Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 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.
Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:
#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)
- Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
- Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
- This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
#9 Missouri at Iowa State – 8:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com (***)
- Previously undefeated Missouri was embarrassed over the weekend in front of a raucous Kansas State crowd, and tonight’s environment will be no different in Ames, Iowa. Mizzou still enters this game as the most efficient offense in the country, scoring a tremendous 1.24 points per possession. But against Kansas State, all five of their strong guards shot 40% from the field or worse, and their lone interior threat Ricardo Ratliffe played just 14 minutes due to foul trouble. The Tigers learned their lesson and need to keep Ratliffe on the floor to keep the defense honest. Expect Marcus Denmon (18.7 PPG), Kim English (15.4 PPG) and company to shoot better against an Iowa State defense that is not nearly as strong in the half court as Kansas State.
- Iowa State has quietly become a legitimate team in the Big 12, and a win tonight would make a serious statement for us to consider the Cyclones as a Top 25 team. They go deep with nine players that average at least 11 minutes and score four points per game. Royce White, the transfer from Minnesota, is simply a beast down low and leads this team in points (12.9), rebounds (9.3), assists (4.2), and blocks (1.3) per game while shooting over 53% from the floor. If White gets Ratliffe into foul trouble again, he could have his way against the thin Mizzou front line. The Cyclones don’t force many turnovers or block shots effectively, so they’ll need to play disciplined defense in the half court and not allow transition baskets if they want to contain Missouri’s scoring machine.
- Coach Fred Hoiberg has done a great job with Iowa State, who’s on a seven-game winning streak including wins vs. Texas and a blowout victory at Texas A&M in its last two conference games. They will have a great opportunity to put themselves on the national radar tonight, but there’s no way Missouri will lay down like they did in their last game. I give the Tigers and their efficient scoring the edge in this matchup against a team who doesn’t thrive at stopping its kind of game.
***** – 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