Happy New Year From RTC!

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011

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Voices of the Big East: Volume IV

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 31st, 2011

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

Happy New Year!

The voices of Rush the Court would like to wish you a happy and safe New Year.  Thank you for reading.  We hope you have enjoyed what you have seen so far.  Of course there is one ball drop we will always be watching. 

We Will Forego the Crystal for This

Khem-ical Reaction

Khem Birch left Pittsburgh two weeks ago after one semester at the school.  This his has led to a variety of commentary, including from himself.

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Pac-12 and Big Ten Strategic Collaboration: What Does It Mean For Hoops Heads?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2011

In the excitement over the start of the Pac-12 basketball season, we’ve neglected thus far to mention the announcement Wednesday of a new “strategic collaboration” between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Included in this agreement are plans for more games between teams in the two conferences, beginning as early as next season for most sports, with a 12-game inter-conference schedule in football planned for 2017. For hoops, we should begin to see more games between the two conferences beginning next year, with possible special events, such as a college football kickoff event at a pro stadium, or basketball events played at NBA stadiums, to be announced at a later date. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also look forward to being able to expand without expanding, to grow the reaches of their respective conferences into new regions and use the two cable networks – the already excelling Big Ten network and the Pac-12 network to come next year – to expand the branding of each conference.

larry scott

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott And His Big Ten Counterpart Jim Delany Have Come Up With A Creative Plan To Increase The Visibility Of Both Leagues (photo credit: Kirby Lee, U.S. Presswire)

Focusing just on the hoops side of things, knowing that the Big Ten already has the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that isn’t going anywhere, we likely shouldn’t expect to see a similar Big Ten/Pac-12 event, but there are plenty of ideas that would be appealing. Aside from the mere prospects of home-and-home series’ between teams like Washington and Wisconsin or Arizona and Michigan State, fans in out of the way places like Pullman or Lincoln can now hope to be able to wind up with elite programs making a visit to their campus – imagine UCLA at Nebraska or Ohio State at Washington State, the types of road trips that likely wouldn’t have happened prior to this agreement. Aside from that, perhaps we get some of these early season special events, things like a couple Pac-12 teams traveling to Indianapolis for a double-header with Indiana and Purdue or the opposite, perhaps, where the Big 12 sends a couple teams to Portland for a double header with Oregon and Oregon State. Delany even mentioned that such games could be used to help college basketball come up with a more definitive season-opening event, akin to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.

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The Other 26: Week Six

Posted by IRenko on December 31st, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences.  Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t expect St. Mary’s to be very good this year.  Last year, they lost five of their last eight games, including a lackluster home loss to Kent State in the NIT first round.  Over the offseason, they said goodbye to their unquestioned leader and star, Mickey McConnell.  Although they started the season with a win over Northern Iowa at home, they followed that with a 12-point loss at Denver.  Then came a string of victories against middling competition at best and a 13-point loss to Baylor.  So coming into this past week, St. Mary’s had a lot to prove, as far as I was concerned.  And, well, at a minimum they proved me wrong.

Randy Bennett Contemplates Whether to Accept I. Renko's Apology

First was last Friday’s neutral floor matchup against Missouri State, a strong if not outstanding team (more on them down below).  The Gaels handed them a decisive 77-61 defeat.  So far, so good.  But still, how would St. Mary’s fare against their prominent conference foes — BYU and Gonzaga — once the WCC season kicked off?  Could they register a win against a top 30 team?  Well the Gaels answered that question with authority Thursday night, posting their second straight 16-point win.

Mea culpa.  St. Mary’s is, indeed, a very good team that has a chance to make some noise in March, as it did two years ago.  But I owe them a bit more introspection than that.  How, exactly, have the Gaels built their 12-2 record and top 25 Pomeroy rating?

