College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

November 19th, 2011

While college basketball will take a back seat to college football there are some attractive games on the schedule, led by a beat-up Louisville team visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on Butler. The Cardinals have already lost Wayne Blackshear (probably out until February) and Mike Marra (season), and there's the definite possiblity that Peyton Siva (ankle) could sit out as well. At the very least the point guard from Seattle will be limited in his mobility, and the lack of depth at the point could get Rick Pitino's team in trouble today. 

These two schools met last season in the first regular season game of the KFC Yum! Center, and the Cardinals jumped Butler from the start on their way to an 88-73 victory. Could Brad Stevens' team use that as a motivating factor? Possibly, but it's more likely that the Bulldogs concern themselves with the task at hand and that should be more than enough fuel. Butler has one of the better defensive point guards in the country in senior Ronald Nored, and with the injury issues facing Louisville at the position could lend itself to more turnovers. 

Who takes over at the point should Siva be unable to go? It may not be the responsibility of just one player, but more of a shared responsibility for Elisha Justice and players such as Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith. Now neither Kuric nor Smith is a true point guard, but they would help in helping to initiate Rick Pitino's offense. Redshirt freshman Russ Smith may fit the role from a size standpoint but he's really a two-guard with a point guard's build. Look for Butler to attempt to exploit this should Siva not be able to go, as the Cardinals averages as many turnovers (16.5) as assists (16.5) through two games. 

As for Butler, one key difference between this group and last season from a statistical standpoint has been their three-point shooting. With Zach Hahn and Shelvin Mack moving on, the Bulldogs have lost a substantial amount of that firepower from beyond the arc, and they've shot just 30.4% to date. They'll rely more on the play of Andrew Smith and Chrishawn Hopkins, with Smith being the leading scoring option inside and Hopkins possessing the ability to beat his man off the dribble.

Smith and Khyle Marshall are both well over 60% shooting from the field but the other three starters (Hopkins, Nored and Chase Stigall) all have field goal percentages below 40%. Butler will look to keep this game played in the half court as opposed to playing into the hands of the Louisville press, and if they can do that it will be a slugfest at Hinkle. How will Louisville handle one of the best environments in college basketball? That all likely depends on the health of their leader. If Siva's OK to go, Louisville predictably will be in much better shape. 

Another big game Saturday will be played in San Diego as Long Beach State looks to build on their win at Pittsburgh against San Diego State. The Aztecs needed a length of the floor drive from Xavier Thames to beat USC earlier this week, and their loss came at Baylor during the college hoops marathon. Casper Ware is one of the best point guards in the country, something that west coast hoops fans knew well before what happened at The Pete, and SDSU has a very good perimeter player in Jamaal Franklin (and senior James Rahon provides perimeter shooting and a steady hand at the point).

Keep an eye on the offensive rebounding, especially for SDSU. Just because Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White have moved on doesn't mean that Steve Fisher's team has moved away from it's resolve to crash the offensive glass. SDSU has an offensive rebound percentage of 36.5%, but that's lower than Long Beach State's percentage (41%) thanks to the likes of T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps. Robinson averages 4.5 offensive rebounds per game, and the activity for both teams in this department should make for an entertaining contest. 

Also of note is the Ticket City Legends Classic, with Vanderbilt taking on an NC State team looking to make a statement in the first season of the Mark Gottfried era, and a matchup of two of the best guards around in the nightcap. J'Covan Brown (Texas) and Jared Cunningham (Oregon State) have both posted games of 30-plus points this season, and Cunningham is one of the best perimeter athletes in the country. Is Craig Robinson's team ready to make a move in the Pac-12? We're likely to receive an answer this weekend. There's also a consolation bracket game in the Paradise Jam between Drexel and Virginia, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many fans who thought that these teams would be staring down the specter of going 0-2 to start the event. And Kentucky takes on Penn State at Mohegan Sun Arena, and while Pat Chambers' team has the opportunity to make a major statement it's tough to see that happening against the talented Wildcats.  

Top 25
12:00 PM Penn State vs. (2) Kentucky* (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Colgate at (5) Syracuse
2:00 PM (7) Louisville at Butler (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Wofford at (13) Wisconsin (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Presbyterian at (20) Cincinnati
6:30 PM (20) Vanderbilt vs. NC State* (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Hawaii vs. (23) Gonzaga*

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Charlotte at Lamar
12:30 PM Buffalo at Princeton
2:00 PM Southern Illinois at Northeastern
2:00 PM USF vs. Old Dominion* (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Army at Central Connecticut State
2:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Dayton
2:00 PM Navy at Quinnipiac
2:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at SMU
3:00 PM St. Leo at Stetson
3:00 PM Cal State Northridge at Boise State
3:00 PM Montana State at Utah
3:00 PM James Madison at La Salle
3:05 PM Oakland City at Evansville
3:30 PM Drexel vs. Virginia*
3:30 PM Towson vs. Belmont*
4:00 PM Cal Poly at USC
4:00 PM Quincy at Illinois-Chicago
4:00 PM Troy at East Tennessee State
4:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Hofstra
4:00 PM Florida A&M at Providence
4:00 PM Oakland at Grambling State
4:30 PM Long Beach State at San Diego State
4:30 PM Eastern Kentucky vs. William & Mary*
5:00 PM Hartford at Brown
5:00 PM Sacred Heart at Richmond
5:05 PM Lipscomb at Illinois State
5:30 PM USC Upstate vs. Toledo*
6:00 PM Akron vs. Duquesne*
6:00 PM Nicholls State vs. Houston Baptist*
6:00 PM Vermont vs. Marist*
6:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Middle Tennessee
6:00 PM San Francisco at Seattle
6:00 PM UMBC at VMI
6:00 PM Drake vs. Winthrop*
7:00 PM Alabama State at Jacksonville State
7:00 PM Siena at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Bryant University at Dartmouth
7:00 PM American University at Columbia
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM Charleston at Clemson (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Northwestern State at Marshall
7:00 PM Wagner at Lafayette
7:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Bucknell
7:00 PM George Mason at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM Alcorn State at Kent State
7:00 PM Lehigh at Liberty
7:00 PM North Florida at Miami (FL)
7:00 PM Chicago State at North Carolina A&T
7:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Southeastern Louisiana
7:00 PM Rochester Coll at Tennessee-Martin
7:30 PM Weber State at UC Irvine
7:30 PM Milligan at Charleston Southern
7:30 PM Gardner-Webb at South Carolina State
8:00 PM North Dakota at Bradley
8:00 PM Savannah State at Indiana (BTN)
8:00 PM UTEP at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Texas State at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Long Island vs. Radford*
8:00 PM Appalachian State at Tennessee Tech
8:00 PM Wyoming at Green Bay (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Austin Peay at Oral Roberts
8:05 PM Emporia State at Missouri State
8:30 PM Cal State Fullerton at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM Oakwood at Alabama A&M
8:30 PM Indiana-Kokomo at Valparaiso
9:00 PM Southern Miss at Colorado State
9:00 PM Texas vs. Oregon State* (LHN)
9:00 PM Southern Utah at Utah State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM UMKC at Utah Valley
9:30 PM Harvard at Loyola Marymount
10:00 PM San Jose State at Santa Clara
10:00 PM Pepperdine at Cal State Bakersfield