Tim Israel and Evan Scarlett break down another amazing slate of Saturday College Basketball games. There are many great match-ups, so Evan and Tim picked their four favorites and gave some insight into each of the four games.
N.C. State vs. North Carolina
It’s unclear as to exactly how good these two teams are. Both entered the season highly ranked and have since fallen behind most of the other “elite” teams. NC State began its season ranked 6th in the country but is now 18th, while UNC was ranked 9th but enters this match-up unranked. Both teams have been streaky throughout, manufacturing impressive win streaks while also hitting a few rough patches in their schedules. The Wolfpack at one point won ten games in a row but have since lost two of their last three, while The Tarheels started the season 10-2 only to then go 2-3 over the next five games. Consistency has been hard to come by with these two teams, and both squads feel that a win this Saturday would go a long way towards getting back on the right track.
North Carolina happens to be trending in the right direction. They have won 8 of their last 11 games and seem to be developing an identity. Led by star forward James Michael McAdoo, the Tarheels are a dynamic team that can score in a variety of ways and will capitalize off of their opponent’s mistakes. UNC is physical and well balanced, as they are the top rebounding team in the country and currently rank third in assists per game. Ten of their players see at least 10 minutes of playing time every game, and six of their guys average at least 8 points and 2 rebounds per game. Although they are fairly deep, McAdoo is far and away their best player, averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Watching him play is an absolute pleasure; he is completely under control at all times, boasting a smooth jump shot and an uncanny ability to dribble his way out of the toughest defensive traps.
N.C. State has not been playing their best basketball lately. A win over top-ranked Duke certainly boosted their confidence and proved just how good they can be, but their proceeding performances against Maryland, Clemson, and Wake Forest took a bit of wind out of their sails. The Wolfpack lost to Maryland and Wake in close games, and beat a less-than-mediocre Clemson team by only 4 points. In these games, N.C. State received little assistance from shooting guard Scott Wood and forward C.J. Leslie. Wood is one of the best pure shooters in the country and C.J. Leslie is one of the most dominant forces in the paint, but both have struggled to make shots at key moments and have gotten into foul trouble. N.C. State possesses all of the weapons needed to make a deep run in the tournament, but they will need Wood and Leslie to play much better than they currently are if they wish to live up to their extremely high potential.
Saturday’s match-up should prove to be quite an interesting one. North Carolina’s toughness will be tested by N.C. State’s massive frontcourt, which manhandled Duke a couple of weeks ago. Additionally, their shooters will have a tough time trading baskets with the Wolfpack’s talented backcourt, who shoot over 40% from behind the arc. UNC will need big games out of sharp-shooting guards Leslie McDonald and Reggie Bullock if they want to stay in this game. N.C. State’s size down low should cause trouble for James Michael McAoo, and he will have to rely more heavily on his jump shot since he will not have as many opportunities to drive to the basket. While N.C. State is the better team, North Carolina is playing better basketball right now, and that’s really all that matters. McAdoo’s squad will be tested, and they will come out of this game feeling better about their team than ever before. All of the pieces for UNC seem to be fitting together, and this should prove to be a break out game for them. The crowd at the PNC Arena will give N.C. State a huge boost, but it won’t be enough against this trending North Carolina team.
Final score: North Carolina 81, N.C. State 76.
Louisville vs. Georgetown
These two Big East powerhouses have been battling for many years and Saturday could be the last time they will ever duke it out in conference play if the Cardinals decide to head to the ACC a year early. A match-up which features two of the greatest coaches in NCAAB history, John Thompson III and Rick Pitino, Saturday’s game is bound to be exciting. The two teams have had completely different roads to this point in the season, but both currently stand in transition periods and need a quality win for a boost. The Verizon Center will surely get rowdy and expect both of these teams to be very hungry for a win.
The Hoyas come in at 13-4 and 3-3 in conference play. Not expected to do big things this year after losing a few starters from last season, Georgetown’s youth proved to be ready early in the year and they jumped out to a great start. Conference play has brought out all of the shining spots and terrible flaws in the Hoyas, beating Notre Dame by 16 the other night, but losing to Pitt by 28 a few weeks back. On top of their Notre Dame win, they’ve beaten UCLA and taken Indiana to overtime, so this team definitely has the potential to be great, although their struggles on offense may not have a cure without Otto Porter becoming a go-to-scorer.
On the other side of the court is Louisville, coming in at 16-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play. Before last Sunday Louisville was regarded by many as the best team in the nation, beating the likes of Missouri, Kentucky, and UConn, and only slipping up to Duke by 5. But this week has been a disappointment the past six days as they’ve given up games to both Syracuse and Villanova because of poor shooting. They shot 40% from the floor and under 60% from the free throw line in each game; that is a serious problem for a so-called championship contender. Russ Smith is incredible, and Peyton Siva is most of the time, so they have the ability to regenerate that explosive offense from early in the season.
The edge in this game has to go to Georgetown at home. Louisville is coming in very frustrated and yearning for a win, which can be a positive if they come out of the gates hot, but if they get behind it will be a long day. Georgetown’s defense is stellar, as they showed against Notre Dame, and contests every shot that gets put up. The Cardinals are not an incredible shooting team to begin with, so expect the Hoyas to keep Louisville below 60 points, dictating the pace of the game completely. Georgetown moves the ball and keeps moving the ball until they find the best shot, but their problem is they don’t have guys who can consistently score outside of Otto Porter. This is going to be a classic Big East dogfight that comes down to the final minutes of the game.
