Set Your TiVo: 02.06.12Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 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.
Connecticut can join a crowded bunch and move above .500 in the Big East with a win tonight while Louisville looks to continue its hot play of late. In the Big 12, Texas faces a pivotal game with regards to its NCAA chances. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
Connecticut @ Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Louisville has won four straight games and five of its past six since getting destroyed at Providence on January 10. Rick Pitino’s team is playing much better offensively, scoring at least 73 points in three of the four wins during the current streak. Against Connecticut, Louisville’s guards must set the tone. While Louisville isn’t forcing turnovers at the clip usually seen from Pitino teams, the Cardinals can pressure the Huskies into turnovers. UConn has struggled all year with this and the Cards will have the home crowd to help them out by creating energy in the building. Offensively it’s going to be tough for Louisville to score. This is not a great jump shooting team and the Huskies have a terrific interior defense. Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric are going to have to hit jumpers in order for Louisville to win this game. It’ll also be interesting to see how freshman Chane Behanandoes against UConn’s impressive front line. Behanan had 23 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Rutgers, making 11 of his 12 field goal attempts.
- With Jim Calhoun out, George Blaney will coach the Huskies again. Blaney used a three-guard starting lineup in Saturday’s win over Seton Hall, a first for Connecticut this season. It worked well as Ryan Boatright sparked the Huskies to a blowout win. Boatright will be important again tonight. He’s the only guy on UConn’s roster that can score quickly in transition and provide an instant offensive spark. With Boatright and Shabazz Napier feeding Andre Drummond in the post, Connecticut has a lot of weapons to throw at Louisville’s rock solid defense. If Boatright can get into the lane and draw Gorgui Dieng away from Drummond without turning it over, the Huskies will find a lot of success. That’s easier said than done but a quick guard with a lot of hops like Boatright can do it and Drummond is certainly capable of finishing around the tin. Jeremy Lamb also has to make shots for the Huskies. Lamb is a good spot up shooter and a terrific slasher but he may encounter some problems with Dieng and Behanan in the paint. Lamb is UConn’s best three point threat and has to knock down some triples in order to take the pressure off of Boatright to make things happen.
- Rebounding and turnover margin will be important in this game. Each team dominated the boards in their games on Saturday while neither has done a good job taking care of the basketball all year long. The interior presence of Dieng should be able to limit Connecticut from driving but the Husky big men can easily get Dieng in foul trouble if they are aggressive around the basket. That will change the whole game and give Connecticut a great chance to win. These are two of the top three teams in America in terms of two-point percentage defense so points in the paint will be well earned tonight. Despite its offensive struggles, UConn has more playmakers on its roster. Even though they’re on the road, the Huskies have a good chance to win this one. Will they? It depends on the effectiveness of Boatright, Lamb and Drummond.
Two important games in the Big 12 as well:
- #6 Missouri @ Oklahoma – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***) – Coming off the emotional home win over Kansas, this is your classic letdown game. Will the Tigers avoid one against the team they stomped by 38 points in Columbia on January 3?
- Texas @ Texas A&M – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (***) – The Longhorns pretty much have to win this game to keep their NCAA hopes alive. Texas can’t afford to drop to 4-7 in league play and go into desperation mode with four of its final six games on the road.
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