Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday Lay-up Lines

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge concludes tonight. It's knotted up 3-3 after last night's games, but the ACC has a real chance to sweep tonight. Enough about the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (wrote about it this morning) so let's get into tonight's games.

  • 9:15 PM: UNC (7-0) vs. Michigan State (4-1) @ Ford Field in Detroit: Yes, this is essentially a home game for the Spartans in front of 75,000 fans. But UNC will still be heavy favorites, even if Hansbrough doesn't play. And we expect the Tar Heels to roll. Why? Two reasons. First of all, unless Tom Izzo is channeling his inner Belicheck, Goran Suton is going to be sitting the game out with a knee injury. This loss is going to hurt the Spartans much more than losing Hansbrough will hurt the Heels. I know what you're thinking. "Wait a second. Isn't Tyler Hansbrough the reigning national player of the year? How could losing anyone be more important than that?" Its simple, actually. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis are more than capable of picking up the slack. They've been doing a tremendous job of it all year. Combined they are averaging 26 and 17. And even if you forget about them, look at the rest of the Heels roster. Ty Lawson and Danny Green are playing the best basketball of their lives, Wayne Ellington is probably going to end up being a first rounder, Thompson and Davis are both headed to the NBA one day, Larry Drew has been a more than capable back-up to Lawson (you get the point). As good as Michigan State is, they are going to have trouble replacing Suton's production. Where to they get that size and toughness from? Idong Ibok? Great name, that's about it. To be fair, I've always like Marquise Gray, but he has never been more than a role player. He is a good defender, provides some great athleticism and aggressiveness, but do you see him giving MSU the offensive spark they will need to compete with Carolina? 

    The second reason I like Carolina winning big is that they have started to play defense. They get out and pressure you, forcing turnovers that usually lead to lay-ups and dunks. I am a big fan of both of Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton (they are both good decision makers and don't turn the ball over), but they are both on the smaller side and could have trouble dealing with UNC's length and athleticism.

    For Michigan State to win, they are going to need to slow down Carolina (which is all the more difficult because the Spartans wants to play fast this year as well). To do that you need to stop Ty Lawson early and to avoid letting him get a full head of steam. I'm assuming that job will fall into the hands of Kalin Lucas, who is going to want to locate Lawson in the back court and make him change direction with his dribble. But Lawson is so good at getting rid of the ball quickly to his teammates running the floor ahead of him. So not only will the Spartans have to worry about slowing down Lawson, they will have to worry about getting back on defense and locating a man. It is most important for the big men, because Carolina's bigs are the best in the country at running the floor. Beyond that, rebound the ball and hope your shots drop and Carolina's don't.
  • 7:15 PM: Indiana (4-2) @ Wake Forest (7-0): Wake Forest should not have any problems with the Hoosiers.
  • 7:30 PM: Penn State (6-1) @ Georgia Tech (4-0): The Nittany Lions have a nice record, but it is all fluff. Their best win right now is probably against Penn, which isn't saying all that much. They do have a very good point guard in Talor Battle, a 5'11" sophomore that leads the team in scoring (19.4 ppg) and assists (5.3 apg). Georgia Tech is 4-0, and while they haven't beaten any big names, wins over Mercer (who has beaten just about everyone else) and Jacksonville (who is 0-5, but has yet to lose by double digits against a very tough schedule) are better than they may appear. The guy to watch on the Yellow Jackets in Gani Lawal. Lawal showed flashes last year playing limited minutes, but has been terrific this year, averaging 19 and 12 through the first four. 
  • 7:30 PM: Michigan (5-1) @ Maryland (4-2): The battle of the inconsistents. Maryland beat Michigan State by 18, but has been run off the court in their last two games. Michigan beat UCLA, but barely won against Savannah State in OT. Manny Harris and Greivis Vazquez both put up great numbers and are very talented, but are streaky and suffer from terrible decision making at times. Not even going to touch a prediction on this one. 
  • 9:30 PM: Florida State (7-0) @ Northwestern (4-1): Florida State is one of the teams flying under the radar right now. They are 7-0 with wins over Cal and Cincinnati, but they have yet to beat anyone by more than 12, and have been pushed to the limit by some very OK teams. Too bad this is on at the same time as MSU-UNC. Probably going to end up utilizing the old TiVo on this one (isn't technology awesome!).
The rest of the night's games:
  • 7:00 PM: Lamar (5-0) @ Kentucky (4-2)
  • 7:00 PM: Rhode Island (5-2) @ Northeastern (3-3), 7:30 PM: Miami OH (2-3) @ Temple (3-2): These are the kind of games that really pique our interest here. Two good teams from mid-major conferences playing each other. We like Northeastern at home and Miami OH on the road.
  • 7:00 PM: Cornell (4-3) @ Syracuse (7-0): Ryan Wittman has been playing great in the absence of Louis Dale and Adam Gore. He is averaging 21, 4, and 3.
  • 7:00 PM: Duquense (4-1) @ Pitt (7-0)
  • 7:00 PM: UNC-Asheville (3-3) @ Tennessee (5-1)
  • 8:00 PM: Alabama State (1-3) @ Nebraska (5-0): Quietly, Nebraska is one of two undefeated teams left in the Big XII. They have wins over TCU, St. Louis, and Creighton.
  • 8:00 PM: New Mexico State (2-2) @ Kansas (5-1)
  • 8:00 PM: Wichita State (3-3) @ Texas Tech (6-1)
  • 8:00 PM: Auburn (3-3) @ Xavier (6-0)
  • 9:00 PM: South Florida (3-1) @ UAB (4-2): South Florida's Dominique Jones and UAB's Robert Vaden are two of the most potent scorers in the country.
  • 9:00 PM: West Virginia (4-1) @ Mississippi (5-1): Both teams really need this win to boost their NCAA tournament resumes. David Huertas has been great for the Rebels so far this year, averaging 22.7 ppg.
  • 9:00 PM: Oregon (3-3) @ Utah (4-1): Utah, after losing to a D2 school in their opener, has now won four straight games.
  • 10:30 PM: DePaul (4-0) @ Cal (5-1): Dar Tucker of DePaul is averaging 21 ppg. But so is Jerome Randle from Cal. Neither team has an impressive win yet, but this game is probably more important for DePaul, who will need all the W's they can get playing in the Big East if they want to make a run at the NCAA's.

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