College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

February 19th, 2011
One of the more important games of the day doesn't involve a ranked team, but because of the inconsistent nature of both teams they find themselves in need of a victory. Michigan State (14-11, 6-7) hosts Illinois (17-9, 7-6) in an important contest both teams need in regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes. Tom Izzo's had to deal with maddening inconsistency from some of the players expected to be leaders, not to mention the dismissal of backup point guard Korie Lucious that's sapped them of their depth at the point. Bruce Weber's also had to deal with his veterans not bringing their best effort to the table on a nightly basis, eventually resorting to removing Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale from the starting lineup.

The Illini haven't won two straight games since early January, a bad stat given the fact that they won in their last contest. With both teams in need of wins expect the effort level to be at a high level. As for the execution that's a little tougher to peg with both teams occasionally having problems with regards to finding quality shots. Illinois won the first meeting on the defensive end, limiting the Spartans to 37.5% shooting on the night. The problem for Michigan State: 26 three-pointers attempted. For a team that shoots just 36% from three on the season that's too high of a number, especially when considering that the Illini are one of the best teams in America at defending the three (opponents shoot 29.5%).

That means Michigan State will need Kalin Lucas to do a good job of finding lanes to the basket, and the same goes for Durrell Summers. Summers was non-existent in Michigan State's loss to Ohio State on Tuesday night, scoring just one point in 16 minutes of action. For a senior of his talent level that simply cannot happen, especially in a game of this magnitude. And Draymond Green (13.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.2 apg) may be their best decision-maker, an extension of Coach Izzo who does just about everything imaginable on the floor. Freshman Keith Appling's seen an increase in his minutes since Lucious was dismissed, and while not called on for much scoring Appling is a solid defender on the perimeter.

McCamey is the guy who makes Illinois go, and when he plays well this is a tough team to beat. McCamey averages 14.5 points and 6.3 assists per game, with the second number being well into the sevens when he was playing well in non-conference play. But when you're thisclose to playing at the next level more people have access to your ear, resulting in the occasional missing of the message that your coach is trying to deliver. Hence Coach Weber's decision to bench the senior a couple games ago, and it worked in the win at Minnesota. If McCamey and the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale) are mentally ready to go Illinois can go far, but they can also do things like lose to UIC when the seniors don't show up.

Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Jereme Richmond are three young players that Illinois will build their program around in the coming years, and all have the ability to make a difference right now as well. Paul and Richmond have to bring the scoring and energy off the bench, and when they do that most teams in the Big Ten lack the overall firepower to keep up with the Illini offensively. There could be some opening as well, with this edition of Spartans not defending at the level that prior teams have. Michigan State allows opponents to shoot 42.9% from the field and 38.4% from three, with the latter being one of the worst numbers in the Big Ten. Michigan State is the slightly better rebounding team but if they give up too many open looks it won't matter.

In other games on Saturday Arizona can take another step toward a Pac-10 title with a win over Washington. The Huskies won the first meeting by 17, a game that turned on a hustle play by Isaiah Thomas in the second half. Sean Miller's team has turned it up a notch in recent weeks, and in addition to Derrick Williams when guys such as Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Lamont "MoMo" Jones and Kevin Parrom are playing well Arizona is a tough team to beat. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant will need to get the job done inside in addition to Justin Holiday providing points on the wing, as Scott Suggs will not play due to injury. UCLA is just a game behind Arizona with the Wildcats visiting next week, and an Arizona win on Saturday could mean that meeting determines the Pac-10 title.

Pittsburgh visits St. John's and with the Red Storm owning four wins over teams ranked in the top 13 of the polls at the time, and Pitt could be number five if they aren't ready to play at high noon. Texas A&M is at Oklahoma State in a game the Cowboys need to make a move towards and NCAA bid, and the same goes for Boston College as they visit North Carolina. And out west keep an eye on UNLV at Colorado State. The Rebels have the better overall profile but the Rams dominated the meeting in Las Vegas, and a win at home would land Tim MIles' team a sweep and make it very tough for the selection committee to put the Rebels in the field as opposed to CSU should it come to that.

