Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What to Watch For - 1/31/06

Kind of an interesting slate tonight - only 11 games being played in the country, but 5 involved ranked teams. With that in mind, several previews:

1) Pitt at UCONN - honestly, I think Pitt is overrated, but I sure hope they pick up the road win tonight. Heart says yet, brain says no. UCONN is more efficient on offense, more efficient on defense, and just better with Williams on the court.

2) Illinois at Wisconsin - UW was cock of the walk in the big ten for a while, but then got deflated with the shocking loss to ND State, and a road loss at Crisler more recently. These are now two of the four 5-2 teams at the top of the Big Televen standings. As bad as they've looked lately, I'll stick with Wisconsin at home (where they've been very tough) over Illinois on the road (where they've been, um, not so tough).

3) Florida at Mississippi - Mississippi is floating around on the bubble talk (partially because no one can believe that only three or four SEC teams might make the tournament) and a win over a top-10 opponent would do a lot to boost their cause. Florida has shown struggles on the road this year, dropping to both Tennessee (understandable) and South Carolina (not so much). Still, they have so much more talent than the Rebels that they should reverse the road woes, and send Ole Miss back to thinking NIT.

4) ACC previews - wow, it's a rough conference slate when Miami is by far the best of the 4 teams playing tonight. Miami and Wake are actually pretty similar in most respects - they're good rebounding teams, middle of the pack shooters, don't defend the arc well, etc. But Miami is better on both sides of the ball handling game - they turn the ball over less, and force more turnovers. Expect that result to continue on the home court tonight. Honestly, I'm officially giving up on Wake. Who knew at the beginning of the year this year that Cameron Stanley and Kevin Swinton (two heavily hyped recruits) would be completely non-existent? Who knew that Michael Drum would be expected to play meaningful minutes in ACC games? Chris Paul made up for a whole lot of defensive shortcomings, and without him, the team will continually be coming up short. The other game on the docket tonight is the battle of the Techs in Blacksburg. I'll say this - Georgia Tech just hasn't played hard this year, and Virginia Tech has. This is a totally subjective comment (and thus one I'm not usually given to making) but when talent is lacking, you have to win on effort, and GT hasn't shown it. For those of you who want numbers, here you go - VT forces turnovers (tops in the conference at just shy of 1 every 4 possessions) and Georgia Tech coughs it up (slightly more than 1 every four possessions). Much like Wake-Miami, this should be the key difference between the teams tonight - it'll let VT get several points in transition and make up for a half court offense that is truly bad (97.06 ORtg, even with all the free looks they get off turnovers).

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