College Hoops Friday: Your Commentary

March 11th, 2011
Friday offers up some big matchups but none may be bigger than Georgia and Alabama in the first game of the day at the SEC Tournament. Both can still use wins (to be honest, who can't?) with the winner today keeping alive the ability to state their case on the floor while the loser has to hope their resume is good enough to warrant an NCAA Tournament bid. And the scouting reports should be fresh as the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide met in Saturday's regular season finale, a 65-57 Alabama victory in Tuscaloosa. The difference: turnovers. Georgia finished with 16 to Alabama's eight, allowing the Crimson Tide to make up for their 39.3% shooting on the afternoon.

JaMychal Green (19 points, nine rebounds) and Tony Mitchell (13 and 11) were a collective handful for Georgia, who despite their size with Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price had trouble with the athletic Mitchell. Add in guard Charvez Davis scoring 17 points for Alabama and Gerald Robinson Jr. making just two of his twelve shots from the field and it isn't too difficult to see what has to change for the Bulldogs today. Georgia holds the edge in many of the major offensive categories on paper, but that means nothing if their guards aren't effective.

Robinson Jr., Travis Leslie and Dustin Ware will all need to be at their best as defensively Anthony Grant's team allows opponents to shoot 37.9% from the field, forces nearly 16 turnovers per game and limits teams to an offensive efficiency of just 89.0. Who needs the game more from a resume standpoint? That's debatable, as the two teams have the same number of wins against Top 25 (1) and RPI Top 50 (3) teams. But the difference is what the two teams have done against teams they're supposed to beat. Georgia is 15-0 against teams with an RPI of 101 or worse while Alabama has three losses to teams below that line. The advice to both: leave no doubt.

That same message can be applied to Boston College and Clemson, who meet in the second game of the day at the ACC Tournament. The Tigers won their lone regular season meeting 77-69 in February 8th, with Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani combining for 49 points but receiving little help from their teammates. Clemson by comparison finished with four players in double figures, shooting 52.9% from the field and limiting the Eagles to 9-for-30 from beyond the arc. Boston College has been the better offensive team from a numbers standpoint but players such as Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt have helped the Tigers limit opponents to 39% shooting.

How efficient the Eagles are at finding good looks for Jackson and Trapani in addition to Corey Raji off the bench will determine the outcome, but it's possible both teams hear their names called on Sunday regardless of this result. Big games are on tap for Maryland (Duke) and Virginia Tech (Florida State) as well, with the Hokies in much better position to feel good about their tournament chances with a win than Maryland. 

One more will be officially punched today with Lafayette, who knocked off two-seed American in the Patriot League semis, visiting regular season champ Bucknell. The Leopards lost both regular season meetings with the first being a 75-56 whipping at Sojka Pavilion, with Bucknell winning the battle on the boards (37-25) and shooting a far superior percentage on two-point shots (54.8% to Lafayette's 35.2%). And when a team breaks even in points from three in addition to the aforementioned numbers, the end result is usually a blowout.

That didn't happen in the rematch, a 74-69 Bucknell win on February 16th that saw the Leopards hold their own for 45 minutes. They'll need a similar performance from Jim Mower (19 points), and Jared Mintz and Ryan Willen have to shoot better from the field (combined 4-for-17) despite combining for 26 points if they're to win. In Darryl Shazier the Bisons have one of the best point guards in the Patriot League (5.7 apg). Player of the Year Mike Muscala will be a handful for Lafayette as well, but having already won two tournament games on the road Fran O'Hanlon's Leopards at least have a puncher's chance of winning the crown.

Also in important bubble matchups are a pair of quarterfinals in the Atlantic 10, with Duquesne likely needing to win the entire tournament to merit an NCAA bid and Richmond looking to avoid an early exit that would likely mean an NIT bid. But in seniors Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper the Spiders have two outstanding players capable of taking the team to Sunday's final. Illinois/Michigan is an important game in the Big Ten Tournament especially for the Wolverines, who could use one more solid victory to feel comfortable with their prospects. And in the evening session both Michigan State and Penn State look to pick up one more resume-building victory (the Nittany Lions need a run this weekend).

