College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

    
December 2nd, 2010
While much of the nation turns its attention to the soap opera that is the return of LeBron James to Cleveland, there are three more games in the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood series in addition to some key conference games as we approach that part of the season. Arizona State heading to Waco to take on Baylor may be the Pac 10's best chance of picking up a win tonight, although Mac Court should be in frenzy with Missouri visiting Eugene. Herb Sendek's team has had some good opportunities to pick up decent resume wins thus far, although win over Weber State in the semis of the Great Alaska Shootout is outweighed by losses to New Mexico and St. John's. That makes this week a big one for Arizona State, as they host Richmond on Sunday in addition to tonight's tilt. There's some experience and talent on hand for them with the likes of Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Trent Lockett to help shepherd a talented freshman class led by Keala King.

But while there's definitely talent in Tempe, do they have enough perimeter shooting ability (and passing) to navigate one of the tougher zone defenses in America? Baylor head coach Scott Drew takes full advantage of the wingspan of his frontcourt, with Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones and Perry Jones being the players getting the most minutes. Both Acy and Perry Jones are averaging more than nine rebounds per game, a large part of their rebounding margin of over +11 rebounds per game. Baylor's best scoring threat is obviously senior shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn, who leads the team in scoring with an average of 22 points per game (he's only played in two games due to suspension). But Dunn, whose action has come against Lipscomb and Prairie View A&M, will be facing a tougher opponent tonight. Rust most certainly wasn't an issue for him in those two contests but maybe Arizona State can make things tougher for him. They'll need to if they're to pull off the road upset.

Arizona State has already played at The Pit this season so they should be fine in regards to dealing with the Bear Pit, but the more important question is how their youngsters go about dealing with the Baylor zone. The Sun Devils have a turnover rate of 20.1% but through five games Baylor opponents have a rate of 26.5% and the length of their zone defense has a lot to do with that. Something else to keep an eye on in regards to turnovers and their effect will be the number of possessions. The Bears currently average 19 turnovers per game, but due to the level of opposition as well as their 74 possessions per game they haven't paid the price for such transgressions as of yet. If Arizona State can not only force turnovers but turn the Baylor miscues into points they'll have a shot at leaving with a win few expect them to grab. But that's easier said that done against a team of Baylor's quality.

UCLA going to Kansas represents a major resume-building opportunity for Ben Howland's team, and it could be one they need a little more thanks to a solid win over Pacific looking worse by the game and VCU (a quality loss) falling at USF last night. And given the critique of his frontcourt following Saturday night's win over Arizona it will be interesting to see if Bill Self's statements got through to the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson. UCLA freshman Josh Smith will have his hands full tonight but at least he's got the tough Reeves Nelson there to help out. Solid matchups in the Southern (Davidson visits Charleston) and Northeast (Robert Morris visits LIU in a battle of expected contenders) conferences are also on tap, making for a decent night of college hoops.

Top 25
9:00 PM UCLA at (4) Kansas (ESPN)
11:00 PM (8) Missouri at Oregon (FSN)
7:00 PM Arizona State at (10) Baylor (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Brown at Hartford
7:00 PM Centenary at IUPUI
7:00 PM Bryant University at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM Davidson at Charleston
7:00 PM Appalachian State at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at High Point
7:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Kent State
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Long Island
7:00 PM St. Peter's at Loyola (MD)
7:00 PM Rider at Manhattan
7:00 PM Southern Utah at Oakland
7:00 PM North Carolina-Asheville at Radford
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Sacred Heart
7:00 PM Fairfield at Savannah State
7:00 PM St. Francis (PA) at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM Georgia Southern at Citadel
7:00 PM Winthrop at Virginia Military
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Wofford
7:00 PM UMKC at IPFW
7:15 PM Stetson at Jacksonville
7:45 PM Tennessee-Martin at Morehead State
7:45 PM Florida Gulf Coast at North Florida
8:00 PM Valparaiso at Illinois-Chicago
8:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at Texas A&M (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Grambling State at North Texas
8:00 PM Youngstown State at Milwaukee
8:00 PM Murray State at Eastern Kentucky (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Central Baptist Coll at Northwestern State
8:00 PM Western Carolina at Samford
8:00 PM Cleveland State at Green Bay
8:15 PM Mercer at Belmont
8:30 PM Northern Illinois at DePaul (ESPN3)
8:30 PM Tennessee State at Eastern Illinois
8:30 PM Austin Peay at Southeast Missouri State
9:00 PM Cal State Northridge at Air Force
9:00 PM Presbyterian at Liberty
9:00 PM Oral Roberts at Western Illinois
10:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at UC Riverside
10:05 PM BYU Hawaii at Long Beach State