After a relatively slow opening week things begin to start picking up this week so I’ll be going back to the daily version of SYT to avoid writing a 5,000 word post. RTC will be doing our “world famous” RTC Live from multiple major games this week so it’s definitely worth checking out. That feature has become so popular that our correspondent at the Davidson–Butler game noticed that another writer in the row in front of him on Saturday was following the simultaneous Creighton-Dayton game on RTC Live. Anyways, there are two games on the slate for tonight and coincidentally we will be covering both of them. Some of you may think this is even more shameless self-promotion (and it is to a certain extent), but as always if you think another game should be mentioned or if I make a careless mistake let me know in the comment section.
Miami (OH) at #5 Kentucky at 7 PM on Big Blue Sports, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Unfortunately, Wally Szczerbiak will not be in action although we hear that he has some free time now. Fortunately, John Stevens will be there with RTC Live though as well as some guy named John Wall that you may have heard some people talking about the past few months. Quite frankly the RedHawks, fresh off an 11-point loss to mighty Towson to open the season shouldn’t be much of a hurdle for the Wildcats, but this game is worth watching to see how the young Wildcats function in a regular season game with Wall playing alongside Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt. Coming into the season it was widely expected that Bledsoe would serve as a backup to Wall, but in the first game of the season it was Bledsoe not Wall (serving the 2nd game of his split suspension for a suspected infraction relating to his time in AAU) who stole the show. It will be interesting to see how those two play with Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem given the prodigious talents of those four players, but the thing to look for if you are wondering if this Wildcat team can win a NCAA title is their defensive effort. Although we doubt you will see “Rick Pitino at Kentucky” level defense out of these young Wildcats don’t be surprised if their effort is much better after their first game (minus Wall) left John Calipari wanting more defensively out of his team. If they heed Calipari’s advice and turn up the defensive intensity, it could be a very long night for the RedHawks.
Pennsylvania at #6 Villanova at 7 PM: It looks like this game will not be on television, but RTC has all the coverage you need with yet another installment of RTC Live. As for the game itself, this rivalry (both teams are part of Philadelphia’s famous “Big 5”) hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in recent years. Since the Quakers last beat the Wildcats with Ugonna Onyekwe, Koko Archibong, and Andrew Toole in both 2001 and 2002 the two programs have gone in opposite directions. Penn is no longer even a contender to win the Ivy League title (it is Cornell‘s to lose this year) while Villanova is coming off a Final Four trip highlighted by one of the best NCAA Tournament games ever and is expected to contend for another Final Four trip this season. The story here is obviously the Wildcats and how they will continue to develop without Dante Cunningham controlling the paint. The Wildcats are loaded in the backcourt with Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes leading the way, but will need to develop an inside game if they want to replicate the success of last season or even the 2006-07 team that featured Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, and Allan Ray. While I don’t think this year’s backcourt is as good as it was in 2006-07, they do have an impressive set of newcomers –f reshmen McDonald’s All-Americans Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns and another McDonald’s All-American in Duke transfer Taylor King — who might enough to push them over the top. The real key to Villanova’s success this year may be how Antonio Pena and freshman Mouphtaou Yarou, who just started playing basketball in 2004, develop as threats on the inside. Normally, I wouldn’t give Penn a chance in this game, but it is rivalry game and Penn looked better than expected (remember this is a relative thing) in a loss at Penn State and Villanova looked a bit shaky in the 1st half against Farleigh Dickinson on Friday night so you never know. Regardless, Penn’s Tyler Bernardini and Jack Eggleston will have their hands full against a Jay Wright-led team that is deeper and more talented than Glen Miller‘s crew.