Set Your TiVo: 01.30.12Posted by Brian Otskey on January 30th, 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.
Pittsburgh finally won two games last week and will look to win its third in a row at the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown. In Austin, Texas looks to stun highly-ranked Missouri. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
Pittsburgh at #22 West Virginia – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- After getting hosed by the referees at Syracuse, West Virginia returns home on Monday night to face rival Pittsburgh. While the Panthers have won two straight games after losing eight in a row, the Mountaineers remain a strong favorite despite Tray Woodall’s return to the Pitt lineup. The Panthers look like a different team with a healthy Woodall in the fold and Bob Huggins’ team will have to come up with a strong defensive effort in order to limit the Pitt point guard from getting into a flow. West Virginia’s two-point defense is not good, ranked #239 in Division I. If Woodall and Ashton Gibbs can get inside, Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Jones will have a hard time defending Nasir Robinson (9-9 FG vs. Georgetown) and Lamar Patterson. West Virginia’s biggest defensive strength is guarding the three-point line (25.9% in Big East play). If the Mountaineers can shut down Gibbs company from deep, they will have an easier time defending the paint and keeping the Panthers off the offensive glass, where they rank #1 in the nation.
- Pittsburgh’s offense has run much smoother with Woodall back but the biggest change might be defensively. The Panthers held Georgetown to 60 points and 47.5% interior shooting (below Pitt’s 51% in Big East play), something that will be very important against Jones and a West Virginia team that struggles from deep. If Pitt can force Truck Bryant into a bad shooting night (he’s had many of those), the Panthers will be in the game for all 40 minutes. Defending Jones is a very difficult task but Jamie Dixon just might be content to let Jones get his points and focus on shutting down Bryant and West Virginia’s young supporting cast. The Mountaineers need contributions from players like Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds in order to win consistently.
- This is the 183rd meeting between these longtime rivals. Pittsburgh won both meetings last year and has won 16 of the last 23. We have a feeling this game will be closer than some might think. The Panthers look like a different team with Woodall back and healthy but West Virginia has the best player on the floor in Jones. Offensive rebounding is going to be the key in this game. Neither team defends the paint well but each crashes the offensive glass with authority. Pittsburgh has had problems with turnovers but that may not be the case with Woodall running the show. If West Virginia can’t create turnovers, it will have to score in the half court against a team playing with some renewed confidence. Call us crazy but we think Pitt has a legitimate chance to win this game. This one will come down to offensive rebounding and the play of Jones and Bryant.
#3 Missouri at Texas – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Missouri is 3-2 in true road games this season and it can expect another tough challenge from Texas tonight. The Tigers beat the Longhorns by 11 points two weeks ago in Columbia but they won’t have the aid of the Mizzou Arena crowd tonight in Austin. Frank Haith’s team is an offensive juggernaut, but its defense leaves a lot to be desired. Missouri’s defense isn’t very efficient and it’s allowing a Big 12-worst 43.8% shooting from beyond the arc in conference games. While Texas isn’t a good three-point shooting team, J’Covan Brown is a guy who can take advantage of that. Brown had 34 points in the first meeting (plus 32 in a loss to Baylor on Saturday) and is Texas’ best deep threat. Missouri has outstanding shooters in Kim English, Marcus Denmon, and company so Brown has to have another big time game for the Longhorns to pull off the home upset.
- Texas has lost four of its past five games, but has been incredibly competitive in all of them. The Longhorn defense is better than Missouri’s and that will always give you a chance on your home floor. Texas’ biggest problem tonight could be its propensity to foul. Rick Barnes has to be pulling his hair out with the rate at which his team puts opponents on the line. It’s especially important against the Tigers because they shoot 77.8% from the stripe, fifth in the nation. Offensively the Longhorns have to do what they do best: Let Brown and Myck Kabongo control the game and crash the offensive boards. The Longhorns rank #16 in offensive rebounding percentage and could really do a lot of damage against a Missouri front line that features only Ricardo Ratliffe as a major threat on the glass. Barnes needs a big game inside out of the experienced Clint Chapman. He only had four rebounds in the first meeting with Missouri was he was saddled with foul trouble. Chapman staying on the floor will help Texas in a big way because Ratliffe is the reason why Missouri ranks first nationally in two point percentage. Champan is bigger and heavier than Ratliffe and simply cannot afford to be hit with foul trouble yet again.
- Both teams are susceptible to the three ball, but Missouri shoots it better. With Texas at home, you may see some shots go in that normally don’t for the Longhorns. That’s a recipe for an upset and we just might have one on our hands tonight. If Texas can play smarter on defense and keep Missouri off the foul line, the Longhorns could find success. This should be a high-scoring game. Missouri’s offense is so good, but the Tigers just don’t defend at an elite level. Kabongo and Phil Pressey both had 10 assists in the first meeting between these teams and each team shot the ball well. Pressey may be the biggest key for Missouri. The Tigers rank third nationally in turnover percentage, turning it over only 10 times per game. On the road in a hostile environment, the Tigers must protect the basketball and limit Texas from getting easy buckets in transition. We are going to go with the upset pick. Missouri is a very good team, but we are worried about its defense on the road. Texas has played well in its losses, but returning home for an elite opponent on Big Monday might provide it with the extra motivation needed to get over the hump.
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