Set Your TiVo: 11.14.11Posted by Brian Otskey on November 14th, 2011
Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Two games from the ESPN marathon highlight tonight’s slate but don’t sleep on a potential upset special in South Bend and a power conference battle in LA.
Detroit @ Notre Dame – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***) (cross-posted on RTC Live)
- Point guard Eric Atkins carried the Fighting Irish to victory in their first game this season, one of four (including tonight) without senior forward Tim Abromaitis, currently sitting out due to a suspension. The sophomore Atkins poured in 27 points on 6-7 FG (along with six assists) in a win over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday. Against star Detroit point guard Ray McCallum, Atkins will have to protect the ball and run the offense effectively against a hungry Titans squad looking to upset a Big East squad on its home floor. As a result, Atkins’ scoring opportunities may be reduced. Without Abromaitis, Notre Dame is very thin and must turn to Scott Martin for a big offensive output. If Martin or Atkins is held in check, the Irish could be looking at their first loss in only their second game of the season.
- Detroit’s offense is loaded with scoring threats from McCallum to Chase Simon and Nick Minnerath, among others. While McCallum deservedly gets most of the press, Minnerath and his front court teammate, LaMarcus Lowe, could be the difference in this game. Notre Dame has a collection of 6’5” and 6’6” type guys on its roster with only Jack Cooley and Mike Broghammer providing any kind of bulk in the paint. The Titans have a chance to really take advantage of the mismatch in the lane and offset any advantages Notre Dame may have elsewhere. Detroit and Notre Dame play at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of pace. Expect the Titans to push the pace all night, attacking Atkins defensively in search of turnovers and easy basket opportunities in the open floor. With McCallum’s play-making ability and Atkins coming off a four turnover game, this matchup sets up well for Detroit.
- Will Mike Brey counter with the burn offense? It’s possible but Brey trusted Ben Hansbrough to run that for all 40 minutes last season. He’s no longer around so we doubt Brey will use it all game with a sophomore point guard. You may see it at times, especially if Detroit picks up a lot of easy buckets early, but the Irish just need to execute their normal half court offense and avoid turnovers. Pace, rebounding and defense will be what to watch for in this game. Cooley had ten rebounds last time out and a repeat performance may be needed for the Irish to avoid a loss. Neither team has a reputation for defending well so this could be a high scoring game. With Abromaitis out, Detroit may actually have more weapons to turn to offensively. The Titans have a terrific chance to win this game on the road.
Nebraska @ USC – 10:30 PM EST on Prime Ticket (**)
- USC returns only one starter from last year’s team, Maurice Jones. At 5’7”, Jones has trouble getting his shot off and it showed against Cal State Northridge on Friday, going 0-7 (a major part of USC’s 0-15) from deep. It won’t get easier against Doc Sadler’s defense. USC is going to have to score points inside to win this game. Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller can do that but the Cornhuskers ranked #6 in two point defense last season. Kevin O’Neill also has to find some way for his team to rebound since Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson are no longer in LA. Nebraska outrebounded South Dakota 42-24 in its Friday victory.
- Sadler believes his team could surprise in its first season as a Big Ten member. As long as they play defense on the level they did last year, we can’t argue with his assessment. Nebraska also has capable guards in Caleb Walker and Toney McCray, each fairly good shooters from the three-point line. With Jorge Brian Diaz and Brandon Ubel in the middle, Nebraska actually has a balanced offense that fits well in the Big Ten. While they aren’t as talented as some other conference foes, the Cornhuskers should be very competitive. Against USC, that balance could come in handy. The Trojans need to prove they can hit an outside shot so expect some zone from the Huskers and a defense anchored in the lane. If USC can’t hit outside shots tonight, Nebraska’s interior defense and rebounding will carry the team to victory.
- This will be a very low scoring game. Both teams play at a snail’s pace and each is solid defensively. Nebraska is on the road but we think they’re the better team in this matchup. It should be a close game either way but the edge goes to the Cornhuskers, especially considering the Trojans no longer have the services of Jio Fontan (injury).