The Conference USA semis should also be fun with Memphis, Tulsa and UTEP all in play at this stage with the latter two playing each other. Doug Wojcik's Golden Hurricane have been overlooked by many but with Justin Hurtt leading the way it wouldn't be a major surprise if they were to win the title. New Mexico can revive their hopes with a third win over BYU and the same goes for USC out west as they take on Pac-10 regular season champion Arizona.

The Big East and Big 12 semifinal rounds should both be entertaining, with Notre Dame and Louisville looking to build off of impressive wins last night. And the early game matches Connecticut and Syracuse, who in their last Big East Championship meeting went six overtimes two years ago. In Kansas City the expectation is that Kansas and Texas advance to the title game, but in Colorado and Texas A&M there are two opponents who have played well of late.

The problem for the Aggies is that they don't match up well at all with the Longhorns, but the Buffaloes could knock off Kansas if the Jayhawks play as they did against Oklahoma State. Semifinals in the Big West, Great West, MAC, MEAC, SWAC and WAC are also on the slate for tonight.

10:00 PM Weber State at Saint Mary's

Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals (Atlantic City)
12:00 PM Dayton vs. Xavier
2:30 PM Saint Joseph's vs. Duquesne
6:30 PM La Salle vs. Temple
9:00 PM Rhode Island vs. Richmond

ACC Quarterfinals (Greensboro)
12:00 PM Miami (FL) vs. North Carolina (ESPN2)
2:30 PM Boston College vs. Clemson (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Maryland vs. Duke (ESPN2)
9:30 PM Virginia Tech vs. Florida State

Big 12 Semifinals (Kansas City)
7:00 PM Colorado vs. Kansas (ESPN3)
9:30 PM Texas A&M vs. Texas (ESPN3)

Big East Semifinals (New York City)
7:00 PM Connecticut vs. Syracuse (ESPN)
9:00 PM Louisville vs. Notre Dame (ESPN)

Big Ten Quarterfinals (Indianapolis)
12:00 PM Northwestern vs. Ohio State (ESPN)
2:00 PM Illinois vs. Michigan (ESPN)
6:30 PM Michigan State vs. Purdue (BTN)
8:55 PM Penn State vs. Wisconsin (BTN)

Big West Semifinals (Anaheim, CA)
9:30 PM UCSB vs. Long Beach State (ESPNU)
12:00 AM UC Riverside vs. Cal State Northridge

Conference USA Semifinals (El Paso)
4:00 PM UTEP vs. Tulsa (CBS College)
6:30 PM East Carolina vs. Memphis (CBS College)

Great West Semifinals (Orem, UT)
7:00 PM Houston Baptist vs. North Dakota
9:30 PM South Dakota vs. Utah Valley

MAC Semifinals (Cleveland)
7:00 PM Akron vs. Western Michigan (ESPN3)
9:30 PM Ball State vs. Kent State (ESPN3)

MEAC Semifinals (Winston-Salem, NC)
6:00 PM Norfolk State vs. Hampton
8:00 PM Morgan State vs. Bethune-Cookman

Mountain West Semifinals (Las Vegas)
9:00 PM New Mexico vs. BYU (CBS College)
11:30 PM UNLV vs. San Diego State (CBS College)

Pac-10 Semifinals (Los Angeles)
9:00 PM USC vs. Arizona (FSN)
11:30 PM Oregon vs. Washington (FSN)

Patriot Final (Lewisburg, PA)
4:45 PM Lafayette at Bucknell (ESPN2)

SEC Quarterfinals (Atlanta)
1:00 PM Georgia vs. Alabama (ESPN3)
3:30 PM Mississippi vs. Kentucky (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Tennessee vs. Florida (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State (ESPN3)

SWAC Semifinals (Garland, TX)
3:30 PM Grambling State vs. Jackson State
9:00 PM Alabama State vs. Texas Southern

WAC Semifinals (Las Vegas) 
9:00 PM San Jose State vs. Utah State
12:00 AM New Mexico State vs. Boise State (ESPN2)