Games of the day for 1/5/21. Significant B1G matchup among others.

We get another Tuesday with some significant games.

Toledo Rockets (8-3) Kent State Golden Flashes (3-2)

You never can go wrong with some afternoon MAC Hoops featuring two extremely talented rosters.

The Rockets head to the road to play the MAC center in Kent, OH. Marreon Jackson is one of the top players in the conference, averaging 16/4/5 this season, can shoot from deep, and has an innate ability of getting to the foul line. Jackson is one of the best foul shooters in the country, and he is 41-42 from the line this season. You won’t find many guys with that kind of shooting ability from the line, and he will continue improving from three. Having a guy like Marreon Jackson can set up elite shooters such as Spencer Littleson, Ryan Rollins, and Setric Millner. Toledo can out-score anybody in the conference, but they are far too three reliant at times; that can be an issue if they aren’t hitting them. Setric Milner has become one of the better bigs in the conferences, and he’s a stretch-big that does a lot of things.

The Golden Flashes added some tremendous transfers this season, headlined by this year’s leading scorer, Mike Nuga, averaging 18.0 PPG with a knack for scoring. Danny Pippen is a talented scorer but needs to be more consistent; he’s excellent when he’s going. That doesn’t always happen, though. Pippen should be able to drive to the hole against an undersized Toledo team. Speaking of driving to the hole, Justyn Hamilton, Temple’s transfer has been tremendous this season. Hamilton is 6’11 with crafty ability inside and is a complete mismatch for anybody for Toledo.

Keys to the game:

Kent State has to focus on getting to the basket, dribble penetration, run a little two-man game with Giovanni Santiago and Justyn Hamilton, and that will weigh heavily in Kent State’s favor.

Toledo needs to hit their threes. A team as three heavy as they are cannot win if they are missing shots.

Players to watch:

Toledo: Setric Millner

Kent State: Danny Pippen

Prediction:

Toledo: 68

Kent State: 73

NC State Wolfpack (6-2) Clemson Tigers (8-1)

The Tigers are an outstanding defensive team; in fact, they rank 2nd in defensive efficiency on KenPom this season and haven’t allowed more than 70 points in-a-game this season. Clemson’s offense becomes stagnant far too often at-times, The Tigers need to feed Aamir Simms, but Manny Bates, the best shot-blocker in the country, is on the opposing side. If Clemson can’t get the shooting issues fixed, it’ll eventually come back to bite them at some point in the season. That means Nick Honor continues to shoot well, but Al-Amir Dawes, John Newman, and Clyde Trapp need to improve their shooting. Nearly half of Clemson’s shoots come from deep; they shoot 34.6% from three, but other than Honor, you don’t see much consistency. The shooting has to improve in this game, or it could be the one they drop.

NC State has been a pleasant surprise this season. Devon Daniels leads the team in scoring as a tremendous driver, but not a consistent shooter at just 28% from three. Daniels has the talent to hit shoots from three though he’s a rhythm shooter. Manny Bates is tremendous, one of the best shot blockers this century; he blocks everything in-sight, averaging 3.4 Blocks-per-game. Bates has refined his game a ton as a sophomore and needs eyes on him every game. With D.J. Funderburk missing the past three games that have paved the way for Jericole Hellems breakout campaign, an athletic stretch-big that can defend adds a lot for Kevin Keatts squad. Shakeel Moore was a three-star recruit this season and didn’t play much before the UNC game, where Moore had 17 points, and now is an integral part of the team. Moore is a freak athlete that can shoot the ball from three. Moore is a difference-maker for NC State. One of the most potent issues for NC State is the number of offensive rebounds they allow, that can’t continue in this one, but Clemson isn’t a tremendous offensive rebounding team. I would like to see Kevin Keatts run a zone look primarily on defense because Clemson has struggled against the Zone at times this season trying to force the ball to Simms. 

Keys to the game:

Clemson needs to score consistently, and your defense can only take you so far when you can’t score.

NC State needs to control the pace. The Wolfpack play significantly quicker than Clemson, thus running the floor up-and-down for NC State.

