College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

February 5th, 2011

There's just one game on Saturday matching ranked teams and surprisingly it comes in the SEC, where #11 Kentucky (16-5, 4-3) heads south to take on #23 Florida (17-5, 6-2). And while the SEC East has shown itself to be somewhat wide-open, John Calipari's young Wildcats would be well-served to win this one and avoid falling behind the Gators by two games in the loss column. But Kentucky also has just one road win in conference play (South Carolina) and they'll have their hands full with a talented group of Gators. Florida's fortunes tend to rise and fall with the play of guards Kenny Boynton (13.0 ppg, 2.5 apg) and Erving Walker (14.5 ppg, 3.3 apt), a pair of jet-quick guards who can both amaze and mystify head coach Billy Donovan on alternating possessions.

When these two make sound decisions, understanding the balance between hunting for their own shots and setting up the likes of Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin, the Gators are a tough team to beat. In four of Florida's five losses Walker has had either as many or more turnovers than assists while that's been the case for Boynton in each of the five defeats. Parsons leads the team in rebounding with an average of 7.5 per game, and with Macklin, Alex Tyus and Patric Young also available the Gators (rebounding margin of plus-7.1) could prove to be a handful on the glass for a Kentucky frontcourt that isn't as deep.

That means that Josh Harrellson (5.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Terrence Jones (17.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) will need to play consistently on both ends of the floor as they've proven to be the Wildcats' two most consistent players inside. Harrellson doesn't have the hype or the scoring ability of Jones but he gets the job done for this group, and in five of Kentucky's seven conference games he's grabbed at least seven rebounds. Jones, the McDonald's All-American, can alternate between being unstoppable and being disinterested and such inconsistency will get Kentucky in trouble at the O'Connell Center. Guard Darius Miller will also contribute on the boards with an average of nearly five rebounds per game and he'll need to do so if the Wildcats are to leave Gainesville with a win.

And on the perimeter Kentucky has more than enough talent to keep up with Florida, as players such as Brandon Knight (17.2 ppg, 3.8 apt) and Doron Lamb (14.2 ppg) have matured as the season's worn on. Junior DeAndre Liggins has proven to be one of the best defenders in the nation, and as his confidence has grown throughout his career so has his offensive production. Kentucky's been the more efficient offensive team this season and they've also been the better team in regards to defensive efficiency, and they'll need to bring more of the same to the table Saturday night.

The SEC East race has provided its fair share of surprises due in large part to issues such as youth (Kentucky), inconsistency (Florida) and off-court issues (Tennessee), but the winner in Gainesville takes an important first step towards a division title or at the very least one of the two first-round byes afforded each division in the SEC Tournament. Florida plays an averages of three fewer possessions per game but they've got the athletes needed to run with Kentucky. The reason why the Gators may be better served in a slower game: that inconsistency issue noted above.

If Boynton and Walker can make sound decisions with the basketball this becomes a tough game for the young Wildcats to win. But if they don't the door opens, and Jones, Knight and Lamb are three of the players who can get it done offensively. If Kentucky can do this in addition to keep the Gator big men off the offensive boards (offensive rebound rate 39.4%) look out. Look for the prime time contest to be a hotly contested battle that isn't decided until late.

In other action on Saturday UNLV visits BYU in a game the Rebels can use in regards to their resume, because even with a solid non-conference schedule and a close victory over New Mexico Lon Kruger's team needs a marquee victory soon. Jimmer Fredette, who traditionally had a problem with UNLV's defense in Provo, went off in the first meeting and Jackson Emery added 22 in the Cougars' victory in Las Vegas last month. The key for UNLV will be their offensive efficiency; when Tre'Von Willis, Chace Stanback, Oscar Bellfield and Anthony Marshall are all clicking the Rebels are a tough team to beat. But far too often this season guys have struggled offensively and that's gotten UNLV in trouble. West Virginia visits Villanova in a matchup of 6-3 Big East teams, and it remains to be seen if the suspended Casey Mitchell plays any for the Mountaineers (he did make the trip). WVU has played better since his removal from the lineup but they'll have their hands full with Villanova's perimeter attack. And if Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou perform well inside things become that much tougher for West Virginia in Philadelphia.

Connecticut needs to be on upset alert at Seton Hall because even though the Pirates were horrific in their loss at West Virginia on Wednesday they have the offensive weapons needed to go off on any given night, and Pac-10 leaders Arizona (at California) and Washington (at Oregon) need to be ready to play as well. Important games from a bubble standpoint include Baylor visiting Texas A&M, Temple hosting Rhode Island, Memphis playing Gonzaga at Spokane Arena and Old Dominion visiting a hot George Mason club in a game that also holds importance in regards to the CAA title race. Northwestern hosts Illinois in a game the Illini need in order to keep moving towards a return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season, and Quinnipiac visits Long Island in a matchup of two of the hotter teams in the NEC. 

