Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Roundup

Two games to get you caught up on from last night:

  • Butler 59, Valparaiso 51: The Bulldogs used a 11-0 run late in the second half to overcome a 43-41 deficit and remain undefeated in the Horizon League. Gordon Hayward led Butler with 18 points.
  • Jacksonville 82, East Tennessee State 72: Jacksonville overcame a ten point halftime deficit as Ben Smith hit a three to tie the game at 68 with 10 seconds left. The Dolphins would go on to win in OT as Smith finished with 26 and 5 dimes.
As is the case with all Saturday's, there are a lot of key conference games happening across the country. We'll start with the Big East, where there are four important games to watch.
  • 12:00 PM: West Virginia (15-5, 4-3) @ Louisville (16-3, 7-0): You are going to need to be a man to step on the court at Freedom Hall this afternoon, as both of these teams play tough, rugged defense. I think the Mountaineers match-up well with Louisville, in that they have guys that are big, strong, and athletic enough to match-up with Earl Clark and Terrence Williams. The key to beating Louisville right now is keeping those two from making plays. Bob Huggins is a guy that preaches defense, and I can see those two having a rough day going against the likes of Devin Ebanks, Da'Sean Butler, and Wellington Smith. That said, Louisville has a pretty good defense itself. Truck Bryant has been fantastic filling in for the injured Joe Mazzula, but I see him having a tough day against the strong Louisville guards. I think West Virginia is going to give the Cardinals a dog fight, but the 'Ville should be able to pull this one out if they defend and box out on the defensive end.
  • 12:00 PM: Notre Dame (12-7, 3-5) @ Pitt (18-2, 6-2): There may not be a team in the country that needs a win more than the Fighting Irish. They have now lost four in a row to the top tier teams in the Big East, and a loss at Pitt would put them at 3-6 in the conference. The Panthers are also coming off of a loss, dropping a 67-57 decision to Villanova. Pitt is much stronger on the interior and a much better defensive team, but that doesn't mean the Irish don't have a chance. There are two things they need to do to win. The first is to get DeJuan Blair into foul trouble. In both of Pitt's losses, Blair played right around 20 minutes because of fouls. Luke Harangody is a great player, but he is going to need to stay away from the jumpers and attack the rim if they plan on getting Blair out of the game. The other thing ND needs to do is shoot the ball. Both Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney have struggled of late with their jump shots. If the Irish can do that, and hold their own on the glass, they could pull this one out.
  • 2:00 PM: Georgetown (12-7, 3-5) @ Marquette (18-2, 7-0): If the Irish need a win worse than anyone in the country, then the Hoyas are second on that list. They have also lost four in a row, three to Big East schools and the last two to Cincinnati and Seton Hall. Marquette, on the other hand, is playing some of the best basketball in the country. They sit atop the league standings at 7-0 and have arguably the best back court in the country. Georgetown is going to have to slow down those three (plus Lazar Hayward) if they want to pick up this win. It won't help that DaJuan Summers, who injured his foot on an errant alley-oop against Cinci, looks like he won't be in uniform. The biggest issue for the Hoyas right now seems to be confidence - earlier in the season they had a swagger about them, that they couldn't be beaten. But since the whooping they took at Duke, this team just hasn't been playing the same. Without Summers, it is going to be tough, but the Eagles don't have anyone that can stop Greg Monroe is he plays the way he is capable of.
  • 4:00 PM: Providence (14-6, 6-2) @ UConn (19-1, 8-1): The Huskies always struggle against Providence. Always. Last year, they got swept by the Friars and overall they have lost three straight and five of seven. This is certainly a trap game for UConn. While Providence is having an excellent season, they are not as good as Louisville, who UConn will travel to face on Monday. Providence is a team that can put up a lot of points, as evidenced by the century mark they put on Syracuse last week. Providence shoots a lot of three's (second most in the conference), but UConn has been a good defensive team against the three this season (28.6%). They will need to be able to slow down Providence's shooting if they want to avoid another upset at the hands of the Friars.
  • 8:00 PM: DePaul (8-13, 0-8) @ Rutgers (9-12, 0-8): At the end of the day, there will only be one winless Big East team.
  • 5:30 PM: Washington (15-5, 6-2) @ Arizona State (16-4, 5-3): The Pac-10 looks like it is going to be a lot of fun down the stretch, as there are currently six teams within two games of first place, and another three just three games out. This looks like it is going to be the match-up of the day. I think ASU will pull this game out. U-Dub has a lot of talented and athletic perimeter players, but most of them tend to be 1-on-1 guys that excel against a man-to-man. The Sun Devils play a tough match-up zone defense, which should cause problems for the Huskies offensively. After getting upset by Wazzu at home, I see James Harden going for about 35 as ASU bounces back.