Washington State @ #21 Gonzaga – 12:00 AM EST on ESPN (***)
- Mark Few has a loaded team yet again in Spokane, perhaps his best chance to make a run in March. Not many teams have a better front court than Gonzaga but the most significant part of this team may finally be solidified. With Marquise Carter, David Stockton and Kevin Pangos in the back court, the Bulldogs now have some stability. Against a Washington State team searching for a scorer in the post-Klay Thompson era, that could be a huge advantage tonight. However, the Zags’ biggest advantage is up front. Wazzu is limited in the post with only Brock Motum as a key returnee. Look for Robert Sacre and Elias Harris to take full advantage this evening.
- As mentioned, Wazzu begins life without Klay Thompson (and DeAngelo Casto) tonight, their two best players from last year. This is now a team run primarily by Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden. While they’ve proven their worth, this is an awful matchup for the Cougars. They don’t have enough depth or talent to deal with Gonzaga up front and the back court matchup is even or slightly favors the Zags. Washington State didn’t rebound well last season and that’s definitely not going to get any better with the departures of Thompson and Casto (12 RPG combined). Playing a rivalry game on the road in a hostile environment will only make matters worse for Ken Bone’s team.
- It’s really hard to see Washington State staying in this game for long. Gonzaga simply has too much depth and talent for the Cougars to deal with. However, this is a rivalry game between two teams who know each other well out there in eastern Washington. Crazy things can happen in these types of games but there is no legitimate reason why Gonzaga shouldn’t win this game on its home court.
Northern Iowa @ St. Mary’s – 2:00 AM EST on ESPN (***) (cross-posted on RTC Live)
- St. Mary’s returns pretty much everyone from last year’s 25-win team but Mickey McConnell is no longer in Moraga. They’ll miss his three-point marksmanship but the Gaels have plenty of talent to make another run at the WCC title. They can’t afford to take Northern Iowa lightly as the Panthers recently won at Old Dominion and held the Monarchs to 27.3% shooting in the process. St. Mary’s has more experience than a relatively young Northern Iowa team and should turn its outside shooting prowess into a huge advantage against the Panthers, #300 in three-point defense a year ago. Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones will be the go-to guys for the Gaels but Randy Bennett runs a highly efficient offense all around that will be tough for Northern Iowa to defend in their second consecutive tough road game. Stephen Holt had ten assists and Jones put up 25/12 in their season opening win over Fresno Pacific. The competition will obviously be stiffer tonight but that gives you an idea of what this offense can do on any given night.
- For Northern Iowa, Jake Koch and Anthony James have to continue what they did at ODU on Saturday. They’re the two leading returning scorers on this team and combined for 31 points in their last win. Now a junior, Koch has a chance to have as good of a career (or better) as his brother Adam had at UNI. Powerfully built at 6’9,” 245 lbs, Koch has breakout written all over him. He must have a big game on both ends of the floor, shutting down Jones and leading by example offensively. If Koch has a poor game, Northern Iowa can’t win this game. If Koch gets it done inside and James knocks down shots alongside Johnny Moran, Northern Iowa will be right in it. McKeon Pavilion has proven to be a tough place to win but Gonzaga has done it many times over the years. Slowing the game down and working the ball inside-out through Koch is the recipe for success tonight.
- Ben Jacobson’s team took great care of the basketball last year but they did have 17 turnovers against Old Dominion. UNI must limit its turnovers tonight in order to maximize time of possession. St. Mary’s does a good job when it comes to ball protection as well so sloppy play, especially on the road, will be the dagger for the Panthers in this game. Northern Iowa is a solid team that will work hard all game, reflecting the personality of its coach. Jacobson is a smart tactician and will come up with a good game plan for this tough turnaround game two days after UNI’s last outing (across the country, too). McKeon will be rocking for a national TV audience and we think St. Mary’s has just enough to put away the Panthers in a closer than expected game.
The Official RTC Star System
***** – 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 2014
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game