College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

    
January 18th, 2011
While some may use a pair of comeback overtime victories as proof that Tom Izzo's Michigan State (12-5, 4-1) Spartans are back on the right track, the true test of such recovery comes on the road. That's what lies in front of the Spartans as they face an Illinois (13-5, 3-2) squad that's dropped back-to-back games on the road and needs a win to avoid falling three games behind Ohio State in the loss column. Consistency has been a concern for Bruce Weber's team, and the fact that Jereme Richmond didn't even play in the loss at Wisconsin (he did make the trip, however) after missing a pair of practices to address personal issues. While it's tough (and a bit unfair) to attempt to get into the minds of the Illinois players, the combo of Richmond's issue and losses at Penn State and Wisconsin means that this is a great time to be playing in front of the home crowd. And with players like Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, Coach Weber has a group that doesn't lack for experience. Now it's time for the veterans to figure out the solutions before things spiral out of control.

On the court Illinois had struggled offensively in regards to consistent execution recently, costing them dearly down the stretch at Penn State. McCamey leads the team in scoring (16.2 ppg) while also handing out seven assists per game, and when he struggles the team as a whole tends to follow suit. The two Mikes have been a conversation piece the last couple of seasons due to a more finesse approach, and they're going to need to rise to the challenge physically against the Michigan State frontcourt. Draymond Green has been one of the Big Ten's best players for much of the season, and his strength (and versatility) makes him one of the tougher matchups in the league. The Spartans also send the likes of Delvon Roe, Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne to the glass, contributing to a rebounding margin of plus-4.4 boards per game. Illinois out-rebounds their opponents by just two rebounds per game on the average, meaning that Davis, Tisdale and Bill Cole will need to perform well.

In the backcourt Michigan State brings a variety of options to the table, led by seniors Kalin Lucas (14.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Durrell Summers (14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) with junior Korie Lucious (6.8 ppg, 4.1 apg) coming off the bench. Lucas didn't shoot well in Saturday's win over Northwestern (the same goes for Summers) but he made plays in other areas to ensure the overtime result. The Illini have been the better team offensively in regards to scoring and shooting percentages but Michigan State is more than capable of keeping up. The key for the Spartans: limiting turnovers, as they have a turnover rate of 21% (Illini opponents average a turnover on 20.8% of their possessions). Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are two additional scoring options for Illinois but they'll need to get back to their efficient ways if they're to defend their home floor. Look for the Orange Krush to announce their presence well before the opening tip, but Michigan State is one of the few teams around with the experience required to deal with such an environment.

Some other games to keep an eye on include Tennessee visiting Georgia and Colorado looking to continue their conference win streak at Nebraska. The matchup between the Vols and Bulldogs will be interesting to watch as Tennessee is coming off of an emotional comeback win over Vanderbilt; do they have the maturity to build on that momentum and win in Athens? They haven't for much of the season, meaning that they'll need to reverse the trend soon. Colorado plays the first of two manageable road games (Oklahoma is next), and while they've already won at Kansas State Tad Boyle's team will need to show that they can consistently take care of business on the road. And both Marquette and Northwestern look to bounce back from tough losses on Saturday at home, taking on opponents that they need and will be expected to beat. Lastly, it will be interesting to watch how North Carolina comes out against Clemson given the Tar Heels' second half disappearance at Georgia Tech on Sunday. The Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill but they've got a good chance to do so if they can make the contest physical.

Top 25
10:00 PM TCU at (10) Brigham Young (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM (15) Kentucky at Alabama (ESPN)
7:00 PM (24) Michigan State at (16) Illinois (ESPN)
7:00 PM (19) Georgetown at Seton Hall (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Tennessee at Georgia (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Colorado at Nebraska (ESPN2)
7:00 PM N.J.I.T. at Longwood
7:00 PM Stetson at Savannah State
7:30 PM Maine at Vermont
8:00 PM Clemson at North Carolina
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Oklahoma
8:00 PM Texas A&M-Int at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at SIU-Edwardsville
8:05 PM Evansville at Southern Illinois
8:05 PM Illinois State at Drake
9:00 PM Michigan at Northwestern
9:00 PM DePaul at Marquette (ESPNU)