Set Your TiVo: 01.18.12Posted by EJacoby on January 18th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
There are lots of good conference matchups tonight across the country. We will give you full breakdowns of the two best games to watch, including a big-time Big East matchup early in the evening. Check the comments section for other games to track tonight!
Cincinnati at #12 Connecticut – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)
- Cincinnati is an impressive 4-1 in true road games this season, including victories at Georgia, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown. They have played at an increasingly high level and are 9-1 since the brawl against Xavier that left several players suspended. At full strength now, the Bearcats will not be intimidated in Gampel Pavilion and will look to establish their physical defense early in the game. Mick Cronin’s team gives up just 58.8 points per game on the season and is strong with the ball, averaging a +5.5 in turnover margin. On the offensive end, Sean Kilpatrick has developed into a true scorer this season (16.2 PPG) and will look to establish an inside-out game with Yancy Gates (12.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG) to put the UConn defense in a difficult position. Establishing their brand of physical game early on will give Cincinnati a chance to win another big road game.
- UConn has had their ups and downs this season, though the Huskies are still undefeated at home and have perhaps the most talented roster in the Big East. It’s looking like Ryan Boatright will not be available tonight as he’s being investigated by the NCAA, which could be a significant blow to the Huskies’ offense. The freshman, averaging about 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game, is adept at creating his own shot, but then again UConn has been dealing with suspensions and off-court issues all season and should be fine without him. Stud big man Andre Drummond continues to improve and gain confidence, averaging 15 points, 12 boards, and 2.5 blocks in his previous two games. Going inside early and often has been working for the Huskies, allowing Jeremy Lamb (17.9 PPG) to create his own shot without the defense keyed in on him all the time. Allowing just 36.8% field goal shooting in conference, UConn can match the defensive brand of basketball that Cincinnati brings to this game.
- There are some great matchups to watch in this game, including Kilpatrick vs. Lamb on the wing as explosive scorers and Gates vs. Drummond inside as a clash of interior styles. Who wins tonight could come down to who is making the most shots, which seems obvious, but really applies here between two teams with similar physical defenses and offensive playmakers. Give Connecticut the advantage at home.
- San Diego State is all the way up to No. 16 in the AP Poll after defeating UNLV at home to open Mountain West play. The Aztecs, after losing four starters from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, have been terrific this season and only have lost at Baylor and at home to Creighton by two. Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin are super productive and average 16.9 and 15.7 points per game, respectively, but it was James Rahon who scored 22 points in the win over UNLV last weekend. Tapley is the best three-point shooter in the conference, averaging 2.6 makes per game at an incredible 49.4%. But if SDSU wants to win tonight on the road, it will be a strong defensive performance that gets it done in a raucous environment like The Pit. Steve Fisher’s team gives up just 0.89 points per possession on the season, good for #13 in the nation, and will rely on defensive rotations to keep UNM’s shooters from catching fire.
- Few teams have as great a home court advantage as New Mexico in The Pit. Steve Alford’s team suffered an early setback this season by uncharacteristically losing to New Mexico State at home, and their star forward Drew Gordon struggled early in the year. But on a 13-game winning streak now, the Lobos are getting good production where they need it most. Gordon is averaging a double-double with 12.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG on 50% shooting, all great benchmarks for the senior transfer from UCLA. Tony Snell might be the even more talented athlete, and he continues to improve seemingly every game, now leading the team with 13.4 points per game. New Mexico averages 1.11 points per possession, a top 30 national rate, so something must give when the Lobos go to work offensively against SDSU’s 0.89 defensive PPP. New Mexico shares the ball extremely well and assists on 67% of their many made field goals, the second-best rate in the country.
- This will be a terrific game between two 15-2 teams riding long winning streaks. San Diego State comes in as the AP-ranked team, but New Mexico is the 10-point favorite! That seems like too many points, but the Lobos usually dominate offensively at home. SDSU can change that if they establish their defensive intensity from the tip. Otherwise, UNM will have the advantage and should win this game and head to 2-0 in conference play as early MWC leaders.
***** – 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