Set Your TiVo: Marathon of Hoops EditionPosted by bmulvihill on November 15th, 2011
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Twenty-four straight hours of college hoops is the dream scenario for those of us who are diehard fans of the sport. Fortunately, it’s not a dream as ESPN brings back its Tip-Off Marathon for the fourth consecutive season. Games got started at 12:01 AM EST this morning and go all the way till approximately 1:00 AM EST later tonight. If you can’t sit in front of your TV for all twenty-four plus hours, then make sure you at least watch these four games.
Belmont @ #14 Memphis – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)
- Memphis brings high expectations into the 2011-12 season (Coaches Poll #9). They return all five starters from last year’s team, several key reserves, and add McDonald’s All-American Adonis Thomas. Josh Pastner has put together an incredible amount of talent that is going to get a stiff test in its first game of the season against an experienced Belmont team. The Tigers need to greatly improve their turnover percentage (21.9% in 2010-11), three point shooting (32.9% in 2010-11), and defensive rebounding percentage (34.3% in 2010-11) in order to live up to those lofty expectations this season. Pastner’s squad showed promise on the defensive end last year ranking 23rd and 25th in block percentage and steal percentage, respectively. They need to maintain that defensive toughness while still trying to improve on the offensive end.
- Belmont gave Duke all it could handle last Friday night in the opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 77-76. Turnovers (17), missed threes (6-19), and the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee’s great work on the defensive glass (10 defensive rebounds) proved to be the difference. Still, the Bruins showed excellent offensive balance in the loss with five players scoring in double figures. Although the FedEx Forum is another difficult place to play, it’s a bit closer to home for Rick Byrd’s team and they have already experienced the ruckus of the Cameron Crazies. Belmont needs to get off to a better start from the three-point line and limit turnovers to have a chance in this one.
- This game will hinge on turnovers and second-chance points. Belmont forced Duke to turn the ball over 19 times in the first game and ranked second in the nation last season in defensive turnover percentage. As previously mentioned, Memphis turns the ball over a lot. Memphis guard Joe Jackson in particular turned the ball over on 29.1% of his possessions last season. Look for the Bruins to put all kinds of pressure on a still-young Tigers team to create easy baskets. At the same time, Belmont relies heavily on second chance points. The addition of the 6’7” Thomas to the Memphis lineup should certainly improve their defensive rebounding percentage. If Thomas and the rest of the team can hit the glass hard in his first game, it will limit Belmont’s chances to pull an upset on the road.
#6 Duke vs. Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (****)
- Media attention and emotions will be high for this game, as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski looks to set the all-time wins record tonight in New York against another coaching great, Tom Izzo. In just two games, the Blue Devils have shown that they have several go-to scoring options. Seth Curry (13 PPG), Mason Plumlee (13 PPG), Austin Rivers (15.5 PPG), and Ryan Kelly (14.5 PPG) are all averaging double figures. Additionally, Andre Dawkins continues to prove he can hit big shots, with a late game three-pointer against Belmont that effectively sealed the win. Plumlee has also notched a 14-rebound game and an 8-rebound game to lead Duke on the boards. It will be interesting to see if Plumlee can keep up his double-double effort against the bruising Michigan State forwards, Draymond Green and Adreian Payne.
- Michigan State had a very tough time shooting in the Carrier Classic (31% FG and 10% from three). While it is safe to say shooting should improve since they are no longer on an aircraft carrier, the Spartans are going to need a much better effort from their guards, particularly Brandon Wood. Wood was 3 for 9 shooting against North Carolina and finished with only seven points. With the Spartan offense being run by freshman point guard Travis Trice (1 for 8 in the first game), Izzo’s team is going to need a lot more from Wood while Trice gets going. Michigan State’s defense held up well against the Tar Heels giving up less than a point per possession, but it is still to be determined how much of that had to do with the environment.
- The key to this game will be Michigan State’s ability to defend against Duke’s multiple scoring threats. With Duke hitting almost half of its shots from beyond the arc, look for the Blue Devils to extend the Spartan defense and open things up on the inside for Mason and his brother Miles Plumlee and Rivers slashing to the hole. That will put a lot of pressure on Green and Payne. Green and Payne are certainly capable, leading MSU in rebounding and scoring, respectively, in the first game. However, if Duke hits the outside shot like it has in the previous two games, the Spartans could start 0-2.
#7 Florida vs. #3 Ohio State – 8:00PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)
- It is difficult to make any significant observations and assumptions from Florida’s 99-59 blowout win against Jackson State last week. The Gators shot incredibly well (59.9% eFG), caused a bunch of turnovers (23), and dominated the offensive glass (19 offensive rebounds). However, there are two glaring stats that Billy Donovan’s team needs to correct very quickly — free throw percentage and opponents three-point percentage. UF shot 53.3% from the line and let the Tigers hit 9 of 13 threes. They are going to need to improve in both of those areas to have a shot at taking down the Buckeyes in Columbus.
- Ohio State crushed Wright State 73-41 in their first game. The win came as a result of a very good defensive effort, holding the Raiders to 0.61 points per possession and causing 23 turnovers. Offensively OSU was quite mediocre, only averaging a point per possession and shooting 45% from the floor. Thad Matta’s team was the top three-point shooting team in the country last year (42.3%) and the 12th best two-point shooting team (52.9%). It will be interesting to see if the loss of David Lighty and Jon Deibler from last season’s squad will affect the teams’ shooting percentage a great deal.
- Defense will be the key to this game. Both teams have a lot of scoring options and both teams can go nine or ten deep. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger will put a lot of pressure on Florida’s Patric Young in the paint. If Young can use his 6’9”, 247-pound frame to get stops on Sullinger without help defense, Florida can win this game. Clearly easier said than done. On the other end, Florida guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario will put pressure on the Buckeye defense. Watch out for OSU guard Aaron Craft’s ability to draw charges and create steals. If he and fellow guard William Buford can lock down the Florida guards, OSU will walk away with a win.
#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Kansas – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (****)
- Kentucky freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Kyle Wiltjer all scored in double figures in their collegiate debuts last week against Marist. The 6’10” Davis scored 23 points in 23 minutes and tacked on ten rebounds and five blocks. Keep an eye on the the match-up between he and 6’10” Kansas junior forward Thomas Robinson. Robinson had 18 points and 11 boards in the Jayhawks’ opener against Towson. Each put up big numbers against inferior opponents, so it will be interesting to see what they can do against top competition.
- Kansas was actually outrebounded by Towson in its opener, 33-32. Bill Self’s squad allowed Towson to grab 42.9% of its offensive rebound opportunities. If the Tigers were a better shooting team (35% FG/38.2% eFG), the outcome could have been different. Of course the Kansas defense had something to do with Towson’s low shooting percentage, but keep in mind Towson only shot 48.8% eFG last season against CAA competition. A league in which it went 0-18. So they just cannot shoot. The Jayhawks need to crash the offensive boards hard or Davis and the Kentucky freshman will make it a long night.
- The young Wildcats did not show much weakness in their first game. In order for Kansas to win, they are going to have to force John Calipari’s team to make mistakes with pressure defense. Watch the turnover count for Kentucky. If they are turning the ball over, KU will remain in this game. However, if the Wildcats continue to hang onto the ball and exploit the offensive boards, it will be too much for Kansas to overcome.
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