College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

November 22nd, 2011

After both teams won their semifinal games at the CBE Classic in blowout fashion, Missouri (4-0) and California (4-0) should have a stiffer challenge on their hands as they play for the championship in Kansas City. Neither team has much of an issue with playing fast. but given their roots in the "40 Minutes of Hell" system used by former coach Mike Anderson the Tigers could be at an advantage if the pace becomes frenetic. The tricky thing for Missouri is to find a way to speed up the Golden Bears, whose experienced backcourt made the difference as their game against Georgia progressed. 

Senior Jorge Gutierrez (13.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.3 apg) is the leader for Mike Montgomery, and while noted for his defense and toughness the Chihuahua, Mexico native has improved each year on the offensive end as well. Point guards Brandon Smith and Justin Cobbs bring slightly different games to the table, with the Minnesota transfer Cobbs being the more attack-minded of the two when it comes to scoring. And in sophomore Allen Crabbe the Golden Bears have one of the better scorers around, but he hasn't been too big on forcing opponents to foul (no foul shots attempted this season).

Cal only averages 2.5 fewer possessions per game than Missouri, but the one concern is that they're also averaging nearly five more turnovers per game than the Tigers. Under Frank Haith Missouri hasn't employed the 94 feet of pressure that was a trademark of the Anderson era, but they remain a difficult team to deal with defensively due to their speed. Missouri averages eleven steals per game and they had ten against Notre Dame, and Tiger opponents average a shade under 16 turnovers per game.

When jet-quick guards like Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon Jr. are allowed to attack in odd-man situations it's a safe bet that Missouri will get points out of the exchange. The lack of interior depth is a concern as senior Ricardo Ratliffe is essentially their lone big man due to the season-ending injury suffered by Laurence Bowers, but Denmon (6.0 rpg) and Kim English (5.3 rpg) have been two of the Tigers helping out on the glass. Cal will have a size advantage with Harper Kamp, Richard Solomon and freshman David Kravish, but will they be physical enough to pound Missouri into submission? That's unlikely, unless they get Ratliffe into foul trouble early.

Keep an eye on the efficiency numbers especially for Cal defensively tonight. Missouri's got an offensive efficiency rating of 121.0 on the season, but Golden Bear opponents have posted an average of just 79.3 through four games. That number can be a little difficult to read into at this stage in the season, but the Bears have the ability to make things difficult on the Tigers. Turnover margin will also be key, because as noted above too many opportunities for Missouri to get out and run would prove fatal for California. 

In other action the semifinals of the Maui Invitational will also receive a great deal of attention, with Michigan taking on Duke and UCLA playing Kansas. The Wolverines were very impressive on both ends of the floor against Memphis after a slow start, and their style gave Duke fits in the third round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshman guard trey Burke played well on Monday for Michigan while Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry were two of the standouts for the Blue Devils in their win over Tennessee. As for the nightcap, the outcome will likely depend on which UCLA team shows up. Sure they were motivated in beating Chaminade, but to be fair it's easier to look motivated when things are going your way. The big men will have their hands full with Kansas' Thomas Robinson. 

The two games in Cancun should also be interesting, with Rutgers taking on Illinois State and Illinois playing Richmond. There have been good reports on the progress of Illini big man Meyers Leonard, and if he can emerge as an option to go along with D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul this will be an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. The two games will also serve as a solid measurement of the early growth of Mike Rice's Scarlet Knights, with sophomores Gil Biruta and Mike Poole being key players also with junior Dane Miller and their many freshmen. And Cal Poly will be looking for the upset at UNLV, but the Rebels' Mike Moser has been outstanding thus far.

