College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

November 26th, 2011

The championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational provides undefeated UNLV (6-0) with not only a great opportunity but also a great measuring stick, as they take on #1 North Carolina (5-0) at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels fought off a USC team that may not be long on talent but they do make you earn everything, and UNC wasn't challenged much by South Carolina in the nightcap. Whether or not Dave Rice's team can beat the Tar Heels likely depends on the play of their most recent UCLA transfer, forward Mike Moser (15.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 3.2 spg). The versatile Oregon native can play either inside or out for UNLV, and his start after sitting out a transfer year has been quite the boost for an experienced UNLV team.

Another consequence of Moser's arrival has been the move of senior Chace Stanback (11.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) to the more natural "three" after playing a lot of time at the "four" last season. Completing the starting frontcourt is senior Brice Massamba, and Quintrell Thomas is called upon off the bench to supply defense and rebounding. On the season UNLV has a rebounding margin of plus-7.4, and while they haven't played a team with the size that UNC brings to the table the Rebels are active enough to at the very least hold their own on the glass. What UNLV can do on the offensilve glass will be key because the more they force the Heels to stay in and hit the boards, the fewer opportunities Kendall Marshall will have to get out and run.

Marshall dished out 13 assists in the win over South Carolina, and over his last four games the sophomore has 51 assists and just eight turnovers. He makes very good decisions with the basketball and keeps Roy Williams' team running at a highly efficient rate (117.6 efficiency, 1.18 points/possession), and with their surplus of scorers it will be tough for anyone to completely shut them down. However, UNLV has some good perimeter defenders, which will allow Rice to choose among a few options to guard Marshall. He could go with either Oscar Bellfield or Anthony Marshall for a more "conventional" matchup, and the long-armed Justin Hawkins wouldn't be a bad choice either (tip of the cap to Ryan Greene of for that last option).

Harrison Barnes (17.8 ppg), John Henson (16.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.4 bpg) and Tyler Zeller (15.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) are the three main options for North Carolina offensively, and reserves Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo have all been producitve off the bench. Hawkins and Kendall Wallace will be key for UNLV tonight off the bench, because while it may be tough to ask them (and Quintrell Thomas) to keep even in the bench scoring department they at least need to keep within striking distance in that statistical category.

Lastly, this is a matchup that fans of tempo-free stats will like, because due to the pace at which the game will likely be played pointing at the basic numbers (points scored and allowed) won't be the best way to judge what's happening. Both teams are limiting opponents to an offensive efficiency below 90 thus far, and UNLV has forced a turnover on 25% of their opponents' possessions through six games. The UNC fans traveled well but this will likely be a road game in regards to the atmosphere, making it a very good challenge as they get closer to the showdown in Lexington. 

Also on tap is the championship game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a matchup between Harvard and UCF. Both picked up wins over teams expected to play in this game (Florida State and UConn), and this shapes up to be a good matchup. Keith Wright and Kyle Casey make up a formidable frontcourt tandem for the Crimson, but in UCF's Keith Clanton they'll be faced with a versatile big man who can attack either inside or out. In that third place game it will be an interesting contrast with regards to what went wrong yesterday: Florida State couldn't score and UConn couldn't defend. Both will look to get off the island with a 2-1 record, and just as important will be the way in which that goal is reached.

Out west there's the title game of the Great Alaska Shootout between Southern Miss and Murray State, but the big one has to be San Diego State's trip north to take on UCSB. In Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally the Gauchos have one of the best perimeter tandems around, and SDSU has started the season 6-1 with their most recent win coming at Arizona. Santa Clara walked into UCSB's gym earlier this season and walked out with an 89-56 loss, so this will be a significant challenge for Steve Fisher's team. Wisconsin takes on BYU in the Chicago Invitational, and Denver will get a big test at Cal this evening. And if you're anywhere near Towson, the President will be there watching his brother-in-law's Oregon State Beavers take on the Tigers. Be sure to arrive early.  

