Set Your Tivo: 01.20.11Posted by Brian Otskey on January 20th, 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.
Thursday’s slate is considerably lighter than the rest of this week in terms of good games but make sure you tune in for a couple of important conference battles. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
Virginia Tech @ Maryland – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)
Maryland has whiffed on every opportunity for a quality win and with arguably only one or two more opportunities to pick up that signature victory, it is imperative that the Terrapins take care of business against teams they should beat, starting this evening with depleted Virginia Tech.
It’s been a tough go of it for Seth Greenberg, his team struggling with injuries and less-than-stellar play even before everyone started going down. Virginia Tech is barely hanging on at 11-5 (2-2), but four of their next six are on the road, starting tonight.
At 11-6 (1-2), Maryland also needs wins in a hurry. Gary Williams and the Terps own the #1 defense in terms of efficiency and that should keep them in every game from here on out. The problem, at times, has been scoring. Look for Maryland to push the pace and get out in transition against the thin Hokies. Virginia Tech has to keep this game in the half court in order to have a chance to win, but Maryland rebounds the ball extremely well and forces turnovers, not a good combination for the poor rebounding and turnover-prone Hokies. Expect Maryland to have a huge edge on the boards (they average 42 RPG compared to 34 for VT), mostly due to Jordan Williams. Quite simply a beast in the paint, Williams averages 18/12 on 56% shooting and has posted a double-double in eleven consecutive games, a remarkable achievement. Williams has two inches and 15 pounds on Victor Davila, Virginia Tech’s biggest player, setting the stage for another huge game from the Terrapin big man. Maryland is #1 in the country in scoring inside, getting 65% of their total output from two point range. The Terps rank second-to-last in three pointers attempted and third-to-last in points from three, meaning their half court offense is incredibly one-dimensional but still effective. Virginia Tech defends relatively well and you may see Greenberg play a lot of zone in this game, although that will leave them more vulnerable than they already are on the glass. He’ll be able to pack his defense inside the arc, daring Maryland to beat them from outside, while protecting the Hokies’ biggest front court asset, forward Jeff Allen. He’s fouled out five times this season and has had to sit with foul trouble in quite a few other games. If Allen is disqualified early, Virginia Tech will lose its best rebounder and interior scorer, making it almost impossible to win against a Maryland team that lives in the paint. The Hokies have little depth overall given all of their injuries but they are especially thin up front. Even with Allen in the game, it will be difficult for Virginia Tech to score inside considering Maryland’s sixth-ranked interior defense. In the back court, Malcolm Delaney will probably need a huge game for the Hokies to have a chance in the final minutes. He obviously has the potential to do so, as evidenced by his 28 points at North Carolina last week, although he was criticized for some questionable shots down the stretch — especially the last one. For Maryland, Cliff Tucker has played well in his final season in College Park, averaging just over 11 PPG. He struggled against Villanova (three points, 1-7 FG) but had posted double figure points in six of seven previous games. It’s going to be very difficult for Virginia Tech to win this game on the road. They’ll need to keep the game in the half court with an outstanding defensive effort along with excellent rebounding and ball control. If Maryland takes what transition opportunities the Hokies give them and dominate the paint as they often do, they will win this game.
Arizona @ #20 Washington – 10:30 pm on FSN (****)
If the Wildcats want to compete with Washington at the top of the Pac 10, winning this game would go a long way towards that goal. Arizona will move into first place with a win tonight in Seattle, plus the Huskies still have to visit Tucson on February 19. Each team has won seven of their past eight with the one loss coming on the road in regrettable fashion as Arizona lost at Oregon State and Washington suffered a setback at Stanford last week. Both teams shoot the ball well but Arizona has the best player on the floor in Derrick Williams. The sophomore out of La Mirada, California is still shooting over 60% from the floor on the year while making a ridiculous 17-24 (70.8%) of his threes. Williams is coming off two double-doubles in his last three games, scoring 31 points in each. Washington has height inside to bother him, but he’s so good, one of the toughest players in the entire country to guard.
The Huskies need to use their height advantage on offense by working the ball inside to Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The 6’9 Brit is averaging 17/10 over his past seven games and shoots 58% overall. Arizona’s opponents score 60% of their points inside with the Wildcats ranking a mediocre #154 in defense inside the arc. With a dynamic point guard in Isaiah Thomas, Washington shouldn’t have a problem getting in the paint and finishing. Thomas is averaging a stunning nine assists per game over his past five outings including a 27 point/13 assist performance at California. The Huskies can shoot the triple as well, but they’ll encounter an Arizona defense that ranks fourth in defending the arc. Justin Holiday scored 23 points on 5-8 from downtown against the Golden Bears but Arizona is a different animal (no pun intended). Offensively, Arizona needs to take special care of the ball because Washington will constantly look to push the pace and fuel that transition offense. The Wildcats average 14 turnovers per game and can’t afford to be that careless with the ball in this game. Washington protects the ball well, given their tempo, so we expect them to have an edge in turnover margin. Arizona is the deeper team, as Sean Miller will play ten men. The Wildcats shoot 76% from the foul line and, because of Washington’s awful free throw rates, it would be silly for Arizona not to penetrate and attempt to pick up fouls against the taller Huskies. Williams is the only Arizona scorer averaging double figures and they could be really good if another player or two would step up and become a legitimate scoring option. Jamelle Horne could be one of those players, but he’s been plagued by inconsistency. Horne had 16/12 against Stanford but followed that up with only 4/2 against Arizona State. He shoots the ball well from almost anywhere and has attempted the second-most threes on the team, so he’s a capable offensive player. The Wildcats need someone to step up tonight against the high-powered Huskies. One intangible in this game is how the distraction of the recent rape claim against an unnamed Washington player will affect them, if at all. It has been keeping Lorenzo Romar up at night, according to the coach himself, but no player has been formally charged with a crime. With the situation still in limbo, it appears Romar and the authorities are both proceeding cautiously. It would be somewhat of a surprise if Arizona won, but any team that has a player like Derrick Williams on the floor always has a chance to win.