The Week in Review: What to Watch in College Basketball (1/3-1/9)

The Week in Review: What to Watch in College Basketball (1/3-1/9)
Jan 02, 2009, 12:54 am
Happy New Year basketball addicts! This week in college basketball promises to start 2009 off right with some of the year’s best games and intriguing matchups. With non-conference slates winding down and conference schedules in-progress or on the horizon, teams will be on their toes with March firmly in the back of their collective minds. For us at DraftExpress, these are must see-games, as some of the nation’s best players will be in the spotlight jockeying for draft position. Here are some of the games we’ll be watching intently this coming week.

Marquee Matchups:

#3 Pittsburgh vs. #8 Georgetown (Saturday, January 3rd: 12 p.m. on ESPN):

This game is a matchup made in scouting heaven, as two of the nations finest frontcourts meet in one of the most hyped games of the year. In the low post, Pitt’s undersized warrior DeJuan Blair meets freshman phenom Greg Monroe in a battle of contrasts, while veteran combo-forwards Sam Young and DaJuan Summers clash on the perimeter. Georgetown is coming off of an upset win over second ranked Connecticut and looks to dethrone another Big East heavyweight. Do not miss this game, despite the foolishly early tip-off.

#18 Tennessee vs. Kansas (Saturday, January 3rd: 2 p.m. on ESPN):

Kansas and Tennessee have suffered some disappointing losses this season, which raises the stakes in this non-conference matchup. Tennessee gets 36.6 points per game from its trio of talented wings, Tyler Smith, J.P. Prince, and Scotty Hopson, and will need consistent production from its perimeter players. Kansas has had an up and down season thus far. To win, they’re going to need another dominant performance out of Cole Aldrich who is going to have his athleticism put to the test against the Vols’ undersized frontcourt. Consistent play from the point guard position would not hurt the Jayhawks, either. Freshman Tyshawn Taylor has played well as of late, and it will be imperative for Sherron Collins to prove that he is capable of being a steadying presence for Kansas to come away with a victory.

#6 Wake Forest vs. Brigham Young (Saturday, January 3rd: 8 p.m. on Mountain Sports Network)

The high octane 6th ranked Wake Forest offense has been clicking on all cylinders as of late, with a string of blowout victories. They meet the BYU Cougars, who have only a heartbreaking loss against 14th ranked Arizona State on their resume and come into this game with 53 straight home victories. In the past, Wake Forest has spoiled the home win streaks of Wisconsin and New Mexico, but those teams featured the likes of Josh Howard and Chris Paul. Can combo-forward James Johnson, point guard Jeff Teague, and freshman phenom Al-Farouq Aminu carry the torch? Wake Forest certainly has the talent, but they must first find a way to contain BYU scorers Jonathan Tavernari and Lee Cummard. BYU’s full court press will test the young, turnover prone Deacons. The Cougars, on the other hand, will have to figure out what to do with one of the NCAA’s tallest, deepest, and most athletic frontcourts. Right now, BYU is one of the most efficient teams in the country, and it will not only take big games from Tavernari and Cummard, but also from Cougar role-players to ensure victory. Will BYU’s home winning streak stand? Tune in and find out…if you can find Mountain Sports Network on your dial.

Kentucky vs. #18 Louisville (Sunday, January 4th: 4:30 p.m. on CBS):

The Battle for the Bluegrass State is always a must see game. This year, however, with both teams eyeing success in March, the stakes are even higher. After losing games to top ranked UNC, Miami, and VMI, Kentucky has stormed back to win six straight games. Eighteenth ranked Louisville are going through a terrible slump at the moment and have yet to address their shaky point guard situation and consistency from streaky Terrence Williams or Earl Clark. The Cardinals are as athletic and versatile as you’ll find with Williams and sophomore combo-forward Clark, but the real matchup seems to be in the middle where Kentucky’s rapidly improving Patrick Patterson takes on blue chip freshman center Samardo Samuels. Whether or not the Cardinals can stop streaky shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who is currently averaging 24.1 points per game on 48% FG, 43% 3FG, and 88% FT, will also be a factor. The winner of this game not only has in-state bragging rights for the next year, but will also get a marquee non-conference win for their NCAA tournament resume. For Louisville, this is a must-win game just to stop the bleeding.

#8 Georgetown vs. #10 Notre Dame (Monday, January 5th: 7 p.m. on ESPN):

Again, this game is a chance for freshman phenom big man Greg Monroe to prove himself against one of the better big men in the Big East, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody. Harangody lacks Monroe’s size, length, and athleticism and his productivity will be tested against Georgetown’s front line. On the perimeter, Notre Dame’s Kyle McAlarney is one of the nations top shooters, but whether or not he can score against Georgetown’s stingy perimeter defense is a question on many scouts’ minds.

