***** – 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 tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
#24 Richmond @ Xavier – 1 pm on ESPN2 (****)
If there are still fans who don’t realize the importance of this game, they need to look no further than the recent comments by Xavier head coach Chris Mack on the message boards at Xavierhoops.com:
“Our team needs you loud. If you’re just going to come to the game to watch, give your tickets up. Heck, you can WATCH from home. I want our arena rocking!! Calling all PARTICIPANTS. This isn’t a marketing ploy. This is your head coach, sitting at his home computer asking for the best fans in the country to come alive for 40 game minutes on Sunday LIKE NEVER BEFORE.”
There is a good reason why Mack is so excited for this early game. With eight consecutive wins, Richmond has not only cracked the top 25, they have actually taken the lead in the A-10 standings. If the Spiders win their last three games against Xavier, Dayton, and Charlotte, their tournament stock could make a huge jump. The Musketeers have won four games in a row and are tied with the Spiders for the Atlantic Ten lead. Richmond comes in ranking only 90th in offensive efficiency, and they are going to have to hit their open shots, as they won’t get many second chance opportunities against the best rebounding team in the conference. Xavier has a dynamic offense that ranks 10th in efficiency and features future NBA pick Jordan Crawford. Xavier has won 22 consecutive games at home, and if they are able to hold Kevin Anderson in check, it looks like Richmond may lose its place atop the A-10.
Louisville @ Connecticut – 2 pm on CBS (****)
Both of these teams were in trouble of missing the tournament a few weeks ago when they met up. Louisville survived that game, but with losses against St. John’s and Georgetown since then, their at-large status is still in doubt. UConn, due to two improbable wins over Villanova and West Virginia, is playing their way back in the tournament. RTC said before UL’s last game that they were going to have to get production from somebody other than Samardo Samuels and Edgar Sosa. The Cardinals only had four points from their bench in that game, so Louisville is still going to need some more balance if they are going to beat a hot team like Connecticut. The Huskies’ offense features four double figure scorers, but rank just 61st in offensive efficiency, largely due to a poor assists to turnover ratio. Louisville’s defense ranks just 68th in the country, and they have allowed their last five opponents to shoot over 40% from the field, which will not cut it at the XL Center. The Cardinals started the year just 1-6 on the road, but have won their last two road trips (including a win over Syracuse) so perhaps they have figured out what was plaguing them earlier in the season. With Connecticut ranked 40th in the RPI and Louisville at #41, this game could be the difference in who is among the last four in and who is among the first four out. Given UConn’s recent upsets, look for them to continue their surprising run toward a potential NCAA berth.