Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 2012
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.
It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.
Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)
- The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
- Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
- For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.
#22 Virginia at LSU – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)
- This is a tricky game for Virginia. LSU knocked off Marquette a few weeks ago in Baton Rouge, plus the Tigers have a pretty strong defense just like the Cavaliers. The big key for Virginia will be to control the pace and keep this game in the half court as much as possible. With an offense ranked #211 in efficiency, LSU can’t win this game in the half court. Being patient and running good sets against a Tigers defense that will be looking for steals and turnovers is important for Virginia’s guards, specifically Sammy Zeglinski and Jontel Evans. One of Virginia’s strengths is getting to the free throw line where it shoots 73.3% as a team. Good guard play will enable the Cavaliers to get to the stripe.
- Controlling Virginia big man Mike Scott (16.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG) is LSU’s most pressing concern in this game. The Tigers have the height to do it with Johnny O’Bryant and Justin Hamilton anchoring their interior defense. If Trent Johnson gets a solid defensive game out of those guys, LSU has a good chance to spring the upset. LSU needs to be aggressive at all times, whether it’s with a full court press or solid defense in the half court. If the Tigers can’t generate turnovers and speed up this game, they will have an incredibly difficult time winning.
- Virginia has won four straight road games, but getting that fifth may be tougher than some think. LSU isn’t a bad team and has confidence having already beaten Marquette. If LSU can neutralize Scott inside and do a good job on Zeglinski and Joe Harris outside, it will have a chance at home. With Andre Stringer’s status still uncertain, Anthony Hickey and Ralston Turner must have good games for the Tigers. Hickey has to set up the offense and the Tigers have to be much more efficient than the statistics suggest. Virginia is the better basketball team, but LSU should be in this game to the end in what should be a low scoring affair.
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