Set Your TiVo: 11.28.11Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 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.
The quality of games kicks into high gear this week with a pair of good ones to start it off.
Long Beach State at #9 Louisville – 7 PM EST on ESPNU (***)
- Louisville’s depth has taken a big hit recently with Wayne Blackshear, Mike Marra, and Peyton Siva all dealing with injuries. Siva returned from a sprained ankle Friday against Ohio in a closer than expected Cardinals win but he remains in a shooting slump. He is just 5-24 (20.8%) in three games this season but is managing to dish out six assists per contest. The Cardinals are winning games defensively as they are ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency while only putting up 67 PPG on the other end of the floor. A Long Beach State team that plays quick without much defense could be the recipe Louisville needs to gain more confidence offensively. However, Louisville must avoid turnovers against the 49ers, a team that loves to get out in transition. The Cardinals are averaging 15 turnovers per game with Siva at a shaky 3.7 per game.
- Long Beach State has lost twice on the road since winning at Pittsburgh, falling to San Diego State and Montana. The 49ers defense has not been up to par and that is hurting them significantly. They love to play at a fast pace but they are very average defensively as well as on the boards. Casper Ware going up against Siva should be a terrific match-up and he will need to carry the team all night as he did against Pittsburgh on November 16. Long Beach State is not going to get many opportunities to score against the strong Louisville defense so limiting turnovers, especially on the road, has to be its top priority. They average 15 a game but simply cannot afford that many in this game. To win, Long Beach State must play its best defensive game to date and get to the free throw line where they will have a significant edge over Louisville. Depth has to be a concern for Dan Monson, whose team only goes seven deep.
- Larry Anderson and James Ennis have a height advantage at the two and three positions against Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, but they must stay in front of their men all game. Ennis is a good on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per game, but the Louisville guards may be able to exploit Long Beach State from the three-point arc. In the paint, T.J. Robinson is a terrific rebounder but he will be going up against the 6’10” Gorgui Dieng (3.4 blocks per game) and a Louisville team that rebounds well as a unit. To earn more possessions for his team, Robinson likely has to have a big game on the glass as well as offensively. That will be extremely difficult against a Cardinals front line that allows only 33.5% shooting inside the arc. Long Beach State does have a chance to win the game but there is one major difference between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It is defense and that is why we feel the Cardinals have the ultimate edge in this game tonight.
#12 Xavier at #20 Vanderbilt – 7 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)
- This game is a good gut check for Vanderbilt, who are still without Festus Ezeli. The Commodores have looked anything but steady and a closer inspection reveals an awful two-point percentage defense ranked #286 in the country. A lot of that is likely due to the absence of Ezeli but that is not good news against a Xavier team that gets most of its points inside the three point line. In fact, Vanderbilt’s opponents get 62.8% of their point production from two-point range. The main question for Vanderbilt tonight is how they defend Tu Holloway’s penetration as well as Kenny Frease and Travis Taylor inside. The Commodores will not get away with another lackluster defensive effort against this group of Musketeers. Without Ezeli, Vanderbilt’s collection of forwards–Jeffery Taylor, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang–have to come up big on the boards against the 7′ Frease and company.
- Xavier’s biggest strength is its two-point defense that is anchored by Frease, who averages 3.5 blocks per game, but is also turnover-prone offensively (3.8 per game). Xavier allows just 38.4% shooting from two-point range and a strong defensive effort in that department could make Vanderbilt three-happy. John Jenkins (42.6% from three-point range) and the Commodores can shoot the rock, but constantly throwing defenders at Jenkins and forcing Vanderbilt’s offense to the perimeter can lead to turnovers. Brad Tinsley is a good player but he is not an elite point guard. At 15 turnovers per game, Vanderbilt is highly vulnerable if they cannot get anything going inside. We get the feeling this will be a key part of Chris Mack’s game plan.
- This game could very well come down to interior play. Vanderbilt has a huge hole to fill in the middle while Xavier has a solid anchor at the back of its defense. The Commodores have shot the ball well from inside, but facing Frease and Taylor will be a much tougher test. Xavier can also shoot the ball just as well or better from the perimeter than Vanderbilt. The Musketeers do not attempt many threes but they are hitting 42.3% of them so far. This game seems like a pretty good match-up for visiting Xavier, but they must do better from the free throw line. Neither team shoots it well from the stripe but Xavier is one of the worst in Division I in that regard. However, Holloway and Mark Lyons have percentages above 75% from the line. If those guys are living there through driving and racking up fouls on Vanderbilt’s interior defenders, that should be a very good thing for Xavier. Expect a highly competitive game that will likely be high scoring. Despite being on the road, we will give the edge to Xavier in a squeaker.
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