College Hoops Sunday: Your Commentary

November 27th, 2011

The title game of the Old Spice Classic may not be the kind of matchup that leads off SportsCenter like say, North Carolina/Kentucky next week, but it is a contest that we could look back on in March when discussing tournament resumes. Dayton (4-1) and Minnesota (6-0) meet in the title game, with both surviving a pair of close games to reach this point. First-year head coach Archie Miller took over the Dayton program for the departed Brian Gregory (now the head coach at Georgia Tech), and the hope is that he can take the Flyers to the tournament (NCAA) that's eluded them in each of the previous two seasons. 

Dayton's got a good mix of experienced veterans and talented newcomers as well, with Paul Williams (12.6 ppg) and Chris Johnson (10.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) being two of the scorers they call on. The Flyers have four starters averaging double figures, but the fifth will likely be a key player against the Golden Gophers. Matt Kavanaugh (8.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is averaging 12.0 rebounds per game in Orlando, and he scored 15 points in the quarterfinal win over Wake Forest. Kavanaugh and Josh Benson will need to be factors on the defensive end at the very least, but the athleticism of the Minnesota frontcourt has to be a concern. 

Trevor Mbakwe (14.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Ralph Sampson III (7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) are the two who initially come to mind, with the explosive Mbakwe a tough matchup for most teams due to both his strength and athletic ability. But Mbakwe is the only insanely athletic frontcourt player that Tubby Smith has in the starting lineup. Rodney Williams has the ability to turn opponents into supporting "actors" in highlight films, and if he can ever become a more consistent player look out. The question for Dayton's big men is a simple one: can they at the least control the rules of engagement in the paint? A match of sheer athleticism could get Kavanaugh and Josh Benson in trouble. 

Guard play will always be important, and with both teams breaking in new point guards this could end up being the difference. Southern Illinois transfer Kevin Dillard leads Dayton in scoring and he's averaging 13.5 points per game in Orlando, but he's also averaging four turnovers per contest this weekend. For Minnesota Andre and Austin Hollins (not related) are two key figures on the perimeter, and both are either at or close to two turnovers per game on the season.

The Golden Gophers have been slightly worse at turning the ball over with a percentage of 22% (Dayton comes in with a turnover percentage of 20%), but they're the better of the two teams at forcing turnovers. Points off turnovers and how well Dayton does at keeping Minnesota off the offensive boards (offensive rebounding percentage of 42%) will more than likely determine who wins the Old Spice Classic. 

The 76 Classic will also crown its champion on Sunday as Oklahoma takes on Saint Louis. Both teams have put together solid starts to their respective seasons, with both posting impressive wins in their first two games in the event. Kwamain Mitchell (Saint Louis) and Steven Pledger (Oklahoma) will be two of the key figures, and SLU leading scorer Brian Conklin will look to bounce back from his first single-digit scoring performance of the season. Saint Louis could be an NCAA Tournament team while Lon Kruger looks to rebuild a program that took a hit from the NCAA, but a win would represent a nice step in the right direction for either team. 

Butler visits Indiana with the improved Hoosiers showing further signs of growth by the game. The question for the Bulldogs is how efficient can they be offensively. Their offensive efficiency of 96.3 sits in the middle of the Horizon League, a sure sign that life without Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard hasn't been easy to get used to in that regard. Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall are two of the players Brad Stevens will need more offensive production from, along with Chrishawn Hopkins and perimeter shooter Chase Stigall.

Butler allows just 60 points per game, so they will make Indiana work for everything they get, but this Indiana team is far better equipped to deal with tough defenses. Freshman Cody Zeller (14.6 ppg) leads five Hoosiers in double figures, and sophomore Victor Oladipo is one of the toughest defenders in the Big Ten to shed. Verdell Jones III, Will Sheehey and Christian Watford are all in double figures as well, and Tom Crean's club has been far more efficient on offense this season. Tends to happen with an infusion of talent like the one Indiana received with their 2011 recruiting class. 

VCU could strike a much-needed blow for the CAA in their trip to Alabama, Notre Dame plays their first game without Tim Abromaitis (torn ACL) and don't be surprised if Robert Morris happens to scare Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. 

Top 25 Games
9:30 PM VCU at (13) Alabama (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Robert Morris at (16) Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Binghamton at (21) Missouri (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
11:30 AM Texas Tech vs. Wake Forest* (ESPN3)
12:00 PM Hofstra vs. Boston University*
12:00 PM Michigan State at Eastern Michigan (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Loyola (MD)
1:00 PM Chicago State at Illinois (BTN)
1:30 PM UC Riverside vs. Washington State* (ESPN3)
2:00 PM DePaul vs. Arizona State* (ESPNU)
2:00 PM Bryant at Notre Dame
2:00 PM West Alabama vs. Princeton*
2:00 PM Temple at Bowling Green
2:00 PM Holy Cross at Maine
2:00 PM Calumet College at Ball State
2:00 PM Brown at Sacred Heart
2:30 PM Cleveland State at Rhode Island
2:30 PM North Texas at Mississippi State
3:00 PM American University at Cornell
3:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Chattanooga
3:00 PM Georgia Southern at SMU
3:00 PM Cameron at UTSA
3:05 PM Bethune-Cookman at Illinois State
4:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at UAB
4:00 PM Boston College vs. New Mexico* (ESPNU)
4:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Albany
4:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Norfolk State
4:00 PM Victory University at USC Upstate
4:30 PM Morehead State at Bucknell
4:30 PM Indiana State vs. Fairfield* (ESPN2)
4:35 PM UC Davis at Eastern Washington
5:00 PM NW Oklahoma St at Texas State
5:00 PM Wilberforce at Tennessee Tech
5:30 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Portland State
6:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
6:30 PM Villanova vs. Santa Clara* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Butler at Indiana (BTN)
7:00 PM Minnesota vs. Dayton* (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Navy
7:00 PM San Francisco St. at Saint Mary's
7:00 PM San Diego at Tulane
9:00 PM Saint Louis vs. Oklahoma* (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Wyoming
9:30 PM Jacksonville State vs. Weber State*