Sears BracketBusters Saturday Preview

Top 25
2:00 PM Colorado at (1) Kansas (ESPN)
1:30 PM (2) Texas at Nebraska (ESPN3)
12:00 PM (4) Pittsburgh at St. John's (ESPN)
2:00 PM (6) San Diego State at Air Force (The Mtn.)
1:00 PM (7) Notre Dame at West Virginia (CBS)
4:30 PM (8) Brigham Young at TCU (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM (9) Georgetown at South Florida (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Washington at (13) Arizona (ESPN)
12:00 PM (14) Villanova at DePaul (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (17) Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
4:00 PM (18) Vanderbilt at Auburn (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Boston College at (19) North Carolina (ESPN)
4:00 PM Rutgers at (20) Syracuse (ESPN3)
1:45 PM (21) Missouri at Iowa State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM South Carolina at (22) Kentucky (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (24) Utah State at (23) Saint Mary's (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Hofstra at Wright State (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Miami (OH) at James Madison (ESPN3)
12:00 PM Duquesne at Dayton
12:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Wagner
1:00 PM Florida State at Wake Forest
1:00 PM Virginia Tech at Virginia (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Austin Peay at Fairfield (ESPNU)
1:00 PM Georgia at Tennessee (CBS)
1:05 PM Morehead State at Indiana State
1:30 PM Mississippi at Mississippi State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Washington State at Arizona State
2:00 PM Butler at Illinois-Chicago (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Canisius at Boston University
2:00 PM Massachusetts at Rhode Island
2:00 PM Central Michigan at Niagara
2:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Longwood
2:00 PM Northeastern at UNC Asheville
2:00 PM Manhattan at Stony Brook
2:00 PM Illinois State at Western Michigan
2:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Western Carolina
2:00 PM Sacred Heart at Bryant University
2:30 PM Army at Navy (CBS College)
3:00 PM Iona at Liberty (ESPNU)
3:00 PM St. Peter's at Loyola (IL)
3:00 PM Tulsa at Southern Methodist
3:00 PM Bradley at Tennessee-Martin
3:05 PM Green Bay at Southern Illinois
3:30 PM Quinnipiac at Central Connecticut State
4:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Arkansas-Little Rock (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Oklahoma at Kansas State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Georgia State at Louisiana Tech
4:00 PM Seattle at Northern Illinois
4:00 PM Oregon State at Oregon (FSN)
4:00 PM Delaware at Rider
4:00 PM Furman at Samford
4:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Southeastern Louisiana
4:00 PM Delaware State at Tennessee State
4:00 PM North Dakota State at IPFW
4:30 PM Florida A&M at Howard
4:30 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Coppin State
4:30 PM Michigan at Iowa
4:30 PM Northwestern State at McNeese State
4:30 PM Virginia Military at Morgan State
4:30 PM Norfolk State at North Carolina Central
4:30 PM Texas-San Antonio at Nicholls State
5:00 PM Vermont at Charleston (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Hawaii at UC Davis
5:00 PM Sam Houston State at Central Arkansas
5:00 PM East Carolina at Southern Miss
5:00 PM Missouri State at Valparaiso (ESPN2)
5:05 PM UC Irvine at Nevada
5:15 PM Campbell at Florida Gulf Coast
5:30 PM Alabama State at Southern University
5:30 PM Texas State at Stephen F. Austin
5:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Texas Southern
6:00 PM UCF at UAB
6:00 PM Princeton at Brown
6:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at Idaho State
6:00 PM Alabama A&M at Alcorn State
6:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Hampton
6:00 PM South Dakota State at Oakland
6:00 PM North Carolina A&T at South Carolina State
6:30 PM Grambling State at Jackson State
7:00 PM UNLV at Colorado State (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Yale
7:00 PM Northwestern at Indiana
7:00 PM Long Island at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Towson
7:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM Harvard at Columbia
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Cornell
7:00 PM Citadel at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Arkansas at Alabama (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Creighton at Akron
7:00 PM Milwaukee at Buffalo
7:00 PM Florida Atlantic at Florida International
7:00 PM Appalachian State at High Point
7:00 PM George Washington at La Salle
7:00 PM Hartford at UMBC
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Monmouth
7:00 PM George Mason at Northern Iowa (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Cincinnati at Providence (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Maine at Siena
7:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Toledo
7:00 PM Radford at William & Mary
7:00 PM Ohio at Winthrop
7:00 PM Ball State at Wofford
7:05 PM Loyola Marymount at Portland State
7:05 PM Bowling Green at Youngstown State
7:30 PM East Tennessee State at Lipscomb
7:30 PM New Hampshire at Marist
7:30 PM Davidson at Presbyterian
8:00 PM Evansville at Murray State
8:00 PM Charlotte at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Pacific at Oral Roberts
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Baylor (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Memphis at Rice
8:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Elon (ESPN3)
8:00 PM San Francisco at Gonzaga
8:00 PM Marshall at Tulane
8:00 PM Southern Utah at Western Illinois
8:00 PM Fordham at Xavier
8:05 PM Western Kentucky at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Detroit at Drake
8:05 PM Texas A&M-CC at Lamar
8:30 PM Northern Colorado at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
8:30 PM Louisiana-Monroe at North Texas
8:30 PM USC Upstate at Belmont
8:30 PM Santa Clara at Portland
8:30 PM Sacramento State at Southeast Missouri State
8:45 PM Arkansas State at Troy
9:00 PM Illinois at Michigan State (ESPN)
9:00 PM Seton Hall at Marquette (ESPN3)
9:00 PM N.J.I.T. at Texas-Pan American
9:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Prairie View A&M
9:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Tennessee Tech
9:00 PM North Dakota at Utah Valley
9:05 PM Idaho at Montana State
9:05 PM Houston at UTEP (CBS College)
9:30 PM Utah at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
10:00 PM Northern Arizona at Cal Poly
10:00 PM UC Riverside at Fresno State
10:00 PM Boise State at UC Santa Barbara
10:30 PM USC at Stanford
11:00 PM Montana at Long Beach State (ESPN2)