Set Your Tivo: Selection Sunday EditionPosted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 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.
We finally made it. It’s Selection Sunday and one of the best Championship Weeks ever played concludes today. I’d like to thank any reader out there who has read even just one of these daily features this season. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even learned something you didn’t know about a team(s) from following Set Your Tivo. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.
ACC Championship (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. #6 North Carolina – 1 pm on ESPN (*****)
The greatest rivalry in college basketball for the third time this year on the last day of the season? Sign me up. In an ACC year full of mediocrity, the two top dogs stepped up and have successfully found their way to the title game today. As you know, these teams split the regular season series with each winning on their home floor. The rubber match will be in Greensboro today, about an hour west of each campus and right in the heart of Tobacco Road.
Both teams play terrific defense, ranked in the top ten in efficiency. Duke has to slow down North Carolina’s transition game and tighten up on the defensive side of the ball as they allowed the Tar Heels to score 51 first half points in the second meeting, an 81-67 UNC win eight days ago. The Blue Devils have succeeded in the half court against North Carolina this season but Roy Williams’ team has dominated the moments in the two games where the teams were getting up and down the floor at a frenetic pace. Despite a toe injury, Nolan Smith was good to go yesterday against Virginia Tech and scored a game-high 27 points while recording six assists in Duke’s win. Smith has to run the offense smoothly and work the shot clock a bit while also using his dribble penetration skills to get into the lane and open things up while trying to draw fouls on the UNC big men. North Carolina’s height has really bothered Duke in both meetings and the Blue Devils usually resort to bombing up threes when they can’t get anything inside. They’ve struggled from deep in both games, shooting a combined 14-53 (26.4%) from distance against the Tar Heels this season. Another concern for Duke has to be Harrison Barnes. The star freshman hit for 40 points yesterday against Clemson and has really hit his stride over the last month. Barnes gives North Carolina a versatile weapon from many spots on the floor, plus they have a dynamic point guard and solid big men in the post. It seems the Tar Heels, with all of these weapons at their disposal, are headed for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. First things first, though as they try to beat Duke for the second time this season. We’ve seen plenty of captivating games this week and you can count on this being another.
SEC Championship (at Atlanta, GA): #13 Florida vs. #16 Kentucky – 1 pm on ABC (****)
These two clubs also split the season series, UK winning at Rupp and Florida winning at the O-Dome. The Gators are playing as well as anyone in the nation right now, winners in 10 of their past 11 games with the only loss coming to these Wildcats on February 26. While this is a great matchup, the main story here will be the health status of two Kentucky players. John Calipari uses six players for 92.6% of the total minutes available and two of them left late in yesterday’s win over Alabama with injuries. DeAndre Liggins was the first to go, but his injury doesn’t appear to be all that serious. Freshman Doron Lamb sprained his ankle soon after, however, and is doubtful for today’s game, according to Calipari. That leaves Kentucky with only five main contributors plus Eloy Vargas, a guy who hasn’t played more than ten minutes in a game since the February 5 loss at UF. To beat Florida, Kentucky obviously must stay out of foul trouble but they have to speed the game up at the same time. With Brandon Knight running the break and Terrence Jones and others finishing, the Wildcats are extremely dangerous in transition. They’re not too shabby in the half court either, at 39.6% three point shooting, but Calipari’s teams excel when they score in transition and get to the rim with the dribble drive offense. Florida’s success has been due in large part to their slower tempo and interior scoring, plus the play of Chandler Parsons. The senior forward is averaging 15.2 PPG and 8.2 RPG in the six games since sitting out the LSU game with a deep thigh bruise. The strong play from Parsons, timely contributions from Vernon Macklin and strong three point shooting from their guards has propelled Florida into the conversation for a two seed and has sparked some Final Four talk. Kenny Boynton has made 23 of his last 49 triples (46.9%) over six games, well above his season average of 32.3%. Florida looks inside a lot more this year but they’re very tough to beat when they can hit threes as well. Both teams still have a lot to play for in terms of seeding, especially Florida. With Kentucky’s injuries and the Gators’ hot play of late, Florida has to be the favorite in this game.
