Monday, February 13, 2006

What to Watch For - 2/13/06

First and foremost, stats are updated through yesterday's games - hit the ol' link bar to the right and have at it. As for tonight's slate, there's really only two games that warrant mentioning, and both will be shown on the world-wide leader. Here's the skinny:

1) U-cons at Villanova : This is probably the single biggest (not counting Duke-UNC, which as we all now is in a permanent league of its own) conference game in the country this year. The Huskies take their number 1 ranking into Philly to take on the Wildcats, a chic Final Four pick at the beginning of the year that has lived up to expectations in a big way. At stake is sole possession of first place in the Biiiig East (at least for a couple days). This matchup is really a case of contrasting styles - the 'Cats are led by a foursome of fearsome guards, all of whom can score, distribute, and (importantly) rebound - Lowry, Ray, and Foye all average more than the 4.1 rebounds a game pulled in by big man Jason Fraser. Nova's offense has been very efficient all year, hovering right around 1.10 ppp, both in conference and non-conference play. While the 'Cats will look to play slash and shoot from the perimeter, UConn will try to feed the beast that is their frontcourt. When Boone, Gay, and Armstrong are all on the court, the size advantage for UConn is enormous - all are at least as tall as the 'Cats only frontcourt players, and Nova plays a lot of minutes with the aforementioned four guards. Connecticut is also much deeper than Villanova - 11 players average 9 minutes a game (though the number is partially skewed by the absence of Williams for the first half of the season - Nelson, Austrie, and Johnson have all gotten a lot less playing time in conference play). UConn absolutely kills teams on the boards - Boone, Armstrong, and seventh-man Jeff Adrien all average better than 10 per 40 minutes, and Rudy Gay is just shy at about 9.5. Matchup problems are the story of the game - when Nova goes to the 4 guard, will Uconn's bigs be able to keep up on the perimeter? Will a Wildcat zone that goes 6'4", 6'9", 6'2" along the back-line be able to keep the Husky bigs from scoring at will? Will Rashard Anderson and Denham Brown have a field day when the defense collapses on the post? Can Marcus Williams withstand the heavy ball pressure Nova puts on? Needless to say, this should be a spectacular game - one of the best in college hoops this year.

2) Louisiana Tech at Nevada - For those of you who can't sleep (or who live west of the Mississippi), game three in ESPN's tripleheader is likely to be just as close and just as exciting as Huskies-Cats. The Bulldogs and the Pack sit tied atop the conference with identical 8-3 marks. This game is a rematch of a Nevada win in Reston just 11 short days ago. Paul Millsap, rebounder extraordinaire, put up a solid line (16 and 11, 3 blocks, better than 50% shooting) but got absolutely zero help from his teammates - non-Paul Millsap Bulldogs shot 15 of 48, committed 13 turnovers, and had just 8 assists on the way to putting out a 78.7 offensive rating for the night. Nevada wasn't stellar on offense - just 37% from the field and a 95.6 ORating - but it was more than enough. Nick the Freak Fazekas put up a customarily solid night with 23 and 10, and he had a little help from Marcellus Kemp, who tossed in 16 of his own. The final piece of the puzzle from the first game was freethrows - Tech committed 19 fouls to Nevada's 11, leading to 21 FTAs for the Pack against just 5 for the Bulldogs (WAC ref conspiracy against the relative newcomers, I say!). If Tech is going to win the rematch, the supporting cast needs to do a lot more to help out Millsap, and the defense needs to be just a little better. They're not a great offensive team on the season (just 97.2 offensive rating), but their defense has been stellar at 93.5. Everything favors the Pack tonight (home team, better numbers, etc.), and it's probably too tall a task for the Bulldogs to pull off the road upset here.

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