Set Your Tivo: 02.16.11Posted by Brian Otskey on February 16th, 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 a big night all across the college basketball landscape but two games featuring teams all ranked in the top 12 lead the way. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.
#9 Wisconsin @ #11 Purdue – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (****)
It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers respond on the road after taking down #1 Ohio State on Saturday. Wisconsin is 3-4 in true road games and needed overtime to turn away Iowa last week. We expect this to be a very clean game with few turnovers played at a slow pace.
The Badgers rank first in offensive efficiency and dead last in tempo, indicating the presence of a great floor general in Jordan Taylor and a commitment to Bo Ryan’s style of play. Of course, Taylor was the star of the show on Saturday, scoring 27 points and recording seven assists in the win. With a 4-to-1 A/T ratio, it’s an absolute crime that he was left off the Cousy Award list. Taylor and Jon Leuer account for 53.1% of Wisconsin’s total offensive output. The 6’10 senior from Orono, Minnesota had 24/13 in the first meeting between these teams, a 66-59 Wisconsin win in Madison, and will likely have to do something similar to beat Purdue yet again. Leuer will match up with JaJuan Johnson, another one of the best big men in the Big Ten. Johnson averages 2.2 blocks per game and a strong defensive effort on Leuer could turn him into just an average player tonight, enabling the Boilermakers to win at home. Although he did play terrific the first time against Purdue, Leuer’s lowest point totals of the season have come against teams with a good defender up front or a solid interior defense in general. He had 10 points at UNLV (#18 two-point defense), 10 at Michigan State (locked up by Delvon Roe) and 12 against Ohio State (Jared Sullinger). Purdue is ranked eighth in defensive efficiency and Johnson will play a key role tonight. Both teams shoot 38.3% from three-point land, but Wisconsin takes a lot more deep shots on average. The Badgers shoot 22 treys per game and get 36.5% of their total points from the arc. Just about everyone on the Wisconsin roster is a threat from deep and Purdue is going to have to play their brand of aggressive man-to-man defense very well on the perimeter to win this game. Keaton Nankivil has played very well in his career against the Boilermakers but was held in check in the first game this year, scoring six points. He’s only three for his last 14 treys but has to get going and give Wisconsin a third scoring option on the road. Purdue shot 47.9% in Madison but committed 13 turnovers and were out-rebounded by eight.
Both teams usually take great care of the ball so Lewis Jackson and company have to a better job on the handle tonight. The rebounding battle will be important because Wisconsin runs such a deliberate offense and not many rebounds are available. A great game from Johnson on the defensive boards especially could be key to a Purdue victory. Wisconsin has won four in a row and seven of their last eight games but the Boilermakers are on a similar hot streak, winners in five of their past seven. If E’Twaun Moore (45 points in his last two games) can keep shooting well and the home squad limits its turnovers, Purdue should win this game. Wisconsin is still a very good team but they’re not the same away from Madison. It will take another huge effort from Taylor and Leuer for the Badgers to win this one.
#10 Georgetown @ #12 Connecticut – 7 pm on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)
Two teams headed in opposite directions meet at the XL Center in Hartford tonight. Georgetown has won eight straight games since starting Big East play at 1-4 while Connecticut has lost three of their past five. However, the Huskies vital signs looked good in Sunday’s win over Providence. UConn shot 46.8% and Kemba Walker had 22/6/7 on 7-10 FG, breaking out of slump for now. In addition, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel had a career-high 25/8 off the bench for the Huskies. To win this game, Connecticut will have to excel on the defensive end. Georgetown shoots so much better than the Huskies, making 38.4% from three and 56.8% inside the arc (#2 in the nation). Austin Freeman leads the way at 18.5 PPG and 43.1% from deep, plus Chris Wright is coming off a 20-point performance against Marquette. The Huskies have to defend the three point line well tonight because they more than likely won’t beat the Hoyas in a three point shooting contest. UConn’s interior defense is already very solid and we’re sure Jim Calhoun wouldn’t trade that for anything. The Huskies pull down 41 RPG, are eighth in two point defense, and #14 in block percentage.
