College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

March 3rd, 2011
One final Pac-10 Thursday before the end of the regular season, and the showcase matchup is a hot UCLA (21-8, 12-4) squad taking their show on the road to face Washington (19-9, 10-6) in an important game for both. The Huskies put forth a lackluster showing on Sunday night as they were soundly whipped by rival Washington State, and given their overall resume Lorenzo Romar's team may be slipping back into a position they'd rather avoid. The under control and efficient play that immediately followed the season-ending injury suffered by sophomore point guard Abdul Gaddy has been absent of late, and the Huskies need to get back to that if they're to be a factor in the upcoming Pac-10 Tournament.

Reeves Nelson has been a handful for opponents of late, most recently dropping 27 points and 16 rebounds on Arizona to help move the Bruins into a tie for first place. His expanded game and toughness will provide a serious challenge for Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Aziz N'Diaye and whoever else Coach Romar may assign to him. But five players average 9.9 points per game or better for Ben Howland, and wings Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee could be tough covers for the Huskies as well. Those two shot just 8-for-21 combined in the first meeting however, so maybe Washington can do a similar job on them at home. But the guard the Huskies may need to concentrate the most on harassing is junior point guard Lazeric Jones, who played just 16 minutes in the first meeting.

Washington won the first meeting 74-63 because of their defense, limiting the Bruins to 35.3% shooting on the afternoon. But the Bruins have shot worse than 40% just two times since, and they were 52% or better in both games last week. But just as UCLA has transformed since that meeting so have the Huskies, albeit in the opposite direction. Washington had the look of a team more than capable of living up to their status as the preseason favorites to win the conference, but as the season's worn on they've shown significant flaws. If Washington does a good job of sharing the basketball (averaging 17.7 assists per game) players such as Justin Holiday and C.J. Wilcox will be effective offensively. Not doing so would put them in danger of dropping another game with the remaining opportunities to impress the selection committee being limited.

Also of importance are two other conference tournaments getting underway, with the Missouri Valley and Northeast joining the fray. All four quarterfinals in the NEC are played on the home court of the higher seed, but given the improved quality of the conference don't be surprised if one of the road teams moves on. The bottom four teams in the MVC face off in St. Louis with the winners moving on to face top seeds Missouri State and Wichita State on Friday. And play continues in the Atlantic Sun and Big South tournaments, with Mercer taking on Lipscomb in the A-Sun being a game to keep an eye on. The Bears, who are hosting the tournament, have played better basketball over the last month of the season for Bob Hoffman and most recently beat the Bisons to complete regular season play.

Top 25
9:00 PM (10) Wisconsin at Indiana (ESPN)
7:00 PM (15) St. John's at Seton Hall (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Oregon State at (18) Arizona

NCAA Division I Games
2:30 PM North Florida vs. Jacksonville* (ASun TV)
6:00 PM High Point vs. UNC Asheville* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Central Connecticut State
7:00 PM St. Francis (PA) at Long Island
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Wagner at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Tennessee at South Carolina
7:05 PM Illinois State vs. Southern Illinois* (FSN MW)
7:30 PM Florida A&M at Bethune-Cookman
7:30 PM Morgan State at Coppin State
7:30 PM Delaware State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
7:30 PM South Carolina State at North Carolina Central
7:30 PM Utah Valley at NJIT
8:00 PM Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Virginia Military at Coastal Carolina (ESPNU)
8:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Norfolk State
8:00 PM Hampton at Howard
8:15 PM Binghamton vs. UMBC*
8:30 PM Oregon at Arizona State
8:30 PM South Dakota at Texas-Pan American
8:30 PM Alabama State at Jackson State
8:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi Valley State
8:30 PM Alcorn State at Prairie View A&M
8:30 PM Alabama A&M at Grambling State
8:35 PM North Dakota at Houston Baptist
9:00 PM UCLA at Washington (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Mercer vs. Lipscomb* (ASun TV)
9:00 PM Nevada at Louisiana Tech
9:00 PM Southern University at Texas Southern
9:35 PM Bradley vs. Drake* (FSN MW)
10:00 PM Fresno State at Idaho
10:00 PM USC at Washington State (FSN)
10:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at Pacific
10:00 PM Cal State Northridge at UC Davis
10:30 PM Hawaii at San Jose State