Set Your Tivo: 01.25.11Posted by Brian Otskey on January 25th, 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.
No matter how many games there are, no night is ever an off night in college basketball. Notre Dame legitimized itself as a Big East double-bye contender with a massive road win at Pittsburgh last night while Kansas State got their must win. What’s in store for us hoopheads tonight? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#12 Purdue @ #1 Ohio State – 9 pm on ESPN (****)
First place is on the line in the Big Ten as these two clubs meet tonight in Columbus. Ohio State has a one game lead over Purdue and can make it two plus the tiebreaker if they win. On the other hand, the Boilermakers can move into a first place tie and will hold the tiebreaker edge (for now) should they come out on top. Obviously the big-time matchup in this game is down inside as freshman Jared Sullinger goes up against senior JaJuan Johnson. Sullinger has a lot more bulk to push people around inside but Johnson has a game that extends out to mid range and even the three point arc on occasion. Look for Matt Painter’s big man to try and pull Sullinger away from the basket, opening up lanes for Purdue’s guards to get to the rim. Each team starts four guards, so Purdue won’t have as difficult of a time as you might think if Johnson is successful.
Ohio State allows 46% shooting inside the arc and, while that’s not a bad number, it’s certainly not elite. Johnson and Sullinger are two of the better back-to-the-basket players in the nation and both are enjoying great success lately. Johnson has scored 20+ points in each of the last four games while Sullinger is coming off a dominant 27/16 performance at Illinois on Saturday. While the front court battle will get most of the attention, each team has plenty of capable guards as well. Both coaches use a lot of four guard sets and the rebounding battle among the perimeter players will be an important factor in this game. Each team’s guards must rebound well because the big men inside will likely cancel each other out, although Sullinger has a slight edge over Johnson on the glass. Thad Matta’s team shoots 40% from three point range, making it paramount that Purdue plays its aggressive brand of strong man-to-man defense effectively. Purdue shoots it well, too, but don’t underestimate the potential of Buckeye freshman Aaron Craft to disrupt their offensive flow. For such a young player, Craft has shown a great ability to bother opponents and you don’t have to look any further than the job he did on Illinois star senior Demetri McCamey on Saturday. Craft will likely draw the assignment on point guard Lewis Jackson for most of the game, but you may also see him on E’Twaun Moore at times. Moore got back on track with a 26-point performance against Michigan State and will have to keep that going against Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler. Both players are capable of getting hot in a hurry but Diebler is the more consistent shooter. Playing at home in Value City Arena and ranked #1, Ohio State has to be the favorite in this game. The Buckeye starters play 78% of the available minutes, however, so depth/foul trouble could become an issue if Purdue is able to attack the basket and get to the line successfully. The good news for Ohio State is they don’t foul often at all, ranking #1 in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Still, this is a winnable game for a talented Purdue team if their guards give them a high-intensity and efficient performance, if they show up with solid defense, and if they get the typical effort from Johnson inside. We like Ohio State, but don’t be surprised if this game is a lot closer than some folks might think.
#8 Connecticut @ Marquette – 9 pm on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)
This is a huge week for Marquette as they entertain Connecticut and Syracuse at the Bradley Center this week before embarking on a three game road trip. The Golden Eagles need quality wins and this stretch provides them with a great chance to prove they belong. As is the case with any Connecticut opponent, the game plan has to be to stop or at least slow down Kemba Walker. Nobody has been able to do that all year, so the best strategy may be to shut down the other Connecticut players. While they may not be able to stop Walker when he has the ball, Marquette needs to stick with him when he doesn’t have the ball and force his young teammates to make plays in a tough road environment. Defense has been a problem at times for Marquette this season and the Golden Eagles need a solid effort on that end to defeat the Huskies this evening.
