Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Roundup

A couple scores of note before we get into the meat of today's games. Marquette beat Western Carolina 94-77 behind 27 points from Lazar Hayward and Wake Forest hung on at Richmond 86-79 behind 21 from Jeff Teague and 20 and 14 from Chas McFarland.

If you are a college hoops fan, do not plan on leaving your couch today as there is an absolutely sensational slate of games. 20 of the 25 ranked teams take the court today, including two heavyweight bouts between top 10 squads.

4:00 PM: UConn (9-0) vs. Gonzaga (8-1) in Seattle: UConn heads to the Pacific Northwest looking to avenge an 85-82 loss to the 'Zags in Boston last year. Easily one of the best non-conference match-ups of the season. The biggest key for UConn is how ready Stanley Robinson is going to be. In his first game back against Stony Brook, it was clear that the athleticism and ability is still there. The question will be is he in shape enough to play at the tempo UConn wants to play at, and does he know UConn's stuff? I remember at least two instances where he got yanked against Stony Brook for messing up a play or a defense. It will be important to have him out there because of his length. Gonzaga's perimeter guys are long and tall (Austin Daye is 6'10", Micah Downs is 6'8", Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray are 6'5") while UConn's back court is very small (Jerome Dyson is the tallest at 6'4"). It will be interesting to see how UConn matches up. I'm assuming that Jeff Adrien will probably be on Daye, which means Robinson would be used on Downs.

This is a really tough match-up for the Huskies defensively because all of the 'Zags bigs can play on the perimeter. Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet are excellent players, but they certainly are not known for their perimeter defense. I would be shocked if Mark Few didn't run Jeremy Pargo off of a pick-and-roll with who ever Thabeet is guarding (probably Heytvelt) as much as possible. It's kind of an ironic match-up this year - Gonzaga is considered the perimeter team with a bunch of jump shooters while UConn is considered the tough team on the interior. But Gonzaga is bigger at every position on the floor except center.

As much as it pains me to say, I like Gonzaga winning this one. Aside from the fact that UConn is traveling across the country in terrible weather to play one game five days before Christmas (enough distractions for you?), I just think Gonzaga matches up so well with them. A huge reason is the point guard play. AJ Price has struggled so much this year that Calhoun has considered starting Kemba Walker over him, while Pargo has developed into one of the best PG's in the country and a leader for this team. His scoring is down to under 9 ppg, but he is averaging around 7 apg and has a 3.5:1 a-t/o ratio.

As a side note, the one really interesting story line in this game is that it comes 10 seasons after they met in the Elite 8 of the 1999 NCAA tournament. That game and that tournament changed the course of both programs, as it catapulted Gonzaga into national prominence while UConn reached their first ever Final Four, eventually winning the title.

2:00 PM: Xavier (9-0) @ Duke (9-1): I cannot wait to watch this game. I think it is going to be won by coaching. There are no stars on either of these teams. Sure, Kyle Singler is an all-american, but at the end of the day he is just a glorified role player. None of these guys are the type of player you have to game-plan around (i.e. you don't need to worry about sending two or three guys at Jason Love in the post as you would Blake Griffin). This means that both Coach K and Sean Miller are going to have a chance to play with their system and put in a few wrinkles to throw off the other team. Whoever comes in better prepared for what could happen is going to come out with a W. I like Duke in this game. How often has Coach K been outcoached in his career?

The one thing I am really looking forward to in this game is to see Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson go toe-to-toe with Derrick Brown and CJ Anderson. Neither Singler or Brown is the type of player that is going to 'wow' you with huge dunks or ankle-breaking crossovers, but at the end of the day you look up and they had a double-double with four assists, two steals, and two blocks. Both Henderson and Anderson are terrific athletes that aren't going to always make the fundamental play, but they do a lot of little things and have the ability to make the big play that gets the team and the fans into the game.

A big question for Xavier is how healthy is Terrell Holloway. He has only played 31 minutes total in his two games back (both coming off the bench) and he struggled against Cincinnati. He is really important to this Xavier team because he is basically their only point guard. Dante Jackson can play at that spot, but he is better off the ball as a slasher. Holloway doesn't put up gaudy assist numbers, but he doesn't turn the ball over much and can get the you across half court against pressure and into your offense. He also knocks down clutch free throws down the stretch, which could be a big factor in today's game.

