College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

December 11th, 2010
A pair of undefeated teams will meet in the final game of the SEC/Big East Invitational as #11 Tennessee (6-0) takes on #3 Pittsburgh (10-0) at the new CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Volunteers, who won the NIT Season Tip-Off by beating Villanova in the title game, are actually the top ranked team in the RPI and they've done a good job so far of not allowing the issues swirling around their head coach to affect their play. Three Volunteers are averaging double figures in scoring with freshman forward Tobias Harris (16.7 ppg) and junior guard Scotty Hopson (16.3 ppg) leading the way. Cameron Tatum has been the underrated member of the Tennessee perimeter as he's got the highest overall offensive rating and plus/minus on the team, and point guard Melvin Goins has improved at the point. One area that's helped out Tennessee offensively, despite going into Saturday's game with an offensive efficiency about 16 points lower than Pittsburgh's, is their ability to get to the foul line. Tennessee has a free throw rate of 58.7 and 28.6% of their points come from the charity stripe.

The good news for Pitt is that they're averaging only seventeen fouls per game, and while they've only forced thirteen turnovers per game Tennessee is handing it over sixteen times on the average. The Panthers have been a far better team offensively than recent editions, as junior guard Ashton Gibbs leads the team with an average of more than seventeen per game. But the true "star", if there's any such thing for this team, would have to be Brad Wanamaker. Wanamaker is averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 assists per game, and he'll be a key figure against the Tennessee pressure. The junior is turning the ball just over two times per game and his steady decision-making has been a factor in the Panthers' success. Gibbs, Wanamaker and Travon Woodall are the perimeter players that Jamie Dixon will rely on to handle the Tennessee pressure with a minimal number of turnovers. The one area where Pitt may enjoy a solid edge is in the frontcourt, especially when considering the depth of the two teams.

Brian Williams shoulders a large part of the rebounding responsibilities with an average of eight boards per game, while the others chip in by committee. That's been good enough for a rebounding margin of plus-9.3, but that's nowhere near the early dominance that the Panthers have displayed on the glass. Pittsburgh has a rebounding margin of plus-16.7 on the season, which is impressive despite the fact that the Vols have played a tougher schedule to date. Gary McGhee, widely regarded as the best defensive big man in the Big East, is grabbing a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game and six Pitt players average at least 4.7 rebounds per game. Dante Taylor posted his first double-double of the season in Pitt's win over Delaware State, but this is no MEAC squad they're going up against. That being considered, when you add to these two the likes of Gilbert Brown (who's an athletic wing who can attack the basket), Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna you've got a deep group who can give the Vols fits inside.

Tennessee's hopes for victory hinge largely on two factors: their ability to turn the Panthers over, and how competitive they can be on the glass. Besides Williams, Bruce Pearl can call on the likes of John Fields and Kenny Hall but with Hall averaging just six minutes per game not much has been expected from him there. That may have to change on Saturday, and overall every Volunteer will need to attack the glass (especially on the defensive end) for forty minutes. Pitt's been the better offensive team and a big reason for that has been their willingness to share the basketball, averaging 20 assists per game (assisting on 67% of their field goals). Tennessee's percentage isn't bad (57%) but they've got guys who can at times decide to go on their own offensively. They'll need good shot selection since the Panther defense does a good job of not allowing opponents to create off the dribble without having to deal with a significant amount of help. Look for this to be an exciting matchup between two teams with the ability to make some noise as the season wears on.

In other matchups Saturday Gonzaga heads to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in a game they may need in regards to possible at-large hopes. Steven Gray was kept under wraps by Washington State's Marcus Capers earlier this week but he won't see an on-ball defender that good on Saturday, which could mean a return to normal for the senior. But Mark Few needs Elias Harris to return to the form that made him one of the nation's best freshmen a season ago. They're a marginal NCAA Tournament team when he's not playing to his full potential, and to this point in the season you could even argue that they're an NIT team.

Two of the best teams out west meet in Salt Lake City as Arizona looks to avenge last year's loss to BYU that featured Jimmer Fredette scoring a McKale Center record 49 points, Indiana visits Kentucky in a big rivalry game and Washington goes to Texas A&M in a game the Aggies could definitely use. Wisconsin going to Marquette is another very good matchup, especially considering how big that rivalry is along with the Golden Eagles' need for a resume-bolstering win. And if matchups between top teams from non-BCS leagues is what you like to watch, VCU visits Richmond and Rhode Island visits NEC favorite Quinnipiac.