  • Stat sheet stuffers –  Fifth-year senior forward Rob Jones and junior guard Matthew Dellavedova lead the team in scoring, but they do much more than that.  Jones is an excellent rebounder who averages a double-double.  Witness his 24 points and 15 boards against BYU.  Dellavedova, meanwhile, is averaging 6.7 assists per game.  Against Missouri State, he finished with 17 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.  And against BYU, he 18 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, and four steals.  Complete play from your best players helps stitch the fabric of a well-rounded team that is more than the sum of its parts.
  • Offensive rebounding — In whipping up on Missouri State, St. Mary’s showed off an underrated asset — the ability to dominate a team on the glass.  They hauled down approximately 90% of Missouri State’s missed shots and 30% of their own.  The difference in offensive rebounding allowed them to take 12 more shots and cruise to victory.  The Gaels didn’t let up against BYU.  Although the Cougars are a very strong defensive rebounding team, St. Mary’s pulled down almost 40% of their own missed shots and 67% of BYU’s.  On the season, the Gaels’ offensive rebounding percentage is 12 percent higher than their opponents’.
  • Balanced production – The departure of McConnell may have produced a team that is more offensively balanced, but just as efficient, as last year’s team.  In both of their wins this past week, four players finished in double figures.  And that was without Clint Steindl, who averages nine points per game, but was out with injuries.  Against BYU, Jones paced the team with 24 points, but Stephen Holt added 21 and Dellavedova 18.  By contrast, in their loss to Denver, Jones and Dellavedova scored 21 and 20 each, but no one else posted more than six points.
  • Improved defense — The Gaels’ shot-stopping ability has improved this year, as they have a much better defensive FG%.  They didn’t show that as much against Missouri State and BYU, both of whom shot the ball at a reasonable clip.  That makes one wonder whether this newfound defensive strength is sustainable against high-quality opponents, but it’s at least a start to build on.

After the updated Top 15, we recap the wild start to the MVC season, preview a New Year’s Eve feast, and delve into much more in the week that was and the week that will be.

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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 31st, 2011

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.  You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

Hawai’i picked up the league’s best non-conference win of the season knocking off No. 14 Xavier (albeit a slightly shorthanded Musketeer squad) in the Diamond Head Classic en-route to a 2-1 finish in their home tournament.  New Mexico State got thumped by in-state rival New Mexico at home and Utah State had a relatively easy time in its home tournament.

Zane Johnson Led Hawaii Over Xavier Before Falling To Auburn In The Diamond Head Classic. (AP/Marco Garcia)

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (10-3): The Wolf Pack avoided a Cedarville trap game and has eight days off to rest before starting WAC play. The Wolf Pack have the best record in non-conference play and boast the best defense in the league allowing just 0.91 points per possession.  Nevada continues to get it done with seemingly little help from the bench in terms of scoring production. That’s something that could hurt them down the road when the rigors of conference play and WAC travel start to take their toll. One thing in the Wolf Pack’s favor is the conference schedule. They’ll get the Idaho/Utah State and New Mexico State/Louisiana Tech road trips out of the way in the first half of the league schedule.
  2. Hawai’i (7-5): The Warriors vault into the number two spot thanks in large part to a solid showing at the Diamond Head Classic where Hawai’i won two out of three: a 65-62 loss to Auburn, an 84-82 overtime victory over 14th ranked Xavier and finally a 75-68 win versus Clemson. In the latter contest, Zane Johnson regained his accuracy and finished with 27 points, bolstered by going 6-12 long distance shooting and center Vander Joaquim produced a 14/10 double-double. UH shot 49% overall and committed just 12 turnovers. It was forward Joston Thomas scoring 26 points and Joaquim scoring 20 in the win over Xavier. Last year’s strong performance in the DHC set the Warriors up for a better-than-expected conference season and their 2-1 record this year could be the catalyst for a strong run through the WAC again. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking in On… the Sun Belt Conference

