College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

    
February 15th, 2011
First place (or at least a share of it) is on the line in Richmond as a red-hot George Mason visits VCU. Jim Larranaga's Patriots have won 11 straight games with just one of those wins being by single digits (won by two at James Madison) and none of the other 10 games were decided by less than 14 points. A 12th straight win would clinch at least a share of the CAA regular season crown for the Patriots, and given their splits with both Hofstra and Old Dominion the top seed in next month's CAA Tournament is the likely reward. Their challenge tonight will be to take care of the basketball against a team that leads the conference in turnovers forced per game.

VCU forces opponents to turn the ball over 15 times per game, and their turnover percentage of 23.7% also leads the conference. Point guard Joey Rodriguez runs the show and the Rams also have a number of solid perimeter players who can ramp up the pressure on both ends of the floor. Six guards play at least 15 minutes per game for VCU with Bradford Burgess (14.1 ppg) and Brandon Rozzell (12.7) being the best scorers in addition to Rodriguez. Ed Nixon's started 23 games this season, and Rob Brandenburg, Juvonte Reddic and Darius Theus are all young perimeter players who can make things happen as well.

But George Mason has an experienced backcourt led by Andre Cornelius and Cam Long. Cornelius may average a shade less than 10 points per game but if left alone he can make teams pay, as he did at UNCW last week with 25 points. Long leads the team in scoring and knocks down 43% of his shots from beyond the arc, and wing Luke Hancock leads Mason in assists in addition to scoring 11 points and grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game. His versatility makes him a tough cover but given the familiarity these two teams have VCU will know his skill set and what to expect.

The frontcourt will be where the best individual matchup takes place, as George Mason's Ryan Pearson (14.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) faces VCU's Jamie Skeen (14.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg). There are a lot of similarities between the two when it comes to statistics but Skeen turns the ball over at a lower rate than Pearson, something to keep in mind should VCU ever decide to send a double-team at the 6'6" senior. Skeen has also raised his scoring by six points from last season, and the Wake Forest transfer has become one of the best players in the CAA in his final go-round. The interior play overall may determine the outcome as George Mason's been the better rebounding team of the two this season. While they don't have anyone with an average as high as Skeen's, the Patriots do have four players averaging at least four rebounds per game.

In other games tonight Villanova visits Seton Hall and they'll once again be without Corey Stokes due to turf toe, making that contest an upset possibility. The Pirates went into Saturday's game at Rutgers on the opposite side of the spectrum, having to kick Jamel Jackson and Keon Lawrence off the team while the Scarlet Knights were coming off of their win over Villanova. Then a smaller team seemed to become a more united one as the Pirates won at the RAC. They'll need a similar effort from Jeremy Hazell and company if they're to beat Villanova. Michigan State visits Ohio State in desperate need of a marquee conference victory to salvage their NCAA hopes, and the same goes for a young Maryland squad that visits Virginia Tech. Lastly, St. John's visits Marquette with the visitors in much better shape to grab an at-large bid, and Marquette needs to begin closing out close games if they're to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Top 25
9:00 PM Michigan State at (3) Ohio State (ESPN)
8:00 PM (14) Villanova at Seton Hall (ESPN3/SNY)
8:00 PM Wake Forest at (19) North Carolina (ESON3)
7:00 PM Texas Tech at (21) Missouri (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Mississippi State at (22) Kentucky (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Delaware at Northeastern
7:00 PM James Madison at Towson
7:00 PM Akron at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Georgia State at Old Dominion
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Drexel at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Toledo at Ball State
7:00 PM Ohio at Buffalo (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Winthrop at High Point
7:00 PM William & Mary at Hofstra
7:00 PM Kennesaw State at Mercer
7:00 PM Miami (FL) at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Presbyterian at Radford
7:00 PM George Mason at VCU (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Liberty at VMI
7:30 PM UMBC at Boston University
7:30 PM UNC Asheville at Charleston Southern
8:00 PM Austin Peay at Jacksonville State
8:00 PM Wayland Baptist Univ at Baylor
8:00 PM Maryland at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Texas State at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Oral Roberts at Centenary
8:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Eastern Illinois
8:00 PM Western Michigan at Northern Illinois
8:00 PM Butler at Green Bay (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Northern Iowa at Bradley
8:05 PM Wichita State at Evansville
8:05 PM Drake at Missouri State
9:00 PM St. John's at Marquette (ESPNU)
10:00 PM Montana State at San Jose State
10:10 PM UC Davis at Seattle
10:30 PM Air Force at UNLV (The Mtn.)