Set Your TiVo: 01.16.12Posted by Brian Otskey on January 16th, 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.
The first official “Big Monday” of the year kicks off in a big way with four games on ESPN starting at 3:30 PM EST. We have previewed the two big ones below. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
#17 Louisville at #21 Marquette – 3:30 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Marquette has struggled in the first half of its last three games, but it should look to come out with great energy against Louisville, an old Conference USA rival that moved to the Big East with Marquette in 2005. The Golden Eagles have won two straight games with strong second half efforts, but the key in this game will be jumping on the Cardinals from the start. Marquette likely won’t be able to score easily against Louisville’s #12 defense but Marquette can create advantages in other areas. Look for Marquette to push the pace and try to score in transition. The Golden Eagles will likely be out-rebounded so a significant turnover margin in their favor could propel them to a lot of points in transition. Louisville ranks #224 in defensive free throw rate and Marquette shoots 70.5% from the charity stripe. Creating turnovers and getting to the line will take care of any disadvantage on the glass. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder do the bulk of the offensive work for the home squad, which averages nine steals per game.
- The Cardinals really struggle to shoot the basketball as they are ranked #137 in offensive efficiency. To win this game on the road, Louisville will have to put forth one of its best defensive efforts of the season along with crashing the offensive glass when it has the ball. With Gorgui Dieng inside and a number of guards that aren’t afraid to rebound, Rick Pitino’s team has the toughness needed to get second chances around the bucket. It would be nice for the Cardinals if Russ Smith had another game like the 25-point performance on Saturday against DePaul. Smith has been inconsistent, but when he scores he really goes off. A better offensive game from Peyton Sivawould significantly help Louisville’s chances as well. He hasn’t been all that impressive in Big East play, but a smart game from their point guard will make Louisville much tougher to beat. If the Cardinals aren’t turning the ball over, they can control the pace and make it harder for Marquette to score.
- Louisville has won six of the past seven games in this series, but may be without its leading scorer, Kyle Kuric. He sprained an ankle last week in practice and his status is questionable for today’s game. If he plays, Louisville won’t have to rely as heavily on the Smith’s for offensive production. In addition to DJO and Crowder, Buzz Williams needs a third scorer to emerge on a consistent basis. Todd Mayo can be that guy, shooting 48% in Marquette’s wins and only 33% in its losses. When Mayo and/or Vander Blue are contributing, the Golden Eagles are one of the tougher teams in America to beat. A smart game plan by Louisville would be to go after those two defensively and try to prevent them from getting touches. Johnson-Odom and Crowder will get their points, but shutting down Marquette’s ancillary pieces is the key to beating them. Louisville was blown out at Providence last week but we expect a better showing this time. Marquette is the favorite, but Louisville could make this a very close game.
#5 Baylor at #10 Kansas – 9:30 PM EST on ESPN (*****)
- After hanging 106 points on Oklahoma State on Saturday, Baylor will make the quick turnaround to Kansas tonight. The Bears remain undefeated at 17-0 but this will likely be their toughest game to date. Kansas can match Perry Jones III (19/12 vs. Iowa State) inside with Thomas Robinson, but the Bears have a lot more depth than the Jayhawks. Playing on the road, ball handling will be paramount for Scott Drew and his team. Pierre Jackson has struggled with 3.6 turnovers per game but the dynamic guard makes things happen for this team. Balancing Jackson’s playmaking abilities with his turnover problems will be highly important for the Bears tonight. Offensively the Bears have to get to the charity stripe and make threes. Baylor shoots 73% from the line and has a sniper from the arc in Brady Heslip (48% 3pt FG).
- Kansas ranks fifth nationally in two-point percentage defense, but it is going to have to defend the arc in order to win. As we mentioned, Heslip is an assassin from deep and can take over the game when he gets hot. Kansas may be forced to extend its defense at times but the Jayhawks have to be careful not to allow anything easy in the paint. With Jones III, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller also roaming the paint, the Bears have many options to feed in the post. When Bill Self’s team has the ball, the Jayhawks need to feed Robinson early and often and see what he can do against Baylor’s length up front. If Robinson can score some early points and rack up fouls on the Baylor big men, Kansas will be off to a great start. Good guard play out of Tyshawn Taylor (28 points vs. Iowa State), Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson is really important for Kansas as well, both in terms of scoring as well as protecting the basketball. Baylor has a deeper front court so the Jayhawk guards must be hitting from the outside to open it up for Robinson around the basket.
- This is certainly the game of the day, and possibly the year, in the Big 12. Baylor is 4-0 in true road games but that will be put to a significant test at the Phog. If Baylor doesn’t turn it over, the Bears will be in prime position to earn another hard fought road victory in one of the toughest places to play. The Bears have already won at BYU and Kansas State so they have proven they can do it. However, Kansas will be ready to play and pumped up for this game, one that could very well have Big 12 title implications. We feel rebounding will probably decide this game. Both teams have front court talent, but whoever owns the glass may come out on top. Baylor may be the better team on paper, but Kansas having the home court advantage makes this game a toss-up. Sit back and enjoy this one because it has the potential to be one of the best games of the college basketball season.
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