Set Your TiVo: 01.23.12Posted by Brian Otskey on January 23rd, 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.
Syracuse has a quick turnaround on the road after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday. Can Cincinnati make it two straight losses for the Orange? Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
#1 Syracuse @ Cincinnati – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- After suffering a surprising first loss at Notre Dame on Saturday, Syracuse is back in action 48 hours later on the road against one of the hottest teams in the Big East. Cincinnati would tie Syracuse in the loss column with a win, becoming one of six teams with two losses. How do the Orange avoid that fate? It’s simpler than you might think. Shoot the ball better (34% vs. ND) and defend at a high level. Even without Fab Melo in the lineup, Syracuse has much more depth than Cincinnati. Good guard play out of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will be important for the Orange. Cincinnati will look to slow the pace and make this game a half court battle. Syracuse needs to rebound the ball well and get out and run at every chance. Waiters adds that spark off the bench for Jim Boeheim but Jardine has to take care of the basketball and move the ball well in half court situations.
- The Bearcats are 5-2 in the Big East and this would obviously be a monumental win for their NCAA Tournament resume. With no Melo, Cincinnati will find it a bit easier to get shots off around the basket as well as to rebound. Cincinnati is ranked a paltry #228 in two-point percentage but Yancy Gates could be the key guy for Mick Cronin. Cincinnati shoots a lot of threes and opportunities will be plentiful against the 2-3 Syracuse zone. If the threes aren’t falling, Gates needs to be there to clean the boards and finish the second opportunities. Without Melo anchoring the paint, Syracuse, already vulnerable on the defensive glass to begin with, could really struggle to keep Gates off the backboards. Sean Kilpatrick shoots 39.4% from deep for a team that gets over a third of its points from beyond the arc. If the Bearcats aren’t shooting the ball well over the zone, it’s lights out for Cincinnati. To get quality shots against the zone, the ball must be moved to the free throw line area. If Cronin rotates players like Kilpatrick back and forth from the three point line to the foul line, Cincinnati should be able to get quite a few open looks.
- One thing Cincinnati must be careful of is long rebounds off of missed threes. That can lead to easy transition buckets for Waiters and the Orange, increasing the pace to a level Cronin doesn’t want to see. The Bearcats must slow the game down, protect the ball and get back in transition. Cincinnati has not defended all that well in Big East play but it must tonight in order to pull the upset. Keep an eye on the turnover margin. Cincinnati does a fabulous job of ball protection with Cashmere Wright running the point but Syracuse may be the best team in the nation at forcing steals and turnovers to fuel its transition attack. If Cincinnati shoots well and keeps control of the ball, the Bearcats will be in this game to the end with a chance to hand Syracuse its second consecutive loss.
- This game looked good in the preseason to some who thought Texas A&M could contend for the Big 12 title. It hasn’t worked out that way for the Aggies while Kansas, winners of nine straight games, is rolling right along. While you can never take any conference game for granted, Kansas is a heavy favorite in this one. With Thomas Robinson doing his thing inside and Tyshawn Tayloron fire (26 points per game in his last three outings), the Jayhawks shouldn’t miss a beat at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency and should have no problems defending a Texas A&M team that averages only 63 PPG and ranks #248 in offensive efficiency.
- Texas A&M is just 11-7 and has lost six of its past nine games after starting the season 8-1. This game is a really bad matchup for the Aggies. They do not play well offensively, plus they’re prone to turnovers. Texas A&M really struggles to shoot from beyond the arc with only Elston Turner putting up a respectable percentage (38.8%). Turner had 23 points in Saturday’s overtime win over Oklahoma and a repeat performance will be necessary if the Aggies are going to have any chance to pull the stunner. Turner has to be filling it up from deep in order to prevent Kansas from packing its defense in on Khris Middleton, David Loubeau and Ray Turner. Kansas is terrific at defending the paint so you can bet it will be a very long night for Texas A&M if it can’t make jump shots.
- Billy Kennedy’s team does do one thing well and that is play defense. To stay in this game the Aggies will have to put forth their best defensive effort of the year while playing better than average on the other end of the floor. A&M can’t afford to turn the ball over and allow Taylor and his teammates to get out in transition. Dash Harris has to protect the ball, slow the pace down and make the extra pass when necessary. Getting good shots is paramount on the road, especially for a team that struggles offensively to begin with. Texas A&M has to do so many things well just to stay in this game and we’d be surprised if Kansas doesn’t win by more than 15 points.
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