Monday, January 3, 2011

What to Watch, College Basketball 1/3 - 1/9

First week of college basketball and many conferences will push into their conference schedules in force.   Some like the Big East, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-10 started over the holiday break.  Here's what to watch in this week

Georgetown at St. John's (ESPN2, 7pm) - Steve Lavin has excitement back in the Red Storm program and a 2-0 Big East start.  They'll be pests all year and they bite one of the Big East ranked programs at some point this year and the game vs. Georgetown is their Big East opener at MSG.  One item to keep an eye on is that the Johnnies aren't a deep team, nor a team with great size.

Connecticut at Notre Dame (Big East Network, 7pm) - Matchups like this don't often fall to the regional syndication packages.  I'll be surprised if Kemba Walker can maintain his high scoring pace for UConn, but even against Pitt he nearly was 50% of the team's output.  Notre Dame's depth is an issue and a team without a great deal of size, but between the starters all five are threats to score.

Memphis at Tennessee (ESPN2, 9pm) - While Conference USA is showing more diversity with both UCF and Memphis ranked as of today, the Tigers need this final major non-conference test as they failed in prior games vs. Georgetown and Kansas.  This will be Bruce Pearl's final game as Tennessee coach until their game vs. UConn, and then he'll sit again for a few more SEC games due to being discipline for lying to NCAA investigators about an NCAA rules violation.  After huge wins vs. Pittsburgh and Villanova, the Vols have slipped with losses to Oakland, Charlotte, USC and an absolute clunker vs. College of Charleston on New Year's Eve.  Even worse is that three of those came at home (Charlotte was the road game and wasn't played at Charlotte's home arena, but Time Warner Cable Arena).

BYU at UNLV (CBS College, 10pm) - The Mountain West is again looking like the best conference out west and I'm expecting that both of these teams will be ranked coming into this one.  UNLV doesn't have some of the size that BYU does and that may not matter with uber-scorer Jimmer Fredette.  What UNLV does have is the ability to expand the floor with players like Chace Stanback.

Xavier at Cincinnati (ESPN2, 7pm) - The Crosstown Shootout in Cincinnati has been a rough rivalry game as of late as the Musketeers have had the better national profile over the past several years.  The Bearcats come in to the game with an undefeated record, though not necessarily a battle-tested resume.  UC uses the size of Ibrahima Thomas and Yancey Gates to outmuscle opponents, while Xavier relies on their three guard tandem of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson.

Cleveland St. at Butler (ESPNU, 7pm) - Butler is still the king of the Horizon League until someone dethrones them, and I think they'll still have a high enough profile at the end of the day to gain some at-large consideration, but Cleveland St. comes in with one loss (but two wins vs. non D-I competition) and the Horizon media thought enough of CSU to believe they'd have a say in the HL standings (3rd in preseason poll, 5 poll points behind Detroit).

George Mason at Old Dominion (Comcast Sports, 12pm) - Both teams were picked at the top of the CAA preseason poll.  The Monarchs won the Paradise Jam, but in their last big non-conference test at Missouri were smoked by 23.  By the time they get to this one on Saturday, both teams will have three CAA games under their belt, including two in the previous five days as both will play conference games on Monday and Wednesday.

Connecticut at Texas (ESPN, 3:30pm) - UConn takes a break from the Big East grind while Texas delays the start of their Big 12 slate.  Texas has great depth and that will help them throughout the Big 12 season and in this matchup with UConn.  So far nine players on the Longhorns average substantial playing time (ie. at least 10 minutes per game), including super-sub J'Corvan Brown.  Texas will use their shooting ability here as they lack size in their rotation.

Missouri St. at Wichita St. (ESPNU, 8:30pm) - These two teams were the preseason 1-2 (well, 2-1 as No. 2 is hosting No. 1) in the MVC preseason polls.   Both teams are great shooting teams (WSU: 48%, MSU 47%), but where Wichita St. excels is team depth.  The term in hockey is just "roll your lines out" and that's what the Shockers do.  Check this out: Ten Shockers average over 13 minutes per game and seven of those players average anywhere from 4.5 - 6.9 points per game.  That is bench power.

PS - If you need additional MVC action, Missouri St. hosts Creighton, no. 3 in the preseason MVC poll, Tuesday at 8pm on FSMidwest and CSN Chicago Plus.  All three MVC teams listed are 2-0 so far in MVC play.

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