College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

February 2nd, 2011
The big matchup on Wednesday is also one of the better rivalries in the Big East as Syracuse (18-4, 5-4) visits Connecticut (17-3, 5-3) with both teams looking to rebound from losses on Saturday. Syracuse's situation may be a bit more urgent since they've now lost four straight games, and during the Jim Boeheim era the Orange have never dropped five in a row. While point guard Scoop Jardine played well in the loss at Marquette he wasn't the most pressing issue for Syracuse during their losing streak. That distinction goes to a defense that allowed opponents to shoot at least 48% in each of the last four games and you can't consistently win like that in the Big East. Also of note in those four losses: each opponent shot at least 49% from beyond the arc as well, and while Connecticut shoots just 33% from three for the season the Huskies do have a couple players who can knock down the shot when left alone. Junior guard Kemba Walker would obviously be at the top of that list, but his scoring has decreased some with the familiarity of conference teams with his skills lending itself to better game-planning on the part of defenses.

Walker averages 24.2 points and 4.5 assists per game and given the amount of attention that he receives it's a wonder that he shoots 42% from the field. A lot of UConn's offense goes through Walker but in recent weeks Jeremy Lamb has stepped up to be a viable scoring option. Lamb's averaging 9.5 points per game but has reached double figures in five straight games, surpassing 20 points in each of the last two. He's a slasher who has brought on visions of Richard Hamilton for some, and while his perimeter accuracy still needs work the Georgia native has proven to be a consistent force for the Huskies the last three weeks. Classmates Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith also see a lot of playing time with Napier more often than not initiating the offense from the point in order to get Walker more opportunities of the basketball. Smith has performed well in the frontcourt alongside of Alex Oriakhi, and with the Huskies lacking overall depth up front they'll need him to bring it defensively and on the glass in dealing with Rick Jackson.

Jackson has been one of the best players in the Big East all season long, averaging 13.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. The senior entered the season with a focused mindset, but sometimes Jackson's teammates neglect to get him the ball inside as often as they need to be. Wing Kris Joseph leads the team in scoring with an average of 15 points per game, and while he isn't the kind of player that Wesley Johnson was last season the Montreal native has more than enough ability to have an impact on either end of the floor. But the key for Syracuse offensively Wednesday night, and throughout the remainder of the season, could be what they get from five underclassmen who are either freshmen or saw little time a season ago. It's tough to figure out whether or not James Southerland and Dion Waiters will play since both missed Saturday's game. But C.J. Fair has played well in recent weeks, and freshmen bigs Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita have to get better defensively at communicating. The center in the Syracuse zone is almost a "quarterback" of the alignment, making all of the calls in addition to being a menacing presence when called upon. If UConn is able to cut through and around the Syracuse defense it could be a long night for the Orange.

Wednesday's lineup features more in terms of upset possibilities as opposed to ranked showdowns, with Duke and San Diego State both visiting what are sure to be agitated crowds. The Blue Devils are looking to bounce back from Sunday's pasting at the hands of St. John's but they encounter the best big man in the ACC in Maryland's Jordan Williams. With their current rotation Duke could be better served to slow things down as they did for the Cowboys. Also, San Diego State visits Colorado State in a game that should be tougher than many expected before the season began. Tim Miles' Rams lost to BYU by just nine points, and a win over SDSU could be the push into the Field of 68 that CSU needs to make a concrete taste for their inclusion in the field. In the CAA Hofstra takes on George Mason in a contest that both teams need to remain in the title race, and perimeter scoring dynamos Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) and Cam Long (George Mason) are more than capable for putting up 30 or more points any given night. And USC visits UCLA in the second meeting of the city rivals, with the Trojans having won the first meeting at the Galen Center. And the days get closer to March the stakes get raised, making nights like Wednesday's fun to watch in regards to answering the question of who steps up and who wilts.

Top 25
9:00 PM (5) Duke at Maryland (ESPN)
9:00 PM (6) San Diego State at Colorado State (CBS College)
7:00 PM (17) Syracuse at (7) Connecticut (ESPN)
8:00 PM (9) Brigham Young at Wyoming (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM Marquette at (12) Villanova (ESPNU)
9:00 PM (15) Missouri at Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
6:30 PM (20) Minnesota at Indiana (BTN)
11:00 PM Nevada at (21) Utah State (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
3:00 PM Baylor at Oklahoma
7:00 PM VCU at Northeastern
7:00 PM Virginia Tech at NC State (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Albany at New Hampshire
7:00 PM Fordham at Rhode Island
7:00 PM Tulsa at Memphis (CBS College)
7:00 PM William & Mary at James Madison
7:00 PM Saint Joseph's at Richmond
7:00 PM Seton Hall at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Delaware at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Toledo at Buffalo
7:00 PM Longwood at Colgate
7:00 PM Towson at Drexel
7:00 PM George Washington at Duquesne
7:00 PM Akron at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Western Carolina at Elon
7:00 PM Hofstra at George Mason
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Georgia State
7:00 PM Temple at La Salle
7:00 PM Appalachian State at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM South Florida at Providence (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Ohio at Central Michigan
7:30 PM Xavier at Charlotte
8:00 PM Southern Miss at UAB
8:00 PM South Carolina at LSU (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Massachusetts at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Mississippi State at Alabama (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Nicholls State at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Nebraska at Kansas State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Bowling Green at Northern Illinois
8:00 PM Central Arkansas at Northwestern State
8:00 PM East Carolina at SMU
8:00 PM Rice at Tulane
8:05 PM Drake at Southern Illinois
8:05 PM Missouri State at Evansville
8:05 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Lamar
8:05 PM Illinois State at Northern Iowa
8:30 PM Stephen F. Austin at Texas State
8:30 PM Michigan State at Iowa (BTN)
8:30 PM Texas-Arlington at Texas-San Antonio
9:00 PM Georgia at Arkansas (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Southern Utah
9:00 PM Clemson at Virginia (ESPNU)
9:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Dayton
9:00 PM Rutgers at St. John's (ESPN3)
9:00 PM UCF at UTEP
10:30 PM Utah at UNLV (The Mtn.)
11:00 PM USC at UCLA (FSN)