Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday's Pregame Beat

7:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Purdue: I think we can all agree that Michigan State is the best team in the Big Ten. But after that, it gets a bit murky. Ohio State has the best player and Purdue was the favorite in the preseason, but Wisconsin may be the best of the three when healthy. The problem is, the Badgers are not healthy, as John Leuer is out with a broken wrist. Without Leuer, the Badgers have had to rely more on the back court for points. Trevon Hughes has averaged 20.0 ppg over the last four games, in which Wisconsin has gone 3-1 (the only loss came at Ohio State). Perhaps the x-factor tonight is sophomore Jordan Taylor. Taylor scored 23 points in Wisconsin's win over Purdue a few weeks back, and saved the Badgers at home against Penn State, scoring 18 of his 20 points after the two minute mark in regulation.

Purdue, on the other hand, has played better of late, winning their last two games after dropping three straight. The issue with the Boilermakers right now is on the offensive end. They have struggled of late to consistently create good looks at the rim. Part of the reason is their lack of a point with Lewis Jackson out, part of the reason has been a lock of focus and leadership from some of their upperclassmen, and part of it is that Purdue just isn't an overly talented team on the offensive end.

Like most Big Ten battles, this will likely be a low-scoring, physical affair. While those games are usually far from aesthetically pleasing, fundamentals aficionados can take solace in the fact that these are two of the most well-coached teams in the country.

7:00 pm: Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech: This game will be the anti-Big Ten. Long, athletic front courts. Dynamic, talented back courts. Scorers on the wing. Pressuring defenses. Coaches that like to get out and run. It may not be pretty, but I can guarantee that Wake-Ga Tech will be entertaining.

7:00 pm: Virginia Tech @ Virginia: I am withholding judgement on both of these teams, for now, as I try to determine whether these two teams are good, or if they are only as good as their stars (Malcolm Delaney for Tech and Sylvan Landesberg for the 'Hoos). Tech has a better supporting cast, but UVa is getting better coaching right now. If the Hokies are serious about making a run at a tournament spot, they need to pull this one out. Like wise, if UVa drops this one at home, people may hop off their bandwagon.

8:30 pm: Cal @ Arizona State: Right now, it looks like these are probably the two best teams in the Pac-10. Arizona State made a surge after recently switching from a Princeton-style offense to more of a motion offense. It has been working much better, mainly because ASU doesn't have a necessary component for successfully running a Princeton offense - a big man that can pass well from the high post - and is loaded with talented perimeter players. Ty Abbot and Rihard Kuksiks, specifically, have been thriving in the new system. But Cal has been cruising along since getting Theo Robertson back. An ASU win could create a five-way tie at the top of the Pac-10.

9:00 pm: Mississippi State @ Arkansas: A 31 point waxing at Kentucky aside, I'm not yet ready to give up on the Razorbacks. True, they have lost six of seven, but four of those six losses have been competitive losses to UAB, Texas, Florida, and this Mississippi State team in Starkville. Arkansas has talent in their starting line-up, and if this team can gel and put it all together, they will give teams some issues this season. That's a big "if", however.

Other notable games

  • 7:00 pm: Georgia State @ Old Dominion
  • 7:00 pm: Duquesne @ Xavier
  • 7:00 pm: Seton Hall @ South Florida
  • 7:00 pm: St. John's @ Pitt
  • 7:00 pm: Siena @ St. Peter's
  • Pac-10:
    • 8:00 pm: Stanford @ Arizona
    • 8:30 pm: USC @ Oregon State
    • 10:30 pm: UCLA @ Oregon
  • 10:00 pm: St. Mary's @ Pepperdine
  • 11:00 pm: Gonzaga @ Santa Clara

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