three point shooting, rebounding and turnovers will be the key areas to watch in this game. As everyone knows, Michigan State has had turnover problems all year. They can’t afford to give Illinois extra possessions, especially on the road. Illinois has lots of height so one would figure they’d have an edge on the boards in this game. Sparty hasn’t rebounded like a typical Tom Izzo team this year while the Illini have Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale to do the bulk of the work on the glass. Davis and guard D.J. Richardson were non-factors in the most recent Illini losses and you know Bruce Weber would love to get them going here at home. Illinois has a height advantage at virtually every position against the Spartans making proper positioning and boxing out vital for MSU. Delvon Roe did a great job limiting Jon Leuer of Wisconsin both offensively and on the glass last week and will have to do the same against Tisdale tonight.
Both teams shoot the ball well from three but Illinois does it better behind Demetri McCamey and company. The Illini rank sixth in shooting the trey at 42.5% while the Spartans are highly vulnerable defensively against the triple, giving up 35%. McCamey shoots 53% from deep, but against Wisconsin he showed his ability to get to the rim, going to the line 21 times by himself. McCamey getting to the tin doesn’t just mean plenty of high percentage looks for him; it will also open up the floor for the other Illini. Illinois is the favorite at home but there is some uncertainty surrounding freshman Jereme Richmond. There have been rumors of an impending transfer flying around and other players have said they weren’t surprised that he hasn’t played recently. Late Monday night, Richmond said he was “100 percent committed” to Illinois and will not transfer. He’s expected to play tonight, but the unknown factor of any distraction he may cause could harm the Illini tonight. Despite that potential problem, we expect them to snap their losing streak with a home win against the Spartans.
#12 Kentucky @ Alabama – 9 pm on ESPN (***)
Kentucky lost its first SEC road game at Georgia and now heads back out and away from Rupp Arena, this time to Alabama. The Crimson Tide are just 10-7 after a loss at Arkansas but they defend better than just about any team in the country. Owners of the #10 defensive efficiency, #1 two point defense and #2 eFG% against, Alabama allows just 56.8 PPG. The problem for Anthony Grant is his team can’t shoot or get to the line effectively, averaging just 67 PPG. As a result, the Tide get 65% of their points inside the three point arc led by JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. The matchup of Green and Kentucky’s Terrence Jones will be fun to watch in this game. Jones had 35 points two games ago against Auburn and has established himself among the best of college basketball’s freshman class. The Crimson Tide will try to make this game a half court slugfest to limit Kentucky’s transition opportunities. To do that, Alabama must rebound and defend well in addition to avoiding turnovers. They average a troubling 15 turnovers per game, though they do rebound well. With Green, Mitchell and Chris Hines grabbing rebounds, Alabama may be able to hold its own against a Kentucky team that rebounds and shoots the ball exceptionally well, especially with Josh Harrellson emerging as a warrior on the boards for the Wildcats at almost 10 RPG.
John Calipari will only play seven or (at the most) eight players, depending on the circumstances. Alabama is also not a deep team, so look for Kentucky to turn up the pressure and try to speed the game up behind Brandon Knight at point guard. The freshman has done a better job handling the ball of late, committing just six turnovers over his last four games. Kentucky shoots 41% from three point range, but the question will be how well Alabama can defend the arc. If the Crimson Tide do a good job defensively and slow the game down, that should be enough to keep them in the game, playing at home. The Wildcats are obviously the better team but playing on the road in conference is never easy. UK should win but we wouldn’t be surprised if this game is closer than people think.
Other games to track this evening:
#22 Georgetown @ Seton Hall – 7 pm on SNY/MASN/ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)
The Hoyas can’t afford a slip up here after snapping their three game skid on Saturday. The loser of this game will fall to 2-5 in conference, certainly not an enviable position in the loaded Big East. This game will be all about guard play. Georgetown will have to contend with Jeremy Hazell, back from his wrist injury and (am I really typing this?) Christmastime shooting incident. Hazell was held in check by Pittsburgh on Saturday but did score 23 in his first game back against DePaul last week. Seton Hall has to limit Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, the keys to Georgetown’s success. When Wright doesn’t play well, Georgetown doesn’t win very often.
Colorado @ Nebraska – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)
The surprising Buffaloes have won 12 of 13 games and head back out on the road to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers played very well on Saturday at Kansas, nearly knocking off the undefeated Jayhawks. The prolific Colorado offense, led by Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, will be put to the test against the strong Nebraska defense. Doc Sadler’s team ranks fourth in eFG% against and eleventh in overall defensive efficiency. Another road win here will make Colorado 4-0 in league play and 15-4 overall, seriously putting themselves into contention for an NCAA bid.
Tennessee @ Georgia – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)
Tennessee got a much-needed win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, preventing an 0-3 start to SEC play. With six of their next eight games on the road starting tonight, this stretch could make or break the Volunteers’ season. Look for Georgia (13-3, 2-1) to pound the ball inside to Trey Thompkins. The Bulldogs get over 60% of their production inside the arc and should be able to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that’s been mediocre of late. Georgia has won ten of eleven games and should keep their hot streak going tonight against the inconsistent Vols.