Top 25
12:00 PM Saint Louis at (1) Duke (CBS)
3:15 PM (13) Tennessee vs. (3) Pittsburgh* (ESPN)
6:30 PM Colorado State vs. (4) Kansas* (ESPN2)
4:00 PM (5) Kansas State at Loyola (IL) (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Colgate at (7) Syracuse (ESPN3)
12:30 PM (8) Michigan State vs. Oakland*
5:00 PM Presbyterian at (11) Missouri (ESPN3)
10:00 PM San Diego at (15) San Diego State
5:15 PM Indiana at (16) Kentucky (ESPN)
6:30 PM North Florida at (18) Purdue (BTN)
12:00 PM (19) UNLV at Louisville (ESPNU)
1:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at (20) Minnesota (BTN)
6:00 PM Arizona at (21) Brigham Young
4:30 PM (22) Washington at Texas A&M (ESPN2)
8:30 PM Gonzaga at (23) Notre Dame (ESPN2)
4:00 PM Texas State at (25) Texas (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
12:30 PM Auburn vs. Rutgers*(ESPN2)
1:00 PM Longwood at Virginia Military
1:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at IPFW
2:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Arizona State
2:00 PM Delaware State at Delaware
2:00 PM Boston University at Harvard
2:00 PM USC Upstate at North Carolina State
2:00 PM TCU at Nebraska (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Iona
2:00 PM Green Bay at Buffalo
2:00 PM Detroit at Eastern Michigan
2:00 PM Lafayette at Long Island
2:00 PM Binghamton at Manhattan
2:00 PM Alabama at Providence (ESPNU)
2:00 PM Sacred Heart at Stony Brook
2:05 PM Southern Illinois at Western Kentucky
2:30 PM Wisconsin at Marquette (ESPN2)
3:00 PM Oral Roberts at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Murray State at Chattanooga
3:00 PM Mississippi at Arkansas-Little Rock
3:00 PM Rhode Island at Quinnipiac
3:00 PM Tusculum at Wright State
4:00 PM Northern Arizona at USC
4:00 PM Savannah State at Georgia Tech
4:00 PM Bryant University at Columbia
4:00 PM Niagara at St. Bonaventure
4:00 PM W. Virginia Tech at Coppin State
4:00 PM Rider at Drexel
4:00 PM Florida Atlantic at Hofstra
4:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Loyola (MD)
4:00 PM Louisiana Tech at McNeese State
4:00 PM Hartford at Monmouth
4:30 PM Troy at Miami (OH)
4:30 PM Milligan at Charleston Southern
4:30 PM Montreat College at North Carolina-Asheville
4:30 PM Cleveland State at Sam Houston State
5:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at UCF
5:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Samford
5:00 PM Hannibal-LaGrange at Southeast Missouri State
5:00 PM Southern Miss at CS Monterey Bay
6:00 PM Grambling State vs. Central Arkansas*
6:00 PM Portland at Denver
7:00 PM Seton Hall at Massachusetts
7:00 PM Long Beach State at North Carolina
7:00 PM Army at Dartmouth
7:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at Houston
7:00 PM Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond
7:00 PM Brewton Parker at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Dayton at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Albany
7:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Butler
7:00 PM Charlotte at Davidson
7:00 PM Western Illinois at Eastern Illinois
7:00 PM St. John's at Fordham
7:00 PM George Mason at Liberty
7:00 PM Towson at UMBC
7:00 PM Centenary at Louisiana-Monroe
7:00 PM James Madison at Radford
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Wofford at South Carolina
7:00 PM St. Peter's at Wagner
7:00 PM Valparaiso at Toledo
7:05 PM Saint Joseph's at Creighton (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Warner Southern at Florida A&M
8:00 PM Cal Poly at UCLA
8:00 PM Central Michigan at LSU
8:00 PM Missouri State at Oklahoma State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Jackson State at North Texas
8:00 PM East Tennessee State at Mississippi State
8:00 PM Utah Valley at Cincinnati
8:00 PM Western Michigan at Georgia State
8:00 PM San Francisco St. at Nevada
8:00 PM North Dakota at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Idaho at Seattle
8:00 PM Kennesaw State at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM Milwaukee at South Dakota State
8:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Southern University
8:00 PM Lipscomb at Tennessee Tech
8:05 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Evansville
8:05 PM Alabama State at Arkansas State
8:05 PM Illinois-Chicago at Illinois State
8:05 PM Huston-Tillotson at Lamar
8:05 PM Morehead State at Northern Iowa
8:15 PM Chicago State at Stephen F. Austin
8:30 PM Ball State at DePaul
8:30 PM Fontbonne at Austin Peay
9:00 PM New Mexico State at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Utah State
9:00 PM North Carolina Central at Air Force
9:05 PM UMKC at Idaho State
9:35 PM Weber State at Southern Utah
10:00 PM Pepperdine at Fresno State
10:00 PM Stanislaus State at Pacific
10:00 PM South Dakota at Loyola Marymount
10:00 PM Willamette at Oregon
12:00 AM Hawaii Pacific at Hawaii