  • 11:30 PM: Cal (16-5, 5-3) @ USC (14-6, 5-3): These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Cal jumped out to a 4-0 record in the league, scoring home wins over the Arizona schools, but has since gone just 1-3. USC started out terribly, but has been able to fight back to respectability after hanging on the beat Stanford. Cal's leading scorer, Jerome Randle, has been battling a severely bruised hip, and combined with having to go up against one of the best on-ball defenders in the league (Daniel Hackett), I see Randle struggling tonight. When Randle struggles, so does Cal. More than just their leading scorer, he is their best playmaker, and the guy that can get into the lane and get good looks for the rest of this Bears team. I think USC is going to be too tough defensively (I guarantee you see some triangle-and-two out of the Trojans tonight) for Cal to pull this one out on the road.
  • 1:00 PM: Washington State (12-8, 4-4) @ Arizona (13-8, 3-5): Both of these teams are coming off of upset wins in their first games of the weekend - Wazzu over ASU and Arizona over Washington. A really fun match-up to watch is going to be Klay Thompson and Chase Budinger, two rangy, athletic wings that can really score the ball (Thompson had 28 against ASU). The styles of these two teams really contrast, as Arizona plays zone and likes to get out and push the ball, while Wazzu will grind you out defensively in man. I think Arizona pulls this one out at home, carrying over the momentum from the Washington win.
  • 3:30 PM: Stanford (13-5, 3-5) @ UCLA (16-4, 6-2): UCLA is coming off of a 81-66 drubbing of Cal where they collected 16 steals. I see more of the same fromt eh Bruins as they play a Stanford team that has really been struggling in league play.
  • 7:30 PM: Oregon (6-14, 0-8) @ Oregon State (9-10, 3-5): With a win, the Beavers will surpass their Pac-10 win total from the previous two years combined.
Big XII:
  • 6:00 PM: Baylor (15-5, 3-3) @ Missouri (17-4, 4-2): Oklahoma and Texas are clearly the class of the Big XII, but after that it gets very iffy. Baylor was expected to be pretty good this year, but Missouri kind of came out of no where. I think this is a good match-up for Baylor to bet back on track. The Tigers play a "40 minutes of hell" press, using their length and their athletes to trap all over the court. But the Bears get excellent guard play out of Curtis Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, and Henry Dugat. The biggest issue for Baylor? Turnovers. All of those four have a tendency to sometimes make poor decisions with the ball and throw it away. If they can avoid doing that against the Tiger's pressure, Baylor should be able to get this one on the road.
  • 1:45 PM: Oklahoma (20-1, 6-0) @ Iowa State (12-8, 1-4): The only other really interesting match-up in the Big XII today as, with all do respect to Cole Aldrich, the two best big men in teh Big XII go head to head - Craig Brackins and Blake Griffin. While Brackins is talented offensively, he has no where near the strength you need to slow down Griffin.
  • 2:00 PM: Oklahoma State (13-6, 2-3) @ Texas A&M (16-5, 2-4): These two teams have been sliding a bit in conference play, but both still have an outside shot of getting into the tourney if they can turn things around. I really like this OK State squad this year. They are a real uptempo team that loves to shoot three's.
  • 4:00 PM: Kansas State (12-7, 2-4) @ Texas (15-4, 4-1): The Wildcats have won two in a row after starting out Big XII play 0-4, but Texas is just too good and too big this year.
  • 4:00 PM: Colorado (9-10, 1-4) @ Kansas (16-4, 5-0): The Baby Jayhawks are undefeated in the league, but their best win is against A&M. They actually have a shot of making a run at the Big XII title. Why? Because they only get Baylor, OU, and Texas once each.
  • 8:00 PM: Nebraska (12-7, 2-4) @ Texas Tech (11-9, 1-4): Two teams playing much different styles - Nebraska plays a slowed down, defensive game while Tech likes to push the ball and put up points (see their 167 in a game earlier this year).
Big Ten:
  • 1:00 PM: Michigan (14-7, 4-5) @ Purdue (16-4, 5-2): The Wolverines have really fallen off this year. A loss to Purdue drops them to 14-8 and 4-6 in the league, while they still have games against Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota (twice), and at UConn. The win over Duke will only carry them so far, they need to get some W's.
  • 4:00 PM: Ohio State (14-5, 4-4) @ Indiana (5-14, 0-7): I really feel bad for these Indiana kids. They are going to get beat up on all season long.
  • 8:00 PM: Wisconsin (12-8, 3-5) @ Northwestern (11-7, 3-5): Wisconsin has lost five in a row, and has already started playing around with their lineup. Northwestern has been much better than in past years, and a win over Wisconsin could (gasp!) put them into bubble contention?
