Set Your TiVo: 01.12.12Posted by bmulvihill on January 12th, 2012
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Tonight we’ll see two match-ups that may be previews to conference championship games in the ACC and the WCC. All four teams are in the RTC Top 25 and both games should be fantastic. Let’s take a look at how things break down.
#19 Virginia at #8 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (****)
- Virginia has only lost one time this season and is looking for its 13th consecutive win. Playing at Duke will be UVA’s toughest test of the season. The Cavaliers play at a sloth’s pace. While their offense is nothing more than average, their defense has been stellar. They are holding teams to 27% from beyond the arc and are in the top 10 in the country in defensive rebounding. Although offense is not the Cavaliers’ strong suit, 6’8″ forward Mike Scott is one of the most effective scorers and rebounders in the country. Considering how slowly Virginia plays, Scott should be considered one of the top big men in the country. Keep a close eye on how he matches up with Duke’s Mason Plumlee. It should be a great battle between two future NBA forwards.
- Duke still possesses one of the top offenses in the country. The Blue Devils shoot an outstanding 41.7% from downtown. Much like Virginia, Duke knows how to get to the line. The free throw battle in this game will be extremely important. In both of Duke’s losses, two key statistics emerged. They did not get to the line and their opponent shot the lights out. On the season, the Dukies have a free throw rate of 51.5%, which is good for third in the nation. In losses to Ohio State and Temple, Duke had a free throw rate of 25% and 27%, respectively. Virginia does not put teams on the line, so it will be interesting to see how the free throw situation plays out.
- While it appears that this game will come down to Duke’s offense versus Virginia’s defense, the UVA offense actually may hold the key to the win. In Duke’s two losses, OSU and Temple both had an eFG of over 60%. Look to see if Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski can hit his threes. Zeglinski is the Cavaliers’ top three-point shooter, hitting 31-of-74 attempts (41.9%). Also, keep an eye on Duke’s offensive rebounding. The Cavaliers’ defense will contest Duke’s three-point shots and the Blue Devils are a poor offensive rebounding team. If Mike Krzyzewski’s squad goes one-and-done too many times, the Cavaliers could pull the upset at Cameron Indoor. However, it may be too much to expect for the Virginia offense to win in such a tough environment.
#16 Gonzaga at #25 St. Mary’s – 11:00 PM EST on ESPNU HD (****)
- Gonzaga hasn’t lost since dropping back-to-back games in early December. The Bulldogs’ front line of Robert Sacre, Sam Dower, Elias Harris is one of the strongest in the country. At 7’0”, 6’9”, and 6’7”, respectively, the Zags front line possesses a significant height advantage over St. Mary’s. Keep a close eye on how this plays out on the glass tonight. While St. Mary’s is very strong on the defensive boards, the Gonzaga front line may be tough for the Gaels to handle, much like Baylor was for them a few weeks ago.
- A key question for St. Mary’s in this game is if Randy Bennett will go with a bigger line-up to compete with the Gonzaga size. The Gaels use their bench sparingly at best, but it might be time to call on 6’9” Kenton Walker and 7’0” Kyle Rowley a bit more often in this contest. Watch the bench rotation to see how Bennett adjusts. Baylor’s size gave the Gaels big problems, so it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the Zags.
- This game could be a preview of the WCC title match come March. St. Mary’s has the offensive firepower to beat Gonzaga in Moraga. They just need to find room to make those shots against a bigger Gonzaga team. The Zags will have to utilize their size on the interior to grab offensive rebounds. If Mark Few’s team is getting a lot of second chance points, they will take down St. Mary’s on their home court.
**** – 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