Posted by dnspewak on December 31st, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can also find his musings online at Sun Belt Basketball or on Twitter @dspewak.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • There’s not much excitement to report from the Sun Belt’s first night of conference play on Thursday, but UALR looks like the big winner with a road win at North Texas. The Trojans, who have struggled on the road under Steve Shields in recent years, had lost all six away contests during non-conference play, but a double-double from forward Will Neighbour and stellar guard play helped grind out the victory over the Mean Green. That will probably be a theme this year in the wide open West Division, where only Denver has established itself as a power. The Pioneers, by the way, handled Troy at home in their opener. East leader Middle Tennessee also held off a pesky Florida International team in Murfreesboro, and Western Kentucky escaped in overtime at Louisiana-Monroe.
  • With the second semester underway, the much anticipated debut of Tony Mitchell at North Texas hasn’t disappointed anybody. Although Mitchell struggled with foul trouble in the loss to UALR on Thursday, he has already showcased his freakish athleticism by throwing down dunk after dunk during his first four games. In wins over Jackson State, Grambling and New Orleans, Mitchell averaged more than 13 points per game and looked more than comfortable on the court. Even in a loss to LSU, Mitchell scored 11 points in 27 minutes after earning the start for Johnny Jones. He’s still improving at this point, but Mitchell should be a different player by early March.

Kermit Davis Has His Middle Tennessee Squad In Mid-Season Form (AP)

Power Rankings

East

  1. Middle Tennessee (12-2, 1-0) — Congratulations, Kermit Davis: you are now the winningest coach in MTSU history. Davis won his 165th game against FIU on Thursday, but more importantly, his team looks like the runaway favorite in the East after completing an impressive non-conference run. Two months ago, suggesting another division champ besides Florida Atlantic would have seemed insane, but Davis finally may have turned the corner with this program. This team is physical, nasty and downright intimidating, especially on the defensive end with LaRon Dendy and Shawn Jones as the shot-blockers. These forwards rebound well and they don’t give an inch in the paint, and on the other end — Dendy in particular has emerged as a back-to-the-basket scorer. There was never a question that MTSU would defend this season, but Bruce Massey, Marcos Knight and the rest of the guards have also answered every offensive concern Davis had in the pre-season. Middle Tennessee looks like a machine on offense right now, and that’s because it shares the ball as well as anybody in the Sun Belt.
  2. Florida Atlantic (4-9, 0-0) — Don’t give up on the Owls. Sure, the record doesn’t look pretty, but Mike Jarvis challenged this team by taking his players to every city imaginable: Seattle, Washington D.C., Hempstead (N.Y.), Tampa, Lawrence, Starkville, Sunrise (Fla.) and Cambridge. That’s a lot of plane trips and bus rides, so it’s not surprising that the East Division favorite stumbled. It’s not encouraging that Jarvis’s squad could not pull even a single road upset over the likes of Kansas, Mississippi State, Miami or Harvard, but this team has not looked intimidated in any of those contests. It fought admirably in a double-overtime loss to the Hurricanes, using a frantic comeback late in regulation to shock UM. And the good news is, all-league point guard Ray Taylor is starting to play better after an early-season slump, and freshman Omari Grier has cracked into this loaded backcourt as the team’s best outside shooter. When FAU kicks off Sun Belt play on Saturday at Louisiana, don’t expect it to roll over and die. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Southland Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011


Zach Birdsong is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference. You can also find his musings online at houstonianonline.com or on Twitter @zachbird_nerd.

Readers Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Lamar battles tough opponents: Pat Knight has certainly had his hands full during his time as the Lamar head coach. So far this season, the Cardinals have battled some quality top-10 opponents that included Louisville and more recently, Ohio State and Kentucky. Despite losing all three of those games by an average margin of 20 points, the Cardinals have actually been quite competitive in those games and seen some different players step up. While those games have added losses to the Cardinals record, Knight is pleased with what he is seeing. In fact, he thinks these tough games will help the Cardinals, stating: “This is just going to help us in conference.” They will open up conference play on January 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
  • Fortenberry missing playing time: Southeastern Louisiana’s leading scorer, forward Brandon Fortenberry, missed his third straight game when the Lions traveled to take on South Carolina. In his absence, the team is 1-2, and struggling offensively. On the road against Arkansas and South Carolina, the Lions shot just 33% from the floor including 28% from three-point territory. In his absence, senior guard Elgin Bailey returned and has been the team’s predominant scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. In that span of three games, Bailey is also averaging nine rebounds per game. While Bailey has been a big contributor, the Lions are hopeful that Fortenberry will be ready for conference play which begins on January 4 when the team travels to UTA.
  • Ingram named Conference Player of Week: Texas-Arlington forward Bo Ingram was selected as this week’s Southland Conference Player of the Week. Over the past week, the Mavericks competed in the Athletes in Action tournament that saw the Mavericks go 2-1. In that three-game span, Ingram averaged 19.3 points per game, including 21 points against both Utah State and Saint Peter’s. During the tournament, Ingram also averaged 5.3 rebounds per game, including 11 offensive rebounds. Ingram is peaking at the right time and they are hopeful that it will continue as conference play begins January 4 for the Mavericks. They will open up conference play against Southeastern Louisiana and that game is scheduled for 7 PM.

