Set Your DVR: Week of 01.14.13Posted by bmulvihill on January 14th, 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.
Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:
#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)
- The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.
Baylor at #5 Kansas – 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)
- Kansas has had close calls in its most recent two home games against Temple and Iowa State. While they were able to pull out the wins, Baylor has to be thinking they have a chance to win this contest given the recent events. The big match-up to watch here is at center where Isaiah Austin will battle Jeff Withey. A match-up of true seven footers is rare in college so make sure to pay close attention to these two all night. Austin is quite athletic so it will be interesting to see if he is able to pull Withey away from the basket to free up the middle. Austin has put up 30+ three-point shots this year so don’t be surprised if he takes one or two from outside in order to give Baylor some room to work on offense. Watch Baylor on the offensive glass as well. Their five worst offensive rebounding performances on the year have resulted in four losses. Their ability to get second chance opportunities is integral to their offensive success. Withey and the big guards at Kansas will not make it easy for the Bears though. Also, look for the Jayhawks to attack the Baylor defense aggressively. In their four losses this season, the Bears have had trouble playing good defense without putting teams on the line.
Wisconsin at #4 Indiana – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (***)
- Indiana’s convincing win against Minnesota and Michigan’s loss may have reestablished the Hoosiers as the top dog in the Big Ten once again. Also, Wisconsin’s convincing win over Illinois let everyone know they should not take the Badgers lightly this season, despite some struggles. The question in this game is whether or not Wisconsin has enough offensive firepower outside of Jared Berggren to beat Indiana. The short answer is probably no. The Badgers are 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG in a game. The Hoosiers have only dipped below 50% eFG twice on the season. However, Wisconsin has a chance if they can limit Indiana’s second chance points. Indiana killed Minnesota on the offensive glass on Saturday and it allowed them to build a big lead early. Wisconsin is a much better defensive rebounding team than the Gophers so they should be able to keep this one closer if they can grab boards.
#14 North Carolina State at Maryland – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN2 (***)
- North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell powered the Wolfpack to a huge win against Duke on Saturday. NC State proved their defense was up to the challenge and their athletic frontline made the difference. Maryland on the other hand has been feasting on weak opponents for the better part of two months and has now dropped back-to-back games to Florida State and Miami. In order for Maryland to beat NC State, Alex Len needs to have a career game even bigger than the career game he had against Kentucky in the opening game of the season. He has a big size advantage against the Wolfpack and must take advantage of it. If he can get going early, the Terps have a shot at a big home win to keep them relevant in the ACC.
#22 New Mexico at Boise State – 9:00 PM EST, Wednesday on Root Sports Rocky Mountain (***)
- The race for the Mountain West is looking like it is going to be a battle all season long and New Mexico and Boise State should factor in heavily. Boise State knocked off previously unbeaten Wyoming this past weekend without the services of four players, including Derrick Marks, who averages 16 points per game. The four players were suspended due to a violation of team rules, but three of them including Marks will be back for this game. With the Lobos playing tough defense, having Marks back will be a huge asset as they will need all the scoring they can get. It looks like second chance points will be at a premium in this game. Neither team is good at grabbing offensive boards and both rank in the top 25 in defensive rebounding percentage. Keep a close eye on who can breakthrough and get a few more put backs. New Mexico has a size advantage, so give them the edge going into the game.
#23 UNLV at #13 San Diego State – 10:00 PM EST, Wednesday on CBS Sports (****)
- The top two teams in the Mountain West heading into the season are getting a major push from the rest of the conference. Both won in OT on Saturday to set up a very important early conference match-up. This game is shaping up to be a battle between the UNLV frontcourt and the SDSU backcourt. Mike Moser‘s performance against Air Force is significant for the Rebels because they become a much more dangerous team when he is at full strength. Don’t expect this game to be a shooting clinic as both squads are struggling a bit from the field. Free throws then become hugely important. Keep a close eye on who gets to the line more often, the UNLV front line or the SDSU guards. Additionally, SDSU has to figure out a way to rebound the ball against the Vegas bigs. This one should come down to the wire.
#3 Michigan at #10 Minnesota – 7:00 PM EST, Thursday on ESPN (****)
- Both of these teams are coming off of tough road losses where they went down big early and had to battle back. Minnesota’s poor defensive rebounding was exposed and Michigan had a tough time against the best defense it has faced all season. Michigan cannot let Minnesota get out into transition in this game, which means they can’t turn the ball over early like they did against Ohio State. The Gophers are too athletic with Austin and Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams – more athletic than the Buckeyes. We should see a great battle on the glass when Minnesota has the ball, as the Gophers rank first in offensive rebounding percentage and the Wolverines rank second in defensive rebounding percentage. If Minnesota can play physical halfcourt defense like Ohio State was able to do, they can deal Michigan its second straight loss. The Wolverines need to come out with a greater sense of urgency and they simply need to make shots. Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III were essentially non-factors against the Buckeyes. This should be another great Big Ten battle.
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