Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 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.
There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.
#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)
- It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
- The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
- It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.
#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)
- Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
- The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
- This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
- With Draymond Green listed as day-to-day, Michigan State’s fortunes in this game likely depend on whether or not he can go and how effective he will be should he be able to suit up and play. Green suffered a knee sprain in Tuesday night’s loss at Illinois but it looks like there is no serious damage to his ligaments. The injury looked bad but he would give his team quite a boost if he can go. Tom Izzo’s senior uses 26.4% of his team’s possessions and is by far Michigan State’s only major rebounder (10.3 per game). We’re going to assume Green plays but that’s not a given. Even if he does, it’s hard to see him being 100%. Even though they’re at home, this will be a tough game for Michigan State to win.
- Michigan has won the last three games in this series, including a 60-59 decision in Ann Arbor last month. The Wolverines will attack the Spartans with a barrage of three-pointers but MSU ranks #18 in defending the arc and fourth in overall defensive efficiency. If Michigan, specifically Stu Douglass, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. can’t get it going from deep, the Wolverines won’t be able to win at the Breslin Center. Defensively, Michigan needs to focus on shutting down Michigan State’s supporting cast. Brandon Wood and Travis Trice are Michigan State’s primary deep threats and they may resort to that if Green is rendered ineffective. Without Green clogging up the lane, Michigan will be able to pack its defense in and make MSU beat them from outside. The Wolverines can’t get lazy though as they rank #256 nationally in three-point defense.
- This game really depends on the health of Green and Michigan’s ability to make threes on the road. We’re going to assume he plays but if he doesn’t, we’re worried about how that throws off Michigan State’s chemistry. Green is an extension of Izzo on the floor and everything runs through him offensively, in addition to being a terrific rebounder. The Wolverines are generally a decent three-point shooting team but their over-reliance on the triple makes them relatively unpredictable. Rivalry games are usually close so expect a similar game to the one played at Michigan almost three weeks ago. If Green plays, Michigan State will probably defend home court and manage to hold off their counterparts from Ann Arbor. If Green can’t go, this is anyone’s guess.
Plenty of other games to keep tabs on:
- South Florida @ #15 Georgetown (11 AM Saturday on ESPNU) – A win here would actually put South Florida in the NCAA discussion. The Bulls would be 7-3 in the Big East if they can escape DC with a victory.
- Seton Hall @ Connecticut (12 PM Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – These two Big East teams are in a free fall, yet both are still in the NCAA picture. The Pirates and Huskies have combined to lose 11 games since January 3.
- #17 Virginia @ #19 Florida State (1 PM Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com) – Virginia can tie the Seminoles at 6-2 with a win while FSU will look to keep pace with UNC and Duke atop the ACC. We’d be surprised if this game reached the 60’s as two of the best defenses in America go head to head.
- #14 Marquette @ Notre Dame (1 PM Saturday on CBS, regional) – Winners of three straight, the Irish will look to keep rolling against the hottest team in the Big East not named Syracuse. Marquette has won seven straight games but faces a stiff road challenge in South Bend.
- Vanderbilt @ #11 Florida (1 PM Saturday on CBS, regional) – If the Commodores can knock off Florida at the O-Dome, they’ll pull into a tie with the Gators for second place in the SEC. Expect a very high scoring game in this one.
- Xavier @ Memphis (1 PM Saturday on FSN) – An interesting non-conference battle between two teams that began the year with very high expectations. Both teams are 15-7 and this game could have NCAA Tournament implications.
- #9 UNLV @ Wyoming (4 PM Saturday on The Mtn.) – Wyoming has lost to both New Mexico and San Diego State at home. Will its third try against a top Mountain West team be a charm in Laramie?
- Middle Tennessee @ Denver (4 PM Saturday on ESPN2) – The Blue Raiders put their undefeated Sun Belt record on the line in the Mile High City against a Denver team that ranks second nationally in eFG%.
- Iowa State @ Oklahoma (6 PM Saturday on ESPN2) – Iowa State needs to take care of business in games like this if it wants to be in the NCAA Tournament. A win here would push the Cyclones to 17-6 (7-3).
- #22 Indiana @ Purdue (7 PM Saturday on Big Ten Network) – Believe it or not, the Hoosiers would drop to 5-7 in Big Ten play with a loss, although the schedule lightens up considerably as the season finishes up. Indiana plays five of its last seven games at home. IU has won only one Big Ten road game (Penn State).
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