Atlantic 10 Championship (at Atlantic City, NJ): Dayton vs. Richmond – 1 pm on CBS (****)
Bubble teams, beware. In a year where we have not had a single bid thief, Dayton poses a threat to do just that on the last day of the season. Should the Flyers win this afternoon, one unlucky team is going to come tumbling out of the bracket and head to the NIT. Richmond likely sealed up a bid with their victory over Temple yesterday so bubble teams everywhere will be rooting for the Spiders to pull this one out. Dayton had lost three games in a row and five of seven coming into the conference tournament but something has clicked for Brian Gregory’s team. They blew out Massachusetts in Amherst on Tuesday before winning nail biters over Xavier and St. Joe’s the last two days in Atlantic City. The upset win over Xavier is what really got them to this point as it gave them the confidence to win a tough game against St. Joe’s yesterday and move one win away from a most unlikely NCAA berth. To win this game, Dayton is going to have to defend very well. The Spiders shoot the ball very well, especially from the perimeter. Richmond is ranked #13 nationally in three point percentage at 39.7% and attempts just under 20 treys per game. 6’10 forward Justin Harper shoots the most (and also happens to be the most accurate) for Richmond and was a first team all-conference selection. The good news for Dayton is they defend the triple very well for the most part. However, the Flyers allowed Richmond to run rampant from deep in their first and only meeting this season, a 70-61 Richmond win at Dayton. The Spiders shot 8-15 from distance in that game and held the Flyers to 34.4% overall. Spider point guard Kevin Anderson couldn’t be stopped in that game and he enters the second meeting on another tear. Anderson is averaging 18.3 PPG over his last seven and is also getting to the foul line effectively, important against a Dayton team that ranks dead last in A-10 play when it comes to defensive free throw rate. Dayton has talent but they’re not a team that shoots well at all. The Flyers are awful inside the arc, near the bottom of D1 in two point percentage. Chris Wright is having a nice season (17/15 against St. Joe’s) but this Dayton team is at their best when Chris Johnson and Paul Williams are hitting outside shots. That forces opposing defenses to guard further out and can open up the floor inside a bit. Freshman point guard Juwan Staten averages 5.7 APG and must fuel Dayton’s transition game today. If the Flyers get sucked into a half court, plodding type game, Richmond should be able to win.
Big Ten Championship (at Indianapolis, IN): #1 Ohio State vs. Penn State – 3:30 pm on CBS (****)
It’s been quite a run for Penn State at the Big Ten tournament this week, likely cementing a bid with three wins in three days, including a pair of quality victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State. While there are still some who question their legitimacy for a bid, Penn State can put all the doubters to rest with an upset win this afternoon to take the Big Ten’s automatic berth. The #1 Buckeyes beat Penn State two times this year in totally different ways. The Nittany Lions only lost by three in the first meeting in Columbus but Jon Diebler went bananas from deep in State College, making 10 of 12 triples en route to an easy 22-point Ohio State win. Penn State has had a tough time defending Ohio State this year as their best job was “holding” them to 49% shooting in Columbus. The Nittany Lions shot the ball well themselves in both meetings, but not from deep. Penn State is shooting 64.1% inside the arc in the two games against the Buckeyes but rebounding has determined their competitiveness. Penn State was plus-10 on the boards in the close loss on the road but minus-13 in the home blowout. A good sign for Ed DeChellis is that his team has held their three opponents in Indy well under 60 points, including the 33 scored by Wisconsin on Friday. Penn State ranks #285 against the three but they absolutely can compete in this game if they bring a strong effort on the defensive end. That’s asking a lot against the potent Ohio State offense but it can be done. Penn State has some talent inside, along with Talor Battle outside. Guard play (Battle and Tim Frazier) won yesterday’s game for the Nittany Lions but they need something inside today if they hope to upset the Buckeyes. Battle and Frazier combined for 47 of their 61 points yesterday against Michigan State and while that would help greatly against Ohio State, this game will be won or lost inside through post scoring and rebounding. Penn State must rebound and shoot well to have a chance here, their fourth game in as many days.