Set Your DVR: Week of 01.28.13Posted by bmulvihill on January 28th, 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.
Things are a little quiet this week with mostly match-ups between top and bottom teams in the conferences. However, there are a few games that mean a lot to certain teams, including those in some of the smaller conferences. Let’s get to the breakdowns!
Pittsburgh at #8 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)
- Louisville is in an absolute must-win situation. They have lost their last three games and have struggled at crunch time with opportunities to win. Everyone keeps saying the Cardinals still could be the team to beat in March. However, history shows that teams that lose three games in a row during the regular season rarely win the title. Only four teams since 1980 have lost three games in a row and still managed to win the whole thing – 1982-83 North Carolina State, 1984-85 Villanova, 1987-88 Kansas, and 2005-06 Florida. Only one team in history has lost four games in a row and still won the tourney – Danny Manning and the Miracles (Kansas actually lost five straight at one point that season). The reality is that Rick Pitino‘s team is a poor shooting team and unless they get that corrected quickly, Louisville should not be considered a threat to win it all. Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be turning things around. After starting 1-3 in conference play, they have managed to rattle off four straight wins. Both teams need a win to stay within two games of Syracuse and Marquette in the Big East. Pitt has improved their shooting and offensive rebounding in the last four contests and has been able to play tough defense without putting teams on the line. Keep a close eye on how Pitt does in the paint against Louisville shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. The Panthers are not a threat from three, so most of their points will come from inside the arc. For Louisville, they need to convert their turnovers into points by simply hitting shots. While Pittsburgh is not as long as Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, they are not short. So Pitino’s crew needs to get to the basket for lay-ups and dunks. Shooting over the top is not a great way to break a shooting slump. Watch Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, as their performance on the interior will be the key to Louisville breaking their losing streak.
Wisconsin at #12 Ohio State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)
- Both Wisconsin and Ohio State are 5-2 in Big Ten play. This is an important game for both teams to win in order to keep pace at the top of the conference. Pay close attention to Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren. Berggren is an excellent scorer and should be matched-up against Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams. Both Ravenel and Williams are inconsistent giving Beggren a great opportunity to make a big impact. Expect the Badgers to slow this game down as much as possible. They will want to force the Buckeyes to execute their offense in the half court, which they have struggled with all season long. In order to do this, Wisconsin must take care of the basketball. If they are turning the ball over, Ohio State can get up and down the court where their offense is most efficient. On the other side, Thad Matta‘s team needs to create absolute chaos on defense. You can expect the Buckeyes to be very aggressive and to press more than usual.
Kentucky at #24 Mississippi – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)
- Mississippi is headed for a showdown with Florida on Saturday and the only team that stands in their way of being undefeated in conference play for that game is Kentucky. It would be a major lift for the entire program if Ole Miss can take down Kentucky on Tuesday and go head-to-head with the Gators for sole possession of first in the SEC. For Kentucky, a loss puts them three games behind Florida and Mississippi with very little else on their schedule to help them boost their NCAA Tournament resume except match-ups against a very good Florida team. So this game is big for John Calipari and company. You will want to keep a close eye on Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson. Henderson shoots an incredible amount of three-pointers. He has double-digit three-point attempts in all but five games this season. Look for Calipari to have someone in Henderson’s face all game long. If he doesn’t, Henderson will be pulling the trigger. The strategy may be to stop Henderson at all cost and force someone else to beat the Wildcats. That means Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway needs to have a big game. He has showed the ability to score but will be up against a very long and athletic frontline. This game is all about defense for the Wildcats. If they can prevent Henderson from taking threes and disrupt shot attempts on the inside, they can take down the Rebels at home.
Villanova at Notre Dame – 6:00 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN2 (***)
- This is shaping up to be another “keep pace” game. Both teams need the win in order to remain in contention in the Big East. Villanova has rattled off two huge wins in the last week against Syracuse and Louisville. On the other hand, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has to be concerned with his team’s two recent home losses, given the historical success the team has had at home since he took over. This game will come down to the Notre Dame offense against the Nova defense. When the Irish shoot under 50% eFG, they are 1-4 on the season. Villanova’s length made things tough on Louisville, so watch to see if it affects Notre Dame’s shooting as well. The Wildcats must protect the perimeter as the Irish have been shooting 42% from beyond the arc in conference play. Villanova has been weak against the three all year, however. It’s tough to imagine Notre Dame losing a third home game with more than half of the conference schedule to play. However, if the Wildcats defend the perimeter and watch the fouls, they can beat the Irish.
Iona at Niagara– 7:00 PM EST, Thursday on ESPN3 (***)
- Iona and Niagara locked-up in late November for a weird, early conference match-up. The Gaels won 83-72 at home on the strength of their three-point shooting. Iona finished 12-26 from behind the arc while Niagara was only 6-23. Iona guard Curtis Dennis went 5-8 from deep and had 17 points in 24 minutes. It was a career game for Dennis, as he has been a non-factor ever since. In fact, he has only scored a total of 26 points since that game. This game should be very entertaining as it will be played at a lightening fast pace and there should be no shortage of threes. Niagara needs to figure out a way to play better perimeter defense, if they are going to win. Also, you will want to watch Iona guard Momo Jones. The former Arizona guard can be dominant in the MAAC.
#11 Butler at Saint Louis – 9:00 PM EST, Thursday on CBS Sports (***)
- A loss for Saint Louis would put them two games back in the A-10, so this will be an important home game for the Bilikens. Butler has been nothing short of amazing this season. With Rotnei Clarke back from his neck injury, the Bulldogs should scare everyone come March. Clarke dropped 24 on Temple in his first back and will need to be contained by Saint Louis if they want to win. The Bilikens have been struggling however since conference play began. They are towards the bottom of the conference in both offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage. If Butler can get offensive output from Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham like they did against Temple, along with Clarke, it’s going to be tough for the Bilikens to win this game. If they can limit turnovers, though, they still have a shot.
***** – 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