College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

January 5th, 2011
While a number of eyes will be fixated on the in-state battle between Memphis and Tennessee (and rightfully so), that matchup sits behind the Mountain West opener between BYU (14-1) and UNLV as the game of the night. Jimmer Fredette (24.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) has lit up just about every team he's encountered throughout his storied career but he and BYU have had their fair share of issues when taking on UNLV (12-2) at Thomas & Mack. Fredette averages less than 15 points per game in eight games against UNLV, making fewer than 39% of his shots from the field and he's 0-5 against the Rebels in Las Vegas. With these being two of the expected top four in the Mountain West (San Diego State and New Mexico being the others) any win over another contender, especially on the road, could be huge come the end of the regular season. And with both teams having been challenged on multiple occasions (vs. RPI Top 50: BYU 2-0, UNLV 3-1) in their non-conference schedules both teams should be more than ready for the start of league play.

Given Fredette's numbers when playing against the Rebels throughout his career, BYU may need increased production from some of the complimentary parts. Jackson Emery (11.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Noah Hartsock (9.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg) are two of the players capable of having an impact offensively while Brandon Davies (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) has improved his play as the season's worn on. Dave Rose's squad is averaging a shade less than 84 points per game and shooting 45.9% from the field, but given the number of solid perimeter defenders UNLV has BYU may struggle to approach that number. UNLV opponents have shot just 38% from the field this season and their offensive efficiency (87.8) is far below BYU's efficiency rating of 114.6 (UNLV opponents also have a turnover percentage of 27.6%). Simply put something has to give in this area tomorrow night.

Lon Kruger's team may not be as efficient offensively as BYU but they aren't far off with an offensive efficiency of 108.9, and they do a good job of sharing the basketball (59.5% of their made baskets are assisted) as well. Five players, who all possess the ability to create offense in a variety of ways, average at least nine points per game with Chace Stanback (12.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Tre'Von Willis (11.4 ppg, 3.0 apg) leading the way. Given the number of players on this team who have transferred in from other programs it speaks to the talent of Coach Kruger to get everyone to buy into one vision as well as the willingness of the players to share the glory. Guards Oscar Bellfield and Anthony Marshall are both tough matchups as they can either run the offense from the point or work off the ball, something that could hurt BYU if the Rebels are executing at a high rate.

UNLV's had some rough offensive outings, most notably a 29% effort from the field in a loss to reigning Big West champion UCSB a couple weeks ago. They can ill afford such performances against BYU, but even if the Rebels shoot a percentage in that ballpark they'll likely be in the game thanks to their ability to pressure teams defensively. When you have so many players of similar frame and athleticism (as does San Diego State) you can do a variety of things defensively, be it tempo all the way to a concept such as how to deal with ball screens (hedge, switch, etc.). That may explain Fredette's career performances against UNLV as opposed to other teams within the Mountain West, and in front of what should be a loud crowd that's what the Rebels are banking on to be the case.

There's the aforementioned matchup between Memphis and Tennessee to keep an eye on as well, with the Volunteers playing their final game before the start of Bruce Pearl's eight-game suspension. Josh Pastner's Tigers have shown their inexperience this season, especially in games against lesser competition, but they've also go a wealth of talent to rely on. Which team needs this one more in regards to their resume? That's up in the air because even though the Vols own wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh that's essentially all they have on a schedule that also boasts losses to Oakland, Charlotte and College of Charleston. The other ranked team in Conference USA is also in action with Donnie Jones, now the head coach at UCF, welcoming his former employer (Marshall) to Orlando. UAB could give Duke some trouble as Mike Davis' Blazers certainly don't lack for talent, but it's tough to say they'll win given the fact that the game's at Cameron, and East Tennessee State visits Kennesaw State in a game they need to remain within a game of Belmont and Jacksonville in the A-Sun.

Top 25
7:00 PM UAB at (1) Duke (ESPN2)
8:00 PM UMKC at (3) Kansas (ESPN3)
7:30 PM (6) San Diego State at TCU (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM North Alabama at (8) Missouri (ESPN3)
6:30 PM (10) Purdue at Penn State (BTN)
10:00 PM (14) Brigham Young at UNLV (CBS College)
7:00 PM Marshall at (18) UCF
9:00 PM (22) Memphis at Tennessee (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Seton Hall at (23) Louisville

NCAA Division I Games
4:00 PM Coppin State at Bethune-Cookman
7:00 PM La Salle at George Washington
7:00 PM William & Mary at Delaware
7:00 PM Harvard at Boston College
7:00 PM Yale at Holy Cross
7:00 PM High Point at Wake Forest
7:00 PM Marist at Princeton
7:00 PM Towson at James Madison
7:00 PM Charlotte at Richmond
7:00 PM Western Carolina at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Northeastern at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Hartford at Maine
7:00 PM Columbia at Lafayette
7:00 PM Georgia State at North Carolina-Wilmington
7:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Arkansas-Little Rock
7:00 PM Appalachian State at Davidson
7:00 PM North Carolina State vs. Elon*
7:00 PM Temple at Fordham
7:00 PM George Mason at Hofstra
7:00 PM Duquesne at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Drexel at VCU
7:30 PM Marquette at Rutgers
7:30 PM East Tennessee State at Kennesaw State
7:30 PM Lipscomb at Florida Gulf Coast
7:30 PM North Florida at Campbell
7:30 PM USC Upstate at Mercer
8:00 PM Dayton at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Savannah State at Nebraska
8:00 PM Tulane at Rice
8:00 PM Houston Baptist at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Mississippi at Southern Methodist
8:15 PM Belmont at Stetson
8:30 PM Michigan at Wisconsin
9:00 PM West New Mexico at Colorado
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at New Mexico
9:00 PM North Texas at Middle Tennessee
9:00 PM Houston at Southern Miss
9:05 PM Tulsa at UTEP
10:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at UC Irvine
10:00 PM Utah at Air Force
10:05 PM Cal State Northridge at Long Beach State

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