Set Your TiVo: 12.27.11Posted by bmulvihill on December 27th, 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.
As we head into conference season, we will focus on two games that feature four teams that need a quality win to kick off the “second season”.
- Without point guard Travon Woodall (currently listed as a game-time decision), Pitt is a two-man team. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson have taken 41% of the teams field goal attempts. Luckily, the level of competition the team has faced since the Woodall injury has not been stellar. However, they ran into a tough Wagner team last Friday that gave the Panthers their second home loss to a mid-major team this season. Gibbs is only shooting 38.5% from two-point range and shoots an equal amount of two-point and three-point attempts (just over 100 from each). Robinson is shooting much better from inside the arc, hitting 68.9% of his two-point attempts. To grind out a few more wins prior to Woodall’s return, Jamie Dixon’s team will need to get help from someone other than Gibbs and Robinson. Keep an eye on who steps up against Notre Dame. If a third scorer does not emerge, the pressure on those two may be too much.
- Notre Dame is in desperate need of a win against a quality opponent. Through 13 games this season, they have zero wins against a school from a major conference. They have lost to Missouri, Georgia, Gonzaga, Maryland, and Indiana. While the Notre Dame offense ranks in the top 50 in efficiency, they have managed to shoot 50% eFG or under in 7 of their 13 games – going 2-5 in those games. Pitt has only allowed three of its opponents to shoot over 50% eFG. In more bad news for Mike Brey’s team, the Panthers are #1 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. Both areas are weak spots for the Irish. Since the Irish may be catching Pitt in one of its last gamess without its point guard, it is a perfect time for them to pick up a quality win at home. However, they will have to play a lot better than they have played all season.
- Notre Dame must figure out a way to hit more shots and grab more rebounds. Unfortunately, Pitt is stronger in both areas. Keep a close eye on the Panthers’ rebounding numbers and field goal defense. If they win in those areas and get some contribution from another source than Gibbs and Robinson, they will win. The Irish must keep Pitt a two-man show, if they are to have a shot in this one.
Minnesota at Illinois – 7:30PM EST on BTN HD (***)
- Minnesota has been able to overcome the loss of Trevor Mbakwe thanks to a very weak non-conference schedule, but that could change very quickly as they begin Big Ten play. The Gophers play Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, and Indiana in four of their next five games. While Tubby Smith’s team has taken care of business for the most part in the non-conference (save the Dayton loss), it will be interesting to see how his team handles a much higher level of competition. Minnesota’s bread and butter is solid two-point shooting and offensive rebounding. However, they run up against an Illini team that possesses the size to give the Gophers problems. Pay close attention to the Minnesota interior, as it will be important for them to adjust to the competition level.
- Illinois is coming off a tough loss to a very good Missouri team. While they played solid defense, the Tigers got to the line way too many times. Bruce Weber’s team is holding teams to 40.8% eFG on the season, however they are weak from beyond the arc. While Minnesota is not a great three-point shooting team, keep an eye on the number of threes they take against the Illini.
- Illinois has proven it can play solid defense against one of the top offenses in the country. This game will hinge on their ability to continue to play solid defense but limit fouls. With the Gophers being so strong on the offensive glass, the Illini will be tested in that area. The team that wins the battle down low, should win the game.
**** – 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