  • 12:00 PM: Wake Forest (17-1, 4-1) @ Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6): The Yellow Jackets have some talented players on their roster (Gani Lawal, Iman Shumpert), but they are not all that deep, which should kill them against a team like Wake Forest. You will get a chance to see Al-Farouq Aminu and Alade Aminu (brothers, did you guess?) go head-to-head.
  • 3:30 PM: North Carolina (18-2, 4-2) @ NC State (11-7, 2-4): The Heels should not have a problem disposing of the Wolfpack. Disregarding their fluke loss to BC, the two teams UNC has had the most trouble with have been Wake Forest and Florida State, who both have big and athletic front lines.
  • 8:00 PM: Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-2) @ Boston College (16-6, 4-3): If Va Tech wants to be considered among the elite teams in the ACC, they must take care of business against the middle-of-the-pack conference foes. The Hokies will need to slow down Tyrese Rice, which, as always, is much easier said than done.
  • 8:00 PM: Miami FL (14-6, 3-4) @ Maryland (13-7, 2-4): Maryland is a team in turmoil. They have blown big leads (14+) three times in the last month, just got shellacked by Duke, and have an AD and coach who cannot get along. Regardless of where this is played, Miami should win this game.
  • 9:00 PM: Florida (17-3, 5-1) @ Tennessee (12-7, 3-2): The Vols desperately need this win. They are coming off of losses to Memphis and LSU, and do not look like the team everyone thought they would be in the preseason. If Tennessee wants to beat Florida, they are going to need to slow down Nick Calathes. Calathes is a Jason Kidd-like point guard. He is bigger (which means he will be able to see over the Vol traps) and not overly athletic, but he is a phenomenal passer and such a heady player. Tennessee needs to keep the ball out of his hands when they are pressing, because he will be able to dribble and pass right through the defense. I like Florida in this game, however. They have more skilled players on the perimeter, but they are just as long and athletic as Tennessee's wings.
  • 1:00 PM: Mississippi (11-9, 2-4) @ Mississippi State (14-6, 4-1): The Rebels look to knock off another tourney hopeful after beating Kentucky at home on Tuesday.
  • 2:00 PM: Vanderbilt (12-8, 1-5) @ Auburn (13-7, 2-3): You couldn't pay me to watch this one.
  • 3:00 PM: South Carolina (15-4, 4-2) @ Kentucky (16-4, 5-1): The Wildcats are coming off of a loss at Mississippi where the Rebels completely shut down Jodie Meeks (by completely I mean held him to 21 points on 4-15 shooting, no small task). The Gamecocks will need to do the same thing if they hope to win at Rupp.
  • 5:00 PM: Arkansas (13-5, 1-4) @ LSU (16-4, 4-1): I have no idea why Arkansas has been losing so many games recently. Between Michael Washington, Courtney Fortson, and Rotnei Clarke, they have a solid trio. And their gym in Fayetteville is one of the best home courts in the country. But Trent Johnson has done a fantastic job with the LSU team, who looks like they are destined for the NCAA's after knocking off Tennessee this week. This should end up being a fun one to watch, as both teams are chock full of athletes.
  • 7:00 PM: Georgia (9-11, 0-5) @ Alabama (12-8, 2-4): Georgia's first game without Dennis Felton. 'Bama's second without Mark Got fired Gottfried.
The rest of the day's games you need to keep an eye on:
  • 12:00 PM: UMass (7-11, 2-3) @ Xavier (18-2, 6-0)
  • 1:00 PM: Houston (12-6, 3-2) @ Memphis (17-3, 6-0)
  • 3:00 PM: Texas A&M-CC (11-9, 5-0) @ Sam Houston State (10-8, 4-1)
  • 3:00 PM: Davidson (17-3, 10-0) @ Samford (11-9, 6-5)
  • 3:30 PM: New Mexico (13-8, 4-2) @ Utah (13-7, 4-2)
  • 4:00 PM: UNLV (16-4, 4-2) @ Air Force (9-10, 0-6)
  • 4:05 PM: Bradley (13-8, 7-3) @ Illinois State (17-4, 6-4)
  • 6:00 PM: San Diego (12-9, 4-2) @ Gonzaga (16-4, 6-0)
  • 7:30 PM: Austin Peay (12-8, 8-2) @ Morehead State (12-10, 8-2)
  • 9:00 PM: St. Mary's (18-2, 5-1) @ Portland (14-7, 5-1)
  • 10:00 PM: Utah State (20-1, 8-0) @ Fresno State (9-12, 1-5)

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