Set Your TiVo: 02.13.12Posted by Brian Otskey on February 13th, 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.
Louisville has owned Syracuse over the last six years. Will that continue this evening? In the Big 12, Kansas State faces a huge game with in-state rival Kansas. Big Monday is just that on this night. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
#2 Syracuse @ Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Syracuse has won five straight games since losing at Notre Dame on January 21, but the Orange better be ready for a challenge tonight in Louisville. The Orange have lost their last seven games to the Cardinals, their last win coming six years ago (Louisville’s first season in the Big East). To stave off another Louisville upset, Syracuse has to play strong defense and turn Louisville over. The Cardinals rank #218 in turnover percentage and Syracuse is among the best in the nation in creating steals and points off turnovers. The Orange fast break is absolutely lethal, quite often sparked by Dion Waiters off the bench. Waiters is #4 among individuals in steal percentage and Louisville has been vulnerable to giveaways all season long. Syracuse is the better team but it must play with poise and toughness on the road against a team that will play hard for all 40 minutes with a raucous home crowd cheering them on.
- Louisville is going to have to make outside shots and stop Syracuse from getting out in transition in order to win its eighth consecutive games against the Orange. Louisville shot the three well in two games last week, going 44% against Connecticut and 46% against West Virginia (season average = 32.8%). Look for Rick Pitino to put Kyle Kuric on the free throw line in Louisville’s zone offense, using the versatile senior to hit the mid-range shot, pass, or drive to the rim. Kuric and point guard Peyton Siva have to probe the zone cautiously but can’t be lulled into passing the ball around the perimeter. To beat Syracuse, Louisville must attack the zone north/south rather than east/west. The Cardinals must shoot the ball well to win, no ifs, ands or buts about it. That’s not a strength for Louisville but Syracuse puts up a lot of points. Louisville must keep pace and put forth a strong defensive effort. Gorgui Dieng has the potential to have a similar impact as Fab Melo defensively. If that’s the case, Louisville may be able to force Syracuse into contested jumpers in their half court offense. Dieng and Melo are incredible presences in the paint so you’d have to think the team that does best in transition and shoots the best from mid-range should win the game.
- If Syracuse is going to lose another regular season game this season, this is it. Pitino has flat out owned Jim Boeheim over the last half decade, coming up with schemes to score against Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone. Pitino’s issue this season is that his team doesn’t shoot threes well (despite last week’s success) and struggles to score in general. Louisville likes to press and a faster tempo could play right into the hands of the Orange. Louisville has Wayne Blackshear healthy for the first time this season after playing 20 minutes in Saturday’s win over West Virginia. Blackshear could be a key factor in the game because he adds depth and scoring ability to a Louisville lineup that is one of the few that comes close to Syracuse in terms of depth. The Orange are still much superior in that category but Louisville can rotate players in and out, keeping them fresh for 40 minutes. This should be a close game with Louisville’s shooting ability likely to be the determining factor.
#7 Kansas @ Kansas State – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Kansas dominated the first meeting between these teams, especially on the boards. The Jayhawks held a 50-26 edge in rebounding and won by 18 points in Lawrence. Kansas held Kansas State to 32% shooting, including a 5-20 mark from deep. A similar performance will do the trick but it won’t be easy at the Octagon of Doom. With Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey playing really well inside, it’s going to be hard for the Wildcats to attack the paint. Kansas should work the ball inside on just about every possession because Kansas State fouls a lot and the Jayhawks have a clear edge in the paint. Provided Kansas rebounds the ball well and Tyshawn Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over (no sure thing), the Jayhawks should be in good shape.
- This is a massive game for Kansas State’s NCAA chances. The Wildcats are looking okay right now but a brutal stretch of games is coming up, starting tonight. After losing at Texas on Saturday, Kansas State needs to win a game or two against the elite teams in the Big 12. To beat Kansas tonight, the Wildcats must do a good job inside defensively in addition to making jump shots. K-State isn’t going to score very effectively against Robinson and Withey so guys like Rodney McGruder are going to have to make shots. McGruder and Will Spradling are the only two double figure scorers on this team but they also represent Kansas State’s main three-point threats. The Wildcats don’t shoot many threes but they’re going to have to make some tonight in order to win. Kansas is most vulnerable defensively to the triple, ranking sixth in Big 12 games at defending the three. The Jayhawk strength is inside and K-State must avoid playing into that with reckless drives that end up with shots being blocked. The Wildcats must also do a better job rebounding than the first meeting or else this will turn into a Kansas runaway.
- Kansas has won 43 of the last 46 games between these teams but this is a game Kansas State really needs. With games at Baylor and Missouri immediately following this one, the Wildcats are staring a 6-9 conference record right in the face if they can’t come up a win here at home. Expect Frank Martin’s team to come out with a ton of passion and fire. Kansas has lost two of its last three road games so it’s certainly possible for K-State to win. The Wildcats have to a good job defending Robinson inside while hitting some shots of their own. If they don’t, Kansas will continue its domination in this series.
One other game in the Big 12 to keep track of:
Iowa State @ Baylor (7 PM on ESPNU) – The Cyclones are putting together a very nice NCAA resume, one that could get even better with a win in Waco. Baylor has lost two straight and four of eight but those losses have come only to Kansas and Missouri, the top two teams in the Big 12.
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