Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Lay-up Lines

There are three fantastic games on tonight, starting with UConn (22-1, 10-1) hosting Syracuse (18-6, 6-5) at 7:00. The Huskies and the Orange have really been heading in opposite directions since the beginning of Big East play. UConn lost their opener at home to Georgetown, but has since reeled off 11 straight wins, taking over the country's #1 ranking. Syracuse came into the league at 12-1 and started out 4-0, but has lost five of seven since then. The Orange aren't quite in dire straits just yet, but this would be a huge win for them (as you will see, it is the theme of the night). Syracuse's biggest issue has been coming out ready to play from the tip. On Saturday, they coasted through the first 15 minutes of the game, finding themselves down by 19 to Villanova before they started to play. If that happens against UConn, this game may be over in a hurry.

The injury news for Syracuse is that Arinze Onuaku has knee tendonitis, which has really limited not only his playing time, but his performance in the last three games (averages of 18 minutes, 2.7 points, and 3.7 boards). Not the most fleet of foot player in the world when healthy, the injury has taken away much of his explosiveness. Hopefully for Syracuse fans he is healthy, because heading to Hartford without your best inside player will be a tall task.

At 9:00 is the game everyone has been waiting as UNC (21-2, 7-2) heads to Durham to take on the Dukies (20-3, 7-2). This should be a really interesting match-up to watch. Duke plays phenomenal on-the-ball, pressure defense on the perimeter, which should slow down the UNC break. The Heels should have a huge advantage on the inside with Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. The key to this game is going to be Duke's ball pressure on the perimeter. Duke's bigs are going to have to essentially play 1-on-1 in the post (a mismatch) because of the shooting ability of Ty Lawson, Danny Green, and Wayne Ellington. If Duke's guards get out and pressure the ball on the perimeter, it makes it that much more difficult to throw a good entry pass to the guy posting on the block.

On the offensive end, Duke is going to need to take advantage of their quickness. None of UNC's bigs should be able to handle Kyle Singler (or even Dave McClure, who has been playing great glue-guy minutes of late, for that matter) on the perimeter. I also think they will have an advantage with whoever Ellington is guarding - Jon Scheyer or Gerald Henderson.

My question is who will be starting at point. I wrote this column about Greg Paulus yesterday detailing the differences between Paulus and Nolan Smith at the point. It will be a tough decision for Coach K. If there is any one guy in the country that you need to have a good defender on the floor for, it is Ty Lawson. But don't you want your general (Paulus) on the floor as much as possible?

UPDATE: Paulus is starting tonight.

The rest of the night's games:

  • 7:00 PM: Xavier (20-3, 8-1) @ Dayton (21-3, 7-2): The battle for the top of the A-10 should be a fantastic one to watch. The match-up that I am looking forward to seeing (yes, I am TiVoing - LIVE BLOG TONIGHT FOR UCONN-CUSE AND DUKE-UNC) the most is Derrick Brown and Chris Wright, who are two of the best combo forwards in the country. Xavier is pretty much a lock for the NCAA tourney at this point, but a win for Dayton would all but seal up their bid.
  • 6:30 PM: Penn State (17-6, 6-5) @ Purdue (17-6, 6-4): Purdue has dropped two in a row without Robbie Hummel, who will be a game time decision tonight. Penn State has lost two in a row, and has Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State coming up next. If the Nittany Lions drop this one, they should kiss the bubble goodbye.
  • 7:00 PM: Wake Forest (18-3, 5-3) @ NC State (12-9, 2-6): Wake Forest got back to playing Wake basketball in the second half of a 17 point win against BC - running the floor, playing defense, getting the ball inside, and then getting out of Jeff Teague's way. Expect more of the same tonight.
  • 8:00 PM: Tulsa (17-7, 7-2) @ Memphis (20-3, 8-0): Believe it or not, Tulsa is smack dab in the middle of the bubble right now. Beating a Memphis team that is as hot as anyone in the country would go a long way towards helping them get in. This will be a chance for a lot of people to see Jerome Jordan, Tulsa's 7-foot NBA prospect, go up against a really good front line.
  • 8:00 PM: LSU (19-4, 7-1) @ Mississippi State (16-7, 6-2): A battle for first place in the SEC West.
  • 9:00 PM: Oklahoma (21-1, 8-0) @ Baylor (15-8, 3-6): Baylor is in big trouble. Losing this game would drop them to 15-9, and 3-7 in a so-so Big XII. Must win? Just about.
Other games other little to no significance:
  • 7:00 PM: Drexel (12-10, 8-5) @ Northeastern (16-7, 11-2)
  • 7:00 PM: Georgia Tech (10-12, 1-8) @ Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-3)
  • 7:30 PM: St. John's (12-11, 3-8) @ Cincinnati (16-8, 6-5)
  • 8:00 PM: Colorado State (8-15, 3-6) @ BYU (17-5, 5-3)
  • 8:00 PM: Georgia (9-14, 0-8) @ Tennessee (14-8, 5-3)
  • 9:00 PM: Texas Tech (12-11, 2-6) @ Kansas State (16-7, 5-4)
  • 10:00 PM: San Diego State (17-5, 7-2) @ Utah (16-7, 7-2): Big game for first place in the tough MWC.

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