Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012
Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:
#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)
- The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
- The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
- It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.
Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)
- What has happened to the defending National Champions? It’s looking like Kemba Walker was truly an irreplaceable leader for this team, as the talented Huskies simply lack the on-court cohesiveness or offensive flow that they need to win games. Don’t count out Jim Calhoun to find a spark to turn things around, but right now this team is playing selfishly on both ends. On a three-game losing streak, UConn is not doing anything well offensively in conference. Their 30.8% three-point shooting and 1.02 assist-to-turnover ratio are especially worrisome. Both are indicative of the Huskies’ no-motion offense that so often results in one-on-one moves leading to perimeter shots. UConn has been fine defensively, allowing a 37.4% field-goal defense in conference that is tops in the Big East, so it’s all about offensive execution. Perhaps Calhoun needs to get Alex Oriakhi (20.1 minutes per game) more involved and go inside to he and Andre Drummond (9.9 PPG) more often to keep defenses honest and not just key on Shabazz Napier (14.2 PPG), Jeremy Lamb (17.8 PPG), and Ryan Boatright’s (9.8 PPG) isolation perimeter play.
- Georgetown remains a sleeper in the Big East, not doing anything particularly impressive lately but still remaining in third place in conference with a 6-3 record and 16-4 overall. The Hoyas dropped their only home game of the season to Cincinnati a few weeks ago, but the team has remained steady in their execution ever since. Coming off a loss at surging Pittsburgh, the Hoyas should certainly be prepared for this one at home against a desperate opponent. The Princeton offense goes up against an athletic defense tonight, so Henry Sims and company must be crisp with their passing. Jason Clark has been rock solid in conference and is now up to 15.6 PPG on the season, and he and Hollis Thompson will be go-to scorers when the motion offense fails to find easy baskets against a tough D.
- This is a game of completely contrasting offenses. Georgetown is methodical, moves the ball all around the floor and plays at a slower pace, while UConn loves quick curls and isolation offense to get their talented scorers off. In a must-win game, UConn is a slight Vegas underdog tonight. This can go either way but until something changes for the Huskies offensively, I’m going with Georgetown and their consistency at home.
Memphis at Southern Miss – 8:00 PM ET on CBS Sports Network (***)
- If you want to get caught up on Conference-USA basketball, tonight is your chance. The two top teams in the league square off tonight in their final game, a rematch of the first two-point Memphis victory. Both teams are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, though being swept by Memphis would be tough for USM. The Tigers will look to do just that tonight by being aggressive on both ends and causing havoc for the home team. Memphis leads C-USA in both offensive (109.1) and defensive (90.4) efficiency during conference games. They had Adonis Thomas for the first matchup, but the impressive freshman is now out with injury, so Memphis continues to rely on dribble penetration from their guards. Will Barton is averaging 18.1 PPG in conference and must have another strong game. Joe Jackson will look to get Barton and everyone else involved by breaking down the defense with his speed.
- Southern Miss has an impressive 19-3, 6-1 C-USA record, and though they don’t have a ton of great wins they also don’t have any bad losses. They are 10-0 at home this year and securing this split with Memphis tonight would be huge for their at-large chances. Darnell Dodson, the transfer from Kentucky, has been huge off the bench since becoming eligible, and he gives the Golden Eagles a fifth double-digit scorer. LaShay Page leads the way at 12.9 PPG and has hit the second-most threes in Conference USA. Maurice Bolden and Angelo Johnson are seniors that each average about 10 points per game. Larry Eustachy’s team is a veteran bunch that is surprisingly efficient offensively (1.06 points per possession, second only to Memphis), and they get to the free-throw line at a strong rate.
- Even Vegas thinks these teams are completely evenly-matched, as USM is a three-point favorite and home court advantage adds about three points to all lines. Just expect a complete dogfight in this one between two teams that are dying for this win. I’m going with Memphis tonight.
Other Games to Watch:
- #7 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:00 PM ET on ESPN2 – There’s no such thing as an easy road game in the Big 12. TAMU could make an upset bid if Khris Middleton can go.
- Colorado State at #9 UNLV, 10:30 PM ET on The Mountain – Colorado State is a tough Mountain West team, probably on the bubble, that will try to knock off the high-flying Runnin’ Rebs.
- #24 Wichita State at Missouri State, 8:00 PM ET – The Shockers are one of the nation’s most underrated teams, but they have a tough test tonight in a difficult place to play against 6-5 Missouri State.
***** – 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