Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend Preview: Ohio State-Indiana rematch highlights a slow weekend

This post is sponsored by the Fairfield Inn Bloomington.

Since we are currently on this road trip, the preview will be shorter than usual.

Game of the Weekend: Sun, 4:30 pm: No. 8 Indiana @ No. 5 Ohio State

The last time these two teams played, Indiana knocked off the Buckeyes in Assembly Hall 74-70, giving their fans even more reason to believe they deserved to be ranked somewhere in the top ten. The problem? Indiana probably doesn't. The Hoosiers are a flawed basketball team, one that struggles on the defensive end of the floor and that doesn't have the kind of strength in the paint to effectively battle on the glass. That said, if they are hitting their threes, they are dangerous. Ohio State found that out the first time these two teams got together. As did Kentucky. Even Michigan State was on the receiving end of a 25-2 run from the Hoosiers.

The question we all have right now is whether or not IU is capable of winning game on the road against good teams. The two times they've played on the road in the Big Ten, they lost to Michigan State despite going on a 25-2 run and they beat Penn State by six despite shooting 16-24 from three. That's not exactly promising.

Ohio State, on the other hand, was in foul trouble when these two teams tangoed back on New Year's Eve. It seemed like everyone on their roster had two fouls in the first 20 minutes of the game. That kind of kept OSU from getting into a rhythm offensively. That said, the Buckeyes have had some issues of late. They haven't looked quite as dominant as we expected them to be, and a large part of that is due to the fact that we all underrated just how much they would miss David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

That's the bottom line right there. Diebler did not miss when he got his feet set. Lighty could literally do anything on a basketball court and do it well. The guys filling in those roles -- DeShaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith -- are capable, but they are not on the level of Diebler or Lighty. Throw in the fact that Sullinger doesn't appear to be 100% or all the way back in shape after the time he had to take off, and it has put a ton of pressure on Aaron Craft to be a primary playmaker. That's not his forte.

Its sets up a situation with all kinds of intriguing story lines. But most importantly, the loser drops to three games behind Michigan State and out of first place in the Big Ten. That deficit may be too much to overcome.

Three more to watch:

Sat, 4:00 pm: No. 12 UNLV @ No. 22 SDSU: There may not be a more intriguing matchup this weekend that when the Aztecs take of UNLV. On the one hand, SDSU hasn't played anyone in well over a month. UNLV, on the other hand, has played the role of road dogs, galavanting across the country like they are on the #BIAHRoadTrip. UNLV seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the MWC this season, but the question many people are asking is just how good SDSU is. New Mexico has played about as well as anyone on the west coast over the last month and seems primed to make a run at the league title. If the Aztecs want a shot at winning the conference, defending their home court is crucial.

Sat, 4:00 pm: Alabama @ No. 20 Mississippi State: Who is the favorite in the SEC West? Prior to the start of the season, the obvious pick was Alabama. But as the Crimson Tide started to struggle in early December, the Bulldogs slid into the lead. But Mississippi State has come back to earth, starting with a loss at Arkansas to open up SEC play. Winning this game opens up a two game lead for the Tide in the division. The best part? These two teams match up very, very well. Both teams have big front lines -- Arnett Moultrie and Tony Mitchell will be difficult to keep off of first-team all-SEC -- while the matchup of Trever Releford and Dee Bost pits two of the best point guards in the league.

Sat, 7:00 pm: UCF @ Marshall: Who is going to be the biggest challenger to Memphis in the Conference USA regular season race? Southern Miss gave the Tigers their best shot on Wednesday, coming up just short as a game-winning three bounced off the rim. Both UCF and Marshall are sitting at 3-0 in the league. Who is for real? Personally, I like Marshall more because I love their back court.

Who's getting upset?: Sat, 8:00 pm: No. 23 Gonzaga @ Loyola Marymount

Despite all the struggles that LMU has had this season, they are currently tied with Gonzaga are second place in the WCC at 3-1. And, believe it or not, the Lions probably have just as much talent on their roster this season, especially with Drew Viney back in the mix and healthy. Gonzaga is also going to have a tough matchup in the back court as neither Kevin Pangos or David Stockton are really known for their defense and Anthony Ireland has proven to be a player. The Zags are coming off of a 21 point loss at St. Mary's. They are ripe for the picking.

Three more on upset watch:

Sat, 1:00 pm: No. 13 Michigan @ Iowa: The Hawkeyes have caught a couple of teams napping this year (ahem, Wisconsin), and they are certainly more talented than typical Iowa teams. Throw in the fact that they are coming off of an embarrassing and thorough whooping at the hands of Michigan State -- one that caused Fran McCaffrey to body slam a chair -- and I think that Iowa will be ready to play. Michigan struggled against Northwestern at home their last time out as well.

Sat, 1:00 pm: Texas @ No. 9 Missouri: To be honest, I love Missouri. I think they proved quite a bit with the way that they beat Iowa State on the road last week. When you can win on the road while doing what you do best poorly, that's a good sign. That said, I like this Texas squad. I think they have a good young core and an underrated big man in Clint Chapman. But I had to pick someone to get upset, so I'm betting that J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo put it all together for a game.

Sat, 6:00 pm: Tennessee Tech @ No. 14 Murray State: Tennessee Tech has a really solid 1-2-3 punch in Kevin Murphy, Jud Dillard and Zach Swansey. They'll be able to get up and down with Murray State. So yeah, I'm going to call the upset this weekend. Streak: over.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Fri, 7:00 pm: Cleveland State @ Butler

OK, so maybe I'm just being hopeful because I'll be at this game tonight, but I think there is a ton of intrigue in this game. Both programs lost a ton from last season, but both are still right near the top of the Horizon League. Hinkle is never an easy place to win, even if Butler is a bit down this season.

Three more to watch

Sat, 4:00 pm: Ohio @ Akron: Two of the best teams in the MAC take the court. Akron had the hype in the preseason, but it was Ohio that made a run early in the year and got themselves considered for the top 25.

Sat, 9:00 pm: Montana @ Weber State: The two best teams in the Big Sky? National Player of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who currently leads the nation in scoring, has carried WSU to a 5-0 record in the league, but the Grizzlies are currently sitting at 4-0 themselves.

Sun, 3:30 pm: Loyola MD @ Iona: Iona blew a 17 point lead in the final eight minutes last night to Manhattan, suffering their first loss in league play. Loyola is sitting just a half game back in the win column, meaning that a win here for the Greyhounds would put them into first place in the MAAC. That is going to be a fun race to watch this season.

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