Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday's Pregame Beat

Preseason NIT: I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote for the preview over at Rush the Court. Remember, come join our live-chat today during the games here.

Welcome back to MSG as we take in the third place game and the finals of the Preseason NIT. In the first game, tipping right at 2:30 pm today, LSU takes on Arizona State. The Tigers were run off the court against UConn, as their backcourt was unable to handle the pressure from the Huskies. The Sun Devils come out strong against Duke, but looked lost on the offensive end over the final 30 minutes of the game. A big issue for the Tigers is going to be how they match up with Arizona State defensively. The Tigers are pretty big — Storm Warren and Tasmin Mitchell are the two forwards, but neither is what you would call a “pure” small forward. ASU plays four guards (including Rihards Kuksiks), meaning that Trent Johnson is going to have to decide between dealing with the mismatch or playing zone. At the other end, ASU is going to have their hands full with Warren inside. He had 15 and 6 in limited minutes against a good Husky front line. Eric Boateng (4 points, 4 boards, 9 turnovers) will need to play much better for ASU.

The final is the game everyone will be waiting to see. There are a few certainties in life — gravity exists, turkey puts you to sleep, Dickie V loves Duke — and one of those certainties is that Duke-UConn is going to be a classic. Think back to 1990 and Christian Laettner’s heroics; or the 1999 title game and Trajan Langdan’s travels; or the 2004 national semifinal and the UConn comeback. Whenever these two teams tango, it is an event, and tonight will be no different. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith have been playing fantastic basketball, but they have yet to face a team that has the athletes that UConn has in the backcourt. Jerome “Slicin’” Dyson (ESPN really needs to stop using that nickname, it is terrible. What’s wrong with Romey?) and Kemba Walker are as good defending on the ball as anyone in the nation, and the ability of the Duke guards to handle the 2-2-1 press (with Romey and Kemba up top) will be a huge determinant in the outcome of this game. That said, the difference between UConn last night and UConn of the first three games was their aggressiveness going to the glass. But for the first time all season, they will play a team that can match up with them size-wise. Will the Huskies still be able to rebound the basketball?

Two things to keep an eye on: 1) Who controls the tempo of this game. UConn is going to want to get this thing going up and down, as Duke does not have the athletes to run with them. But Duke is going to want slow this down, sit back in a packed-in zone, and let the Huskies try to shoot their way to the title. 2) Stanley Robinson vs. Kyle Singler. Singler is the best player on this Duke team, and is the guy they look to for big shots. But Sticks is a phenomenal athlete, and will be counted on to slow down Singler.

Is it 5 pm yet? In the immortal words of Fergie, “Let’s get it started in here."
Old Spice Classic
  • 12:00 pm: Marquette vs. Michigan: Manny Harris is coming off a near triple-double as Michigan knocked off an impressive Creighton team. But Marquette not only thoroughly beat Xavier, they held Jordan Crawford to one of the worst night's I've seen a player have in a while. Jameson Fleming, who is courtside in Orlando, said that he thought Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler may actually be better than Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks. They combined for 42 in the first game, let's see what they can muster against a unique Michigan system.
  • 2:30 pm: Xavier vs. Creighton: A great mid-major match-up between the traditional powers in the A-10 and MVC. Creighton is a team that is going to press, press, press this season and try and force tempo. That said, Xavier does have some good back court players, and their size inside with Kenny Frease and Jason Love may be too much for the Bluejays. Keep an eye on Justin Carter for Creighton. He had a career high 21 yesterday.
  • 5:00 pm: Florida State vs. Alabama: Anthony Grant has gone on record saying that he knows his Alabama team is going to be under-talented in most of their games this season, and thus must outwork teams to survive. If you watched Iona take FSU to wire last night, then you know that FSU could be susceptible to teams out hustling them. Best personal match-up of the day as Solomon Alabi goes up against JaMychal Green.
  • 7:30 pm: Iona vs. Baylor: Baylor, in stark contrast to last season's team, is very big and very athletic across their front line. Iona isn't. While it didn't really effect the Gaels against FSU, we shall see if they can continue that play against the Bears.
76 Classic
  • 2:30 pm: West Virginia vs. Texas A&M: Bob Huggins and Mark Turgeon. What do you think this game is going to be like? Expect a grind it out, physical affair between two of the better defensive coaches in the country. West Virginia is expected to get Devin Ebanks back today (althought technically he was "back" last night, Huggy Bear just chose not to play him). Can the Aggies keep WVU from hitting the glass?
  • 5:00 pm: Clemson vs. Long Beach State: After losing like they did last night, there should be no way that LBSU is able to stay with the Tigers today. Let's see in Clemson can get that three point stroke back on track.
  • 9:30 pm: Minnesota vs. Portland: If Portland wants to earn an at-large bid, they are going to have to win another game in the 76 Classic, and what better way to do it that the team that just knocked off Butler. Portland will be able to match-up with the Gophers in terms of size, but will have no where near the athleticism of Minnesota. Portland relies on their three point shot to stay in games, but the Gophers held Butler to 3-18 from deep last night. If Portland is hitting their shots, this will be a battle for Minnesota.
  • 12:00 am: UCLA vs. Butler: Butler has struggled a bit in the early season, but what better way to get out of a funk than against a UCLA team that is playing very poorly. To be honest, I expect a big game out of the Bruins. They were embarrassed last night, ad at the very least I see them playing all out tonight.
8:00 pm: Florida vs. Michigan State: The Gators are coming off of a blowout win over Florida State earlier this week, but the Spartans are one of the few teams everyone thinks can make a Final Four. If you haven't seen freshman Kenny Boynton play for Florida, he's the real deal.

10:30 pm: Utah @ Illinois: The Utes did just lose to Seattle, but this is a Utah team with a solid back court in Carlon Brown and Luka Drca. Illinois has a young and talented back court, but their front line may end up being too much for the Utes to handle.

Other notable games:
  • 4:00 pm: Mercer @ Georgia Tech
  • 5:30 pm: Rutgers vs. UMass
  • 5:30 pm: Siena vs. St. John's
  • 6:00 pm: St. Louis vs. Iowa State
  • 7:00 pm: Jacksonville @ South Carolina
  • 7:00 pm: Charleston @ Tennessee
  • 7:00 pm: Columbia @ Syracuse
  • 7:30 pm: Nevada @ VCU
  • 8:00 pm: Bradley @ Oklahoma State
  • 8:00 pm: Virginia Tech vs. Temple
  • 8:00 pm: Tennessee Tech vs. Kansas
  • 8:30 pm: Northwestern vs. Notre Dame
  • 8:30 pm: Old Dominion vs. Missouri
  • 11:30 pm: Houston vs. San Diego

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