Three other games feature two ranked teams:

  • 2:00 PM: Michigan State (7-2) @ Texas (9-1): Michigan State has struggled in the early going this season, but a lot of that was a result of Goran Suton being injured. Suton is back (albeit coming off the bench), which is going to be huge for the Spartans against the big front line of Texas. Dexter Pittman is coming off of the best two games of his career, and looks like he may be turning into a force in the paint. It should be a lot of fun to see Raymarr Morgan go up against Damion James. Both guys are tremendous athletes, strong as a bull, and play a tough and physical brand of basketball. If Delvon Roe is finally getting healthy (he is averaging 11.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg in the last two), then the Spartans could give the 'Horns a run for their money, especially if Travis Walton can do a good job on AJ Abrams. I still think the Longhorns will be too much in this one.
  • 4:00 PM: Davidson (8-1) @ Purdue (8-2): Purdue has been a bit of a disappointment this year. They get a real test today as Davidson and Stephen Curry come to town. I gotta say, I like Purdue in this game. The Boilermakers normally struggle against teams that are loaded up front because they do not quite have the front court depth they need. Davidson does have Andrew Lovedale, and although they have been beating people left and right the last two year's, they still have the roster of a mid-major, meaning a lot of 6'7" and 6'8" forwards. The other reason I think Purdue pulls this one out is Chris Kramer, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year. He is an athletic and strong kid, and I can see him giving Stephen Curry fits, although Curry tends to struggle against guys that are tall and long as opposed to strong and quick (if Curry ends up with 30, does that mean he struggled?).
  • 6:00 PM: Syracuse (10-1) @ Memphis (6-2): It looks like Devendorf will be in uniform for this game, which is very good news for Syracuse. Devendorf has gotten his punishment. He will miss at least two games, starting today against Memphis, and must perform 40 hours of community service. They will need all the ball-handlers they can get against this Memphis press. I think the Orange will win this game. Memphis, to me, has the look of a mediocre team. Answer me this: Calipari is the nation's best recruiter, continually pulling in top 25 kids. But how does he end up with a roster with so many athletic wings, but without a true point guard and any kind of shooter? Wesley Witherspoon is a good basketball player, but a point guard he is not. They rely way too much on Tyreke Evans, who is not the player that Cal needs him to be yet. I see Syracuse sitting back in their zone and letting Memphis shoot all day. If the Orange can clean the defensive glass (something Georgetown couldn't do last weekend), then this game may get ugly. To be fair, for this to happen, Syracuse is actually going to have to show up, which has been their biggest issue so far this year.
Other ranked teams taking the court:
  • 12:00 PM: Iona (4-6) @ Ohio State (7-0)
  • 1:00 PM: Mt. St. Mary's (3-6) @ Georgetown (7-1)
  • 2:00 PM: Louisville (7-1) vs. Minnesota in Arizona: This is a statement game for both teams. Louisville has had all the hype, but they have yet to beat anyone of note (and a depleted Mississippi team doesn't count). Minnesota has not had the hype, but they come into this game undefeated looking for a resume win.
  • 2:00 PM: UNC (10-0) vs. Valparaiso (3-6) in Chicago
  • 3:00 PM: Belmont (4-3) @ Tennessee (7-2)
  • 4:30 PM: BYU (10-0) @ Arizona State (7-1): This game pits two of the best players out west in Lee Cummard and James Harden. If you haven't had a chance to see Cummard play yet this year, be sure to TiVo this game, because this kid is a heckuva player. If BYU can win this game, they have set themselves up pretty nicely for a shot at an at-large birth.
  • 7:00 PM: Delaware State (2-12) @ Notre Dame (7-2)
  • 9:30 PM: Texas-Arlington (4-4) @ Baylor (8-1)
  • 10:00 PM: VCU (7-3) @ Oklahoma (10-0)
  • 10:30 PM: Mercer (6-4) @ UCLA (7-2)
The rest of the games you should know about:
  • 12:00 PM: Miami OH (6-3) @ West Virginia (7-2)
  • 1:00 PM: New Mexico (7-4) @ Texas Tech (7-3)
  • 2:30 PM: Temple (5-3) @ Kansas (7-2): Who is going to slow down Dionte Christmas?
  • 3:00 PM: North Dakota State (6-3) @ USC (6-3): Ben Woodside, the kid who went for 60 last week, plays for NDSU.
  • 3:00 PM: Arizona (7-2) @ UNLV (9-2): Huge resume win for both teams.
  • 4:00 PM: Providence (7-3) @ Boston College (8-2)
  • 5:00 PM: LSU (8-0) @ Texas A&M (9-1): That is not a typo. Those records are correct.
  • 6:30 PM: St. Mary's (8-1) @ Southern Illinois (4-5)
  • 7:30 PM: Rhode Island (7-3) @ Oklahoma State (8-3)
  • 10:00 PM: Northwestern (7-1) @ Stanford (6-0): I bet you never would have thought that this game might actually carry some significance.

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