Set Your Tivo: 03.11.11Posted by Brian Otskey on March 11th, 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.
One auto bid and a host of major conference games are on tap today, two days out from Selection Sunday. The afternoon session features plenty of bubble teams making their closing arguments to the Selection Committee. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.
SEC Quarterfinals (at Atlanta, GA): Georgia vs. Alabama – 1 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)
We’ve heard all kinds of things about this game from an elimination game to a play-in game. Whatever it may be, one team will be looking better than the other by the time it’s over. Alabama beat Georgia in the regular season finale six days ago and now they meet again in another game with major NCAA implications. RTC’s resident bracketologist had Georgia in and Alabama the first team on the “out” list as of last night while Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Bulldogs as the last team in the field and the Crimson Tide in the same position as RTC. This game will be played almost exclusively in the paint as neither team shoots it well from deep. Both teams rank in the top 20 in interior defense but Georgia has to avoid turnovers to win. Alabama thrives on giveaways despite their slower tempo, ranked #28 in defensive turnover percentage. Georgia committed 16 turnovers in the loss to the Tide last week and lost the game despite out-shooting Alabama from the floor. Senario Hillman leads Alabama in steals and will look to harass the Georgia guards all game long. The battle in the paint between Trey Thompkins and JaMychal Green could determine the outcome of the game if the Bulldogs don’t turn it over often.
Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): Michigan vs. Illinois – 2:30 pm on ESPN (***)
Illinois is generally considered to be in the field of 68 but Michigan could really use a win. The Wolverines are likely in as of now but a loss here and other results around the country could make it a very close call on Sunday. The Illini won the only meeting of the regular season, a two point win in Champaign on February 16. Michigan protects the ball very well but rebounding and defense did them in against Illinois in that game. John Beilein would love to play this game in the half court where his team can probe and dissect the Illinois defense, although the Illini rank tenth in three point defense and Michigan fires up almost 23 triples per game. With two dynamic playmakers in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan can break a team down off the dribble of spot up for a three. This is a game they definitely can win but a better effort on the glass is needed. Michigan ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding percentage (that will happen when you shoot so many threes) and was out-rebounded in the loss to Illinois last month.
ACC Quarterfinals (at Greensboro, NC): Clemson vs. Boston College – 2:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)
If you love the bubble, you’ll love this game too. Both teams are projected in the field right now and the winner will have to feel pretty good about its chances after today. Clemson beat BC earlier this season in South Carolina but the Eagles probably have the better overall resume by a hair. The winner will get a shot at top seed North Carolina tomorrow, an opportunity to seal the deal if a win today doesn’t do the trick. The story of this game is offense versus defense. Boston College ranks highly in many offensive categories and is #1 in the ACC in eFG%. Clemson, under first year coach Brad Brownell, has slowed down their tempo quite a bit yet maintained and even improved upon their solid defense from last season. The Tigers will have to shut down a trio of talented offensive players, including Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani. The Eagles rank eighth in threes attempted to field goals attempted so the Clemson perimeter defense better be on its toes in this game today. Brownell’s club ranks second in ACC games against the trey and held BC to 30% shooting from distance in the first meeting. Clemson shot the ball very well last time against BC and a steady diet of Jerai Grant inside may be enough to beat the Eagles for the second time.
Patriot Championship (at Lewisburg, PA): Lafayette @ Bucknell – 4:45 pm on ESPN2 (***)
Lafayette finished the Patriot regular season with a 6-8 record but stands just one win away from the NCAA Tournament after knocking off #2 American and #3 Holy Cross, both on the road. In the most recent win over American in the semifinals, Jim Mower made a three pointer at the buzzer to win the game for the Leopards. They’ll have to win a third consecutive win here against the top-seeded Bison in order to realize their dream. Lafayette lost both regular season meetings but took Bucknell to overtime in a home loss on February 16. Mower is their best three point shooter and second on the team in scoring behind senior forward Jared Mintz, averaging 16/6. Lafayette has been dominated on the boards in both meetings with Bucknell this season but they forced the Bison into 16 turnovers and held them to 39.3% shooting in the last meeting. Bucknell ranks sixth nationally in three point percentage, largely due to sophomore guard Bryson Johnson, a 46.8% shooter from distance. The Bison are a strong defensive unit and it’ll be tough for the three pointer happy Leopards to score in this game. Lafayette needs to make a lot of threes, defend well and do better on the glass in order to upset Bucknell on their home floor.
Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): #9 Purdue vs. Michigan State – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)
The Spartans narrowly avoided disaster against Iowa yesterday and now have an opportunity to cement their NCAA Tournament berth with a win over Purdue today. Michigan State lost two games against Purdue this season and wasn’t very competitive in either of them, especially the most recent, a 20-point home loss to the Boilermakers 12 days ago. Sparty will find it difficult to score against the #5 defensive efficiency in the land so they must try to win this game with some defense of their own. Michigan State has to stop Purdue’s three point shooters and own the boards. Outside of JaJuan Johnson, Purdue doesn’t have any terrific rebounders, although the same could be said of Michigan State besides Draymond Green. Johnson had 20/17 in the win in East Lansing but the Spartans couldn’t buy a bucket in that game, nor could they stop Purdue’s perimeter shooting. Purdue laid an egg in their last game at Iowa but it seems as if they have a strong edge here. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for Michigan State to make a statement and it wouldn’t be smart to count out Tom Izzo in a big spot, even with all that has gone on this season.
Big East Semifinals (at New York, NY): #11 Syracuse vs. #18 Connecticut – 7 pm on ESPN (****)
You’ll hear a lot about the unforgettable six-overtime game between these two teams two years ago on this very court but things are a lot different now. Kemba Walker’s legend grew yesterday with his filthy move on Pitt’s Gary McGhee, a beautiful step back jumper that was pure all the way as time expired. However, this appears to be an awful matchup for the Huskies. First of all, this is their fourth game in as many days while only the second for the Orange. Tired legs on a young team are always a concern and UConn is no exception tonight. Secondly, Connecticut has struggled against a zone all year long and everyone knows what kind of defense Syracuse plays. Unless Alex Oriakhi can work efficiently in the paint against Rick Jackson and Syracuse’s tall back line of the 2-3, it’s going to be very difficult for the Huskies to advance to tomorrow night’s championship game. Syracuse snapped their four game losing streak at UConn in early February and they’ve been rolling ever since. Connecticut will have to rebound well and shut down Syracuse’s guards, namely Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. If the Huskies don’t make jump shots this could be a long night, and we’re not talking about another six overtime game.
Big 12 Semifinals (at Kansas City, MO): #2 Kansas vs. Colorado – 7 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)
With their sixth top 50 win over Kansas State yesterday (a team they’ve now beat three times), Colorado may have sealed up a bid. They can leave no doubt with a win over Kansas tonight. Colorado put a scare into Kansas back in January in Boulder but was blasted at Allen Fieldhouse a month later. Kansas seemed to sleepwalk through their game with Oklahoma State yesterday, winning by a point. The Buffaloes are not a good defensive team but they’re going to have to come up with something on that end to pull off the upset tonight. Colorado can score at a high rate but they’re now facing an offense that plays faster and more efficiently. Kansas is #1 in two point percentage and #16 from behind the arc, two concerning numbers for Tad Boyle and his defense, ranked below the national average in both categories. Colorado has won five of their past six games but this will be a tough one. Kansas likely received a wakeup call yesterday and should be focused tonight while the Buffs are playing their third game in three days.
