Set Your DVR: Weekend EditionPosted by bmulvihill on December 28th, 2012
We are headed into the final weekend of 2012, which means conference season is just about here. There are a few teams playing this weekend that could use one more strong non-conference win for their NCAA Tourney resumes. However, there is one game this weekend that takes center stage in the Bluegrass State. Let’s get to the breakdowns.
Game of the Weekend
#24 Kentucky at #3 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)
- The Louisville-Kentucky series is starting to develop a pattern. Since the 2002-03 season, the Cardinals have won two in a row then dropped three in a row, won two in a row and then dropped three in a row. Rick Pitino and company are in the midst of another three-game slide to their in-state rival, so if the pattern holds, Louisville is due for a win on Saturday. The big news this week that may help secure that victory is the return of Gorgui Dieng from a wrist injury. Dieng has been out since before the Duke game and should have a significant impact against the Wildcats. While he may be a bit rusty, his defense is crucial against the UK frontcourt of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. Defense in general will be key for Louisville in this game. Watch Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin closely to see how he handles the Pitino press. In general, the Wildcats have not turned the ball over a great deal, but this is by far the best defense they have played all season long. Also, watch the rebounding numbers closely. Kentucky has a significant size advantage but the Cardinals have been better on the boards overall. This is where Dieng will make a huge difference. Without him, the Cards have little to no size. The question will be if he can play up to his pre-injury level without any major issues.
- Kentucky’s three losses this season have been also been their worst turnover performances of the the year (on a per possession basis). Goodwin is turning the ball over at a rate of about 20%, so it will be interesting to see how John Calipari has the offense bring the ball upcourt. Let’s see if they utilize their big men and size advantage to advance the ball. If you see a lot of dribbling in the backcourt by Kentucky, it will probably result in too many turnovers. The Wildcats have shown a more balanced offense against weaker opponents since their last loss to Baylor, but again, they will be facing what could be the best defense in the country, so they must continue to get contribution from a lot of sources. Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiljter haven proven they can put up 20+ points any given night. Unfortunately, they both can disappear from the offense as well. Both players need to have their best games of the season for Kentucky to win on the road.
- Dieng looks like he could be the difference in this game. Unfortunately, we do not know where he is at in terms of game stamina. If he can stay on the court and play defense and rebound at a reasonable pace, Louisville should be able to stop its three-game losing streak to Kentucky. If he gets tired or gets into foul trouble, the Wildcats can take advantage of their size and athleticism inside. However, they still need scoring from players like Harrow and Wiltjer if they plan to pull the road upset.
More Great Games
Baylor at #16 Gonzaga – 8:00 PM EST, Friday on ESPN2 (****)
- The backcourt battle in this game should be fun to watch. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip are not afraid to let the ball fly from downtown. Both have put up close to 70 three-point attempts this season. Keep a close eye on how Gonzaga guards Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos defend the perimeter, though. The Zags rank 314th in three-point field goal attempts allowed (as a percentage of total FG attempts). If Heslip can get loose on the outside, Baylor can beat Gonzaga much like Brandon Paul and Illinois did. Paul was 5-of-9 from three and the team was 6-of-26. Also, watch Gonzaga on the defensive boards. They rank 35th in defensive rebounding percentage. They need to utilize their size to prevent second-chance points on missed three-pointers. In order for Baylor to win this game on the road, however, Bears’ center Isaiah Austin will need to figure out a way to stop the Gonzaga frontcourt. It does not look like the Baylor defense is strong enough to stop GU, but don’t count out “The Pierre Jackson Show.”
#9 Missouri at UCLA – 10:00 PM EST, Friday on ESPN2 (****)
- Missouri proved it can win with defense by shutting down a very potent Illinois offense last weekend. Since Mizzou is not shooting the ball as effectively as they did last season, it’s important for them to win ugly games with defense and rebounding. Tigers’ forward Alex Oriakhi will be very important again in the game against the Bruins. Watch how he matches up against UCLA’s Wear brothers. If the Wears can keep Oriakhi off the boards, UCLA has a good chance to win at Pauley and get a huge non-conference victory before they head into Pac-12 play. However, the Bruins still need to show they can hang with a top-tier team at this point. Missouri probably has too much fire power and defensive ability for UCLA right now.
#19 UNLV at North Carolina – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****)
- UNLV took down a much better North Carolina team last season in Vegas in a very surprising Thanksgiving weekend win. While the Rebels head to Chapel Hill this year, a win by this Vegas team would not be nearly as surprising. UNC has lost each tough opponent it has faced this season and UNLV is looking for its 10th straight win. The UNLV frontcourt should be the difference in this game, since UNC has no answers down low other than James Michael McAdoo. Vegas forwards Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch are producers, and Mike Moser might be back from his elbow injury for this one (listed as “questionable”). Unless Roy Williams can create a scheme to help McAdoo, the Tar Heels are looking at another loss.
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