College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary

    
January 24th, 2011
The best game in regards to the national polls would be Notre Dame visiting Pittsburgh in the first game of the Big Monday doubleheader. But a good argument can be made that the matchup between the Fighting Irish and Panthers isn't the most important game of the night. That distinction goes to Baylor visiting Kansas State in a matchup of two teams who need a win period, not just one to prop up their respective resumes. Scott Drew's Bears (13-5, 3-2) have an RPI (according to realtimerpi.com) of 87 with a strength of schedule of 111, and while those numbers are simply tools that the selection committee can use in determining at-large selections that's not the kind of "hardware" you want to be bringing to the table when your name is on the board. Beating Oklahoma State on Saturday was a solid victory in both performance and its impact on the Bears' resume as it's their best win of the season from a computer standpoint. A win in the Little Apple would be an additional boost, but it's going to be difficult to leave Bramlage Coliseum with a victory given the fact that Frank Martin's team needs a win for resume reasons as well.

Kansas State dropped another "statement" game on Saturday, falling by eight at Texas A&M to drop to 1-4 in conference play (12-7 overall). But what helps the Wildcats are a decent RPI (50) and a very good strength of schedule (19th), the byproduct of playing the likes of Duke, Florida and UNLV not to mention some of their early conference opponents. But against teams in the RPI Top 50 K-State has a record of 0-5, and while tonight's game won't offer the opportunity to improve that record it's a shot at adding a win that could make a difference come March in addition to beginning that slow climb back into the top half of the Big 12. The key for both teams: consistency especially for Kansas State, who talked about making that turn following a beating of Texas Tech, only to drop consecutive road games to Missouri and A&M. Seniors Jacob Pullen (18.0 ppg) and Curtis Kelly (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) need to be the leaders for the Wildcats to become a factor in the Big 12 race in some form, but the struggles for both they and the entire team underline the impact that Denis Clemente had on the team.

The Wildcats will play slightly faster than Baylor offensively but there isn't enough of a difference to say that the Bears would be in trouble in a full-court game. LaceDarius Dunn (21.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is one of the better perimeter scorers in America, but they need him to get quality looks on a consistent basis. Inside Perry Jones III (14.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been one of the top freshmen in the nation, and his size and skill set make him a likely lottery pick whenever he decided to turn pro. But the key for the Bears may be point guard A.J. Walton, who averages 5.5 assists per game but has also turned the ball over nearly four times per game. Does Kansas State have the ability to force the sophomore into hurried decisions? Opponents turn the ball over on 23% of their possessions which is the number that the Bears average on the season, and if the Octagon of Doom gets going things could be turned up a notch for the sophomore.

But Baylor's zone defense could be the factor that keeps them in the game. The back line of Jones III, Anthony Jones and Quincy Acy is tough to navigate for many frontcourts although Kansas made it look easy last week. If Kelly and Jamar Samuels can get the job done on the boards they'll have a good shot at defending their home floor. A loss for either won't be a deadly blow at this point in the season, but it certainly won't help matters in regards to comfortably making the NCAA Tournament. As noted earlier the big one is Notre Dame taking on Pittsburgh in the Steel City, and with the Panthers 61-10 all-time in Big East games at Petersen Events Center it's tough to pick many teams to go in there and win. But with Ben Hansbrough playing outstanding basketball and the return of Carleton Scott providing a boost the Irish have more than a puncher's chance. Also keep an eye on James Madison at Hofstra in another key game at the top of the CAA standings.

Top 25
7:00 PM (14) Notre Dame at (3) Pittsburgh (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
5:00 PM New York City Tech at NJIT
6:00 PM New Orleans at Huntingdon
7:00 PM William & Mary at Northeastern
7:00 PM Virginia Commonwealth at Towson
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Morehead State at Ball State
7:00 PM Georgia State at Drexel
7:00 PM James Madison at Hofstra (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Texas Southern at Mississippi Valley State (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Furman at Wofford
7:30 PM Rider at Siena (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Hampton at Florida A&M
8:00 PM Howard at Bethune-Cookman
8:00 PM Coppin State at Delaware State
8:00 PM Morgan State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
8:00 PM North Carolina Central at North Carolina A&T
8:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM Panhandle State at Texas-San Antonio
9:00 PM Baylor at Kansas State (ESPN)
9:00 PM George Mason at Delaware (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Southern University at Alabama A&M
9:00 PM Alcorn State at Alabama State
9:00 PM Prairie View A&M at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
9:00 PM South Carolina State at Norfolk State (ESPNU)
9:05 PM Montana State at Idaho State
11:30 PM Seattle at Fresno State