Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 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 no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.
Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)
- In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
- If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
- Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.
#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)
- Anyone who skips over this game because of the discrepancy in record will likely be missing out on a heated game that stays competitive throughout. Duke (16-3, 4-1 ACC) lost a heartbreaker in their last game on a game-winning Florida State three-pointer, and you know Mike Krzyzewski will have his team ready to recover in this one. The Blue Devils are a deep team with plenty of options, especially on the perimeter, and will mix and match to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses. Expect Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton to get extended looks at guard tonight in hopes of containing Terrell Stoglin, who can score the ball as well as anyone. They will also look to set up Seth Curry (12.6 PPG) and Andre Dawkins (10.4 PPG) for open shots, who can both blow games open with their three-point shooting. Austin Rivers, as always, is the X-factor who can break down defenses and create open shots for he and all of his teammates when he’s playing well. His first responsibility, like all of the Duke guards, is to play well on the defensive end tonight against the Maryland guards.
- Maryland is in a down season as a young team in Mark Turgeon’s first year, but the Terps are 10-1 at home and their wild crowd will be going crazy for this one. Maryland has struggled against Duke recently (1-9 in the past four years), but this heated rivalry has often produced unbelievable results. The Terps have the guards to exploit Duke’s mediocre perimeter defense, and it all starts with Terrell Stoglin , the ACC’s leading scorer at 21.2 PPG. Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust, and Sean Mosley are capable of strong play but have not all collectively played well together yet this season. If they want to beat a Top 10 team, Maryland needs all of their perimeter players to be hitting tonight. Maryland has several interior options that are not talented scorers but will be asked to play tough defense and crash the defensive boards to hold Duke to one shot.
- Duke is a 10-point road favorite in this game, which seems much too high in this committee of one’s opinion. If Stoglin and company can feed off the home crowd and get an edge on the perimeter, then Maryland has an outside chance for the upset. If things go as planned, though, Coach K’s bunch will be well prepared for this environment after coming off a loss and will be poised offensively. The games aren’t played on paper, so you will have to watch and see what happens.
Other Games to Watch:
- BYU at Virginia Tech, 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com – This random non-conference match-up is a must-win for the Hokies if they want any chance whatsoever of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large.
- #22 West Virginia at St. John’s, 7:00PM ET on ESPNU – Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers look to improve a strong resume with another road win, though St John’s has the young talent to win this game and get their third Big East victory
- Saint Louis at Xavier, 7:00 PM ET – Two of the best A-10 teams do battle, with the Musketeers coming off a bad loss and SLU needing a road win themselves.
- Minnesota at #8 Michigan State, 8:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network – Don’t sleep on Minnesota; the Gophers are on a three-game winning streak that includes two road wins, and they will look to put a scare into the Spartans.
***** – 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