Set Your Tivo: 01.31.11Posted by Brian Otskey on January 31st, 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.
It’s another “Big Monday” as two Big East powers collide, fresh off huge road wins on Saturday. The nightcap features two of the better teams in the Big 12 getting together for the second time this year in a good old fashioned Texas rodeo. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.
Louisville @ #21 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)
These teams are coming off very successful weeks, each capping theirs with big time road wins, with Louisville winning at Connecticut and Georgetown coming away victorious at Villanova. This game should feature a lot of target practice from deep, as the Cardinals are highly dependent on the triple while the Hoyas have three players who can get hot from long range at any time. Austin Freeman has been lately, and is the reason why Georgetown has turned their season around by winning four straight games. During their three game losing streak at the beginning of the month, Freeman was averaging only 10 PPG. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 24 PPG and it’s no coincidence that Georgetown has won all four. The senior guard had 30 points at Villanova on Saturday, and Louisville must keep him in check tonight if they hope to tack on another solid road win.
Rick Pitino’s team did that successfully against another star on Saturday, namely Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, by holding him to 7-23 from the floor. As a team, Connecticut was only able to manage 38% shooting in their own building against the Cardinals, ranked #16 in defensive efficiency. The Hoyas are in the top ten in offensive efficiency and rank second in eFG%, so it will be a much tougher challenge (Connecticut ranks #211 in eFG%) for Louisville to limit Georgetown tonight. It seems like it’s a different player stepping up for Pitino every night and that’s what makes this Louisville team so remarkable. Pitino has done one of the best coaching jobs in the game this season by getting this team into the rankings and near the top of the Big East.
Terrence Jennings had 16/10 on the interior against Connecticut while Peyton Siva did the work outside (19 points, 7 assists) and hit some big shots down the stretch in their win. If those two players can stay at that level and Preston Knowles is hitting his threes (39.4% on the year), the Cardinals are a very difficult team to beat. Look for Louisville to use Siva and Knowles to pressure the Georgetown guards with Pitino employing his patented zone press. Chris Wright has to handle the ball well for the Hoyas, otherwise Louisville will be getting transition buckets all night long. Georgetown turns it over 14 times per game and that’ll be a problem against the fast-paced and pesky Cardinals. Offensively, Louisville will obviously have to hit threes to win. That’s an anchor in the Pitino system, and they look great when the shots fall and awful when they don’t. Georgetown allows 33.7% from deep on average, a good sign for the visitors. While it’s not a bad number, it certainly isn’t anywhere near the top of D-I and represents the Hoyas’ greatest defensive vulnerability. This will be a very competitive game but it’s almost impossible to predict a winner. As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, there isn’t much logic when it comes to predicting college basketball games. Our best advice? Sit back, relax and enjoy a quality Big East matchup from our nation’s capital tonight.
#6 Texas @ #13 Texas A&M – 9 pm on ESPN (****)
We’re not sure anyone predicted that Texas would be a national championship contender heading into February after what happened last year, but that’s exactly what’s occurred. The Longhorns, after winning last week at Kansas and following that up with two more quality wins, will likely move into the top five when this week’s polls are released this afternoon. Texas is ranked #1 in defensive efficiency and they’re coming off a win over Missouri in which they held the high-octane Tigers to 58 points on 34% shooting. In the first meeting between these two teams 12 days ago, the Longhorns held the Aggies to 60 points and blew them out in Austin, and Texas A&M will certainly be looking to exact revenge tonight with the rematch in College Station.
The Aggies were knocked off by Nebraska on Saturday as the Cornhuskers beat them at their own game. Nebraska used physical defense and a slower tempo to hand Texas A&M only its third loss of the season. They’ll have to contend with an even better defensive unit tonight, but they have the advantage of playing on their home floor in front of what should be a terrific crowd. Mark Turgeon and his team need to do a lot of things differently from the first meeting between these clubs: first, they have to defend and rebound better. Texas shot 58% from the floor and held a 31-23 edge on the boards in that game. Additionally, the Longhorns got to the free throw line more than the Aggies, even though that’s been one of Texas A&M’s strengths this season. A&M shoots 72% from the stripe and get 26% of their total points from there, #10 in the nation. They should get a friendlier whistle at home, but the Aggies still need to make getting to the line a point of emphasis tonight. Rebounding and half-court defense is vitally important because it will limit Texas’ transition opportunities and allow the game to be played at a slower pace, much to Turgeon’s liking. The Longhorns average 41 RPG but Texas A&M ranks highly in rebounding percentages, grabbing 41% of their misses and 72% of their opponents missed shots. Stopping Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson will also be necessary — at least as much as possible. Hamilton scored 27 points in the last meeting while Thompson missed only four of his 12 shots. Hamilton has become a much better all around player this season and has put up six double-doubles with two of those coming in the last two games. He’ll go up against Khris Middleton, a rising-star forward in the Big 12. Middleton is a versatile player who can score inside and out, but he can’t do it alone for the Aggies. Nathan Walkup and David Loubeau must contribute inside for the front court heavy Aggies to win this evening. This should be a much better game than the first time these teams played but it’s still hard to pick against Texas the way they’re playing right now. Both teams rank in the top ten in defending the three, and, while neither club shoots it all that often, this game could come down to a couple big treys from guys like Hamilton and Middleton, or even B.J. Holmes. Even so, look for this game to be played largely on the interior with defense and rebounding deciding the outcome. As of last check, Texas is only favored by a point and a half in Las Vegas. That’s a sign that this game could be closer than expected so we’re looking for a fun one tonight in College Station.