Set Your TiVo: 02.22.12Posted by EJacoby on February 22nd, 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.
There are a lot of good teams in action on Wednesday, but most of them are strong favorites in their games. The two best matchups of the night are taking place in the Big East and Big Ten.
Here’s the breakdown and what else to watch for:
West Virginia at #17 Notre Dame – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)
- It seems like every game that West Virginia plays is a toss-up, and this one is no different. The Mountaineers have lost five of their last seven but are coming off a big win at Pittsburgh where they were slight underdogs. They are once again slight underdogs in South Bend to take on the red-hot Fighting Irish. WVU usually plays strong perimeter defense, which will force the Irish guards into running more difficult offense, but will the Mountaineers’ own guards provide enough scoring punch? Truck Bryant has been a good secondary scorer at 16.6 PPG in Big East play, but no other guard averages more than eight points per night. They need someone else to step up to complement Bryant and Kevin Jones. Jones remains a stud this season and you can all but lock up 20 points and 10 rebounds from him. The Mountaineers will try to out-tough the Irish by controlling the boards with their 54.1% rebounding percentage in Big East games, tops in the conference.
- Notre Dame hasn’t lost in over a month, winning eight straight games and all in impressive fashion. They didn’t look great in their Saturday night game at Villanova, but the Irish still came back from a 20-point deficit and closed out a road game in overtime. Five different Notre Dame players have led the team in scoring during its winning streak, and the offense has been tremendously well-rounded. They can pound the ball inside to Jack Cooley (12.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG), find surging Pat Connaughton from the outside (12.6 PPG in his last five games), or use strong guard duo Eric Atkins (13.0 PPG) and Jerian Grant (12.9 PPG) to make plays. The question will be whether Mike Brey‘s team can execute against WVU’s tough defense or grab any offensive boards against the strong defensive rebounding team.
- West Virginia is the best rebounding team in the Big East while Notre Dame’s 49.4% rebound percentage is just 13th in the conference. The Mountaineers could control this game if they dominate the boards, but otherwise the Irish should find a much easier time scoring with their diverse offensive sets. Notre Dame is just a three-point favorite in what is expected to be a tight matchup.
#5 Michigan State at Minnesota – 8:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (***)
- Michigan State has won five straight, seven of its last eight, and looks like a strong candidate for an NCAA #1 seed. Draymond Green is fully healthy and continues to state his case for Big Ten Player of the Year, but it’s the secondary players that have come along. Freshman Branden Dawson continues to improve and has massive upside as a swing forward, while bigs Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix continue to play better and better as the season progresses. The Spartans remain one of the strongest defensive teams in the country and seem incredibly difficult to score on during stretches. There’s no reason to expect anything different against a struggling Golden Gophers offense. Tom Izzo‘s team is peaking yet again in the late stage of the season.
- Minnesota is in desperate need of this win if it wants any shot of making the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers’ entire season can turn on these upcoming two home games against Michigan State and Indiana. But in order to get this win, something needs to change offensively. Losers in four of its last five, Minnesota is not producing enough offense in the half court. The Gophers are third worst in the conference in offensive efficiency and average over 14 turnovers per game in Big Ten play, worst in the conference. Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Julian Welch need to do a better job on the perimeter, which won’t be an easy task against the dominant Spartan defense.
- For Minnesota, this game all comes down to making shots. The Gophers will certainly use a methodical attack against a strong Michigan State defense that forces opponents to drain the shot clock, and they must convert their opportunities from the outside. Otherwise, Michigan State is the superior rebounding team and has more weapons offensively to take care of business and keep its winning streak alive. The Spartans are six-point favorites on the road.
Other Games to Watch:
- #21 Temple at La Salle, 7:00 PM ET – The surging Owls look to continue their 10-game win streak and improve their postseason seed against a solid La Salle team.
- #4 Kansas at Texas A&M, 9:00 PM ET on ESPN2 – Is there any chance Kansas could blow this game on the road? If so, then the matchup in Lawrence this weekend against Missouri will loom even larger.
- UC-Santa Barbara at Long Beach State, 11:00 PM ET on ESPN2 – Great chance to watch LBSU again as it makes a run at an at-large bid. UCSB is 9-3 in conference.
***** – 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