College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

January 19th, 2011
Wednesday night features one of the more spirited rivalries in college sports as Texas A&M heads to Austin for the first of two regular season matchups with Texas. Think these two don't compete over nearly everything? Check out the outline of the State of Texas on the Erwin Center court, and realize that in redoing their floor at Reed Arena the folks at A&M made sure their outline was larger. Mark Turgeon's team has won thirteen straight, the last of which being a thrilling overtime win on Saturday against Missouri with Khris Middleton scoring 28 points to lead the way. The Texas frontcourt offers another challenge for the A&M big men, but they don't exactly lack for depth themselves with the likes of David Lobeau and Nathan Walkup also more than able to have an impact. Despite the strength that both teams have up front it could be the perimeter players who ultimately determine the outcome, and the Longhorns have one of the nation's best in Jordan Hamilton.

Hamilton leads the team in scoring with an average of 19.2 points while also grabbing seven rebounds per contest, but his most impressive numbers may be his percentages. Once known for a sometimes questionable shot selection, the sophomore from Los Angeles shoots 46% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Part of the reason for that could be the improved understanding of roles that the entire rotation seems to have this season, with the factor of "when do I get to shoot?" not being much of a problem as opposed to last season's first round flameout. Freshman Cory Joseph leads the team in minutes per game while defensive stopper Dogus Balbay, J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas all get the opportunity to contribute for Rick Barnes. This quartet can contribute in a variety of ways but they'll be taking on one of the Big 12's most experienced backcourts in Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes.

While neither player shoots better than 40% from the field simply put they know what it takes to win games, with both making important "winning plays" late in the victory over Missouri. Harris and Holmes both average just a shade less than four assists per game, and wing Naji Hibbert is called upon to provide points off the bench. Defensively Texas limits opponents to 36.8% shooting while also doing a good job of rebounding, boasting a margin of plus-8.2 rebounds per game, but the same goes for the Aggies. Foul trouble, especially to a Middleton or Tristan Thompson (Texas), could be a factor if there's a quick whistle. Ultimately these are the games in which primary options step up, making this a stage built for the likes of Middleton and Hamilton, but there's plenty of room for other contributors on each team to have an impact. The winner remains tied atop the Big 12 in the loss column, and just as importantly gains bragging rights until the next meeting.

What Wednesday lacks in terms of ranked showdowns it makes up for it with some intriguing matchups, including Duke visiting NC State with the Wolfpack in desperate need of a win if they're to turn things around in the ACC. Sidney Lowe's team definitely has the talent to do so with Tracy Smith, C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow all more than capable of making plays. But do they have the chemistry to stick together for 40 minutes? In other action Penn State looks to remove the bad taste of Saturday's loss at Ohio State with a win at Purdue, who's looking to bounce back from losses to Minnesota and West Virginia, and St. John's visits Louisville. Rick Pitino threw many for a loop when he picked St. John's to win the Big East, meaning that on Wednesday night he'll see firsthand whether or not that was a wise choice. And Notre Dame, who's struggled since losing Carleton Scott to a hamstring injury, hosts Cincinnati in a game they need to stop the bleeding while the Bearcats are still in search of that elusive marquee road victory.

In regards to the non-BCS leagues there are some very good games to keep an eye on, including James Madison visiting Old Dominion in a contest matching two of the top teams in the CAA. The Dukes have by and large flown under the radar but in senior forward Denzel Bowles they boast an outstanding player who could be a household name come March. Memphis visits Southern Miss with Larry Eustachy's team looking to make a statement in the Conference USA race, and if the Tigers aren't ready to go Gary Flowers and company can send them on their way with a second league defeat. And in the nightcap Colorado State visits UNLV, with the visiting Rams getting the opportunity to make the statement that they will be a factor in the Mountain West, although it's tough to see either of these teams surpassing BYU or San Diego State. The frontcourt tandem of Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide is one of the better pairings around, but UNLV's depth will pose a challenge for Tim Miles' squad.

Top 25
6:30 PM Iowa at (1) Ohio State (BTN)
7:00 PM (5) Duke at North Carolina State (ESPN)
10:00 PM Air Force at (6) San Diego State
9:00 PM (10) Texas A&M at (11) Texas (ESPN2)
8:30 PM Penn State at (13) Purdue (BTN)
7:00 PM St. John's at (15) Louisville (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Cincinnati at (16) Notre Dame (ESPN2)
10:30 PM San Diego at (21) Saint Mary's

NCAA Division I Games
6:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Hampton
7:00 PM Northeastern at Delaware
7:00 PM Wake Forest at Georgia Tech
7:00 PM Virginia at Boston College
7:00 PM William & Mary at Towson
7:00 PM Xavier at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Ohio at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Akron at Miami (OH)
7:00 PM Tulsa at Houston
7:00 PM George Washington at Richmond
7:00 PM James Madison at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Lafayette at Bucknell
7:00 PM East Carolina at UCF
7:00 PM Lehigh at Colgate
7:00 PM Ball State at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Hofstra
7:00 PM Duquesne at La Salle
7:00 PM Holy Cross at Navy
7:00 PM Memphis at Southern Miss
7:00 PM Rhode Island at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Western Michigan at Toledo
7:05 PM Missouri State at Indiana State
7:30 PM Army at American University
7:30 PM Pennsylvania at Temple
7:30 PM Kent State at Buffalo (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Saint Louis at Fordham
7:30 PM Massachusetts at Charlotte
7:30 PM Central Arkansas at Nicholls State
7:30 PM Georgia State at Virginia Commonwealth
8:00 PM SMU at UAB
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM New Mexico at Utah (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM Marshall vs. West Virginia* (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at Texas State
8:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at Northwestern State
8:00 PM McNeese State at Southeastern Louisiana
8:00 PM Arkansas at South Carolina (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Bradley at Creighton (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Centenary at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Northern Iowa at Wichita State
9:00 PM Iowa State at Oklahoma State
9:00 PM Mississippi at Vanderbilt (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Drexel at George Mason
9:00 PM Florida State at Miami (FL)
10:00 PM Seattle at Cal State Northridge
10:00 PM UC Irvine at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton
10:30 PM Colorado State at UNLV (The Mtn.)