Georgetown has been careless with the ball too often for their liking and that will be something Calhoun will look to exploit. If Connecticut can disrupt the flow of Georgetown’s modified Princeton style offense, Walker and Shabazz Napier can run the fast break and score quickly in transition. The way to beat Connecticut is to turn them into a jump shooting team, something many opponents have done of late. Teams have done that through a 2-3 zone but the Hoyas are a team that plays almost exclusively man-to-man. Whether John Thompson III uses that or not will be something to watch tonight. It can obviously work but it also leaves Georgetown vulnerable when rebounding and the Huskies are #12 in offensive rebounding percentage while the Hoyas are a pedestrian #158, allowing opponents to collect 32% of their missed shots. Hollis Thompson had 13 rebounds in a win over Marquette on Sunday and he’ll need to do a good job again along with Julian Vaughn. Georgetown’s three star guards do rebound well but their job defensively will mainly be to keep the Connecticut guards out of the lane and force them into jump shots. The Huskies are at home tonight so you’d have to favor them, but this game isn’t on campus at Gampel Pavilion. The XL Center is a nice arena, but it doesn’t provide the same home court advantage seen on campus. We’re not saying it’s a bad atmosphere, but Georgetown is the more experienced team and likely won’t be phased, however intimidating it may be. This is essentially a pick’em game but we feel this is a good matchup for Georgetown. They’re hot and the Huskies are facing some adversity of late. How that young team responds against the experienced Hoyas could determine the outcome of this game.
Keeping an eye on the bubble:
#14 Louisville @ Cincinnati – 7 pm on ESPN (***)
While their wins over Xavier and St. John’s continue to look better, Cincinnati faces a crucial game tonight. The Bearcats have three of their next four games on the road and this is a good chance to knock off a quality opponent before embarking on that trip. With home games against Connecticut and Georgetown still to come, this is not quite a must win for Cincinnati but it sure would help in a big way. The Bearcats struggle to score and that could become a problem against a Louisville team that plays solid defense and pushes the pace. The Cardinals will look to turn Cincinnati over at every opportunity but their half court defense is pretty good too. To win, the Bearcats need to defend well and dominate the boards. Stopping the Louisville three point threats will have to be a top priority tonight for the home squad.
#18 Vanderbilt @ Georgia – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)
Vanderbilt is safely in the field but Georgia has to do more in the SEC in order to move off the bubble. A win tonight would be a good start. The Bulldogs have one quality win in conference, the first game of league play on January 8 against Kentucky. Outside of the league, only Colorado and UAB stand out but those wins aren’t anything special. UGA has a tough stretch of games coming up and it will determine their postseason fate. Georgia, ranked #29 in offensive rebounding percentage, has to win the battle of the boards to knock off the Commodores. Festus Ezeli and Lance Goulbourne rebound very well and UGA will need a big game on both ends of the floor from Trey Thompkins. With John Jenkins on fire, Georgia must devote much of their attention to defending the three point arc. It’s a tough matchup for the Bulldogs but they really need this game.
UAB @ Memphis – 7 pm on CBS College Sports (***)
This may prove to be an elimination game if UAB loses, although Memphis isn’t a sure bet for selection just yet. UAB is clinging to a solid RPI despite a resume devoid of one quality win. A loss here would drop them to 0-6 against the RPI top 50 with only one more opportunity for a decent win coming up on March 2 at Southern Miss. Memphis has played much better defensively of late and that’s been a big key in them winning seven of their last nine, four of those away from home against decent competition. Wesley Witherspoon is expected to suit up and be available for the Tigers tonight, adding some more scoring and rebounding to a lineup that hasn’t scored 70 points in almost three weeks.
Michigan @ Illinois – 8:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)
We’re a bit surprised that Michigan has received almost no attention from any bracketologist out there. The Wolverines compare favorably to many teams on the incredibly weak bubble. This is a good opportunity to get others to notice them and it’s certainly plausible that they win. Michigan is 16-10 (6-7) but they’ve played a solid schedule (#19) and have three top 75 road wins to their credit. Illinois has only one top 50 win in almost a month’s time and has lost six of nine overall. With three very tough road games remaining, it looks as if 9-9 is the best case scenario for the Illini. It seems as if Bruce Weber and Demetri McCamey are not on the same page (to put it lightly) and the team is having chemistry issues. If Illinois loses tonight, this could spiral out of control in a very ugly fashion and lead to another disappointing NIT bid.