College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

    
December 22nd, 2010
Wednesday is the final big day on the schedule before Christmas and one of the better rivalry games in college basketball will be front and center. Missouri (10-1) takes on Illinois (10-2) in St. Louis, and the game is also the first meeting this season between teams with ten wins on the season. But the Tigers will go into the game shorthanded as freshman point guard Phil Pressey, who had 15 points and 11 assists in their win over Central Arkansas, is out with a fractured finger but the recently suspended Michael Dixon returns. Playing the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball", Mike Anderson's Tigers do a good job of sharing the basketball as they boast five players averaging double figures and a team average of eighteen assists per game. Missouri racked up 33 helpers against Central Arkansas, and with steady leaders such as Kim English and Laurence Bowers the Tigers have a good balance of individual talent and unselfishness that makes them a contender in the Big 12.

Illinois, on the other hand, enters the game looking to rebound from a disappointing effort in their 57-54 loss to UIC on Saturday. Averaging just below 48% shooting from the field, Illinois made just 32.7% of their shots and failed to take advantage of 21 UIC turnovers as a result. While the percentages of D.J. Richardson and Demetri McCamey may be the first numbers that many point at, Saturday's loss served as a reminder that Illinois can't reach their full potential without Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale playing good basketball inside. The two Mikes combined to shoot 2-for-10 from the field, scoring just four points total while grabbing 17 rebounds. The rebounding number is a positive especially considering tonight's matchup with the likes of Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe (12.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg), and Missouri boasts an offensive rebounding percentage of 36.9%. Davis and Tisdale, along with Bill Cole, must control the defensive glass while also providing better offensive production if the Illini are to win tonight.

One thing that Illinois has done well all season is take care of the basketball, and going against the Missouri defense means that McCamey, Richardson and Jereme Richmond (Brandon Paul turned his ankle on Saturday and may have to sit) will need to be at their creative best. Both teams are turning the ball over only 18% of the time but Missouri has harassed their opposition into a turnover rate just north of 27%. Not only will the Illini need to take care of the basketball but they'll also need to be under control in their shot selection. Forced shots can be just as valuable as a turnover to a defense like Missouri's, and with this rivalry being so emotional falling into that trap can be easy for those who aren't headstrong. Illinois has played the tougher schedule based on computer numbers to date but both teams have been tested, so look for this one to go down to the wire.

The other game matching ranked teams takes place in East Lansing as Texas visits Michigan State with Tom Izzo returning to the bench following a one-game suspension. Texas beat North Carolina in Greensboro thanks to a Cory Joseph jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining, but the freshman will have a far tougher matchup at the point in the form of Kalin Lucas tonight. While he made just four of thirteen shots in the Spartans' win over Prairie View A&M the senior may have had his best game of the season in regards to running the show. Eight assists to just one turnover for Lucas, and with Michigan State averaging sixteen turnovers per game, he along with Korie Lucious and Draymond Green will need to perform well as distributors if the Spartans are to reach their potential as a Final Four team. Defensively they'll need to slow down wing Jordan Hamilton, who by many accounts played the best game of his young career on Saturday. When his shot selection matches his talent the Los Angeles native can light up anyone for 25+.

Mississippi State, who will be without Renardo Sidney (suspension) takes on a Washington State squad that could be ready to announce themselves a contender in the Pac-10 with a good week at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. Klay Thompson is the household name but players such as DeAngelo Casto, Reggie Moore and freshman Faisal Aden can also get the job done. Xavier visits Gonzaga in a crucial intersectional battle for both teams in regards to further bolstering their respective resumes should either (or both) need an at-large bid come March. The Bulldogs were able to gut out a vital win over Baylor on Saturday despite an ineffective Elias Harris and an injured Steven Gray, and they'll need a similar effort in slowing down Tu Holloway as the Xavier offense runs through him. And in what could be an upset waiting to happen Louisville leaves the comforts of home for the first time, taking on a Western Kentucky squad that's pretty good when they're not fighting amongst themselves on Twitter.

