Set Your TiVo: 2.16.12Posted by bmulvihill on February 16th, 2012
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
The Big Ten is down to a four-team race. Two of the contenders go head-to-head tonight in what could be an elimination game for one of them. Over in the Big East, the Backyard Brawl does not have the luster it has had in the past few season, it’s still a must watch game for hoops fans.
#19 Wisconsin at #5 Michigan State – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (****)
- While this game is big for both teams, it is particularly important for the Badgers. If the Badgers cannot upset the Spartans on the road, they will be effectively eliminated from the Big Ten regular season race. They will be two games back with a pending date against Ohio State on the road later in the month. Wisconsin has struggled mightily on the offensive end during Big Ten play. They face a Spartan defense that has allowed teams to shoot only 27.9% from beyond the arc and 42.9% from inside of it. The Badgers are no slouches on defense by any stretch. Only one team has shot over 50% eFG against them the entire season. However, they simply will not be able to rely solely on their defense in this game. Keep a close eye on who steps up for the Badgers on offense. Senior Jordan Taylor needs to step up in a big way for the Badgers to have any chance whatsoever to win tonight.
- Michigan State is undefeated at the Breslin Center this season and seems to be peaking on defense at the right time. The Spartans held Ohio State to a season-low 28.3% eFG last Saturday, on the road. Michigan State will find it difficult to hit shots against the tough Badger defense, as they did against an equally tough Ohio State defense. However, their defense will be the difference maker once again.
- Wisconsin’s chances of pulling off the upset sit squarely with their offense. To this point in the Big Ten season, they have shown very little reason to believe their offense will be able to breakthrough on the road against a fantastic defense. Michigan State will prove to be too difficult to crack in the Breslin Center.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh – 9:00PM EST on ESPN HD (****)
- West Virginia goes into Pittsburgh losers of 5 of their last 6 games, including a loss to Pitt at home at the end of January. One statistic really stands out when analyzing West Virginia – offensive rebounding percentage. The Mountaineers lead the conference with a OR% of 40.6%. Interestingly, if not somewhat puzzling, is that West Virginia actually has a losing record (5-6) when they grab 40% of more of their offensive rebounding opportunities. Their high offensive rebounding numbers are a function of poor shooting and with an eFG of 47.6% in conference, they are simply not converting their second chance opportunities. Keep an eye on West Virginia’s ability to convert on their second chance opportunities, as it will be a key factor in the game.
- Pitt looked to have some life when Tray Woodall returned from injury. The Panthers ripped off four consecutive wins, including a big one against Georgetown. Unfortunately, they have come back to reality with back-to-back losses. In order for Pitt to win this game, they need to two-point West Virginia to death. As tough as the Mountaineers seem to be on the offensive interior, they are quite soft inside on defense. They are allowing teams to shoot 51.6% inside the arc during Big East play. Woodall dropped 24 on West Virginia in the previous match-up and he needs to do the same in this game, if they are to win.
- This game might be pretty ugly, but you should not expect anything less in the Backyard Brawl. They played fairly evenly in the last match-up and this one should be no different. The difference will be Woodall and his ability to get to the basket. If he’s able to repeat his performance, Pitt will win.
Other Games to Watch:
- Lehigh at Bucknell (7:00PM EST on CBS Sports Network): While Bucknell has a three-game lead on second place Lehigh in the Patriot League, we could be seeing a preview of the conference tourney championship. One to keep an eye on for all you mid-major trackers out there.
- NC State at #8 Duke (9:00PM EST on ACC Network): Don’t look now but NC State sits just one game back in the ACC. With Duke showing some weakness at home this season, this is shaping up to be big conference game for both squads.
***** – 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