Texas-Arlington's Bo Ingram Had An Outstanding Week (southland.org)

Power Rankings

  1. Lamar (8-5): Despite going just 1-2 over the last two weeks, Lamar has continued to impress. The team faced and defeated Rice by the score of 87-81, before stepping up and playing some big names. First the Cardinals traveled to Columbus to take on the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes before heading over to Lexington to take on the #3 Kentucky Wildcats. Both games ended in losses for Pat Knight’s squad. However, they were able to keep it competitive and playing these caliber of teams in their non-conference schedule will help out the Cardinals when they open Southland Conference play. Senior guard Mike James has been impressive for the Cardinals, averaging over 21 points a game over the last two weeks, including a 29-point performance against Kentucky.
  2. Texas-Arlington (6-5): From a fan’s perspective, no team has been more fun to watch over the last two weeks than the Mavericks. The team may be 2-2 over that time period, but the team had its share of nail biters as each game was close. The first set of games for the Mavericks required them to travel to Tulsa and then play at Utah State. Despite hanging in there with Tulsa, the Mavs lost by five, 80-75, in overtime. They would also fall at Utah State, 73-69, despite a 21-point performance by senior forward and Southland Conference Player of the Week Bo Ingram. However, the Mavs would get back on track as they traveled back to Arlington and defeated Kent State, 74-73, and St. Peter’s, 73-68. Against St. Peter’s, Ingram had another 21-point performance, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Recapping: Now we can get on with the conference games. The early portion of the schedule gives you the opportunity to face local rivals in other leagues (Manhattan-Fordham for one) and the chance to visit different sections of the country. Frequent flier miles may be added by a visit a few time zones away. By this time, though, everyone is ready for conference play to begin. Two MAAC games per team are in the books. St. Peter’s is 1-1 and 2-11 overall. After Wednesday’s 76-67 loss to Lehigh, John Dunne spoke of his St. Peter’s team and their mindset. “We are young and early our kids did not know how to stay in games,” he said. “Now they can stay in but we have to learn about closing them and winning. It’s all a process.” Dunne pointed out the 1-1 MAAC record and the conference schedule provides a “second season. Our kids are upbeat and working,” Dunne said. “They take the MAAC schedule as a chance to start over again.” New Year’s brings new hope and resolutions. Into the MAAC schedule everyone goes, sharing those positive aspirations.
  • Player of the Week:  Brandon Penn, 6’8″, Sr., F, Rider – In a win at Monmouth, Penn tied a career-high with 26 points while setting personal bests of 15 rebounds and six 3-point field goals.
  • Rookie of the Week: Evan Hymes, 5’8″, Fr., G, Siena – Scored 22 points while handing out six assists in the Saints’ big win over Princeton.

Iona's Lamont "Momo" Jones Is A Strong Candidate For MAAC POY Honors (AP)

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RTC Live: West Virginia @ Seton Hall

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2011

RTC Live returns to North Jersey this evening for some early Big East action, with the Seton Hall Pirates hosting West Virginia.

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Vanderbilt Moving Into SEC Play Full Speed Ahead

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

Bill Hupp is a correspondent for RTC who filed this report after Thursday night’s Vanderbilt-Marquette game. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls, and life.

