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The Week in Review: What to Watch in College Basketball (1/10-1/16)

The Week in Review: What to Watch in College Basketball (1/10-1/16)
Jan 09, 2009, 12:18 pm
If you had a chance to watch any of our marquee match ups last week, you were witness to a handful of terrific games and all kinds of quality performances by some of this draft’s top prospects. Now, as conference schedules are heating up and teams position themselves to make a deep run in March, the battles will get more intense as rivalries take over and the plot thickens. As scouts, we’re especially interesting in seeing how some of the nation’s best players handle this pressure and if they can continue to assert their dominance when the stakes are raised.

While the match-ups may not be as high profile this week as they were during the last, there is still much reason to watch as some of the best teams in the NCAA face off for all to see. Here’s what we’re watching this coming week and we recommend that you come along for the ride.

Marquee Matchups:

Kansas vs. #8 Michigan State (Saturday, January 10th: 1 p.m. on CBS)

Kansas is coming off of a pair of wins against #15 Tennessee and a Siena team predicted to win the MAAC, but face their toughest test yet against the #8 ranked Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans take to the court with a deep roster, led by junior combo forward Raymar Morgan. Morgan and his frontcourt-mates Goran Suton and former five-star prospect Delvon Roe will give Kansas star Cole Aldrich all he can handle in a difficult match up on the blocks. On the perimeter, it’s ultra efficient playmaker Kalin Lucas against the Kansas tandem of Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor. With a Kansas team looking for another statement win before conference play begins and a Michigan State team looking to build on its eight game winning streak, this is a game not to be missed.

Mississippi State vs. Arkansas (Saturday, January 10th: 8 p.m. on FSN-South)

Arkansas is playing as well as any team in the country right now, with upsets over top ten ranked Oklahoma and Texas on the way to a 12-1 record. Their top player, power forward, junior Michael Washington is in the midst of a breakout season and putting up elite numbers, inside and outside, against quality competition. The only man standing in his way is Mississippi State’s elite shot blocking forward Jarvis Varnado, also in the midst of a breakout year. Varnado has been somewhat inconsistent on the offensive end of the floor, but should he catch fire and put on another shot blocking exhibition, this could be one of the week’s best post match ups, and will play a role in the evaluation we are planning to offer on both players this coming week.

#2 Duke vs. Florida State (Saturday, January 10th: 2 p.m. on ESPN)

Fresh off of holding off Stephen Curry and the upstart Davidson Wildcats, #2 Duke heads into Tallahassee with a lot of momentum. They should not look past this Florida State team, though. The Seminoles are extremely hard to beat on their home court, and only have losses against top ranked Pittsburgh and Northwestern on their resume. The key for Florida State is to limit Duke combo forward Kyle Singler, who has been on a tear lately and is climbing up mock drafts in the process. The answer may lie in freshman forward Chris Singleton, who has not only been the most consistent player for the Seminoles, but has the size, athleticism, and length to hold Duke’s wings at bay. Florida State’s ability to keep Duke’s deep guard corps under check will be essential also, as sophomore Nolan Smith and junior Jon Scheyer have been proving to be tough covers on the perimeter. Last but not least, Duke is looking for a big performance out of Gerald Henderson, a once projected lottery pick, who, despite playing well, has not had the breakout season most predicted. This is a must-win game for Florida State’s tournament resume and not to be missed.

#3 North Carolina vs. #4 Wake Forest (Sunday, January 11th: 8 p.m. on FSN)

After being upset at home by a Boston College team that recently lost to Harvard, third ranked North Carolina will be looking for redemption on Sunday. It won’t be easy, though, as they a face fourth ranked Wake Forest fresh off breaking BYU’s 53 game home win streak. Scouts all over the country will be tuning into this game, as there are interesting match ups all over the floor, complete with NBA caliber talent at almost every position. North Carolina star power forward Tyler Hansbrough is the focal point of the Tar Heel offense, but he will face a stiff test against a loaded Wake Forest front line, filled to the brim with NBA caliber size and athleticism, particularly 6’9 combo forwards James Johnson and Al Farouq Aminu, who combine to average 26.5 points, 17.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. On the perimeter, it’s a showdown between two of the top point guards in the country, North Carolina’s Ty Lawson and Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague. Both are blindingly quick on the perimeter and greatly improved on the offensive end of the floor. This game will also be a test for North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington, who flirted with the draft last year, as he will face L.D. Williams, one of the best perimeter defenders in the ACC. There is hardly even room to talk about swingman Danny Green and center Deon Thompson, both playing big roles in the Tar Heel machine, or the gradual return of lockdown defender Marcus Ginyard who had previously been sidelined with injury. Simply put: a must-watch game for college basketball fans and NBA scouts alike.

#3 North Carolina vs. Virginia (Thursday, January 15: 9 p.m. on ESPN)

Haven’t had enough North Carolina? Check out this match up against a Virginia team that has had its share of struggles, but should not be overlooked. The matchup between Virginia’s stellar freshman swingman Sylven Landesberg and North Carolina’s athletic perimeter defensive corps will be intriguing to watch. Landesberg did better than expected against an experienced and athletic Xavier perimeter defense last week, and if he continues to excel offensively, should pique the interest of scouts around the country.

