College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary
A pair of games between ranked teams take center stage on Monday night, with Villanova's trip to Morgantown preceding Kansas taking on Texas in Austin. Jay Wright's team will look to bounce back from their disappointing showing at Georgetown on Saturday and they're going to need to hit the glass with a vengeance in order to beat the Mountaineers. West Virginia averages 15.6 offensive rebounds per game, good for third in the Big East. Of the 795 rebounding opportunities on Mountaineer shots Bob Huggins' team grabs the board 43.3% of the time, tops in the conference. These numbers make it imperative that Antonio Pena stay out of foul trouble. West Virginia may feature a number of players in the 6-7 to 6-9 height range but they can offensive rebound with the best of them.
Da'Sean Butler, who scored 33 points in West Virginia's comeback win at St. John's, leads the way offensively and Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones are also players to keep an eye on. But the three players who don't get as much pub yet have an impact on how well WVU plays are guards Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant, and the recently added Deniz Kilicli. Kilicli received his fair share of hype due to the circumstances surrounding him not playing the first twenty games, and his addition gives the Mountaineers a physical presence in the paint. Meanwhile, Mazzulla and Bryant offer Coach Huggins a pair of solid answers at the point. Mazzulla led a 1-3-1 zone that game St. John's fits on Saturday and his defense will be needed to slow down Scottie Reynolds.
These are two of the three most efficient offensive teams in the Big East but the Mountaineers have been the better defensive team thus far. If Villanova is to win in Morgantown they've got to match the home team's energy both defensively and on the boards. If they can they've got a chance to silence the home folks. The same goes for Kansas in the second game of the doubleheader, and they've got the horses throughout the rotation to get the job done. Keep an eye on the Cole Aldrich/Dexter Pittman matchup; Pittman's had trouble staying on the floor in conference play, an issue that's gone hand-in-hand with the team's recent struggles.
Texas must also run their offense efficiently; the Jayhawks lead the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense, and young perimeter players jacking up questionable shots will get Rick Barnes' team in serious trouble if they aren't careful. With Sherron Collins running the show and a number of options both inside and out, Kansas is the kind of team that can make opponents pay dearly for mental lapses. Texas must play sound basketball if they're to end their current run of subpar play. Also keep an eye on Louisiana Tech visiting New Mexico State in a key WAC contest; both are 7-2 in conference play, tied in the loss column with Utah State (8-2) atop the conference standings.
7p ESPN Villanova at West Virginia
7p ESPNU Maryland Eastern Shore at NC A&T
9p ESPN Kansas at Texas
9p ESPNU Alcorn State at Grambling State
9p ESPN+/CST Louisiana Tech at NMSU
7p Robert Morris at Pittsburgh
7p Niagara at Rider
7p Fairfield at Siena
7:30p Bethune-Cookman at Morgan St
8:30p Alabama St at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Kansas over Texas: Although the Jayhawks have had their share of issues of late against inferior competition, it's tough to see them coming out flat in Austin. In a game the Longhorns desperately need if they're to have any hope of landing in the Houston regional, Kansas simply has too many answers. Cole Aldrich has been better at staying on the floor than Dexter Pittman, which will prove to be the difference.