Top 25
4:00 PM (2) Kansas at Nebraska (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Texas Tech at (3) Texas (ESPNU)
6:00 PM Cincinnati at (4) Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
6:00 PM North Carolina State at (5) Duke (ESPN)
10:30 PM TCU at (6) San Diego State (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM (7) Connecticut at Seton Hall (ESPNU)
4:00 PM UNLV at (9) Brigham Young
9:00 PM (11) Kentucky at (23) Florida (ESPN)
12:00 PM West Virginia at (12) Villanova (ESPN)
8:00 PM DePaul at (13) Louisville (ESPN3)
12:00 PM Providence at (14) Georgetown (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Colorado at (15) Missouri (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Baylor at (16) Texas A&M (ESPN)
2:00 PM (17) Syracuse at South Florida (ESPN3)
4:00 PM (19) Washington at Oregon (FSN)
9:00 PM Boise State at (21) Utah State
8:00 PM (22) Arizona at California
1:00 PM (24) Illinois at Northwestern (CBS)
1:30 PM South Carolina at (24) Vanderbilt (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Saint Louis at Xavier (ESPNU)
12:00 PM VCU at James Madison
12:00 PM Butler at Cleveland State (ESPN2)
1:00 PM St. John's at UCLA (CBS)
1:00 PM Clemson at Georgia Tech
1:00 PM Virginia Tech at Boston College
1:00 PM Wake Forest at Maryland (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Samford at Georgia Southern
1:00 PM Holy Cross at Lafayette
1:00 PM Northern Iowa at Drake (ESPNU)
1:00 PM Richmond at Fordham
1:30 PM Auburn at Georgia (ESPN3)
1:30 PM Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (ESPN3)
1:45 PM Kansas State at Iowa State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Rhode Island at Temple (ESPN2)
2:00 PM Buffalo at Ball State
2:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Detroit
2:00 PM Old Dominion at George Mason
2:00 PM Virginia at Miami (FL)
2:00 PM Winthrop at North Carolina-Asheville
2:00 PM George Washington at Charlotte
2:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Western Carolina
2:00 PM Longwood at N.J.I.T.
3:00 PM Northern Illinois at Ohio
3:00 PM UTEP at Rice
3:00 PM Green Bay at Milwaukee (ESPNU)
3:00 PM Bryant University at Saint Francis (PA)
3:00 PM UAB at Tulane
3:05 PM Bradley at Southern Illinois
3:05 PM Evansville at Creighton (ESPN3)
3:05 PM Indiana State at Missouri State
3:15 PM Lipscomb at Jacksonville
4:00 PM Iowa at Indiana (ESPN2)
4:00 PM Mississippi State at LSU (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Georgia State at Towson
4:00 PM Furman at Charleston
4:00 PM Colgate at Army
4:00 PM Memphis vs. Gonzaga* (ESPN)
4:00 PM Northeastern at Hofstra
4:00 PM South Alabama at Middle Tennessee
4:30 PM North Carolina Central at Howard
4:30 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Western Kentucky
4:30 PM Virginia Military at Coastal Carolina
4:30 PM Coppin State at Bethune-Cookman
4:30 PM Liberty at Charleston Southern
4:30 PM Miami (OH) at Eastern Michigan
4:30 PM Quinnipiac at Long Island
4:30 PM Norfolk State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
4:30 PM Campbell at Mercer
4:30 PM Sacred Heart at St. Francis (NY)
5:00 PM UCF at East Carolina
5:00 PM Western Michigan at Bowling Green
5:00 PM Nicholls State at Texas State
5:00 PM Central Michigan at Kent State
5:00 PM Grambling State at Southern University
5:00 PM Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN3)
5:30 PM Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State
5:30 PM South Dakota State at Centenary
6:00 PM Mississippi at Arkansas (ESPN2)
6:00 PM Arizona State at Stanford (FSN)
6:00 PM Columbia at Yale
6:00 PM Dartmouth at Princeton
6:00 PM Cornell at Brown
6:00 PM South Carolina State at Hampton
6:00 PM Dayton at La Salle (CBS College)
6:00 PM Marshall at Southern Miss
6:05 PM Montana State at Weber State
6:30 PM Morgan State at Florida A&M
6:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama State
6:30 PM Jackson State at Alcorn State
7:00 PM Oakland at IUPUI
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Duquesne at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Harvard at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM William & Mary at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Hartford at Albany
7:00 PM Navy at Bucknell
7:00 PM Chattanooga at Davidson
7:00 PM Appalachian State at Elon
7:00 PM Presbyterian at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Radford at High Point
7:00 PM Belmont at North Florida
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Massachusetts at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM McNeese State at Stephen F. Austin
7:00 PM Wofford at Citadel
7:00 PM Akron at Toledo
7:00 PM Monmouth at Wagner
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Wright State
7:00 PM New Hampshire at Binghamton
7:05 PM Valparaiso at Youngstown State
7:30 PM Mississippi Valley State at Alabama A&M
7:30 PM North Carolina A&T at Delaware State
7:30 PM Southeast Missouri State at Eastern Illinois
7:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Texas Southern
8:00 PM Drexel at Delaware
8:00 PM Houston at Tulsa
8:00 PM Washington State at Oregon State
8:00 PM Air Force at Utah (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM Northwestern State at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Denver at Arkansas State
8:00 PM Florida International at Florida Atlantic
8:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Sam Houston State
8:00 PM Loyola Marymount at Saint Mary's (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Lamar at Texas-San Antonio
8:00 PM IPFW at Western Illinois
8:00 PM Colorado State at Wyoming (CBS College)
8:05 PM North Dakota State at Oral Roberts (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Illinois State at Wichita State
8:30 PM Montana at Northern Arizona
8:45 PM Murray State at Austin Peay (ESPN3)
8:45 PM Utah Valley at Houston Baptist
9:00 PM Chicago State at Texas-Pan American
9:00 PM Pepperdine at San Diego
9:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Tennessee State
9:00 PM Morehead State at Tennessee Tech
9:05 PM Eastern Washington at Idaho State
9:05 PM UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton
9:05 PM Portland State at Northern Colorado
9:30 PM North Dakota at South Dakota
9:30 PM UMKC at Southern Utah
10:00 PM Pacific at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Hawaii at Idaho
10:00 PM Santa Clara at San Francisco
10:05 PM UC Irvine at Cal State Northridge
10:10 PM Portland at Seattle
10:30 PM San Jose State at Nevada
10:30 PM UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara
11:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Fresno State (ESPNU)