Thursday, January 26, 2006

What to Watch For - 1/26/06

# 1, of course, is Duke at Virginia Tech. On paper, this is a huge mismatch, with the best team in efficiency margin visiting the worst. If they play to their numbers in conference play, Duke would win by over 25. Of course, as we all know, Duke-Virginia Tech games the past two seasons have been anything but predictable. They scored a win last year in Blacksburg, and were a 40 ft jumper away from stealing a win in Cameron back in December. Let's go a little in depth based on the numbers from the conference season so far. This is one of the few conference teams that shouldn't be as much trouble on the boards. They rank 12th in OR% and 8th in DR%. These numbers were pretty consistent with the results last time - Duke rebounded 9 of its 31 missed shots, and VT got 7 of its 28. One thing that Tech does do well is win the turnover battle. They're first in the league in defensive turnover % and 2nd in offensive turnover % - in ACC play, they've forced 27 more turnovers than they's committed. One of the things we'll likely see tonight is what we saw in the first game - Duke pressuring the perimeter, Tech getting by that pressure and exploiting the 6-12 foot range. Both Dowdell and Gordon hit 50% of their 2s in the first game doing basically this. One of the benefits for Virginia Tech in this game is that the one thing (besides not turning the ball over) they do well on offense is shoot 2's - they rank 4th in the conference in 2pt%, and Duke ranks last in 2pt% defense. If they're patient on offense, exploit the holes, and don't turn the ball over, they should be able to execute fairly well, and keep the game close. If it's close in the last 5 minutes, Blacksburg will get really hostile, and at that point anything can happen.
Of course, there are several things Virginia Tech doesn't do well (after all, they're winless in conference). Scoring defense is one - they give up a .522 eFG% and 1.14 PPWS - 9th and 10th in conference, respectively. They're also an absolutely terrible 3 point shooting team - in conference play, they're hitting only .243 from 3. Combine that with Duke's conference leading .267 3pt field goal defense, and they should struggle beyond the arc. Last game they went 3 for 10, which is actually better than expected. If they get down big and start having to shoot 3s to come back, it's not going to happen. The disparity on the other side of the ball isn't quite as great, but it's still a big advantage for Duke - the Devils are 4th in 3 point percentage on offense, and Tech is just 8th on defense. Look for the Devils to try to exploit this early - the 20 3pt attempts against Tech in December is their second lowest total on the conference season. Tonight it's likely they'll be closer to 25-28. My memory is somewhat hazy, but the last time I can remember back-to-back Duke losses was to open the '99-'00 season. It says here that Duke comes out with a purpose tonight, and takes care of business in Blacksburg. But I still think it'll be closer than 25.

2) Ohio at Buffalo - the most anticipated game of the year in the MAC back in November has lost a little bit of its luster in the wake of some inconsistent play from the Bulls, but it still should be a heck of a contest. These are, without question, the two teams with the most talent in the MAC. It says here Buffalo holds the home court if and only if they improve on their turnover percentage - 25.2% in a loss to Central Michigan and an astounding 35.2% in a loss at Toledo.

3) Tennessee Tech at Murray State - The Golden Eagles have the gaudy RPI (79, really high - or low, depending on how you look at it - for the OVC) thanks to a non-con schedule that included Cincinnati, Michigan State, and UW-Milwaukee. They also are riding a 6 game winning streak. Murray State was the preseaon favorite in the conference, and sits just a half game back of Tenn Tech at 8-2. If the stats prevail, Murray State will win by double figures. But Tenn Tech has been winning despite being just an average team in almost all aspects. It says here the Racers hold home court and move a half game up on the Golden Eagles.

4) Washington at California - I don't think anyone in the league office would admit it, but the PAC-10 desperately needs Cal to win this game. They have only three teams with even moderately strong tournament profiles right now - Washington, UCLA, and Arizona. And really, only USC and Cal have a chance to improve enough to warrant a fourth bid. So a win over the best team in the conference would really boost Cal's resume and help the PAC get that fourth bid. This actually could be a decent matchup for Cal - Washington is small inside, with no substantial minutes to anyone over 6'8", and Cal gets a ton of production out of their post players. Leon Powe you know, but Devon Hardin you might not - the 6'11" sophomore center averages almost 10 and 7 a game, and has put up a very nice .552 field goal percentage. It says here that Cal pulls off the upset special, possibly with help from some home cooking behind the whistle.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Well Cal did it. And really remarkable considering Washington shot 10 for 16 from behind the arc. But I think Cal inside (and getting to the free throw line) helped =)