On yesterday’s schedule, we saw some powerhouse teams, take on some lesser known schools, and the results justified that. Kentucky and Duke both won by 20 points, Villanova and Arkansas won by 31 and 17 points, respectively. Texas and UCONN played in a very closely contested match-up, where the Longhorns ended up winning by one point. Kansas ended up defeating Michigan State in the finals of the Orlando Classic by five, which I was pleasantly surprised by.
Tomorrow’s games feature three specific match-ups I want to look at.
Syracuse Orange (5-1) vs (19) Michigan Wolverines (5-1)
Syracuse comes into this game on a three game winning streak, after they were defeated by California on November 20th. Syracuse’s bread and butter is on the defensive side of the ball without a doubt. The Orange rank 18thin the NCAA in rebounding, steals and blocks. They also rank 8th in points allowed per game and 7thin opponents field goal percentage, respectively. The Orange have some problems on the offensive side of the ball, as they are 148th in scoring and are not even on the list for three point shooting (do not make the cut of 351 NCAA teams). On the offensive side of the ball, Syracuse need to get it to big man, Rakeem Christmas, who is having a breakout season, averaging 17 points to go along with seven boards a contest. He is also a beast on defense, averaging 2.3 blocks a contest. Freshman, Chris McCullough has had a solid start to this season, as well, averaging 15 points and eight and a half boards a game and he, like Rakeem can block some shots (averages 2.5 blocks a contest). Even though Syracuse sharpshooter, Trevor Cooney is having a tough start to the season from behind the arc, Michigan cannot leave him open because he could still make them pay-it does not take much for a shooter to get his stroke back. After losing a heartbreaker to Villanova, Michigan came back and steamrolled Nicholls by 29 points. Michigan is a team that can put up points, even though they are ranked 60th in that category, which is still not too shabby. Derrick Walton Jr. has been slumping in the past two games averaging only eight points through that stretch, if Michigan has any chance at taking this match-up, he will need to be key for them to survive and move to 6-1 on the season. I spoke a bit about Syracuse’s defensive rankings, well; Michigan’s are quite the opposite. The Wolverines rank a measly 228thin rebounding (which makes sense, since they play a ton of guards), they are 96thin points allowed and 197th in opponents field goal percentage. All of these numbers MUST improve, if the Wolverines want to hold off the Orange. My prediction is that Syracuse will be too much in the post with the likes of Christmas and McCullough.
Prediction: Syracuse Orange +5.5
Illinois Fighting Illini (6-0) vs (17) Miami (Florida) Hurricanes (7-0)
By defeating a very good Miami (Fla.) side, Illinois could very well find themselves in the Top 25 next week. Illinois is a team that can straight up score. They average 90 points a game, to go along with 43% three point shooting. Rayvonte Rice leads the Fighting Illini on offense with close to 18 points and seven rebounds a game. Rice has also improved his three point shooting big time. He shot a poor 29% last year, but this year he is over 57%. Rice is also a solid defender, who can pick your pocket, if given the opportunity (averages 2.8 steals a game, which ranks him 18th in college basketball). Malcolm Hill and Aaron Cosby are also having pretty solid seasons, thus far, so the Hurricanes cannot focus solely on Rice. Illinois has eight players that average four points or more per contest; this shows us that they are not afraid to use their bench, which comes in and produces. The Fighting Illini are allowing their opponents to only make 36% of their field goals, which illustrates that they can get after it on both sides of the ball and they will need to versus a very good Hurricanes side. Miami (Florida) has come out of the gates red hot, winning all seven games, thus far and along the way beating in state rivals, Florida 69-67. The Hurricanes, similar to the Fighting Illini, are very good when it comes to three point shooting, which could make for a high scoring game between the two. Sheldon McClellan (Texas transfer) is the main piece for the Hurricanes, but he has a solid cast in Angel Rodriguez and Manu Lecomte, who can both shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. Defense is not exactly Miami’s forte, as they do allow opponents to shoot close to 40% from the field and they are not even in the Top 160 in rebounding, which should leave Illinois with a ton of second chance points. In conclusion, I think that this will be a very high scoring game, and the team that finds their defense first, will most likely be able to pull off the victory. It should also be noted that the Hurricanes, just like the Fighting Illini, go deep into their bench. I will give the edge to Illinois in this one.
Prediction: Illinois Fighting Illini +5
(16) Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0) vs (6) Louisville Cardinals (5-0)
Ohio State is 5-0, but they have a very weak schedule to start things off. The only somewhat tough game Ohio State has had was versus Marquette, which they ended up winning by 11. On offense, the Buckeyes are led by freshman D’Angelo Russell, who is having himself a very good start to the season. Ohio State is an impressive 10th in scoring and 6th in assists, something we have come to expect from the Buckeyes, and that is sharing the rock. They also make a blistering 56% of their field goals, but as I mentioned before, they have not exactly played powerhouse teams. Marc Loving is a player who likes to shoot the three for Ohio State, so the Louisville defense should be aware of where he is at all times. On defense, Ohio State is nothing spectacular, but they do limit opponents to 57.2 points per game and only 37.4% shooting from the field. There is no doubt that this will be THE Ohio State’s toughest task in this young season. This Louisville squad is in the Top 23 in all the major defensive categories, which makes me think that Ohio State could have a looong night. Montrezl Harrell is the player who sets the tone on both offense and defense for this well balance Cardinals side. As I mentioned, when I was taking a look at the Buckeyes team, they can play defense, so it will be interesting to see if they can, in fact slow down Harrell because he has been quite good in the first five games. Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear are two more players that these Cardinals count on to put up points, which they have done, but have really been struggling with their three point shooting, which is usually one of the main tools that either of these two players possess. Freshman, Chinanu Onuaku has been an excellent rim protector, averaging 8.4 boards, to go along with an imposing three blocks a game (17th in NCAA). All in all, I can see Louisville winning this game with little to no problems, especially with the fire power in Harrell, Rozier and Blackshear, to go along with the inside presence of Onuaku and Mathiang, who is also a tremendous rebounder.
Prediction: Louisville Cardinals -10
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.