Set Your DVR: New Year’s Week EditionPosted by bmulvihill on December 31st, 2012
College hoops heads into 2013 with the opening of conference season in some of the major leagues set to begin . The slate of games scheduled for New Year’s Eve is not to be missed, as the Big East and Big Ten seasons both get underway. However, it is one final non-conference match-up that leads our breakdowns. Happy New Year!
Game of the Week
#16 Gonzaga at #21 Oklahoma State – 6:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (*****)
- A win against Oklahoma State today will make Gonzaga the best team in the Big 12. Obviously, Gonzaga is still in the West Coast Conference, but they are already 4-0 against Big 12 teams this season with wins against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Baylor. Monday’s game against the Cowboys, however, is their first true road test against a Big 12 opponent. The other games have either been at home or on neutral courts. The Zags usually have a size advantage against their opponents, but Oklahoma State can match their size and even has that advantage at the guard position. The Pokes have four guards who contribute heavily to the offense that are 6’3″ or taller, including 6’7″ Le’Bryan Nash. With Bulldog guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. measuring at 6’2″ and 6’1″, respectively, it will be very important to watch how Mark Few’s squad chooses to defend the perimeter size of the Cowboys. Much of that defensive pressure could actually fall on the Zags’ frontcourt. The Oklahoma State guards do most of their damage inside the three-point line because they are not much of a threat from the outside. Keep an eye on how this defensive responsibility affects Gonzaga’s offense inside. The Bulldogs will still need to pound the ball down low and get to the line because it’s their best chance of winning. If they can get to the line like Virginia Tech did against Oklahoma State, they can win this game in a tough road environment.
- No team has shot over 50% eFG in a game against Oklahoma State this season, but the Cowboys face a Gonzaga team that is lethally efficient from two-point range. The GU frontcourt’s two-point shooting breaks down like this – Elias Harris shoots 58.8%, Kelly Olynyk shoots 72.3%, Sam Dower shoots 59.7%, and Przemek Karnowski shoots 65.3%. These player will put considerable pressure on Cowboys center Phillip Jurick and freshman forward Kamari Murphy. The key will be how OSU head coach Travis Ford uses his big guards on help defense to stop the Gonzaga low post attack. If Oklahoma State can figure this out, they will pick-up an important non-conference win as they head into Big 12 play.
- Non-conference home losses are few and far between for Oklahoma State under Travis Ford. It’s hard to believe that Gonzaga can actually go 5-0 against the Big 12 this season, especially on the road in front of the Cowboy faithful at Gallagher-Iba Arena. This game will be extremely fun to watch, but the edge has to go to the Cowboys at home.
Other Games to Watch
#10 Cincinnati at #23 Pittsburgh – 12:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)
- Pittsburgh is a very flimsy 12-1. The only good team they’ve play this season is Michigan and they lost that game. We’ll know very quickly if Pitt is any good against a tough and tested Cincinnati squad. However, the Bearcats have shot the ball quite poorly over the last three games. They cannot afford to continue to do so if they expect to win this one, especially at the “Oakland Zoo” in Pittsburgh. The match-up between Tray Woodall and Cashmere Wright should be great to watch all night. Expect Cincy to get back on track and win this game, though, from behind the three-point line. However, if they are shooting bricks like they have been in the past few outings, Pitt will get a great win to start off the Big East season.
#20 Michigan State at #13 Minnesota – 2:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)
- This will be a great game that should set the tone for the Big Ten conference season. There are several big guards playing and it will have a big impact on each team’s rebounding. Minnesota leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, by grabbing an absurd 49% of their missed shots. Don’t expect the Gophers to grab nearly that many offensive rebounds against MSU because of the size of Spartan guards and Tom Izzo’s emphasis on cleaning the glass. If the Spartan guards can keep Minnesota from getting many second-chance points, they will win this game in Minneapolis.
#5 Indiana at Iowa – 4:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (***)
- Fran McCaffery has Iowa back on the map and headed in the right direction. However, the Hawkeyes do not yet have a signature victory this season. A win against Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena would be a gigantic step forward for this program. Iowa has the “across-the-board” size necessary to play with Indiana but they are still very young. Ultimately, the Hoosiers probably have too many weapons to lose the game, but expect Iowa’s size to bother the IU shots all night long. This will not be a blowout in Iowa City.
Connecticut at Marquette – 8:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (***)
- Opening the Big East season on the road at Marquette is a tough spot for UConn coach Kevin Ollie and his shiny new contract. These two teams are very similar in the sense that they are going through a rebuilding phase. Their offensive and defensive numbers are also very similar on the season. UConn will continue to rely on Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier in tough situations, but as conference season begins they are going to need to get more production from the rest of the team. Keep a close eye on rebounding in this game as it should make the difference between a win and a loss. UConn ranks #303 in offensive rebounding percentage and #313 in defensive rebounding percentage, which means that Marquette should own the boards at home and be able to take this game from the Huskies.
Colorado at #6 Arizona– 8:00 PM EST, Thursday on ESPNU (****)
- Arizona is clearly for real. Wins against Florida and San Diego State prove that the Wildcats are contenders and clearly the best Pac-12 team coming out of the non-conference slate. However, the Wildcats split last season’s two games with Colorado, so this game is no gimme. The keys to the game will be three-point shooting and turnovers. U of A gives up a good number of three-point shots. Approximately 35% of opponents’ field goal attempts come from downtown. Interestingly enough, CU opponents take even more of their shots from beyond the arc, at 42.3% of total shots attempted. While both are in the top 20 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, the Wildcats have more players who can successfully shoot from outside. Also, both teams turn the ball over quite a bit. Keep a close eye on who is able to convert those turnovers to points in transition. Both squads are led by very capable guards, so things should be action packed throughout this game.
California at UCLA – 11:00 PM EST, Thursday on FSN (***)
- This game is only interesting because UCLA showed that there still is life in Westwood with its huge win over Missouri last week. Cal is without question struggling. They have lost four of their last six games, including a home loss to Harvard over the weekend. UCLA can go in one of two directions after such a big win — take the pedal off the gas and blow it at home or use the Missouri win to slingshot their entire season forward. Nothing in Westwood over the past two seasons tells us that the Bruins will put the pedal to the metal henceforth, but let’s keep an eye on this game to see what exactly will happen with the Bruins the rest of the way.
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