Pac 10 Semifinals (at Los Angeles, CA): #19 Arizona vs. USC – 9 pm on FSN (****)
The Pac 10 tournament is turning into a nightmare for bubble teams with only one sure fire NCAA team still alive (Arizona) and one probably headed there as well (Washington). The Wildcats now go up against the hottest team in the league, USC, fighting for its NCAA lives as we work towards Sunday. The Trojans recently beat Arizona in LA and were competitive in a loss in Tucson so this will not be an easy game for Sean Miller’s team. The Wildcats had a tough time putting away Oregon State yesterday as their defense faltered, allowing the Beavers to shoot over 50% from the floor. Arizona turned it over 16 times and if it wasn’t for Derrick Williams’ 22 points on 5-6 three point FG, they might have lost that game. USC rolled over California, snuffing out any NCAA hopes the Golden Bears had behind Alex Stepheson’s 14/16. Star forward Nikola Vucevic wasn’t even a major factor, a great sign for Kevin O’Neill and his team. USC will have to slow this game down and make it a grinder, not allowing Arizona and Williams to operate at a quicker pace. The Trojans will have to contend with the #1 three point defense in the land (28%) but they should use Vucevic inside more along with Stephenson, letting Donte Smith (4-6 threes vs. Cal) do the work from the perimeter. We think USC has an excellent chance to win this game and turn the Pac 10 into a bid stealing league.
Mountain West Semifinals (at Las Vegas, NV): #10 BYU vs. New Mexico – 9 pm on CBS College Sports (***)
New Mexico beat BYU two times this season, most recently last week in Provo as the Cougars played their first game without Brandon Davies. BYU really struggled with lowly TCU yesterday while New Mexico ended Colorado State’s faint NCAA hopes. If the Cougars fall to the Lobos yet again, that will send up red flags and set off alarm bells in the Selection Committee room. We would expect BYU’s seed to take quite a hit, plus bubble teams would then have to beware of New Mexico, a possible bid stealer. Steve Alford’s team has plenty of talent and is certainly capable of winning this tournament, although they’d have to get by San Diego State or UNLV (on their home floor) in the finals tomorrow night. Drew Gordon has torched BYU in both meetings, averaging 15/14 in the two games. The 6’9 UCLA transfer has been an absolute warrior on the boards after sitting out the first semester. He’s also a reliable scorer in the post, averaging 12.6 PPG on the season. With Gordon and senior Dairese Gary leading the way, New Mexico is a formidable opponent for any Mountain West team and you could probably say they underachieved this season. They’ve played terrific defense against BYU in both meetings, allowing Jimmer Fredette to go off but holding him to under 50% shooting while limiting BYU’s supporting cast. New Mexico plays at a slower tempo but ironically both wins against BYU were played at 74 possessions, a pace even above BYU’s average of 72.2. With Davies gone, look for New Mexico to go inside to Gordon and have Gary penetrate. The Cougars are clearly not the same team without their 6’9 forward and the onus is now on Noah Hartsock to defend the paint. It would be amazing if New Mexico could beat this BYU team for the third time this season but it’s very possible.
Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): #12 Wisconsin vs. Penn State – 9 pm on Big Ten Network (***)
Penn State has to win this game to have any chance at a bid on Sunday. The Nittany Lions are 17-13 overall and only have three home wins over Michigan State, Illinois and this Wisconsin team to hang their hat on. A neutral court win today over Wisconsin would keep them alive at least for another day but a loss would drive the final nail into their coffin. PSU ranks #323 against the three pointer and that will be a major problem against the Badgers, a team that shoots it often and well from deep. These teams are both comfortable in the half court, each ranked in the bottom 15 of D1 in terms of tempo. Penn State also attempts a lot of threes but doesn’t connect nearly as often, but the good news is Wisconsin’s three point defense is just as bad. The key to Penn State’s streak of solid play earlier this year was rebounding and that’s what they’re going to have to do against Wisconsin. If they can do a nice job on the boards, this game will come down to whoever makes more shots, specifically threes. While Wisconsin is better on paper, it only takes one good shooting night for the Nittany Lions to have a chance. For those of you not concerned about the tournament and bubbles (and those who are for that matter), the matchup between Jordan Taylor and Talor Battle is something we’d pay to see.
