College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

    
January 15th, 2010

One of the biggest games of the day tips at high noon in Morgantown when West Virginia hosts Syracuse in a matchup of Top 10 teams. Both are coming off of routine victories over teams expected to finish in the bottom portion of the Big East standings, avoiding the pitfall of looking past the task at hand. The Orange are one of the nation's best offensive teams, leading the country in field goal percentage and assists per game. Wesley Johnson received a good deal of praise for their early start but truth be told Jim Boeheim's got weapons throughout the rotation.

Andy Rautins snapped out of a shooting slump at Rutgers in their last game and that's a good sign going into Saturday's contest. Point guards Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine have performed well sharing the responsibilities and inside Syracuse can look to Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku for points. And last but not least there's Kris Joseph, who's taken full advantage of the increase in playing time. Given the disparity in scoring ability off the bench he could very well prove to be the difference if the Orange are to win.

Bob Huggins' Mountaineers are versatile as well, boasting five players ranging from 6'7" to 6'9" and possessing the ability to do a variety of things. The "Big Three" of Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones give opponents fits offensively and the defensive versatility of the WVU rotation allows them to switch on screens without falling prey to mismatches. And at the point West Virginia can go a variety of ways: alternate between Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla or allow Butler to play a "point forward" role. But they're better with one of the two points on the floor given their struggles against full-court pressure; look for Syracuse to possibly use that style of defense on occasion.

As for other games on the schedule the day gets off to a heated start early when Dayton visits rival Xavier looking for their first win in Cincinnati since the early-80s. Xavier has played well in their first Atlantic 10 games, displaying the look of a team that will be a factor in the title race. As for Dayton, the preseason favorites have taken care of business in regards to winning games but they haven't always shown maximum focus. That shouldn't be an issue at the Cintas Center however. Other games to keep an eye on include Illinois' trip to East Lansing (are the Illini true Big Ten contenders?), North Carolina hosting Georgia Tech in a game matching teams coming off of road losses and Fairfield possibly being the "last line of defense" between Siena and a comfortable run towards yet another MAAC title. 

TV GAMES

11a ESPN2 Dayton at Xavier
Noon ESPN Syracuse at West Virginia
Noon ESPNU Ohio at Miami (Ohio)
Noon BEN-HD/SNY/CST/BHS Louisville at Pittsburgh
Noon Raycom Clemson at NC State
1p ESPN2 Missouri at Oklahoma
1p BTN Penn St at Iowa
2p ESPN Georgia Tech at North Carolina
2p ESPNU Tennessee State at Austin Peay
2:30p FSN California at Washington
3p ESPN2 Georgia at Mississippi State
3:30 CBS Illinois at Michigan St
3:30 MTN New Mexico at Wyoming
4p ESPNU Notre Dame at Cincinnati
4p Raycom Maryland at Boston College
4:30p FSN Arizona at Oregon
5p ESPN2 Wichita State at Creighton
5:30 BTN Purdue at Northwestern
6p ESPNU Texas A&M at Texas
6p MTN Colorado St at BYU
7p ESPN2 Morgan St at South Carolina St 
8p ESPNU Miami at Virginia
8p CBS-College UCF at Tulsa
9p ESPN2 Prairie View A&M at Jackson State
9p BTN Wisconsin at Ohio St
10p CBS-College Utah at UNLV
10p MTN TCU at San Diego St 

OTHER GAMES

2p High Point at Coastal Carolina
2p Central Michigan at Western Michigan
2:30p Charleston at Chattanooga
3:15p Belmont at Jacksonville
3:30p Niagara at Iona
4p La Salle at Richmond
4p Siena at Fairfield
6p Vanderbilt at South Carolina
6p Virginia Tech at Florida St
7p Drexel at Old Dominion
7p Lafayette at Navy
7p Monmouth at Robert Morris
8p Detroit at Green Bay
9p Gonzaga at San Diego
9p Fresno St at New Mexico St
10p Utah at UNLV

ONE PREDICTION

Syracuse over West Virginia: Against a zone as active as Syracuse's teams can turn the ball over at a higher rate than they're accustomed to. And while WVU Coliseum is among the tougher environments in which to play it's not impossible to leave there with a win. While the starters will do their jobs keep an eye on the Syracuse bench, especially Kris Joseph. If WVU's Casey Mitchell struggles in his time off the bench the Orange have a very good chance of heading back home with a win. And they'll do just that.