Top 25
11:00 PM (3) Kansas at California (FSN)
7:00 PM Harvard at (4) Connecticut (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Drexel at (5) Syracuse (ESPN3)
7:00 PM American University at (6) Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
10:00 PM (7) San Diego State vs. IUPUI*
7:00 PM (8) Villanova at Monmouth
9:00 PM (10) Missouri vs. (21) Illinois* (ESPN2)
7:00 PM (22) Texas at (12) Michigan State (ESPN2)
1:00 PM Winthrop at (14) Kentucky (ESPN3)
5:00 PM San Diego vs. (15) Baylor* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Radford at (19) Florida (ESPN3)
7:30 PM UMBC at (20) Notre Dame
8:00 PM (25) Louisville at Western Kentucky (FCS)

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Northeastern vs. Saint Louis*
12:00 PM Richmond at UNC Greensboro
2:30 PM SIU-Edwardsville vs. Longwood*
2:30 PM East Tennessee State vs. Southern Miss*
3:00 PM Washington State vs. Mississippi State* (ESPNU)
3:00 PM Miami (FL) vs. Rice*
4:00 PM Princeton at Towson
5:00 PM Citadel vs. South Carolina State*
5:15 PM Stetson vs. Akron*
6:00 PM Texas State vs. Mississippi*
7:00 PM East Carolina at George Washington
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Howard
7:00 PM Bucknell at Boston College
7:00 PM UCF at Massachusetts
7:00 PM Delaware State at North Carolina State
7:00 PM Manhattan at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Temple at Ohio
7:00 PM Lafayette at Rhode Island
7:00 PM South Carolina at Furman
7:00 PM Clemson at Charleston (FS South)
7:00 PM Marshall at James Madison
7:00 PM Seattle at Virginia
7:00 PM Georgia State at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Niagara
7:00 PM South Florida at Cleveland State
7:00 PM North Carolina-Wilmington at Campbell
7:00 PM New Hampshire at Central Connecticut State
7:00 PM Cornerstone University at Central Michigan
7:00 PM Albany at Colgate
7:00 PM Florida A&M at Florida International
7:00 PM Kennesaw State at Fordham
7:00 PM Liberty at Hampton
7:00 PM Holy Cross at Hofstra
7:00 PM Rider at La Salle
7:00 PM Elon at Navy
7:00 PM Dayton at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Georgia Tech at Siena
7:30 PM Northern Iowa vs. Indiana* (CBSC)
7:30 PM Vermont at Iona
7:30 PM Arkansas-Little Rock vs. Oral Roberts*
7:30 PM Wright State at Charlotte
7:30 PM Idaho State vs. Troy*
8:00 PM Texas Southern at Arkansas (Full Court)
8:00 PM North Texas at LSU
8:00 PM N.J.I.T. at Maryland
8:00 PM Loyola Marymount at South Dakota
8:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM George Mason at Duquesne
8:00 PM Northern Colorado at Louisiana-Monroe
8:00 PM Huntingdon at New Orleans
8:00 PM Alabama State vs. Southern Methodist*
8:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Texas Tech (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Detroit at Bradley
8:05 PM Northern Illinois at Southern Illinois
8:05 PM Canisius at Lamar
8:05 PM Arkansas State at Missouri State
8:30 PM Robert Morris at Arizona (FS AZ)
8:30 PM Appalachian State vs. Colorado State*
8:30 PM Pennsylvania at Delaware
8:30 PM Florida Atlantic at DePaul
8:35 PM Air Force at Northern Arizona
9:00 PM Nevada at Washington (FS NW)
9:00 PM Green Bay at Wyoming
9:05 PM Samford at Creighton
10:00 PM Puget Sound at San Jose State
10:00 PM Colorado vs. New Mexico* (CBSC)
10:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Oregon State
10:00 PM Santa Clara at Cal State Northridge
10:00 PM Boise State at Portland
10:00 PM UC Riverside at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Western Michigan at Utah State
10:05 PM Montana at Cal State Fullerton
11:00 PM Utah vs. Butler* (ESPNU)
11:00 PM Xavier at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
1:00 AM Florida State at Hawaii (ESPNU)