Set Your TiVo: 02.15.12Posted by EJacoby on February 15th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
It’s a national affair tonight, as two big games take place about 3,000 miles away, from Miami to San Diego. You’ll get to watch the Tar Heels play on the road against a hungry opponent and two of the top Mountain West teams line up looking to continue the streak of great games taking place in that conference race. Here’s the breakdown:
#7 North Carolina at Miami- 8:00 PM ET on ESPN (****)
- If it wasn’t for the final four-minute collapse against Duke last week, this Tar Heels team would be rolling right now and in position to shoot for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish. Instead, they dropped that game at home and need to build momentum back up, as well as their overall profile. Many mock brackets have Carolina on the 3-line this week. A road win here at surging Miami will not be easy, but the Tar Heels should be able to get it done if they stick to their guns offensively. Both teams have big front lines that will match up one-on-one, but UNC has the better playmakers. Tyler Zeller has been awesome lately and should be able to use his agility against the thicker Reggie Johnson inside. If he draws Kenny Kadji, he will look to use his experienced post moves against the jumpy shot-blocker. Carolina has the size advantage on the wings and will need Reggie Bullock to step up offensively to take advantage. Harrison Barnes will be monitored closely by the U’s top wing defender Durand Scott, so watch how aggressive Barnes chooses to be. Defensively, UNC needs to stay out of foul trouble against an aggressive though not very efficient Miami attack.
- A win tonight would all but lock up Miami’s status as an at-large entry to the NCAA Tournament, as they have a questionable overall profile but are certainly on the rise. To get this win, the Hurricanes need to play strong on the defensive end. They have the athletes in Kenny Kadji (1.8 BPG), Reggie Johnson (1.1 BPG), and Durand Scott (6’5” guard, 1.1 SPG) to make plays on that end. Freshman guard Shane Larkin averages 1.8 steals per night and will look to bother Kendall Marshall on the perimeter all night. On their own end, Miami has a balanced attack but must use better shot selection. They have four players in double-digit scoring but rank just sixth in the conference in offensive efficiency and seventh in field goal percentage. Making shots is their ticket to a serious shot at victory tonight.
- UNC is a five-point favorite tonight, but Miami has the goods to take this upset if they can make shots on their home floor. A rocking crowd tonight would be a huge boost. I think Carolina presents too many problems on both ends of the floor and will walk away with a win tonight, though it should be tight.
New Mexico at #18 San Diego State – 10:15 PM ET on CBS Sports Network (****)
- This is a tremendous matchup between two of the three leaders in a deadlock (6-2) atop the Mountain West conference standings. New Mexico’s only two losses have come to those fellow top competitors, including a dropped home game against these Aztecs last month. They will look for revenge here on the road by employing the conference’s second-best offensive efficiency and top defensive efficiency. Leaders Tony Snell (12.3 PPG) and Drew Gordon (11.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG) are being joined by a third prolific scoring option in guard Kendall Williams, who is pouring in 13.4 PPG in conference. Things are starting to come together for the Lobos, who are on a five game win streak, but they haven’t played a tough road game since they lost their last one at UNLV last month. This will be a major test and a game that will help decide the Mountain West title.
- The Aztecs have lost just once at home this season, which came two and a half months ago to Creighton by two points. They’re coming off a terrific performance in which they only lost by two at UNLV and nearly had the game won in the final minute. They also already took down New Mexico in The Pit earlier in the season, so this is a game that SDSU should feel good about. They need point guard Xavier Thames to make good decisions and get the ball to their playmakers Chase Tapley (16.2 PPG) and Jamaal Franklin (16.0 PPG) to work against a strong Lobos half-court D. In addition, San Diego State must defend the three-point line against the prolific long-range shooting of the Lobos.
- I’m shocked that New Mexico enters as a slim favorite in this game. They do likely have the superior talent on the floor, but SDSU has been extremely tough all season and looks to be in the better position in this one at home coming off a strong, but losing, effort in their last game. San Diego State allows opponents to score 35% of their points from the three-pointer, and New Mexico scores a conference-leading 39% of their points from deep, so that area could be key to this game. I like the Aztecs to pull through with the home win.
Other Games to Watch:
- #24 Murray State at SEMO, 8:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com – Tough game for Murray against a conference rival that they struggled to beat at home recently. They need this win to prove their legitimacy as a Tournament team.
- Purdue at Illinois, 8:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network – Two B1G bubble teams do battle, both needing a victory badly. If Illinois loses at home, they’re in serious trouble.
- Loyola Marymount at #13 St. Mary’s , 10:30 PM ET – A challenging WCC opponent comes into town as the Gaels look to build momentum for their BracketBuster game this weekend.
***** – 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