College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

    
February 1st, 2011
Another Tuesday night means another important game in the Big Ten, with Purdue (18-4, 7-2) hitting the road to take on Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) in the always-imposing Kohl Center. While there is quite the distance between both of these teams and undefeated Ohio State atop the conference standings, both get the Buckeyes at home later in the season, meaning that the winner on Tuesday night can still entertain some hope of winning a share of the Big Ten crown. This contest will feature four of the best players in the Big Ten: Purdue's tandem of JaJuan Johnson (20.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and E'Twaun Moore (17.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and the Wisconsin duo consisting of Jon Leuer (19.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jordan Taylor (17.4 ppg, 4.5 apt). Considering some of the other talented players in the Big Ten coaches are going to have a tough time with their all-league votes come March and these four play a role in that, but the outcome on Tuesday night could also be determined by a player "under the radar". Two options in that regard: Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson and Wisconsin freshman guard Josh Gasser.

Jackson tends to be overlooked by the casual fan due to his height (5-foot-9) but the junior makes an impact on the game with his steady ball-handling and overall efficiency, boasting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2-to-1. Jackson, who averages seven points per game, shooting better than 50% from both the field and from three but understands that his primary job on offense is to get the ball to Johnson and Moore. As for Gasser don't be fooled by the average of 5.3 points per game and a three-point percentage below 20%. While the Badgers don't need him to go off from a scoring standpoint because of the presence of Leuer, Taylor and Keaton Nankivil (9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Gasser has the lone triple-double in school to his credit this season. He and Mike Bruesewitz are two of the players head coach Bo Ryan can look to for the little things that make teams successful. Whichever one of the two "supplementary" options steps up their production could prove to be the difference, although it can be argued that Jackson needs to play at a high level period if the Boilermakers are to leave Madison with a win.

Badger opponents score just 56 points per game, a product more of tempo than of lockdown defense. Wisconsin allows opponents to shoot 40% from the field, and while that's not a bad number it also isn't a number that ranks among the nation's best. You're not going to get as many possessions as usual when playing Wisconsin, which underlines the need to be patient and take care of the basketball. Led by Taylor at the point the Badgers turn the ball over on just 13% of their possessions while opponents have a turnover percentage of 18%. Purdue's been outstanding in regards to turning their opponents over, boasting a percentage of 23% for the season. Opponents also average just 0.91 points per possession, five one-hundredths lower than what Wisconsin's opponents average. Quality scoring opportunities will likely be at a premium given the defensive abilities of both teams, and given the quality of the coaching staffs each team will do their best to take away the other's primary options. Who steps up? That remains to be seen, and the answer to that question will likely keep his team in the Big Ten race.

Also in the Big Ten Penn State visits Illinois in a rematch of the Nittany Lions' win in Happy Valley a couple weeks ago. Outsiders have wondered about Illinois' on-court leadership and toughness for some time now, and it could be quite telling that Jereme Richmond could leave the team and then come back to play exceptional basketball while guys who've been around the entire time continue to not bring it on a consistent basis. Those upperclassmen had better be ready because Ed DeChellis' team has the talent needed to pick up a win on the road; they simply haven't done it with close losses at both Ohio State and Purdue on their resume. Talor Battle going up against Demetri McCamey should be worth the price of admission but there's also Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones to account for if you're Illinois. Penn State seems to be trending upward but in need of a push in the form of a road win while Illinois has the look of a fighter that's been staggered with a right hook. Will they stay on their "feet"?

Vanderbilt visits Florida in a game that became all the more important after both lost to SEC West teams on Saturday, and while the Commodores and Gators look to be in solid NCAA shape right now it would be best that they avoid any kind of tailspin. North Carolina visits Boston College in an important game in regards to the ACC pecking order, and out in the Missouri Valley two contenders meet when Wichita State visits Indiana State.

Top 25
9:00 PM (6) Kansas at Texas Tech (ESPNU)
7:00 PM (12) Purdue at (15) Wisconsin (ESPN)
7:00 PM (16) Kentucky at Mississippi (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Penn State at (21) Illinois (BTN)
9:00 PM (22) Vanderbilt at (23) Florida (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Wake Forest at Florida State
7:00 PM NJIT at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM Ball State at Miami (OH)
7:00 PM Baylor at Oklahoma (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Presbyterian at High Point
7:00 PM Winthrop at Radford
7:00 PM Savannah State at Arkansas State
7:05 PM Wichita State at Indiana State
7:30 PM Maine at Boston University (ESPN3)
8:00 PM New Mexico at Air Force (The Mtn.)
8:05 PM Creighton at Bradley (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Iowa State at Colorado
9:00 PM North Carolina at Boston College (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Marshall at Houston
9:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at SIU-Edwardsville
10:00 PM UC Santa Cruz at Santa Clara