Players to watch:

NC State: Manny Bates

Clemson: Al-Amir Dawes

Prediction:

NC State: 68

Clemson: 64

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-2) Michigan State Spartans (7-3)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights head to the Breslin Center to play Michigan State, a team in need of grouping together multiple wins. 

Rutgers lost at home against Iowa in a close two-point-game, but Rutgers is one of the country’s best teams regardless of the result. Steve Pikiell has a tremendous trio of shooters with Jacob Young, Montez Mathis, and Ron Harper Jr, a potential first-team All-America. Harper has the ability to take a game over and has a perfect stroke from deep; with the defensive struggles of Michigan State besides Aaron Henry, they have to put Henry on Harper. The emergence of Montez Mathis is something we didn’t see in this fashion. Mathis is averaging 15.4/4.1/2.0 this season while being able to score from anywhere. Mathis is a perfect second option for the Scarlet Knights and should have a big game in this one. Geo Baker is averaging 10 PPG this season but isn’t shooting the ball well, only 26% from three, but Baker has the talent to turn it around. Not sure if this is the game for Baker, but he can go off in any game. Myles Johnson is someone to pay attention to. Johnson is quite efficient inside, and Michigan State’s post-defense has been an absolute disaster. Johnson needs to be fed the ball in this one, and he needs to be one of the bigger options here.

For MSU, they got a much-needed victory in Pinnacle Bank Arena against Nebraska; Aaron Henry led them to that victory. Henry had 27 points, but the most encouraging part is going 3-5 from three. Henry had been struggling heavily from three at a staggering 13% before this game.

Keys to the game:

MSU needs to be able to defend. Their defense has still been an issue, and they can’t have that continue in this one.

Rutgers needs to get the ball to Myles Johnson until MSU can show they have the ability to stop them.

Players to watch:

Rutgers: Myles Johnson

Michigan State: Rocket Watts

Prediction: 

Rutgers: 82

Michigan State: 75

Florida Gators (5-1) Alabama Crimson Tide (7-3)

Mike White has gone back to his old style of play as he did in his Louisiana Tech days, as their adjusted tempo went from 326th to 87th in the country. That was the main knock on the Gators HC, as it didn’t seem like he was getting his team’s full potential. The lone loss for Florida came on the road against Florida State, a game they lead-in before the terrifying Keyontae Johnson on-court collapse, and Johnson is done for the season in terms of playing. Still, in home-games, Johnson is going to be a coach for Florida the rest of the season and continue to be an integral part of the program. The Gators have looked tremendous in the two games they’ve played recently, and they blew out Vanderbilt on the road, led by 23 points from Collin Castleton. The Michigan transfer has become one of the team’s top players, as he also led Florida in scoring against LSU with 21 points, and he’s doing so efficiently. Castleton is shooting an absurd 73.7% from-the-floor; he’s a significant threat in the post. The pick & roll between Castleton/Mann is a beauty to watch. Speaking of Tre Mann, he and Scottie Lewis both have the ability to go-off with their pure talent and ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Both guys are team players but can also score 20+ in any given game. The Gators have been phenomenal this season, and it will be a big test for an Alabama team coming off of a statement win against Tennessee.

The Crimson Tide coming off that win against Tennessee, look to build a win-streak. The Tide did play great defense on Tennessee, but the difference-maker to me was John Petty Jr. Petty’s play had struggled much of this season prior to this game but had 17 points while going 4-4 from three. If that game got Petty going, watch out because he’s one of the best shooters in the country when right. Nearly half of Alabama’s shots are triples but are only shooting 31% from three. If Alabama doesn’t shoot the ball consistently from deep, they will not win.

Keys to the game:

Alabama needs to shoot the ball from three at least shooting 35% from three. If they miss those shots, they lose.

Florida needs to get to the paint. That’s where Florida can succeed. Pick & Roll Alabama into the danger zone.

Players to watch:

Florida: Collin Castleton

Alabama: John Petty Jr

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