College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

December 7th, 2010
Tuesday night features one of the best in-season events in terms of both the caliber of play on the court and the larger purpose it serves off of it: the Jimmy V Classic. The doubleheader at Madison Square Garden may feature four ranked teams but they're at different stages in terms of finding out who they are and what they can potentially be. The first game matches a young Memphis squad that's gotten away with inconsistent play of late and a team in Kansas that right now isn't what they'll be in three weeks much less three months. Josh Pastner's Tigers have seven players averaging at least seven points per game on the season with senior wing Wesley Witherspoon's 13.7 points leading the way. And with ten players averaging at least 12.7 minutes per game there's plenty of depth on the roster. But there's also a lack of overall experience and there are times where the leadership is lacking.

They played better in Saturday's win over Western Kentucky, which came on the heels of a disappointing performance in an overtime win over Arkansas State. The issues against the Red Wolves: a lack of maturity that resulted in the Tigers not dropping the hammer on their visitors in the first half when the opportunity presented itself. Freshman point guard Joe Jackson led the way against Western Kentucky with 15 points and six assists (including an impressive dunk on Juan Patillo), but he also turned the ball over five times and as a team Memphis turned the ball over 21 times in the 77-61 victory. WKU made just 22 of 70 shots from the field and on the season Memphis opponents are shooting 36.9% for the season with an offensive efficiency of 86. Given the fact that Kansas lacks a perimeter player who can create things off the dribble consistently (that will change when Josh Selby becomes eligible), Memphis could give the Jayhawks some trouble defensively.

But the Jayhawks are the nation's best team in regards to offensive efficiency and the frontcourt is a major reason why. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, can be a handful provided they don't become too content to settle for the mid-range jumper as they did in a win over Arizona. Marcus leads four Jayhawks in double figures with an average of 18.6 points per game while Markieff leads the way with 9.1 rebounds per game, and Thomas Robinson comes off the bench to add nine points. The Memphis front line, which primarily consists of Angel Garcia, Will Coleman, Tarik Black and D.J. Stephens, will need to make the Kansas bigs settle for the jump shot on a regular basis while also keeping them off the glass if they're to win. Kansas boasts and offensive rebounding rate of 34.4% and Memphis opponents have a rate of 35.8%.

The second game matches two teams that boast significant experience while also looking to work some new pieces into the fold. Syracuse brought in a highly touted recruiting class led by C.J. Fair, Fab Melo and Dion Waiters to go along with key returnees such as Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, and they've predictably struggled offensively in replacing what the departed Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins provided. One thing they'll need to do more of against Michigan State is feed Jackson (13.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg), as according to Ken Pomeroy he ranks 36th among Big East players in offensive rating. Joseph (63rd) and Jardine (80th) are further down the line, likely meaning that the better shots they get Jackson the better their looks become in return. Michigan State's defenders can make it tough on perimeter players to get good looks, and while Jardine has steadily improved throughout his career he won't give the Spartans the same issues that Duke's Kyrie Irving did last week.

A positive that came from Michigan State's loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium had to be the play of backup guard Korie Lucious, who scored 20 points and handed out eight assists. He wasn't as effective in an easy win over Bowling Green this weekend but to have the junior play well in a hostile environment should be a harbinger of things to come once MSU gets into Big Ten play. Seven Michigan State players average at least six points per game with senior point guard Kalin Lucas leading the way, but the question for Tom Izzo's team is consistency especially when discussing Lucas and Durrell Summers. Against the Syracuse zone all three will need to shoot well when called upon without falling victim to those "fool's gold" three pointers that so many teams allow themselves to be seduced by when playing the Orange. Draymond Green is a jack of all trades type who should be able to do a variety of things against the 2-3 zone, and ball movement will be key if Michigan State is to win.

Other intriguing matchups on the schedule include the renewal of the rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech with the Yellow Jackets in serious need of a win they can hang their hats on. Georgia didn't fare too well at the Old Spice Classic as their lone win came against Manhattan, meaning that this could be a matchup for them that they can ill-afford to lose in regards to NCAA Tournament hopes down the line. The defending NEC champions (Robert Morris) head to Morgantown to take on a West Virginia team that blew a 13-point second half lead in losing at Miami on Saturday, and the Mountaineers will need to establish some consistency among their key cogs in order to avoid the upset. RMU welcomes back sophomore guard Karon Abraham from a four-game suspension and forward Lijah Thompson has played very well to this point in the year. Northern Iowa looks to knock off in-state rival Iowa on the road, and in a matchup of preseason contenders out west Long Beach State visits Utah State.

Top 25
7:00 PM (15) Memphis vs. (4) Kansas* (ESPN)
9:00 PM (6) Michigan State vs. (7) Syracuse* (ESPN)
9:00 PM (18) Purdue at Valparaiso (ESPNU)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Georgia at Georgia Tech (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Stony Brook at Holy Cross
7:00 PM Worcester Tech at Harvard
7:00 PM Old Dominion at East Carolina
7:00 PM Wagner at Columbia
7:00 PM Saginaw Valley at Miami (OH)
7:00 PM East Tennessee State at Charleston
7:00 PM Radford at Virginia
7:00 PM James Madison at Marshall
7:00 PM Robert Morris at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM W. Virginia Tech at Cleveland State
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Dayton
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Elon
7:00 PM Howard at Fairfield
7:00 PM St. Catharine at Morehead State
7:00 PM Lehigh at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Colgate at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM St. Bonaventure at St. John's (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Marist at Rutgers
7:30 PM Mount St. Mary's at Penn State
7:30 PM Navy at Coppin State
7:30 PM Winthrop at Charlotte
8:00 PM Canisius at South Dakota
8:00 PM Centenary at Ark Monticello
8:00 PM Philander Smith at Arkansas-Little Rock
8:00 PM Lipscomb at Austin Peay
8:00 PM Northern Iowa at Iowa
8:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Northwestern State
8:15 PM Middle Tennessee at Belmont
8:30 PM Tennessee State at Alabama A&M
9:00 PM Pepperdine at Utah
9:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Marquette (ESPN3)
9:05 PM Long Beach State at Utah State
10:00 PM Fresno State at San Diego
10:05 PM Cal Lutheran at Cal State Northridge
10:05 PM Idaho State at Cal State Bakersfield
10:35 PM Sacramento State at Loyola Marymount