College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

January 4th, 2011
Notre Dame (12-2) arrives at the final game of a three-game stretch of Top 10 (in last week's rankings) teams to open Big East play, and the fact that Mike Brey's team has the opportunity to win two say a little about the quality of his club. Tuesday night brings Connecticut (11-1) to Purcell Pavilion, and the Huskies are looking to put forth a better performance than they did in a loss at Pittsburgh as well as an overtime home win over USF. How can UConn be the team that skyrocketed into the polls after winning the Maui Invitational as opposed to the one Big East coaches picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll? That's a matter of being consistent, especially the players not named Kemba Walker (26.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) as Jim Calhoun's team needs a secondary scoring option they can count on every night. Forward Alex Oriakhi is averaging more than 11 points per game but he's not a dominant interior scorer, meaning that someone on the perimeter has to step up. And thus far it hasn't happened on a nightly basis.

Shabazz Napier gets to handle the ball quite a bit as the Huskies look to get Walker open off the ball in many of their sets. The freshman is scoring 8.5 points per game but makes just 34.8% of his shots from the field and half of his field goal attempts come from behind the arc (33.3% 3PT), and at times the shot selection can be lacking. Classmate Jeremy Lamb (7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is shooting just under 43% from the field but could stand to get to the foul line a bit more (9-12 FT) and Roscoe Smith is another talented option for the Huskies. But they're all freshmen, and while they've had their moments in non-conference play flashes aren't good enough when league play ramps up the stakes. And they can't settle for threes either tonight as Notre Dame allows opponents to make just 30.9% of their shots from deep. If the Huskies are unable to turn the Irish over to create easy scoring opportunities it could be tough sledding in South Bend.

The Irish, as has been mentioned many times over, have been a more balanced team offensively as more players have gained opportunities to score. Five players average at least nine points per game with guard Ben Hansbrough and forward Tim Abromaitis being the closest thing Coach Brey has to primary options. But you can also look at the matchups inside and say that the Irish have a definitive advantage on the Huskies tonight, thanks to players such as Scott Martin, Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott (Jack Cooley will also be called on to contribute). Nash posted a double-double in Notre Dame's win over Georgetown last week and Martin also played well against the Hoyas. But the Irish aren't particularly deep; Cooley and Eric Atkins essentially make this a seven-man rotation so foul trouble (Abromaitis picked up three in the first half against Syracuse) can get them in trouble. If the Irish can avoid foul issues and take care of the basketball (UConn opponents have a turnover percentage of 20.9%) they've got a good chance at defending their home floor.

Other games to keep an eye on tonight include Pittsburgh hitting the road to take on Providence, and while many projected the Friars to be one of the lesser teams in the Big East they've played well for much of the season before losses to Syracuse and St. John's. Providence swingman Marshon Brooks has to be considered the early favorite for Most Improved Player in the Big East, which happens to be an award that a Pitt player has won six of the last eleven years. Jamie Dixon's has a team with a variety of answers all over the floor led by guards Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker but this is a tricky game for the Panthers. Arkansas visits Texas in an old Southwest Conference rivalry that the Razorbacks need if they're to have any opportunity at earning at-large consideration down the line, and two of the favorites in America East meet on Long Island as Stony Brook hosts Vermont. Another very good game to watch would be Missouri State at Creighton; the triumvirate of Doug McDermott, Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique and Kenny Lawson Jr. could be what some believe (permission to board this bandwagon) delivers the Blue Jays an MVC crown come March.

Top 25
9:00 PM (2) Ohio State at Iowa (BTN)
7:00 PM (9) Connecticut at (15) Notre Dame (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (5) Pittsburgh at Providence (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Indiana at (21) Minnesota (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Arkansas at (12) Texas

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Howard at Virginia
7:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Carver Bible College
7:00 PM Ferris State at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at North Carolina A&T
7:00 PM South Carolina State at South Carolina
7:00 PM Vermont at Stony Brook
7:00 PM Lehigh at NJIT
7:05 PM Illinois State at Indiana State
7:30 PM New Hampshire at Boston University (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Longwood at Navy
8:00 PM Colgate at Maryland
8:00 PM Morgan State at Baylor (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Texas-Pan American at Texas State
8:00 PM Union (KY) College at Louisiana-Monroe
8:00 PM Delaware State at Texas Tech
8:05 PM Southern Illinois at Bradley (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Missouri State at Creighton
8:05 PM Evansville at Northern Iowa
8:05 PM Drake at Wichita State
8:30 PM Grambling State at Alabama A&M
8:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Alcorn State
8:30 PM Mississippi Valley State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
8:30 PM Texas Southern at Southern University
8:35 PM Louisiana College at Lamar
8:45 PM LSU Shreveport at Northwestern State
9:00 PM Wyoming at Colorado State
9:00 PM West Virginia at DePaul (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Jackson State at Alabama State
9:00 PM Haskell at Utah Valley
10:00 PM La Sierra University at UC Riverside