Final Score: Georgetown 61, Louisville 56
Temple vs. Butler
This game will be a fantastic showcase of some of the immense talent in the A-10 conference. Temple and Butler are extremely tough to beat on any given day, and when they match up against each other this Saturday viewers should be in for quite a treat. Neither of these two teams should fold under the spotlight tomorrow night, as both have played in their fair share of big games thus far. Butler has already faced the likes of Marquette, UNC, Illinois, Indiana, Richmond, and Gonzaga this year, while Temple has faced off against Duke, Syracuse, Kansas, and Xavier. Not only have these teams played some of the best, they have beaten some of the best, as Temple took down Syracuse earlier this season and Butler has knocked off both Indiana and Gonzaga. A week after one of the best games of the year between Butler and Gonzaga, Hinkle Fieldhouse could play host to another nail-bitter.
Temple is an extremely tough team to match up with, due in large part to their guard play. The Owls’ guards are extremely tall, making them difficult to cover and tough to shoot over. While they are fairly deep, coach Fran Dunphy allocates a huge chunk of minutes to four players in particular: Khalif Wyatt, Anthony Lee, Scootie Randall, and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. These four guys have carried the team all year, as they have all put up a considerable amount of points and accounted for most of the team’s rebounds and assists. Transfer Jake O’Brien has also proved to be a valuable addition, averaging 8 points off the bench and shooting 43% from three. In particular, the Owls rely heavily on star guard Khalif Wyatt, who averages 17.5 points and 4 assists per game. Wyatt has played his best when it’s mattered most, posting a marvelous 33 points in a win over Syracuse and 26 points in a narrow loss to Kansas.
Butler is also a tough team to match up with, particularly because they have an uncanny ability to adapt to any of their opponents’ styles of play. Against high-flying Indiana, Butler pushed the tempo and put up 88 points. Alternatively, when they played a tough, grind-it-out Gonzaga team, Butler slowed down the game and won by putting up only 64. The reason why Butler can hang with any team and any style is their coaching. Coach Brad Stevens is one of the best in the country, and his players have been well prepared for every game this season. The Bulldogs rely on a balanced scoring attack led by guards Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham as well as forwards Andrew Smith, Roosevelt Jones, and Khyle Marshall. This balance has been tested as of late, as top scorer Rotnei Clarke has been sidelined with a neck injury. The Bulldogs have gone 3-1 in his absence, including that impressive win over Gonzaga.
Although Butler has done well without Rotnei Clarke, his absence could really hurt the Bulldogs against Temple. Clarke’s speed would have been crucial against Temple’s talented guards. Kellen Dunham and Chase Stigall will have to step up their play considerably if they wish to match Khalif Wyatt’s production. This game could have a pretty similar feel to the Butler-Gonzaga game last Saturday, as Temple is another opponent who plays well on the road. However, Temple may not have an answer for Butler forward Roosevelt Jones, who has been playing out of his mind lately and hit the game-winning shot last Saturday against Gonzaga. Look for Jones to have another huge game, complimented by a solid performance from center Andrew Smith. Khalif Wyatt will keep Temple in this game from start to finish, but in the end, Butler will find a way to win, like they always seem to do.
Final Score: Butler 74, Temple 72
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
With Michigan and Indiana looked at as the top two teams in the Big Ten, this match-up is a fight for the title of third best in the conference. Michigan State and Ohio State are certainly in that discussion, but Wisconsin and Minnesota have proven to be very dangerous teams so far this year.
How good is this Golden Gophers’ team? They’re 3-3 in Big Ten play, winning their first three games against Illinois, Michigan State, and Northwestern, only to lose it’s last three to Indiana, Michigan, and allow Northwestern to get revenge. This is a fantastic team, and three of their losses are to top five teams in the country, but right now they’re in a learning period and in need of a win. They have an extremely balanced roster and anyone can step up at anytime, whether it’s Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins, Trevor Mwakbe or either of the other two starters. Basically they have loads of talent and a lot of experience.
Wisconsin had a fantastic start to the Big Ten season, but lost their past two games and now sit at 4-2. There’s nothing surprising about this Badgers’ team, as they are exactly the same as every other Bo Ryan squad, well disciplined and built with great shooters. They lack an elite scoring option and don’t have a true point guard, but their smothering defense and bruiser-basketball makes them a very dangerous team to play. Jared Berggren will have to be ready to battle in the post and extend the Gophers’ big men out to the three point line on offense.
Minnesota will win this basketball game. They’re a better team and on Saturday it will show. Their talent will smother Wisconsin’s offense just as Indiana figured out in the second half of their game against the Badgers’, but for them it was too late. Wisconsin’s only hope is for Traevon Jackson and George Marshall to have great games at the point, but that’s unlikely. Expect Minnesota to force turnovers and make this as up-tempo as possible, but knowing Bo Ryan it will still be extremely slow paced. Minnesota is way too dangerous offensively, with shooters, post presence, and great slashers, that they will overwhelm Wisconsin. Minnesota is quicker and just as aggressive, looking to be a bad match-up for the Badgers.
Final Score: Minnesota 70, Wisconsin 61