Set Your Tivo: 11.12.10Posted by Brian Otskey on November 12th, 2010
***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
Although the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was granted an exception, tonight is the NCAA-mandated start of the college basketball season. Here are five games to keep an eye on this evening. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.
#18 Georgetown @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on Comcast-D.C. and WSKY Hampton Roads (VA) (****)
Perhaps the most anticipated game of the night features two teams starting a new era without their best players. Gone are Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Gerald Lee of Old Dominion, but each team returns its four other starters. Both teams are known for playing excellent defense and a slower tempo style, so tonight’s game figures to be in the 50s or low 60s as a consequence of that. Among the Georgetown returnees are Austin Freeman, the Big East preseason POY, and senior point guard Chris Wright. Freeman is a terrific all-around player and a major threat from the three-point line for the Hoyas. If you’re looking for a good indication of the final result during the game, look no further than the enigmatic Wright. In games where he scored ten points or less last year, Georgetown was just 3-7. When he had at least 11 points, the Hoyas were 20-3. In contrast to past Georgetown teams, this group of Hoyas will run their offense almost exclusively through their backcourt. Freeman, Wright and Jason Clark are arguably Georgetown’s best players and none of them happen to be taller than 6’3. That isn’t to say Georgetown has nobody up front. Julian Vaughn returns for his senior season after transferring from Florida State at the conclusion of his freshman year. Last year against Old Dominion, Vaughn had 13 points on 5-8 FG. Gerald Lee was saddled with foul trouble and thus a non-factor in the game (six points and only one rebound). With Lee now departed, Vaughn may have another good game in the paint for Georgetown. For the Monarchs of ODU, four starters return from a 27-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their key players in this game will be Frank Hassell battling inside with Vaughn, point guard Kent Bazemore and Ben Finney who had 13/6/5 assts the last time these teams met. That last meeting was on campus at Georgetown, a game won by the Monarchs. In fact, the visiting team has won every game in this series since it started in the 2006-07 season. Bazemore is an interesting player. He’s a lefty point guard (there are actually two other lefties on the ODU roster) who shot the exact same percentage from the floor and the free throw line last year (48.6%). For Blaine Taylor’s team, free throw and three-point shooting could cause major problems in this game, especially against a defense as tight as Georgetown’s. Keyon Carter is Old Dominion’s best returning three-point shooter and he only shot 34.7% from behind the arc last season. This should be a hard fought, close game that may come down to the final possession. Georgetown was a difficult team to prepare for last year as they had the talent to beat both NCAA finalists Duke and Butler, but also lost games to the likes of Ohio, Rutgers and South Florida. Good guard play and a solid effort from Vaughn should allow Georgetown to grab a nice road win to start the season. For ODU, Hassell must contain Vaughn while Finney and Bazemore have to hold their own against Georgetown’s vaunted backcourt. If Taylor’s team can hold the Georgetown backcourt in check, look for the Monarchs to pull out a win. We hate to go cliché but that’s easier said than done.
Northern Iowa @ #11 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN3.com (***)
The last time Northern Iowa won a game, this happened. Times have changed as Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder have graduated. This is Kwadzo Ahelegbe’s team now. The senior averaged 10.6 PPG last season and now anchors a relatively young team. Against Syracuse’s strong 2-3 zone tonight, Northern Iowa must work the ball into the paint and free throw line area effectively. To do that, sophomore Jake Koch must start to become the impact player coach Ben Jacobson hopes he’ll be. Playing largely behind Eglseder last year, the Ashwaubenon, WI, native only played 13.6 minutes a game last year. He’ll be counted on for much more this time around, along with Johnny Moran and Lucas O’Rear. For UNI to win tonight the guards must be on fire shooting over the zone and Koch has to avoid foul trouble. The Panthers have nobody else on the roster 6’8 or taller who saw any significant action last season. Look for Syracuse to take advantage of that and eat Northern Iowa alive in the paint. The player most likely to do just that is freshman stud Fab Melo. At 7’0 and 265 lbs, Melo is a force inside for which UNI has no answer. You could see a really big freshman debut for Mr. Melo this evening. Syracuse just has too much up front for Northern Iowa to contend with. Rick Jackson, Melo and everybody’s favorite breakout candidate Kris Joseph should dominate at home for the Orange. The backcourt tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine only adds to the ‘Cuse’s talent and depth (we haven’t even mentioned their bench). Both can play the point and shoot it well from the arc. All in all, Jim Boeheim’s club just has too much talent for Northern Iowa tonight. We’d be surprised if the final margin was less than ten points.
