College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

November 24th, 2010
Wednesday night marks the end of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, with surprising Connecticut taking on young but talented Kentucky in the title game. Junior point guard Kemba Walker has been a house afire for the Huskies, having scored 30 or more points in each of his last three games. With impressive shot-making ability, handle and the skill to also set up his young teammates the junior from the Bronx has arguably been the best player in America to this point in the season. Also of importance for Jim Calhoun's team has been the play of sophomore forward/center Alex Oriakhi, who scored 15 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the 70-67 semifinal win over Michigan State. Those 17 boards aren't even a season best for Oriakhi, who grabbed 18 in the season-opening win over Stony Brook. The task for Kentucky will be to put a body on Oriakhi to make sure he doesn't control the glass again.

Kentucky got to the final by surviving an emotionally charged matchup against Washington with much of the drama surrounding the events that led Terrence Jones to Lexington. Despite being booed every time he touched the basketball Jones accounted for 16 points and 17 rebounds in the 74-67 victory, and with the help of Josh Harrelson (14 rebounds) they grabbed 31 of UK's 49 boards (49-39 advantage). Kentucky grabbed 19 offensive rebounds for an impressive offensive rebounding percentage of 44.2%, and rebounding will play a major role in the outcome of tonight's game due to the fact that both teams like to get the ball and go on missed shots.

The player to watch for Kentucky: that would be point guard Brandon Knight, who scored 24 points (10-17 FG) in Tuesday's victory. Hailed as one of the top incoming players before the season began, Knight has lived up to the hype but he'll be in for a challenge in defending Walker. If Knight can do the job defensively on Walker it would force a Shabazz Napier or Roscoe Smith to step up for the Huskies, although UConn could most certainly use a third option anyway. Kentucky's balance on offense could be the deciding factor but it may be foolhardy to assume that Kemba Walker can't go off again. While there's still a long way to go this season a win tonight may accelerate the learning curve for both teams, especially the upstart Huskies.

Other games tonight include the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, with VCU taking on Tennessee followed by UCLA/Villanova. The Rams will look to pressure the Volunteers, and given the troubles that Bruce Pearl's team has encountered in regards to taking care of the basketball Shaka Smart's team would surprise few with a victory. UCLA will be interesting to watch given the progress shown by players such as Tyler Honeycutt, Lazeric Jones, Brendan Lane and Reeves Nelson in their undefeated start. To say the least Ben Howland's team will be tested by the experienced Wildcats, especially if Malcolm Lee (ankle) remains on the sidelines. Missouri takes on La Salle in Cancun in the title game of that tournament and the Great Alaska Shootout tips off as well. Happy Thanksgiving.

Top 25
5:00 PM (2) Michigan State vs. (11) Washington* (ESPN2)
9:00 PM UCLA vs. (7) Villanova* (ESPN2)
10:00 PM Connecticut vs. (9) Kentucky* (ESPN)
9:30 PM (12) Missouri vs. La Salle* (CBSC)
8:00 PM North Dakota State at (17) Minnesota (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Virginia Commonwealth vs. (24) Tennessee* (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
1:00 PM Our Lady of the Lake at Texas State
1:00 PM Northern Illinois at Maryland-Eastern Shore
1:30 PM Western Illinois vs. Prairie View A&M*
2:30 PM Oklahoma at Chaminade (ESPNU)
4:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Brown
4:00 PM Morgan State vs. North Florida*
4:00 PM Harvard at Bryant University
4:30 PM Princeton vs. Presbyterian*
5:00 PM Louisiana College at New Orleans
6:00 PM Air Force at Wofford
7:00 PM St. Francis (PA) at Hartford
7:00 PM American Intl at Massachusetts
7:00 PM Navy at Towson
7:00 PM Lenoir Rhyne at East Carolina
7:00 PM Drexel at Rhode Island
7:00 PM Jackson State at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Bucknell at James Madison
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Vermont
7:00 PM Cleveland State at Akron
7:00 PM Savannah State at Cincinnati
7:00 PM Florida A&M at Dayton (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Radford at George Mason
7:00 PM Wyoming vs. Providence* (CBSC)
7:30 PM Wichita State vs. Virginia* (ESPNU)
7:30 PM McNeese State at Miami (FL)
7:35 PM Toledo at Youngstown State
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at Arkansas
8:00 PM Kennesaw State at Iowa State
8:00 PM Central Michigan at Illinois-Chicago
8:00 PM Centenary at LSU
8:00 PM Grambling State at Vanderbilt
8:00 PM SUNY-Cobleskill at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Jacksonville at Samford
8:00 PM Wayland Baptist Univ at Southern Methodist
8:05 PM Eastern Illinois at Bradley
8:05 PM SIU-Edwardsville at UMKC
8:05 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Oral Roberts
8:05 PM Evansville at Middle Tennessee
9:00 PM Northwood at New Mexico
9:00 PM Utah at Utah State
9:00 PM Alcorn State at Denver
9:05 PM Eastern Washington at Boise State
9:05 PM San Francisco at Montana State
10:00 PM Loyola Marymount at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Charlotte at Oregon State
10:00 PM San Jose State at Cal State Bakersfield
10:30 PM Cal State Fullerton at USC
11:30 PM Southern Utah vs. Drake*
12:00 AM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Hawaii
1:45 AM Ball State vs. St. John's*(MSG+)