Big East Semifinals (at New York, NY): #4 Notre Dame vs. #14 Louisville – 9:30 pm on ESPN (****)
We admit it, we totally bombed (in the worst possible way) on yesterday’s prediction of a Cincinnati over Notre Dame upset. The Fighting Irish pulverized the Bearcats by 38 points last night at MSG and made a strong statement that they should be considered for a #1 seed. Louisville rolled past a fatigued Marquette team in the nightcap to set up an interesting showdown this evening. The Cardinals took ND to overtime in South Bend on February 9 before falling and they certainly can matchup with the red hot Irish. When Preston Knowles and Louisville are hot, they can match Notre Dame point for point from the three point arc. That’s what Rick Pitino will be hoping for but a strong defensive game plan can get the Cardinals a win here. Notre Dame does a great job protecting the ball but Louisville’s defense is more physical and more efficient than the Irish. It’s unlikely they’ll force Notre Dame into many turnovers but the Louisville defenders can really bother Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis in the half court. Playing at Madison Square Garden, Notre Dame’s home free throw advantage won’t happen, although the Cardinals do foul a lot. Louisville matched the Irish almost point for point last time and can certainly win this game with a solid offensive performance. They have to do better on the glass however, making Terrence Jennings a really important player in this game.
Big 12 Semifinals (at Kansas City, MO): #7 Texas vs. #25 Texas A&M – 9:30 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)
Texas absolutely dominated both meetings between these teams in the regular season so it would be a surprise if A&M wins, even going up against Texas for the third time. A couple of losses and shaky defensive games caused some concern about Rick Barnes and his team but they rebounded nicely with two defensive gems against Baylor last week and Oklahoma yesterday. Texas held both teams to 54 points and dominated the boards in each game. This game is all about seeding as both teams are obviously in the field of 68. Texas A&M has to come up with some way to score but they also have to keep Texas in check on the offensive end. We’re not sure if the Aggies can win this game if Texas scores at least 65 points.
ACC Quarterfinals (at Greensboro, NC): Florida State vs. Virginia Tech – 9:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)
There were some rumors in the twitter world yesterday that Chris Singleton would return tonight for Florida State but we haven’t seen anything to confirm. If he does, that presents a tremendous challenge for Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech, trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Step one was to beat Georgia Tech and the Hokies took care of them easily, not messing around at all with the Yellow Jackets. Florida State is a different animal because of their defense, especially if Singleton plays. Even if he doesn’t, the Seminoles are still a potent defensive team. Virginia Tech actually beat Florida State in Blacksburg way back on January 8, a game Singleton did play in. The Hokies had lost two straight heading into the ACC tournament but seemed to provide themselves with some confidence by beating Georgia Tech yesterday. Virginia Tech struggled to shoot in the first meeting with FSU but forced 19 turnovers and got to the foul line 37 times, making 34. Jeff Allen had 24/11 to lead his team while Singleton added 22 for the ‘Noles. Virginia Tech is #2 in ACC play in free throw rate while Florida State ranks #10 out of 12 in defensive free throw rate. Getting to the line, especially against a great defense like FSU, is crucial for Virginia Tech in this game. If they don’t, the Hokies have to hope they hit shots or else they’ll be headed out of Greensboro with a nervous upcoming 48 hours to deal with.
Mountain West Semifinals (at Las Vegas, NV): #8 San Diego State @ UNLV – 11:30 pm on CBS College Sports (****)
This will be one heck of a game in an incredible atmosphere at the Thomas and Mack Center on UNLV’s campus. The Runnin’ Rebels played San Diego State to within six points in two meetings this year and will have a strong home crowd advantage this evening. UNLV has some strength up front to compete with Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White and they’re going to have to win this game inside. UNLV is not a good three point shooting team, although Oscar Bellfield checks in at 38.2% on the year and has been making plenty of triples in recent games. Both teams are solidly in the NCAA Tournament but the Aztecs still have a chance for a very high seed if they can win the conference tournament. UNLV will look to push the pace and create turnovers, ranking #11 in defensive turnover percentage. Consistency from Chace Stanback would also be a welcome development for Lon Kruger as his junior wing has been stuck in a stretch of games over the last month where he’ll go for a double-double or shoot poorly and be a non-factor. UNLV has come very close against the Aztecs this year and they just might break through on the biggest stage tonight. Both teams have a lot to play for when you consider NCAA seeding and that should make for a terrific game late tonight in Vegas.