Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday's Pregame Beat: MSU-Wisky highlights the night

Game of the night: 7:00 pm: No. 11 Michigan State @ No. 19 Wisconsin

The Big Ten is loaded this season. They have five teams currently sitting in the top 20 and another four teams that are good enough to have a shot at making a run to the NCAA Tournament. What that means is that on just about a nightly basis, we are going to be getting games like this from Middle America, which is about as far as you can get from being a bad thing.

There is plenty of intrigue in this matchup even if there may not be plenty of offense involved; Wisconsin is by far the best defensive team in the country according to Kenpom, while Michigan State is checking in at eighth. Wisconsin is also the slowest team in the country. Part of the reason their defense is so effective is that they are able to take all of the flow out of the game, grinding the pace down to a halt and keeping their opponents from finding a rhythm. There is almost no way to avoid it, which means that half court execution will be of the utmost importance for the Spartans.

The other key? Wisconsin's ability to get defensive rebounds. No team in the country is as good as Wisconsin at making their opponent's miss, and this season, they've been excellent at cleaning up those misses. But the Badgers are a bit smaller than we are used to seeing them this season, and Michigan State is one of the most physical teams in the country. In typical Tom Izzo fashion, this group attacks the offensive glass and gets more than their fair share of second chance points. There will be an abundance of misses if Wisconsin plays defense the way we expect them too, meaning that there will also be quite a few offensive rebounds to be had. Box out and win if you are the Badgers.

Who's getting upset?: 7:00 pm: No. 8 UConn @ Seton Hall

This will be a good gauge for a UConn team that has gone through the majority of this season without being tested. The Pirates are 12-2 on the season, and while they are coming off of an embarrassing loss at Syracuse last week, SHU still has managed to put together a solid start to the season. There is promise on this roster, particularly in the form of Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope. The question is whether or not this team is "for real". Beat UConn at home, and you are for real.

Mid-major matchup of the night: 7:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ Oakland

Coming into the season, these two looked like they were going to be the favorites in the Summit League. While ORU has played like it of late, winning their last four games against Xavier, Texas Tech, UMKC and South Dakota State. Every game except Texas Tech was on the road. Dominique Morrison has been particularly good, scoring 100 points the past four games. Oakland, on the other hand, has stumbled to a 2-2 start in league play. But the Grizzlies may actually have the best player on the floor in the form of Reggie Hamilton. Here's to me rooting for Oakland, openly, to ensure that the rematch BIAH will be attending later this month in Tulsa will be all the more dramatic.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

8:00 pm: Oklahoma @ No. 6 Missouri: The Sooners are a better team than anyone is giving them credit for. Steven Pledger may be the most underrated player in the country. For Missouri, this will be their first game playing with just seven scholarship players, as Kadeem Green has opted to transfer out of the program.

The rest of the top 25:

7:00 pm: Arkansas-Little Rock @ No. 2 Kentucky: What can I put as a comment beyond "I hope there are some nice dunks"?

6:30 pm: Nebraska @ No. 7 Ohio State: Tough start to the year for the Huskers: Wisconsin, Michigan State, at Ohio State and at Illinois?

7:00 pm: No. 10 Louisville @ St. John's: Louisville has now lost two in a row. They could really use a win and, more importantly, a well-played game.

7:00 pm: UAB @ No. 14 Florida: Cameron Moore will have a chance to showcase what he is capable of going up against Patric Young.

7:00 pm: No. 21 Harvard @ Fordham: The Crimson are coming off of one of their most impressive wins of the season, knocking off St. Joe's after being down 15. But Fordham? They just beat Georgia Tech.

8:05 pm: Drake @ No. 24 Creighton: Its the Valley. Anything can happen in the Valley.

Other notable games:

- 8:00 pm: Cornell @ Maryland
- 9:00 pm: Alabama @ Georgia Tech

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