Set Your TiVo: 01.04.12Posted by EJacoby on January 4th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Huge games in the Big East and Big 12 highlight tonight’s action, along with Duke’s final non-conference test. Here’s your schedule for tonight:
#8 Duke at Temple – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)
- The Blue Devils have shockingly stayed out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, quietly handling their business in the non-conference. Perhaps the shellacking that Mike Krzyzewski’s team took in Ohio State in November was the wake-up call that this team needed, as Duke has won five straight in impressive fashion since that game. Coach K’s team is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings, boasting the nation’s third-best true shooting percentage (60.6%) and eighth-best points per possession statistic (1.16 PPP), amongst many other impressive offensive numbers. As Austin Rivers continues to improve his decision-making and efficiency offensively, Duke gets harder to defend. The freshman is now up to a team-leading 15.4 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three. If Rivers can penetrate the Owls’ defense to create good looks for the other Duke guards and himself, Duke will be in good shape.
- Temple is an elite perimeter defensive team, where the Owls hold opponents to shoot 25.6% from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Against a Duke team that loves to shoot the three, guarding the perimeter will again be priority number one in this game. In addition, Temple is strong with the ball and their 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-30 national number, far better than Duke’s 1.02 ratio. By limiting their opponent’s long-range makes and winning the turnover battle, Temple will seek to gain an advantage at home. Their trio of guards Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Khalif Wyatt, all at 13.3 PPG or better, will look to neutralize Duke’s own trio in the scoring department. However, their best big man Michael Eric remains out with a knee injury, which could spell trouble against Duke’s 6’10” Plumlee brothers.
- Duke is a seven-point favorite in this game and will be well-prepared in their final non-conference game. But the Blue Devils haven’t played a road game since their blowout loss at OSU, and Temple has the guards to match Duke. With Eric missing down low, Temple is without a key defensive cog, but they’ve been playing without him for over a month. Expect a hard fought game in Philly.
#17 Marquette at #9 Georgetown- 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (****)
- Marquette has lost two of their last four games and has had major troubles scoring from the perimeter. Vander Blue is the main culprit, as the talented sophomore guard is averaging just four points per game during this stretch. The Golden Eagles need more from Blue to help out their star and leading-scorer Darius Johnson-Odom (18 PPG). Buzz Williams’ team is always strong at sharing the ball, and this year is no different with Marquette at 17.4 assists per game, good for ninth in the nation. The Golden Eagles will need to be especially good at moving the ball against Georgetown’s defense that will give them several looks including extended zones. Marquette plays the kind of tough defense and patient offense that could be a winning formula on the road.
- Georgetown is perhaps the country’s biggest surprise and the Hoyas have been playing great basketball all season. Coming off a huge road win in Louisville last week, John Thompson III’s team is now deservedly ranked in the top 10. We know the Hoyas’ story; their Princeton-style offense is producing some of the most efficient offense in the country (their 1.13 points per possession is ranked 18th), while also milking clock and disrupting their opponents’ offensive tempo. Henry Sims has gotten the publicity as the senior point-forward that makes the offense go, but it’s the young role players that have stepped up and made the Hoyas a complete team. Sophomore guard Markel Starks has been shooting the lights out recently and is now up to 47% from three while scoring 10.2 points per game. Freshman forward Otto Porter has been a consistent contributor across the board and does not look like a rookie out there. Against Louisville, in his first ever Big East game, Porter hit four clutch free throws in a row in the final two minutes of the game to seal the road victory. Georgetown is firing on all cylinders right now.
- The Hoyas are still not getting the full respect of a top 10 team and are just four-point favorites at home in this one. Marquette, however, has what it takes to make this a close game that could go either way. This should be a classic Big East battle between two tough defensive teams. I give the edge to the Hoyas, who are playing much better offensively.
#21 Kansas State at #13 Kansas- 8:00PM EST on ESPN3.com (****)
- If you haven’t heard much about Kansas State this season, that’s going to change in a hurry. The surprising Wildcats play at Kansas tonight before returning home for undefeated Missouri on Saturday. A split of those two games would be a huge success, though coach Frank Martin is only focused on tonight’s rivalry game in the unfriendly confines of Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State has put together an 11-1 record as one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams. It is simply not easy to score on the Wildcats in the half court. K-State holds opponents to a 41% effective field goal percentage, fifth-best in the country, while blocking shots at a top-30 national rate and limiting teams to an awful 0.59 assist-to-turnover ratio, ranked 14th nationally. The Wildcats also are ranked sixth in total rebounds per game. They will need to manufacture consistent offense, as well, if they want to pull off the upset tonight. Rodney McGrudger, Will Spradling, Jamar Samuels, and Thomas Gipson all average in double figure scoring per game, and Samuels will be leaned on heavily to score inside and try to get the Kansas bigs in foul trouble.
- Kansas is not the same high-flying offensive unit as the past couple of years, and their weaknesses were exposed in a home loss to Davidson two weeks ago. However, Thomas Robinson remains one of the leading candidates for National Player of the Year as a truly dominant interior force on both ends. This might be the kind of tough, defensive game where Robinson is the star on both ends that can lead his team to a win. Important for Kansas will be how point guard Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the ball against the K-State D, as Taylor has handled it well recently but still averages nearly four turnovers per game. The KU defense has been stellar all season, as well, holding opponents to 0.86 points per possession while crashing the boards on both ends.
- Allen Fieldhouse might be the most advantageous home court in college basketball, therefore KU is rightfully pegged as a nine-point favorite despite the two teams seeming more evenly matched. A fired up Kansas team should take care of business against their in-state rivals, but this is going to be a flat out war on the boards between two strong rebounding teams. This game will certainly be worth streaming on ESPN3.
***** – 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