Tuesday's Schedule
SIUE vs. Lipscomb 1:30 pm
Memphis vs. Tennessee 2:00 pm (ESPN2)
Sacred Heart vs. Hampton 4:00 pm
South Dakota St. vs. Sam Houston 4:30 pm
Georgetown at Chaminade 4:30 pm
Monmouth vs. Brown 5:00 pm
George Washington vs. Austin Peay 5:00 pm
UAPB vs. SMU 6:00 pm
Ecclesia at Central Arkansas 6:00 pm
Canisius at Buffalo 7:00 pm
Florida Gulf Coast at Miami (Fla.) 7:00 pm (ESPN3)
Southern at Providence 7:00 pm
Fairleigh Dickinson at Lafayette 7:00 pm
UMBC at Central Connecticut St. 7:00 pm
Illinois St. vs. Rutgers 7:00 pm (CBSN)
Robert Morris at James Madison 7:00 pm
Morehead St. at West Virginia 7:00 pm
Columbia at Stony Brook 7:00 pm
Mississippi Val. at South Carolina 7:00 pm (ESPN3)
East Carolina vs. Appalachian St. 7:00 pm
Bryant at Army 7:00 pm
Cornell at Delaware 7:00 pm
La Salle at Pittsburgh 7:00 pm
Tennessee Tech at High Point 7:00 pm
FAU at Hofstra 7:00 pm
Elon at Princeton 7:00 pm
Michigan vs. Duke 7:00 pm (ESPN)
Yale at Seton Hall 7:00 pm
Wagner at Penn 7:00 pm
Marshall at UNC Wilmington 7:00 pm
Fresno St. vs. UT-San Antonio 7:00 pm
Tulane at Navy 7:00 pm
Niagara at Mercer 7:00 pm
Arkansas St. at Louisville 7:00 pm (ESPN3)
Bucknell at Marist 7:00 pm
Quinnipiac at American 7:30 pm
Cleveland St. at Kent State 7:30 pm
Tennessee St. at North Carolina 7:30 pm
Detroit at Bowling Green 7:30 pm
East Tennessee St. at Charlotte 7:30 pm
Albany at George Mason 7:30 pm
Notre Dame vs. Georgia 7:45 pm (ESPNU)
UMKC at Wisconsin 8:00 pm (BTN)
Victory at UT-Pan American 8:00 pm
North Texas at UT-Arlington 8:00 pm
Lamar at UT-Martin 8:00 pm
Utah Valley at Arkansas 8:00 pm
Cumberland University at Middle Tennessee 8:00 pm
Wofford at Bradley 8:00 pm
Florida A&M at Rice 8:00 pm
Northern Colorado at Iowa State 8:00 pm (ESPN3)
Tulsa at Jackson State 8:00 pm
Troy at UAB 8:00 pm
Georgia St. at Samford 8:00 pm
Greenville at Western Illinois 8:00 pm
Dillard at McNeese St. 8:00 pm
Western Caro. at Northern Iowa 8:00 pm
UMES at Kansas St. 8:00 pm (ESPN3)
Oakland at Houston 8:15 pm
FIU at Oral Roberts 8:30 pm
Utah St. at Texas A&M-CC 8:30 pm
Northern New Mexico at Northern Arizona 8:35 pm
St. Francis (NY) at St. John's 9:00 pm (ESPN3)
Nebraska Omaha at North Dakota St. 9:00 pm
Prairie View at BYU 9:00 pm (BYUTV)
Seattle at Montana St. 9:00 pm
South Dakota at Wyoming 9:00 pm
Coastal Carolina at Clemson 9:00 pm (ESPN3)
UCLA vs. Kansas 9:30 pm (ESPN)
Manhattan at Colorado St. 9:30 pm
Richmond vs. Illinois 9:30 pm (CBSN)
Portland at UCSB 10:00 pm
Holy Names at San Jose St. 10:00 pm
Longwood at Nevada 10:00 pm
Morgan St. at USC 10:00 pm
Sacramento St. at UC Davis 10:00 pm
South Carolina State State at Baylor 10:00 pm
Boise St. at Long Beach St. 10:05 pm
San Diego Christian at CSU Northridge 10:05 pm
Missouri vs. California 10:15 pm (ESPN2)
Cal Poly at UNLV 10:30 pm