Top 25 Games
10:30 PM UNLV vs. (1) North Carolina* (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Portland at (2) Kentucky (ESPN3)
2:00 PM (20) Florida State vs. (4) Connecticut* (Versus)
8:00 PM (11) Wisconsin vs. Brigham Young*
5:00 PM Denver at (18) California
4:00 PM Western Michigan vs. (19) Gonzaga* (Root NW)
4:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at (24) Texas A&M

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Wofford vs. Prairie View A&M*
12:00 PM Coppin State at Purdue
1:00 PM Chowan at East Carolina
1:00 PM Siena at Vermont
1:00 PM IPFW at Iowa
1:00 PM Pepperdine at UTSA
2:00 PM William & Mary at Howard
2:00 PM Lafayette at Delaware
2:00 PM Western Carolina vs. Florida A&M*
2:00 PM Oregon State at Towson (ESPN3)
2:00 PM South Dakota State at Nebraska
2:00 PM Davidson at North Carolina-Wilmington
2:00 PM Milligan at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Hartford at Central Connecticut State
2:00 PM Columbia at Manhattan
2:00 PM Princeton vs. Morehead State*
2:00 PM Chadron State at Nebraska-Omaha
2:00 PM Youngstown State at Saint Francis (PA)
2:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at NJIT
2:30 PM Cleveland State vs. Hofstra*
2:30 PM Morgan State vs. Tennessee State*
3:00 PM Western Illinois at North Dakota
3:00 PM Harding at Louisiana-Monroe
3:30 PM UMKC vs. Longwood*
3:30 PM Penn State at Saint Joseph's
4:00 PM UC Irvine vs. Alaska Anchorage*
4:00 PM Fordham at Loyola (IL) (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Barber-Scotia at North Carolina Central
4:00 PM Miami (OH) at Southeast Missouri State
4:00 PM Northeastern at St. John's (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Delaware State at Wagner
4:00 PM Central Pennsylvania College at Winthrop
4:30 PM West Alabama at Bucknell
4:30 PM Harvard vs. UCF* (Versus)
4:30 PM Rider vs. La Salle* (TCN)
4:30 PM Northern Colorado vs. Southern University*
5:00 PM Boston University at Rhode Island
5:00 PM South Carolina State at Kennesaw State
5:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Central Arkansas
5:00 PM Cal Poly vs. Mississippi Valley State*
5:00 PM Gardner-Webb vs. Savannah State*
5:30 PM San Diego vs. Alcorn State*
5:30 PM Bradley vs. Nevada*
6:00 PM Dartmouth vs. Central Michigan*
6:30 PM Portland State vs. Louisiana Tech*
7:00 PM Florida Atlantic at South Florida
7:00 PM Texas Southern at IUPUI
7:00 PM James Madison at Pennsylvania (TCN)
7:00 PM Massachusetts vs. Charleston* (HDNet)
7:00 PM Yale at Army
7:00 PM Detroit at Akron
7:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Duquesne
7:00 PM Citadel at High Point
7:00 PM Colgate at Marist
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Toledo
7:00 PM Charlotte at Wright State
7:30 PM Iowa State vs. Rice* (CBSSN)
7:30 PM Coastal Carolina at Florida International
7:30 PM Liberty at Georgia State
7:30 PM USC vs. South Carolina* (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Grambling State at Arkansas
8:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM TCU at Houston
8:00 PM Samford at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at Texas (LHN)
8:00 PM Milwaukee at Arkansas-Little Rock
8:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Austin Peay
8:00 PM New Orleans at Tulane
8:00 PM Fresno State at North Dakota State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Saint Peter's at Seton Hall
8:05 PM Cal State Northridge at Drake
8:05 PM Tulsa at Missouri State
9:00 PM Northern Illinois at Boise State
9:00 PM Long Beach State at Montana
9:00 PM Troy at Southern Utah
9:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at UTEP
9:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Wyoming
9:05 PM Utah State at Idaho State
9:05 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Cal State Fullerton
9:30 PM San Francisco vs. New Mexico State* (FCS)
9:30 PM Utah vs. UNC Asheville* (HDNet)
10:00 PM Northern Iowa vs. Providence* (CBSSN)
10:00 PM San Diego State at UC Santa Barbara
10:05 PM McNeese State at Sacramento State
10:05 PM Montana State at Idaho
10:30 PM Northern Arizona at Loyola Marymount
12:00 AM Murray State vs. Southern Miss* (FCS)