Davidson vs. #5 Duke (Wednesday, January 7th: 7 p.m. on ESPN):

Duke will have NBA prospects all over the floor, but the story in this game is the matchup between 6’3 combo-guard Stephen Curry and his likely defender, Duke’s athletic 6’5 wing Gerald Henderson. Curry must continue to prove that he is capable of scoring on bigger and more athletic defenders, in this case one of the ACC’s finest. He struggled against Purdue’s perimeter defense to the tune of 5/26 shooting from the field and 2/12 shooting from beyond the arc. Davidson seemingly is sorely overmatched, but underestimating Curry is a bad idea, as just about every defender he has faced has realized. Other players to watch are Duke’s sophomore point guard Nolan Smith and combo-forward Kyle Singler, who is projected as a top-20 pick and has improved consistently throughout the past two years.

#17 Gonzaga vs. #18 Tennessee (Wednesday January 7th: 9 p.m. on ESPN):

You’ve heard about Tennessee, but they have another big test against a Gonzaga team that just suffered a tough loss against unranked Utah on New Year’s Eve. Both teams are stacked on the perimeter and in the post with size and athleticism to boot. Gonzaga point guard Jeremy Pargo entered this season with high expectations, but thus far has struggled badly with his decision-making and confidence recently, especially in late-game situations. Can he get himself and especially his team back on track after a terrible past few weeks? Similarly, Josh Heytvelt has a great deal of talent but has struggled to put it all together as of late. Going up against Wayne Chism will be a good test on both ends of the ball, as he will have a chance to show scouts his ability to guard perimeter oriented big men and continue to score efficiently inside and outside. Elsewhere, Gonzaga’s 6’10 wing Austin Daye will have a chance to prove himself on both sides of the ball against some of the most athletic wings in college basketball. This is a game not to be missed against two teams that will likely be factors in March.

Off the Beaten Track:

#22 Xavier vs. Virginia (Saturday, January 3rd: 2 p.m. on Comcast Sports-Mid-Atlantic and FSOhio):

Virginia stumbled early in the season against the likes of Liberty, Auburn, Minnesota, and Syracuse, they’re coming off of a tough win at Georgia Tech. Xavier just dropped two games to fifth ranked Duke and the upstart Butler Bulldogs, but is looking for another marquee non-conference road win. Though they will likely never match up with each other, Xavier’s 6’7 combo-forward Derrick Brown and Virginia’s 6’6 freshman swingman Sylven Landesberg are both the pillars of their team and eager to prove that they are capable of elevating their teams to the next level. Landesberg is going to have to prove himself against one of the toughest and most athletic perimeter defenses in the country. If he has trouble finding his offense against a premier defense, it could be a sign of future troubles at the next level considering his offensive repertoire and playing style. Brown came into this season with a lot of hype, but has struggled to show that he deserves it thus far.

Georgia Tech vs. Alabama (January 3rd: 3 p.m. on Sun Sports and FSSouth):

Neither of these teams looks to make much noise in march, but check out the post matchup between Georgia Tech’s projected lottery pick Gani Lawal and Alabama’s improving five-star freshman JaMychal Green. Neither player gets to match up often with players of equal size, athleticism, and length, and this game should be very telling for that reason.

Houston vs. Mississippi State (January 3rd: 4 p.m. on CSS and ESPN Full Court):

Houston is sitting on an 8-2 record on the eve of a tough Conference USA schedule and a win a win against the struggling Mississippi State Bulldogs would look very good in March. In order to do so, however, they’re going to have to find a way to score on MSU’s Jarvis Varnado, who is leading the country in blocked shots, averaging 6.0 per game. Houston’s Marcus Cousin is a late blooming senior and has a tremendous opportunity to prove himself against one of college basketball’s best defensive big men.

Rider vs. Siena (Friday, January 9th: 7 p.m. on ESPNU):

Until their close victory over St. Joseph’s, Siena had failed to pull off a marquee win during its very ambitious out of conference schedule. The Saints are a favorite to win in the MAAC this year, but it won’t be easy. Their first real conference test of the season will be against Rider, who have struggled, but have a difference maker in sweet-shooting 6’6 swingman Ryan Thompson, who is coming into his own as a first option this season. He will match up against Siena’s 6’6 combo-forward Edwin Ubiles, one of the MAAC’s better defenders and Siena’s top offensive threat. These two teams don’t make it on television often and this game kicks off a nice evening of mid major basketball on ESPNU.

Saint Mary’s vs. Santa Clara (Friday, January 9th: 11 p.m. on ESPNU):

Two of the better mid-major centers in the country, improving, but plodding SMC’s Omar Samhan and Santa Clara’s ultra prolific, and equally slow center, John Bryant, face off in one of the marquee matchups in the West Coast Conference. Not to be missed either is the Aussie point guard Patrick Mills, who had a great summer in Beijing, but has had trouble proving his true point guard ability thus far during the collegiate season.

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