Friday, January 16, 2009

Saturday Preview -- Games Big and Small

While passing the jittery, excited time remaining before the Friday Night Lights premiere for non-DirecTV subscribers, I figured a primer on the six Saturday Big East games might be a cool distraction. I came to this after evaluating several other options:

1. Going for a run. (It's 11 degrees.)

2. Going to the gym. (Later, when it's 3:00 and nobody's there. I promise.)

3. Updating my new baseball blog, (Shameless plug.)

4. Eating lunch. (Though, I could eat while typing, and you'd never know...)

5. Looking for a new job. (There aren't any, which is why this blog exists.)

So here are six thumbnails, each of which includes a brief RCR preview along with a Ken Pomeroy rankings comparison of the teams involved. The games are ranked in order of their importance/slash level of interest to this blog, which admits to a bias:

Georgetown at Duke, 1:30 pm, CBS

Pomeroy Prediction: Duke(1) 71, Georgetown(4) 64

RCR's Take: The Hoyas spent the first half Wednesday night shooting over Syracuse's zone. Saturday, they'll have a much harder time in the face of Duke's perimeter pressure. This will be more like the defense they faced last Saturday against Providence, know...a lot better. For Georgetown to win, they'll need to be able to move the ball inside and out, to and from Greg Monroe, whose inside presence is one of the few advantages the Hoyas have and whose passing ability might be the only way to free up the guards for the outside shots. Also, it wouldn't hurt if a massive flu bug hit the Duke campus tonight and kept the crowd to a minimum...

PREDICTION: I fear a game somewhat like the Tennessee game, where the Hoyas played well, especially on defense, but Tennessee hit everything in sight. I don't foresee the Duke pressure rattling the GU guards, but I think the crowd and the Blue Devils' depth will wear down Georgetown in the second half. Duke 79, Georgetown 68.

Pittsburgh at Louisville, 6 pm, ESPN

Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville(14) 66, Pittsburgh(5) 65

RCR's Take: Those who've been reading know I like Pitt a lot and I'm not sold on Louisville, but the Cardinals showed depth, strength and toughness earlier this week against Notre Dame, and they are the home team. And Pomeroy picks an upset against his own rankings. Is it possible? Sure, if Louisville's zone disrupts Pitt's ability to feed the ball to DeJuan Blair inside. And if Samardo Samuels can rebound enough to limit Blair's second-chance points. And if the Pitt players are distracted, as I always am, by the shockingly recumbent Louisville mascot. (Seriously! He just sits there in that corner all game!!)

PREDICTION: It's Pitt's first real test since taking over No. 1. Louisville is feeling good about some recent escapes. It all points red. But I'm not buying it. For me, even if Samuels and contain Blair, somebody's got to contain Sam Young, and I don't think Earl Clark has it in him to do that for 40 minutes. Pitt 62, Louisville 57.

Notre Dame at Syracuse, Noon, ESPN

Pomeroy Prediction: Syracuse(32) 86, Notre Dame(42) 79

RCR's Take: First, wow. Look how low Pomeroy has these two teams. He was forecasting an easy victory for Georgetown over Syracuse on Wednesday, and why not? The Hoyas were the home team, ranked in his top 5, while the Orange were sitting there on his NCAA tournament bubble. Looking at his Syracuse page, it appears the Orange lose massive points because they turn the ball over too much and don't hit free throws. But that's not likely to matter against a Notre Dame team that plays no defense. Syracuse's best bet is to do what they can against Harangody inside but not get down once he starts hitting those zany fall-away hook shots from six feet. There's nothing you can do about that. Play your zone, drive their guards crazy, get back down the other end of the floor and score those easy buckets Notre Dame is going to be giving you all day.

Prediction: I'd love to pick against Syracuse, because I'd love it if Syracuse lost all of their games. But I can't do it here. Not at home. Not against the softest good team in the conference. Notre Dame doesn't play defense. Won't play defense. Looks for all the world as if it doesn't consider defense an important part of the game. If he's really, really on, Jonny Flynn could have a Jodie Meeks-level offensive performance against Notre Dame. Syracuse gets the taste of the GU game out of its mouth in a hurry. Syracuse 90, Notre Dame 75.

Marquette at Providence, 9 pm, ESPN2

Pomeroy Prediction: Marquette(22) 81, Providence(78) 76

RCR's Take: RCR is staying up to watch this game. I love the Marquette guards but haven't had the chance to watch them play a whole game yet. I love Providence's experience and toughness. There are going to be seniors all over the court in this game, and I think it's a good candidate to be Providence's first "surprise" win of the season. Remember, so far this year, the only Top 9 Big East team to lose to one of the league's bottom-tier teams is Notre Dame, which fell at St. John's a couple of weeks back. If Marquette can shoot the ball and contain Efejuku, they'll come away with a win about which they can feel really good. Because if there's a team in that bottom tier that's going to sneak up and challenge the Top 9, Providence is it.

Prediction: I've been thinking over the past week that Marquette might be my pick to win the conference. They have a chance to show something here, and if they win easily, I'll drive the bandwagon. But I just have this feeling. Late game, far from home, outmanned inside...I see somebody in black and white going off and having a big game. Providence 78, Marquette 77.

South Florida at West Virginia, Noon, ESPN Full Court

Pomeroy Prediction: West Virginia(7) 71, South Florida (105) 53

RCR's Take: Pomeroy has the Mountaineers seventh in the country, but they're 1-2 in conference following losses to UConn and at Marquette. They rebound the ball well, especially on offense. They force turnovers. They have a big man in DeSean Butler and a shooter in Alex Ruoff who are just going to be way too much for an undersized, undermanned Bulls team that's leaving sunny Tampa for a frigid trip north.

Prediction: West Virginia is dying for an easy conference win, and they'll get it against a South Florida team that won't be able to touch them on the boards. West Virginia 79, South Florida 60.

Cincinnati at DePaul, 2 pm, ESPNU

Pomeroy Prediction: Cincinnati(86) 71, DePaul(181) 67

RCR's Take: It's a testament to how good the Big East is that this game would be on ESPNU, a channel you can actually get nationally. Um, let's see...Cincy is a strong offensive rebounding team, thanks mainly to freshman Yancy Gates. He, Mike Williams and Rashad Bishop form a fairly impressive front line that might be able to win some games in a different conference. DePaul can't shoot from anywhere, doesn't rebound especially well, misses free throws...they're a bottom of the Big East barrel team that's facing a rare chance to pick up a conference win. In fact, a look at the remaining schedules indicates that these two teams are going to be sorry to see each other go.

Prediction: Pomeroy's projecting a total of two wins the rest of the way for these two teams combined. And it's not one each. Cincinnati 80, DePaul 65

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