#10 UCLA vs. USC (Sunday, January 11th: 10:30 p.m. on FSN)

The Battle of Los Angeles should be more interesting this year, as USC faces a mortal UCLA squad, led by senior point guard Darren Collison, who has established himself as one of the top point guards in the NCAA as well as a threat on both sides of the ball. The real story, however, lies in a meeting of two of the nation’s top freshman, UCLA combo-guard Jrue Holiday and USC swingman DeMar DeRozan. USC will have to overcome its lack of depth, as well as find a way to manage UCLA’s stingy defensive game, but if Coach Tim Floyd can get big games out of juniors Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, and Dwight Lewis as well as the aforementioned DeRozan, this battle for bragging rights will be well worth watching.

#13 Notre Dame vs. #21 Louisville (Monday, January 12th: 7 p.m. on ESPN)

Notre Dame is coming off of a big win against Georgetown, and Louisville has won two in a row since dropping a close game to UNLV. Both teams are looking for a quality conference win in the loaded Big East and should provide for a stark contrast in styles. The teams match up fairly well, but the reason to watch tonight is the big man battle between Luke Harangody, Notre Dame’s brutally productive power forward, and Louisville freshman center Samardo Samuels, who has stepped up for the Cardinals. Samuels must slow Harangody in the middle, and Louisville’s perimeter defense can somehow cool Kyle McAlarney’s red hot perimeter shooting for the Cardinals to have a chance. Louisville still needs more consistency out of do-it-all swingman Terrence Williams and another dominant performance from combo-forward Earl Clark, who ultimately are the keys to this game. When these two are on, Louisville is a hard team to beat.

#7 Texas vs. #6 Oklahoma (Monday, January 12th: 9 p.m. on ESPN)

Oklahoma and Texas are two of the Big 12’s best, and this match up should give scouts and fans alike much to talk about. Texas and Oklahoma have both had trouble finding consistent offense from their role players in recent losses to upstart Arkansas and this will certainly be a concern in this game, though the stars will certainly have their chance to shine. In the middle, Oklahoma power forward and projected top pick Blake Griffin takes on combo forward Damion James, who has yet to show that he has a position at the next level, but will present a challenge in the post. On the perimeter, it’s a battle between two of the nation’s most lethal scoring guards, Oklahoma freshman Willie Warren and Texas senior A.J. Abrams. Both teams come into this game looking to prove their supremacy in the Big 12, and this game should be both extremely entertaining and highly informative from an NBA draft perspective.

Kentucky vs. #15 Tennessee (Tuesday, January 13th: 9 p.m. on ESPN)

Both Tennessee and Kentucky are looking for wins after dropping close games in the past week, and this game is a chance for both teams to right the ship and get back on track. It will be up to Tennessee to try and find a way to stop Kentucky’s tandem of ultra-efficient power forward Patrick Patterson and volume scoring guard Jodie Meeks. That said, there is not a whole lot of fire power in-between and if Tennessee’s role players, particularly J.P. Prince and Scotty Hopson, establish themselves as scoring threats early on, the Volunteers should be able to pull out a home win behind star forward Tyler Smith.

#11 Syracuse vs. #9 Georgetown (Wednesday, January 14th: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2)

Eleventh ranked Syracuse has quietly put together a solid out of conference resume with wins over Florida, Kansas, Memphis, and Virginia and have entered conference play thus far with two wins. After they take on Rutgers on Saturday, they face their first true test, against ninth ranked Georgetown. At this point in the season, everybody knows how dominant Georgetown freshman Greg Monroe can produce in almost any situation on either sides of the ball and it is up to Syracuse, particularly junior center Arinze Onuaku, to figure out how to stop him. Similarly, Syracuse’s guards must hit perimeter jump-shots to break Georgetown’s infamous zone defense and open up the lane for Jonny Flynn, one of the nation’s top point guards and a legitimate scoring threat. This game will be a battle and whoever can set the pace early on should be able to come out with a win.

Off the Beaten Track:

Memphis vs. Tulsa (Tuesday, January 13th: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2)

Memphis has struggled as of late, lacking consistent play from the point guard position, and finishing its out of conference slate without a win against a top 25 team. On Tuesday, the Tigers head to Tulsa, for arguably their most difficult in-conference test. Tulsa’s 7-foot center Jerome Jordan has taken slightly smaller steps forward than most predicted, but he is still going to be a handful for the likes of Memphis big men Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart. This game also marks a great opportunity to see one of the nation’s top mid-major big man prospects in action against quality competition. Also, don’t miss Tyreke Evans, who will be making a full time move to the point guard position and has started to justify his pre-season hype.

Tennessee-Martin vs. Tennessee Tech (Thursday, January 15: 9 p.m. on ESPNU)

Tennessee-Martin combo-guard Lester Hudson had a very productive off-season, showing his abilities to NBA scouts in Orlando and in private workouts. Hudson is one of the best scorers in the NCAA, and will have the chance to show his skill in one of his team’s few televised match ups in the country.

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