It seems Connecticut has finally found a second and third option to Walker in recent games. Alex Oriakhi has averaged 13/12 over the last five games while freshman Jeremy Lamb is settling in and finding his niche on this team as the third scorer. Lamb looks to be a great player in the future for Jim Calhoun but he’s already contributing nicely to this year’s squad. Interior play is going to be the main area to watch tonight. Marquette gets a lot of its points inside the arc with Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder, while Connecticut ranks #5 in two point defense. Whoever wins that battle will set themselves up well for a victory tonight. The Golden Eagles can make it easier on themselves if Darius Johnson-Odom is lighting it up from the outside. DJO can put it on the deck and get to the tin, or hang out on the arc and drain threes, making him a tough player to guard while forcing the defense out of the middle. He’s a streaky shooter, though, and Marquette is hoping he’ll be on in this game. If he’s not, the Huskies can pack their defense into the interior and really wreak havoc on Marquette’s forwards. Connecticut is the deeper team but not many teams play harder than Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles. It’s a safe bet to say the players will feed off the crowd and leave it all out there in a game of great importance to their season. This should be a tremendous game, as Marquette is probably a bit underrated, while Connecticut has already proven it can win on the road. MU has an easier stretch to close the season but this week may define their year. They’ll put forth a terrific effort and we think it may result in a win tonight against the Huskies.
Three other important games tonight:
Florida @ Georgia – 7 pm on ESPN (***)
Both teams are on hot streaks, with Florida having won 10 of 12, while the Bulldogs have won 11 of their past 13. Florida is 5-0 in true road games this year and will look to notch another quality win away from home tonight. Kenny Boynton scored 20 points on 4-7 from deep against Arkansas on Saturday, a great sign for the Gators if he can keep that level of play going. With Chandler Parsons becoming more effective on the boards, Florida looks like a team that still has plenty of upside. Both teams like to slow the game down and work inside, plus Florida hasn’t attempted as many threes as in years past. Whoever controls the paint will win this game. Trey Thompkins has been consistent for the Bulldogs and Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson has given Georgia a third scoring threat this season, in addition to being a solid distributor.
Richmond @ Dayton – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)
Both teams are hovering right on the bubble at this point and it’s not too early to say this is a big game. At 3-2 in the league, Dayton needs to protect their home court against another upper-echelon A-10 team. Richmond has one quality win on its resume, a victory over Purdue on a neutral court. The Spiders, however, have a bunch of bad losses to contend with, so quality wins are becoming more important by the day. With only one more road game against a good team on their schedule, this game could go a long way towards determining Richmond’s fate. The Spiders shoot the ball extremely well but rebounding is their Achilles heel. The shooting excellence is due in part to 6’10 Justin Harper, a fine marksman who often drifts outside the paint to knock down threes, but is consequently out of position for rebounds. The opposite is true of Dayton, a team that rebounds well but shoots just 40% from the floor. The Flyers will need Chris Wright to have a big scoring game as well as impose his will on the boards. Dayton can make up for their poor shooting with solid rebounding and second chances. That just might be enough to pull out a quality home win.
#5 Kansas @ Colorado – 8 pm on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (***)
It was a rough week for the surprising Buffaloes, and they now return home to face what’s sure to be an angry Kansas team coming off a loss at home to Texas. Colorado has already knocked off Missouri in Boulder this year, so you can bet Bill Self will be drilling that into the heads of his players to prevent them from taking this game for granted. Kansas was pushed to the brink last year at CU and it could happen again with the Buffs staring down the barrel of a three game losing streak should they not come out on top tonight. Colorado’s high-powered offense will have to contend with the #1-rated defense in terms of efficiency. The Buffaloes have to defend better than usual and rebound well in order to win. Both teams do a lot of work inside the arc, and Kansas is the heavy favorite in that department with Marcus and Markieff Morris. Someone has to become a legitimate third scoring option for Colorado and Levi Knutson could be that guy. Knutson can stretch the defense with his exceptional three point shooting and that will prevent the Jayhawks from focusing exclusively on Colorado’s two stars, Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.