College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

    
February 27th, 2010

Touted as the "Game of the Year" in the Big East, either Villanova or Syracuse will take a step towards a regular season title in front of what's expected to be the largest crowd in Carrier Dome history. The Wildcats bounced back from two straight losses to beat USF earlier this week while the Orange outran a Providence squad whose defense would be complimented if described as a "speed bump". Can the Wildcats find enough open looks (that they want) against the tough Syracuse zone? Although Villanova has a number of good perimeter shooters they'd be wise to learn from what happened for Georgetown in their game at the Carrier Dome. 

The Hoyas were more than happy to fire away from distance and in the beginning it worked for them as they took a 14-0 lead out of the gate. But from there it was all about Jim Boeheim's defensive system, which spearheaded a 31-point turnaround. With the likes of Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek, Jay Wright can look to a number of players on the perimeter for baskets. But they cannot afford to neglect getting the ball into the middle of the zone; this could be where a player like Taylor King could have some value. Of their frontcourt players the Duke transfer is Villanova's best perimeter shooter; do they sneak him into the high post for mid-range jumpers? 

But the Orange don't lack for weapons themselves. Andy Rautins has been the ring leader for Syracuse this season and in Wes Johnson they've got one of the best forwards in the nation. But keep an eye on Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph; Jackson had an outstanding game at Providence and is the most overlooked member of the starting five despite his consistent play. And Joseph provides an explosive option off the bench with his ability to get to the basket and finish on the break. While the stars on both sides will get the attention it could very well be a member of the "supporting cast" who makes the difference. 

Other games of note include Notre Dame visiting Georgetown, California hosting Arizona State with a chance to wrap up a share of the Pac-10 title and New Mexico visiting BYU with the Mountain West title likely going to the winner. Steve Alford's Lobos have been outstanding on the road this season, winning six of their seven Mountain West road games. But playing in Provo is a major test, especially if Jimmer Fredette can get going from the perimeter. The two favorites for Player of the Year in that league will be on display with Fredette and Darington Hobson on the same floor. If there's one game during the afternoon that you shouldn't miss this is it. 

TV GAMES

Noon CBS Notre Dame at Georgetown
Noon CBS Kentucky at Tennessee
Noon ESPN Big Ten Wildcard
Noon ESPN2 Northeastern at George Mason
2p CBS North Carolina at Wake Forest
2p ESPN Texas at Texas A&M
2p ESPN2 Mississippi at Alabama
2p BEN-HD/SNY/BHS Cincinnati at West Virginia
3p FSN Arizona St at California
3:30p MTN UNLV at Air Force
4p BTN Minnesota at Illinois
4p CBS Kansas at Oklahoma St
4p VS New Mexico at BYU
4p ESPNU DePaul at Rutgers
4p CBS-College Lafayette at American
6p ESPN Mississippi State at South Carolina
7p FSN-SEC LSU at Auburn
8p ESPNU Missouri at Kansas State
8p ESPN2 Illinois St at Northern Iowa
8p CBS-College USM at Memphis
9p ESPN Villanova at Syracuse
10p ESPNU Fresno State at San Jose State 

OTHER GAMES

Noon Boston College at Georgia Tech
1p St. Francis (NY) at Central Connecticut St
1:30p Vanderbilt at Arkansas
2:30p Maine at Boston University
3:05p Bradley at Creighton
4p Maryland at Virginia Tech
4p VCU at Old Dominion
4p Winthrop at Radford
4p Robert Morris at Mount St. Mary's
7p Murray St at Eastern Kentucky
7p Miami (OH) at Kent St
7p Arizona at Stanford
8:05p Troy at Arkansas St
9:05p Montana St at Montana
9p Loyola Marymount at Saint Mary's

ONE PREDICTION

Syracuse over Villanova: The Wildcats have enjoyed some success at the Carrier Dome in recent years so they won't be intimidated. However, they're also nowhere near the same as those prior outfits when it comes to defending. Villanova will remain close but in the end it will be Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins who lead the Orange to the win. Syracuse by nine.