Oakland @ West Virginia – 9 pm on ESPN3.com (***)
We’ll come out and say it right away: This is a dangerous game for West Virginia. Fluky things happen in season openers and Oakland returns a talented team. Head coach Greg Kampe has his star player Keith Benson back after completing last year with a 28/9 performance against Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAAs. At 6’11 and 225 pounds, Benson is crafty center who is quick and athletic enough to be a step ahead of other, often slower, frontcourt players. He blocked over three shots a game last year and grabbed over ten boards per contest while scoring 17.3 PPG on 53.3% shooting. West Virginia will counter with Turkish big man Deniz Kilicli. Coach Bob Huggins expects a better year out of the big fella and he’ll certainly need it. Outside of Kilicli, West Virginia has only sophomore Danny Jennings and freshman Kevin Noreen to play in the post. With star player Kevin Jones playing mostly facing the basket and on the wings, WVU needs someone to step up inside. Huggins-coached teams will always defend and rebound but there clearly is a talent dropoff this year in Morgantown. Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and glue guy Wellington Smith have gone on to bigger and better things so outside of Jones and point guard Darryl Bryant, the Mountaineers are left with a bunch of role players and freshmen. One of those freshmen, Noah Cottrill, was suspended indefinitely by Huggins a couple weeks ago. Against Oakland tonight, West Virginia must contain the other players on the Golden Grizzlies’ roster besides Benson. Larry Wright is an experienced guard who shot almost 93% from the free throw line last year. Reggie Hamilton replaces star point guard Johnathon Jones. Coach Kampe said the two are on the same level talent-wise but there’s no doubt that Oakland will have to get used to a new style of play at the point. Jones was fourth in D1 in assists last year so Hamilton certainly has his work cut out for him. With a relatively inexperienced Hamilton at the point in his first game taking over for Jones, turnovers may become an issue for Oakland. West Virginia will pressure the ball in the half court and really buckle down on defense, a trademark of a Huggins team. For WVU, Bryant must also avoid turnovers and get the ball inside to Kilicli and to Jones on the wing. Jones is a matchup nightmare because he can play inside at 6’8, 255 pounds, or out (40.4% 3pt FG). We think Oakland can hang with West Virginia and possibly pull the upset. It’s always a tall order in Morgantown plus WVU is still talented, but stranger things have happened. This game is hard to predict because of the uncertainty of how the Mountaineers will play without three of their core players from last season. One thing is for sure, Oakland won’t go down without a fight. This could be a battle deep into the game.
Although this feature is called “Set Your Tivo,” here are two games not on television of any kind that you should definitely be following.
