College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary

February 21st, 2011
While many cite the way in which Villanova (21-6, 9-5) shot the three in their 83-72 win at the Carrier Dome last month, it may have been the foul line that did in Syracuse (22-6, 9-6) on that Saturday afternoon. Jay Wright's team hit 11 of 24 from deep but the Orange were nearly as good, making 10 on 26 attempts. That's where the foul line, and Villanova's ability to get there, made the difference as they knocked down 22 of 24 to Syracuse's 8-for-12 performance. So Villanova dispelled one belief in attacking the Syracuse zone (you can't be too willing to fire away from deep) while using another (attacking the gaps) to take home the victory.

The rematch at Wells Fargo Arena has a lot riding on it with both teams caught in the middle of a serious scrum for a single bye (at least) in next month's Big East Tournament, and the winner takes a step in that direction tonight. Corey Stokes, who has missed the last three games due to turf toe, scored 16 points in the first meeting and will be back but given the unpredictable nature of the injury it remains to be seen how effective he can be. That means guards Corey Fisher (16.3 ppg, 4.96 apg) and Maalik Wayns (13.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) will need to play as well as they did in the first meeting, combining for 37 points and nine assists.

Fisher is coming off of a 34-point performance in the Wildcats' overtime win at DePaul and has reached double figures in seven straight games, and Wayns added 17 points on Saturday. There's also sophomore Dominic Cheek who can provide some perimeter scoring, although he played just eight minutes in the first game and freshman James Bell has earned more playing time in Stokes' absence. But inside play will also play a role in the outcome, with Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou both averaging more than seven rebounds per game. Syracuse out-rebounded Villanova 34-29 in the first contest but given the Wildcats' proficiency from both the foul and three-point lines there wasn't much of an impact.

Rick Jackson leads the Big East in rebounding, averaging 11.2 rebounds in addition to 13 points per game. Kris Joseph (15.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Baye Moussa Keita (4.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg) alsp provide help on the glass and freshman C.J. Fair has proven himself to be Jim Boeheim's most prepared rookie in regards to having an impact at this level. But overall Syracuse isn't a dominant rebounding team with a margin of plus-4.2, and the Wildcats have been slightly better for the season with a margin of plus-6.4. Syracuse did however grab 16 offensive rebounds in the first meeting, and to allow that kind of production is like playing with fire.

That means in addition to Pena and Yarou, Isaiah Armwood and everyone else on the floor will need to do their job boxing out on long shots from the likes of Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. Triche has played good basketball for much of the last month, although he did make just three of fifteen shots from the field on Saturday (the sophomore got to the foul line however, resulting in a 17-point output). Triche is averaging 17.3 points per game over his last four outings, beginning to consistently take advantage of Jardine being the primary ball-handler to make things happen.

The winner in Philadelphia will do two things: control the boards and get to the foul line, a trait that proved more important than many anticipated at the Carrier Dome. Also of note on Monday is Oklahoma State's trip to Kansas, with the Cowboys in need of wins especially after letting one slip away at home to Texas A&M on Saturday. One face they won't see on the floor at Allen Fieldhouse is that of Tyshawn Taylor, who's been suspended for a violation of team rules. Losing the junior cuts down on Kansas' perimeter depth but with the Morris twins inside and Josh Selby in addition to some experienced guards will have few people weeping for them.

And in the Southern Conference Furman takes on Chattanooga, which may be a bit more important than many think. For all the talk about Charleston and rightfully so, Chattanooga hosts the SoCon Tournament and tonight provides a good opportunity for Omar Wattad and company to prove themselves against one of the best teams in the conference (they host Wofford on Wednesday).

Top 25
9:00 PM Oklahoma State at (2) Kansas (ESPN)
7:00 PM (20) Syracuse at (14) Villanova (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
1:00 PM UCF at UTEP
7:00 PM Samford at Charleston
7:00 PM Furman at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Western Carolina at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Prairie View A&M (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Kent State at Western Michigan
7:45 PM Stetson at Florida Gulf Coast
8:00 PM Delaware State at Coppin State
8:00 PM North Carolina A&T at North Carolina Central
8:00 PM St. Thomas (TX) at New Orleans
8:00 PM Norfolk State at South Carolina State
8:00 PM Valparaiso at Green Bay
8:30 PM Bethune-Cookman at Howard
8:30 PM Florida A&M at Hampton
9:00 PM Alabama State at Alcorn State
9:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Morgan State (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Alabama A&M at Southern University
9:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Texas Southern
9:05 PM North Dakota at Northern Colorado