It’s not necessarily a chip on his shoulder, but Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is keenly aware of the perception that his team isn’t tough enough to contend for an SEC or National Championship. So when his preseason #7 Commodores started this season 6-4 after two gut-wrenching OT losses to ranked opponents (Xavier and Louisville), sandwiched between home upsets by Cleveland State and Indiana State, the whispers must have sounded deafening.

The Commodores Have Responded To Stallings' Challenge

Gone and temporarily forgotten from the national rankings, Vanderbilt has rolled off three straight blowout wins since that Indiana State defeat and seems to be rounding into expected form with SEC play straight ahead. On Thursday in front of a electric crowd at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Commodores bolted to a 31-6 first-half lead and never looked back, rolling to an impressive 74-57 non-conference road win over #14 Marquette. “Our goal coming into this game was to establish that there is some toughness to this team,” Stallings said afterwards. “We’re a little bit maligned for not being tough, but I thought we showed some pretty good toughness tonight.”

Vanderbilt (9-4) is known for its offensive firepower, but it was its defense against Marquette that was most impressive. Keying in on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Commodores held Marquette’s offensive leaders to 3-19 shooting in the first-half. They alternated between tough man-to-man and a 2-3-matchup zone in the second half, using their length to bother the smaller Golden Eagles. They will need that defensive intensity in the SEC where teams like Mississippi State and Alabama would prefer to grind it out on a nightly basis.

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Big 12 Weekend Primer: New Years Weekend

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

With holiday bowl games and a national showdown between Louisville and Kentucky on New Year’s Eve, there’s not a whole lot of Big 12 basketball to talk about this weekend. But six league teams will still compete during the next two days, and most notably, undefeated Missouri will hit the road for the first time in 2011-12. And if you’re not interested in watching John Calipari and Rick Pitino scream at each other for 40 minutes on CBS this Saturday, Oklahoma State will host Virginia Tech on ESPN2 during the same time slot.

  • Missouri (12-0) at Old Dominion (6-6), Friday 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

Kim English and the Tigers Still Need to Prove They Can Win on the Road

Eight days ago, Missouri showed its human side for the first time this season. After obliterating the likes of Notre Dame, California and Villanova, the Tigers nearly blew a double-digit lead to Illinois in the second half before recovering for a 78-74 victory in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. That second half stretch, which featured poor passing, forced shots and turnovers by every player on the floor, marked the first time Missouri had ever looked rattled in a basketball game this season. Though half of the arena was wearing black and gold, the Illinois crowd came alive late in that game, and it was the Tigers’ first experience in a hostile environment. For a team that finished 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year, this is the last major concern for Frank Haith to tackle: Can his team win on the road? Old Dominion may be 6-6, but don’t write this off as a down year for Blaine Taylor‘s program. For the uneducated basketball fan, losses to Northern Iowa, Vermont, Fairfield, UCF and Richmond may not look very good, but we know better than that. All six losses for ODU (also including Kentucky) have come against league front-runners with at least outside shots to win their respective conferences. Hosting one of its most important non-conference games in recent memory, Missouri will have to deal with a rowdy and electric crowd in Norfolk. Yes, the Tigers are much quicker, and they obviously have much better guards. There’s a reason Mizzou blasted an even stronger Old Dominion team in Columbia last season. It’s a new season, though, and again, Missouri has no reason to be confident in a road setting until it proves it is not the same team as 2010-11. The formula for an upset here is simple: The Monarchs need to slow the tempo and let their defense go to work. Kent Bazemore is arguably the best defender in college basketball, so expect him to hound Marcus Denmon all night, and ODU has a couple of decent shotblockers in Nick Wright and Chris Cooper. ODU isn’t nearly as big or physical as it was a year ago, but it is still a sound rebounding team that won’t let MU get many second chances. This is a Blaine Taylor team we’re talking about here, after all. If Missouri stays hot from the perimeter, it won’t need to dominate the boards to win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon need to initiate the offense like they did in the first half against Illinois, as opposed to that disastrous second-half stretch. If that happens, the looks will be there for Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.

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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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