Set Your DVR: Week of 01.07.12Posted by bmulvihill on January 7th, 2013
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
There are several very meaningful conference games this week, which is great to see so early in the conference season. There’s lots of great games and even more to cover, so let’s not waste any time and get right to the breakdowns.
#18 Notre Dame at #10 Cincinnati – 6:30 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)
- Notre Dame has played 14 games so far and this will be their first true road test of the season. Mike Brey is known for setting his schedule this way and it has not benefited the Irish much over the years. The Irish have lost their first true road game of the season for three straight seasons, and if you examine Notre Dame’s schedule in the Brey era, you will see that losing the first road game of the season is fairly typical. The Irish run up against a Cincinnati team that has lost two of its past three games, including back-to-back home games. The Bearcats can blame most of their recent troubles on poor shooting. They are under 50% eFG for the past five games. They are also struggling to get to the line, which is an indication that they are taking a lot of outside shots. Look to see if Cincy takes the ball to the hoop more to manufacture some points at the free throw line. Also, watch to see if Notre Dame can hit their shots on the road as well as they have at home. It’s doubtful, particularly against tough field goal defense like Cincinnati. The Bearcats should win in a close one.
#23 Pittsburgh at #14 Georgetown – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (***)
- Many questioned how good the Panthers really were given their weak schedule, but with two consecutive losses, it’s looking more and more like the critics were correct. Pitt heads to Georgetown for a tough Big East road game in which a loss will drop them to 0-3 in the conference. Georgetown is coming off a tough road loss to Marquette where offensive rebounding and free throws killed them, much like it did in the Indiana game earlier this season. If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they need to control the offensive glass. They rank sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but watch to see if the length of the Hoyas makes rebounding more difficult for Pitt. Additionally, the Panthers present relatively zero threat from three-point land. They rely on twos heavily and almost exclusively. With the Hoyas ranking 13th in the nation in two-point field goal defense, you can expect Jamie Dixon’s club to have a tough time scoring. It says here that the Hoyas should prevail at home.
Iowa State at #4 Kansas – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPNU (***)
- We finally get to see Kansas against a Big 12 team. Right now it looks like the Jayhawks are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference and everyone else is playing for second. It’s possible the second place team could be Iowa State, especially with Oklahoma State’s recent loss to Kansas State exposing some of the Cowboys’ weaknesses. KU has proven that its defense is going to be tough to break. Temple took them to the edge but it was the interior presence of center Jeff Withey that made the difference. So far this season, Iowa State has proven to be tough on the boards, ranking 15th in offensive rebounding percentage and ninth in defensive rebounding percentage nationally. If the Cyclones plan to win this game, they need to own the boards in Allen Fieldhouse. It’ll be a tough task against Withey and the big guards at KU.
#22 Butler at St. Joseph’s – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on Comcast Network (****)
- Expectations seems to be the theme in this game. Butler is exceeding what everyone thought Brad Stevens’ team would do and St. Joe’s isn’t quite living up to what most thought it could do. Both teams get a bit of a reset as conference season begins this week in the A-10. This game should be a great indicator of what the top half of the conference will look like. Keep an eye on the guards in this match-up, particularly Butler’s Rotnei Clarke and St. Joe’s Carl Jones. It will be quite the battle throughout the game. The key to this one though will be Butler’s Andrew Smith. Smith has been quiet in the last three games, averaging single figures in both points and rebounds. In fact, Smith only has one 10+ rebounding game all season. At 6’11”, Butler needs more from his size on the glass. If Smith can assert himself in the paint against a tough St. Joe’s interior, Butler will be off to a great start in its first season in the A-10. However, given the athleticism and experience of the St. Joe’s front line, I’m going with the Hawks at home.
#12 Minnesota at #13 Illinois – 9:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (*****)
- Illnois’ win against OSU on Saturday was huge for John Groce and the Illini faithful. The team was able to answer a lot of questions after losses to Missouri and Purdue and a close call against Auburn; namely, was this team really that good? While their shooting is still inconsistent, the Illini proved that they can win a big game when they need to and did so convincingly. Minnesota, on the other hand, shows little sign of slowing down and has answered its questions all season. They are tough and athletic and will present a major hurdle to both Indiana and Michigan on the way to a Big Ten crown. The major question in this game is how the Illini will keep the Gophers off the offensive glass. Illinois ranks 230th in defensive rebounding percentage. If they don’t have a plan to crash the defensive boards, Trevor Mbakwe and company will blow this thing wide open early. Additionally, the Gophers have big, athletic guards who can serve to contain Brandon Paul. With Illinois still shooting somewhat inconsistently, look for the Gophers to steal one on the road.
#19 UNLV at New Mexico – 10:00 PM EST, Wednesday on CBS Sports Network (****)
- This is a big opener in the Mountain West as both UNLV and New Mexico could use a key early victory. New Mexico has lost two of its last three but grabbed a nice road victory at Cincinnati. They still have some questions to answer, so a win against Vegas would represent a promising start to the MW season. For UNLV, the health of star forward Mike Moser is still in question. He and Anthony Bennett give the Rebels a big advantage in the frontcourt, but Moser has not played much lately due to an elbow injury. The keys to this game will be the Lobos’ turnovers and shooting — New Mexico is struggling to get the ball in the basket, so if they are also turning it over, it will be curtains for the Lobos. I expect this one to be extremely tight, but look for New Mexico to pull out this one at home.
#6 Arizona at Oregon – 9:00 PM EST, Thursday on ESPN2 (****)
- Arizona is still undefeated, but things have sure gotten much tougher for the Wildcats since their big win over Florida. A controversial blown call against Colorado is the only thing that has kept the Wildcats with a donut in the loss column. Oregon has given the Pac-12 something to be excited about as the Ducks’ recent success has been somewhat unexpected. However, a triple-overtime loss to UTEP tempers things a bit, even after a win over rival Oregon State this weekend. With this game at Oregon, you can expect a close contest throughout. Arizona needs to improve its shooting to get back on track, as they have been at under 50% eFG for the past three games. It won’t be easy, as the Ducks have only allowed 50% eFG two times all season. Keep an eye on Arizona’s Mark Lyons. Lyons has without question been a catalyst for the Wildcats, but he has also been struggling with his shot as of late. If he gets back on track in Eugene, the Wildcats can get a big road win. Also, keep an eye on Oregon’s turnover numbers. They are coughing the ball up on 22.6% of their possessions which is good for 270th in the nation. This is a tough game to call given the recent struggles from Arizona and what is sure to be a chaotic environment at Matthew Knight Arena. I’ll go with the Ducks in a mild upset here, just to shake things up.
St. Mary’s at #16 Gonzaga – 11:00 PM EST, Thursday on ESPN2 (****)
- St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga has certainly turned into one of the top rivalries in college hoops with the Gaels finally ending Gonzaga’s regular season dominance over the WCC last year. St. Mary’s took two of three from the Zags last year including in the conference tournament championship game. You can expect great shooting and very efficient offense from both clubs. The question will be whether or not the Gaels will have an answer to the Zags’ talented front line. Gonzaga 7’0″ forward Kelly Olynyk has been dominant as of late. The guard match-ups between St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. should be fantastic to watch as well. With St. Mary’s struggling a bit more on defense, it puts them in a position to have to outscore Gonzaga in the Kennel. That’s a tough spot to be in given the roaring efficiency of Mark Few’s offense at this point in the season. I’m taking the Zags at home in this one.
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