Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.
#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)
- One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
- Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
- This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
#15 Indiana at #16 Michigan State – 7:30PM EST on Big Ten Network (****)
- In another tremendous conference opener, the undefeated Hoosiers are taking their sharp-shooting machine into East Lansing for a major challenge. Indiana has been one of the top offensive teams in college basketball, ranking second nationally with a 1.21 points per possession average and 45.9% three-point shooting. They are fifth in field goal percentage (51.4%), fourth in offensive efficiency (120.9), fourth in free throws made (20.8 per game), and seventh in overall points per game (84.8). Indiana has five players that average double-figure scoring led by super frosh Cody Zeller’s team-leading 15.1 PPG. Zeller also leads the team in rebounding (7.2 RPG), field goal percentage (66%), steals (2.1 SPG), and blocks (1.7 BPG). Their opponent will pose a much more difficult defensive challenge tonight, and we will see if Tom Crean’s team can continue its torrid shooting pace on the road.
- Michigan State looks to have used their wild season-opening schedule as a learning experience to grow up quickly as a team. Since losing back-to-back games to North Carolina and Duke in early November, the Spartans have won 11 straight games and look like a much more complete team, especially defensively. Tom Izzo’s team holds teams to 0.85 points per possession, ninth-best in the nation. They dominate the boards with the seventh-best national rebound percentage (56.8%). Draymond Green does it all for this team and the senior is one of the most complete players in the country. He leads the team in every major category, at 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. A big game from Green at the offensive end will be necessary tonight.
- This is a perfect match-up between an efficient offensive machine and a strong defensive team. The Spartans have won 16 straight games against Indiana and are six-point favorites at home. Indiana’s starting guard Verdell Jones and key reserve Will Sheehey are both game-time decisions tonight with injuries, and their availability will be crucial if the Hoosiers want to come out of this one with a win.
#5 Baylor vs. #19 Mississippi State – 9:00PM EST on ESPN2 (****)
- Although this game is being played in the American Airlines Center in Dallas, it is a clear home-court advantage for undefeated Baylor. The Bears have been tested recently and survived overtime games against BYU and West Virginia, though tonight will be their first ranked opponent of the season. Baylor has an amazing 11(!) players averaging at least ten minutes per game as one of the deepest teams in the country in both the backcourt and frontcourt. How Scott Drew’s talented players develop their chemistry together throughout the game is always the key for this team. The Bears shoot 50.2% from the floor (ranked eighth in the country) and hold opponents to shoot 36.5% (ranked eleventh), which is a formula for victory right off the bat. Perry Jones, Quincy Miller, and Quincy Acy are as athletic a front line in the country and will give Miss State’s own talented interior major fits.
- Mississippi State continues to improve after an early-season upset at the hands of Akron. Rick Stansbury’s team has stars in the backcourt (Dee Bost) and frontcourt (Arnett Moultrie), with depth in both areas as well. Bost is averaging 17.2 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.5 steals per game as one of the most complete lead guards in the land. Moultrie, who transferred in from UTEP, has been a beast inside, leading the team with 17.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. The deep Bulldogs bench must match the Bears’ reserves in this one, lead by the X-factor freshman Deville Smith, who will have a quickness advantage against the Bears guards.
- This will be a fascinating game to watch. When each of these teams plays up to their potential, they look like top-10 squads. Both Baylor and Mississippi State are deep teams and have big-time talent in both the frontcourt and backcourt. If this game was on a true neutral floor, then it’s anyone’s game. In Dallas, I expect Baylor to extend their undefeated record and bring it into Big 12 conference play later in the week.
***** – 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