Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday's Pregame Beat: Braggin' Rights game highlights a packed schedule

Its a truly great night of hoops, as we get 96 games, including 18 games involving teams ranked in the top 25.

Game of the night: No. 24 Illinois @ No. 8 Missouri

The Braggin' Rights game. Believe it or not, this is as big of a rivalry as either of these two programs have, and tonight we should be a dandy.

The media loves Missouri. They spread the floor, they're putting up huge offensive numbers, they have a bevy of talented shooters and they have the single most media-savvy player in the country in Kim English. That said, they also have a schedule with the strength of a wet paper towel (CVS brand, not even Bounty, the quicker picker-upper). Can Phil Pressey get in the lane at will against a high-major back court? Will Marcus Denmon and Kim English be able to hit threes at such a high-rate with 6'6" wings flying at them instead of 6'1" wings? Can Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore handle holding down the paint against a real front line?

Having said that, Illinois' ranking may be partially fools gold as well. The Illini are 11-1 on the season, but they are coming off of a big loss to UNLV in Chicago and have had some uninspiring wins over mediocre competition in the last few weeks. I like Meyers Leonard, Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, but none of them scare me, if that makes sense. Opposing coaches don't have to worry about one of them going off for 25 or 30 points and carrying the team to a win. In that sense, this should be a good test for Illinois is a tough environment.

Who's getting upset?: No. 7 Baylor

Don't get me wrong, I'm a believer in the Bears this season, but I am also a big fan of St. Mary's, who they play at 10:30 pm tonight. The Gaels have some terrific guards in Matthew Dellavedova, Stephen Holt and Jorden Page that can can make plays off the dribble. Rob Jones will be at a size disadvantage against Baylor's massive front line, but he's a workhorse that has spent the majority of his career playing undersized. The Gaels shoot the ball well and won't be afraid to face a top ten opponent.

Mid-major matchup of the night: 11:00 pm: Long Beach State vs. No. 15 Xavier (in Hawaii)

Yes, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells are out, but Tu Holloway will be back in the lineup for the Musketeers, giving us a matchup we've been waiting for since the beginning of the season. Holloway, who may just be the best point guard in the country, will be going toe-to-toe with Casper Ware, a kid that most in the know would put in the top five or ten at his position and who many out of the know may not have heard of. That alone will make this worth staying up for.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

7:00 pm: Florida State @ No. 12 Florida: Normally I rail against the Gators about their ability to get the ball into Patric Young. Not here. The Seminoles have a massive front line, and while they are a staunch defensive team, FSU simply doesn't have the pieces to defend the number of talented playmakers and quality shooters that Billy Donovan has at his disposal.

7:00 pm: Memphis @ No. 15 Georgetown: When these two teams played in Maui, Georgetown beat the Tigers in overtime 91-88 as Henry Sims went into beast mode, dominating Tarik Black and the Memphis bigs. But beating an opponent twice is one season is a difficult thing to do. Underrated matchup on the night: Hollis Thompson going up against Will Barton.

7:00 pm: Charleston @ Coastal Carolina: Sneaky-good game of the night. The best team in the Big South takes on the best team in the SoCon. The South Carolina state championship? Both of these teams beat Clemson.

8:00 pm: Missouri State @ West Virginia: The Mountaineers look like they have finally started to put everything together this season. Kevin Jones has played like a monster this season. Missouri State's star Kyle Weems has had a rough start to the season, but he is the reigning MVC player of the year.

8:05 pm: Northwestern @ No. 21 Creighton: You like offense? You like three-point shooting? you want to see two of the highest-scoring forwards in the country -- John Shurna and Doug McDermott -- go head-to-head? Than be sure to tune in. The Wildcats could really use this win as they try to build up their non-conference schedule.

9:00 pm: UC-Santa Barbara @ BYU: Sneaky-good game of the night No. 2. Brandon Davies should be able to score when he wants, but I'm not sure Charles Abouo will be able to slow down Orlando Johnson.

The rest of the top 25:

7:00 pm: Tulane @ No. 1 Syracuse: Great start to the year for Tulane, who is sitting at 11-1. This will be a good way for us to tell if they are for real.

8:30 pm: Miami OH @ No. 2 Ohio State: Its always interesting to see if Jared Sullinger will be able to stay healthy for the duration of a game.

7:00 pm: Fairfield @ No. 9 UConn: Tyler Olander plays for UConn. Ryan Olander plays for Fairfield. They are brothers that grew up in Storrs, where UConn is located.

9:00 pm: Milwaukee @ No. 10 Marquette: Marquette is coming off of a loss to LSU, and Milwaukee is one of the better teams in the Horizon. This rivalry is also better than you would think it is.

11:00 pm: No. 11 Kansas @ USC: Dewayne Dedmon is supposed to be an NBA prospect, right? Well, let's see how he handles going up against an all-american in Thomas Robinson.

8:00 pm: Northwestern State @ No. 18 Mississippi State: We are almost to the anniversary of when Renardo Sidney got in a brawl on national TV with teammate Elgin Bailey. Sidney looks like a different teammate this season, however.

6:00 pm: UMBC @ No. 18 Indiana: The Hoosiers have been one of the most surprising teams in the country, and there is no reason that start shouldn't continue against UMBC.

6:30 pm: Bradley @ No. 19 Michigan: It doesn't have much to do with this game in particular, but its nice to see Taylor Brown back and averaging 14.7 ppg. He missed last season with heart issues.

9:00 pm: Lehigh @ No. 20 Michigan State: The Spartans better be ready to defend CJ McCollum, who is one of the best scorers in the lower levels of college hoops.

7:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ No. 25 Harvard: Sneaky good game of the night No. 3. FAU has a talented and exciting back court led by 5'6" Raymond Taylor.

Other notable games:

- 5:00 pm: Kansas State vs. Southern Illinois
- 7:00 pm: Mercer @ Georgia Tech
- 7:30 pm: Miami FL @ Charlotte
- 8:00 pm: LSU @ North Texas
- 9:00 pm: Butler @ Stanford
- 9:00 pm: Air Force @ Gonzaga
- 10:05 pm: Kent State @ Utah State

No comments: