Set Your DVR: Feast WeekPosted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012
Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.
Game of the Week
#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)
- The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
- Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
- Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.
Six Other Games to Watch This Week
Butler vs. Marquette (Maui Quarterfinals) - 3:30 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 HD (***)
- Both squads are in a bit of a rebuilding period, but we can expect this match-up to be competitive in Maui. Marquette’s Trent Lockett still seems to be finding his place within the offense through two games. He showed at Arizona State that he is capable of scoring 13 – 15 points per game but is currently only at 7.5 PPG on 10 total shots through two games. See if he is able to break out against a Butler defense that is allowing teams so far to shoot 53.3% from two.
#10 UCLA vs. #25 Georgetown (Legends Classic Semifinals)- 8:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN HD (****)
- The UCLA Bruins are finally at full strength after the NCAA’s announcement last week that freshman Shabazz Muhammad is eligible to play. Fellow freshmen Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson have already been leading the Bruins in points (24 PPG) and rebounding (9.8 RPG), respectively. The addition of Muhammad should be a big boost to this squad, and it will be interesting to see how he fits into coach Ben Howland’s scheme early. As for the Hoyas, they expect to get forward Otto Porter back from his period away from playing due to concussion-like symptoms. Keep an eye on Porter, because if he is not at full strength, Georgetown does not have the additional firepower to stay with the Bruins.
USC vs. Illinois (Maui Quarterfinals) – 12:01 AM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 HD (***)
- On paper, this match-up may not seem too enticing, but it is a very good litmus test for both teams in a unique neutral court environment in Maui. The USC offense has struggled so far at right around a point per possession, but this is to be expected with so many transfers on one team. Their defense has been excellent though, holding teams to a paltry 30.2% from inside the arc. Illinois is 3-0 under new head coach John Groce but needs to be careful against the Trojans. The Illini are only shooting 45.3% from two and 43% of their shots are coming from three. If they go cold from deep against a tough USC defense, they will quickly be in the losers bracket at the Maui Invitational.
#9 Duke vs. Minnesota (Battle 4 Atlantis Quarterfinals) - 3:30 PM EST, Thursday on AXS HD (****)
- Minnesota is playing defense at a level that Duke has not seen yet this season. On Sunday, Richmond scored 0.82 points per possession against the Golden Gophers and that’s the best mark a team has accomplished so far. Head coach Tubby Smith is slowly working Trevor Mbakwe’s playing time back up to its normal level and Mbakwe responded with nine points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes of action against the Spiders. Duke’s Mason Plumlee will be faced with his most difficult match-up thus far against Mbakwe, so it is imperative the Blue Devils continue to hit some shots from the outside as they did against Kentucky. The problem is that Tubby’s team is only letting its opponents thus far shoot 18.8% from beyond the arc. Also, play close attention to the rebounding battle, as Minnesota is tops in the nation on the offensive glass. This should be a very close battle in the Bahamas.
#14 Missouri vs. Stanford (Battle 4 Atlantis Quarterfinals) - 1:00 PM EST, Thursday on AXS HD (****)
- Stanford is coming off a home loss against Belmont where the Cardinal turned the ball over 17 times and guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright combined to go 2-21 from the field (including 0-9 from three). That makes Randle and Bright a combined very ugly 2-28 from downtown on the season. Stanford is also having a tough time defending the three, giving up 37.5% from beyond the arc, although they held Belmont to 6-23 in their latest outing. Needless to say, in order for Stanford to win against Missouri, they need to correct their problems on the perimeter, and fast. Missouri guards Phil Pressey, Negus Webster-Chan, and Earnest Ross are all shooting over 40% from three. If the Cardinal cannot get things squared away from the outside, this game will not be close.
#20 Memphis vs. VCU (Battle 4 Atlantis Quarterfinals) – 7:00 PM EST, Thursday on NBC Sports Network HD (****)
- This should be a very interesting game between two of the best young coaches in the game, Memphis’ Josh Pastner and VCU’s Shaka Smart. Memphis seems to be a bit under the radar this year after being somewhat overrated last season. They still have Joe Jackson, Antonio Barton, Tarik Black, and Chris Crawford, which is an awful lot of talent for Josh Pastner to be working with. Keep an eye on turnovers in this game, as Memphis does not turn the ball over and VCU is second in the nation in steal percentage and eleventh in overall defensive turnover percentage.
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 dvr but make sure you watch it later
** – set your dvr but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2015
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the dvr’s) of any kind on this game