Seton Hall @ #24 Temple – 7:30 pm (****)
Jason King of Yahoo! Sports called this game your best bet to watch on Friday. Unfortunately for everyone outside of the Liacouras Center tonight, that won’t be possible. Why this game isn’t on television is beyond us but it’s definitely one of the top games of the early part of the season. A big-time backcourt matchup will take place in Philly tonight as Temple’s Juan Fernandez takes on Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell. Fernandez is a do-everything guard from Argentina who can light it up from downtown and dish out assists like no other. Hazell has a reputation for being a gunner but can make shots from literally anywhere inside the half court line. While Fernandez will likely handle the point for the Owls and Hazell will play off the ball, these are two of the better guards in college basketball. The teams met last year with Temple pulling out a 71-65 road win led by Ryan Brooks’ 24 points. Unfortunately for Temple, Brooks graduated so they’ll need someone else to step up. The best candidate is Lavoy Allen, a 6’9 senior forward who grabbed 12 rebounds in last year’s meeting. Allen will go head to head with Herb Pope on the low block in what is one of the better matchups of big men we’ll see this year. Pope led the Big East in rebounding last year at 10.7 per game. He is said to be 100% healthy after his scary April collapse in which he had to be resuscitated by Seton Hall medical staff who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The big question for the Pirates this season is defense. New head man Kevin Willard, a member of the Rick Pitino coaching tree, seems to be the man for the job. He has stressed defense above all else in practice. It is probably expecting too much for the Hall to play great defense against Temple but even a marginal improvement should give them a good chance tonight. Seton Hall led last year’s game by 13 points in the second half before Temple tightened up their defense and took advantage of SH mistakes down the stretch. Under Fran Dunphy, defense won’t be a problem (ranked #7 in defensive efficiency last year). The question for Temple is whether they can score enough to keep pace with the high-octane Pirates. This game should be a war between a team looking to prove itself on the road and a fundamentally sound, stout defensive club looking for more after a successful 2009-10 season. This is another game that could come down to the final possession. The Hall probably has more talent but the Owls have great chemistry, play much better defense and beat the Pirates last season. If Temple can control the pace and hit 70 points, they should win this game.
Wofford @ Minnesota – 8 pm (***) (Live stream available on www.bigtennetwork.com)
We saw a top Southern Conference team go on the road at a middle of the pack power conference team on Wednesday night in Maryland and come within one shot of pulling off the upset. Could we see another tonight? Wofford is a popular pick for an NCAA Tournament upset this year but forget what may come four months from now. There’s a chance it can happen tonight. Wofford’s Noah Dahlman returns to his home state of Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers. Dahlman went to high school in the town of Braham, a little over an hour drive north on I-35 from Williams Arena. He has scored in double figures for 48 straight games dating back to the 2008-09 season. Wofford is an experienced team with five seniors who play significant minutes all back from a team that pushed Wisconsin to the limit in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Minnesota is no slouch, either. Tubby Smith is primed for his best season in the land of ten thousand lakes with a talented roster returning. The Gophers lose Lawrence Westbrook but return everyone else of significance and get a boost with the return of Trevor Mbakwe from his legal troubles. Minnesota somehow managed to make the field of 65 last year despite suspensions, legal problems and eligibility issues. Also back this year after missing the last 17 games of the season is point guard Al Nolen. With Thursday’s suspension of Devoe Joseph, Nolen should start at point guard tonight. Behind a strong frontcourt and dead-eye shooter Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota should be an even better team this season and poses a stern test for experienced Wofford. The key for Minnesota is to block out the distraction of the Joseph suspension and focus on shutting down Wofford’s supporting cast. Dahlman is going to get his points, even against a good Gopher front line. The Terriers must get a big game out of Jamar Diggs as well. Diggs has to be able to penetrate and either score or dish off to Dahlman in the paint. Minnesota can stop that with effective defense from its guards, backed up with an athletic player like Mbakwe down low. Wofford needs a solid effort across the board to be able to win. They had a bunch of players average three to six points per game last year so a few of those guys need to step up this year, especially on the road against a borderline top 25 Minnesota team. Both teams were nearly identical defensively last year, ranking #40 and #41 in efficiency. Minnesota was the better team offensively. If they get a balanced scoring game from their top five or six players, the Gophers will go home a winner. The suspension of Joseph looms over this game and takes a piece out of the Minnesota rotation. It’ll be a tall order for Wofford to pull it off but they have the talent and experience to do it. This will be a competitive game late into the second half.