Set Your TiVo: 11.25.11Posted by Brian Otskey on November 25th, 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.
Preseason tournaments continue to roll on with the NIT Season Tip-Off championship as well as semifinal action at the Old Spice and 76 Classic along with the Battle 4 Atlantis. Although we don’t know the championship matchups in those tournaments, be sure to check out the finals at Atlantis on Saturday and the Old Spice and 76 Classic on Sunday for those TBD games.
Minnesota vs. Indiana State (at Orlando, Florida) – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN (**)
- The Golden Gophers escaped an upset-minded DePaul team on Thursday afternoon behind another double-double from Trevor Mbakwe, his fourth in five games. Against an Indiana State team that is better than DePaul, Minnesota must assert itself inside, protect the ball and defend better. Tubby Smith’s team has a huge height advantage over the Sycamores, especially with swingman Rodney Williams standing at 6’7”. The potential is there for Williams to have a huge game given his size and athleticism. Indiana State can rotate taller players in off its bench but Minnesota has more than enough talent in the paint to play well. However, the Gophers can’t afford 17 turnovers and a 1-9 night from three point range again as they did against DePaul.
- The major concern for Greg Lansing has to be rebounding the basketball against a team with lots of strength and size up front. Indiana State was out-rebounded and out-shot by Texas Tech but forced 18 Red Raider turnovers and got to the foul line 31 times. The Sycamores shoot 78% from the stripe and must use that to their advantage against a Minnesota team with an awful defensive free throw rate (#249). With sophomore point guard Jake Odum breaking down the defense and finding open players, that shouldn’t be a big problem given Minnesota’s propensity to foul. Indiana State shoots 37.1% from three point land as a unit with Jordan Printy taking the majority of those shots and converting 38.5% of the time. ISU must make threes because it is not going to have an easy time scoring inside against Minnesota’s size.
- For the Sycamores to pull the upset, we feel they have to play a zone. Going to a zone is risky when your team has trouble rebounding to begin with but it may be their best bet. If Indiana State can pack its defense in the paint and limit the Gophers inside, that’ll force the Minnesota guards to jack up deep shots, something they’re not particularly good at. Playing a zone also minimizes foul trouble, a huge issue with only three major contributors over 6’8” on the Indiana State roster. It sounds simple but this game should come down to whichever team can execute its game plan better: inside scoring for Minnesota and three pointers plus solid interior defense for Indiana State.
#19 Florida State vs. Harvard (at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas) – 4:30 PM EST on Versus (***)
- In recent years the name of the game for Leonard Hamilton and Florida State has been defense. The Seminoles finished #1 in the nation in defensive efficiency in each of the past two seasons and look to be well on their way towards contending for that spot again. Against Harvard, FSU must limit a deliberate but efficient offensive system. Florida State held UMass to 27.9% from the floor and an abysmal 2-23 from three point range in addition to forcing 22 Minutemen turnovers. With a massive front line of Okaro White, Bernard James and Xavier Gibson plus Jon Kreft and Terrance Shannon off the bench, Florida State has the defensive credentials needed to stop the Crimson’s front court strength. The Seminoles block shots at a high rate and boast the #5 three point percentage defense just for good measure. It’ll be extremely difficult for Harvard to score against this well-oiled defensive machine.
- Harvard certainly has a major challenge in front of itself but they boast the #17 two-point percentage offense in the land behind forwards Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. The Crimson obliterated Utah on Thursday night but shot a pedestrian 44.3% from the floor. That won’t cut it against the Seminoles today. Harvard did a nice job protecting the ball against Utah and it will have to do so again. Florida State’s Achilles heel is turnovers (18 per game) but the Crimson must reduce its 23.3% turnover rate to hold a significant edge in turnover margin. Rebounding will be a major issue for Harvard despite its solid offensive rebounding percentage. Barring the unexpected on FSU’s front line, Harvard will have to win the game from the three point line in spite of FSU’s terrific perimeter defense.
- Harvard is a very good basketball team but a lot of the things it does well (offensive rebounding, two point percentage) are also parts of the game FSU excels at. The Crimson defense must step up in a big way or else the Seminoles will suffocate them all night. We’re not saying Harvard can’t win but the matchup is very favorable for Florida State. Harvard will likely win the Ivy League, getting Tommy Amaker back to the NCAA Tournament for his first time since 2000 while giving the school its first bid since 1946 but this would be a great win to pick up should Princeton, Pennsylvania or Yale surprise the Crimson in league play and an at-large berth is necessary. That said, Florida State is the pick here.
#5 Syracuse vs. Stanford (at New York, New York) – 5:00 PM EST on ESPN (***)
- The Orange got off to a slow start against Virginia Tech on Wednesday evening but, as all good teams seem to do, they flipped the switch and looked like the top five team they are in the second half. Syracuse is a highly efficient team on both ends of the floor with an incredibly deep bench. Jim Boeheim’s zone is practically impenetrable in the paint, ranked #1 in block percentage and #5 in offensive rebounding percentage. This will be Syracuse’s sternest test to date. Stanford ranks in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, can score in the paint and clear the boards well on the defensive end. Fab Melo appears to be a different player this season and he’ll have to prove it tonight by anchoring the middle of the zone against Stanford’s Josh Owens. He hit his first nine shots in the Cardinal’s blowout win over Oklahoma State and may be one of the best big men Syracuse will see all year. To win, the Orange must stick to what they do best: dominate the paint and score in transition with Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters leading the way. Stanford will try to make this a half court game so Syracuse must try to speed it up at every opportunity.
- Johnny Dawkins appears to be slowly but surely building Stanford back to respectability. The Cardinal have done a terrific job defending, scoring inside and rebounding through five games. With Aaron Bright adding his 51.9% three point percentage to date to the mix, Stanford may be able to get into the Pac-12 mix. To put itself on the national radar and upset Syracuse, Stanford must come up with a spectacular defensive performance by establishing a slower pace and moving the ball well offensively against the zone. Owens has to work hard for position in the post, leading to kick outs for Bright and others or a few open looks for himself around the basket. Stanford’s back court, specifically Chasson Randle (3.0 turnovers per game), must do a better job protecting the ball because Syracuse will extend its zone out at times searching for turnovers to fuel its transition game. The Cardinal does not have the talent of Syracuse but it is a well-coached group with good chemistry. Playing 3,000 miles away against a terrific team with thousands of supporters in the stands, Stanford has to show a lot of poise to have a chance to pull the upset.
- Stanford plays a smart, deliberate brand of basketball. That’s a good combination against a Syracuse team that can sometimes get too far ahead of itself. The talent edge obviously resides with the Orange but that’s not always the determining factor, especially early in the season. We feel Stanford has a puncher’s chance tonight but the team is going to have to play its best game yet in order to pull it off in what effectively amounts to a road game. Owens was spectacular against Oklahoma State and that must continue tonight against the Syracuse big men. Stanford can match Syracuse from the three point arc so look for this game to come down to rebounding, interior play and pace.
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