Games of the day for 1/9/21

I love Saturdays, and we get so many must-watch games, so let’s get it without further ado.

Ohio State Buckeyes (8-3) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-3)

Steve Pikiell’s crew now has lost two consecutive games, including a blowout on the road in the Breslin Center against MSU. Nothing went right for Rutgers, scoring 45 points, shooting 31% from the field, and went a horrid 6-17 from the foul line. If you’re Rutgers, you cannot play like that when your offense is one of the country’s better ones. 

Ron Harper Jr has continued to be one of the country’s best players this season, having an unbelievable breakout. The Scarlet Knights are among the elite three-point shooting teams in the country, shooting 38.4% from the field, with three shooters above 40% from three, Montez Mathis, Ron Harper Jr, and Jacob Young. With those three players all coming into their own, it hasn’t all been improved, and Geo Baker had an ankle injury in the opener against Sacred Heart. Baker is now the fourth option on the team, averaging 9.4 PPG, though the biggest concern is shooting only 27% from three. The Scarlet Knights will need to shoot the ball at a high level against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes most vicious issue has been that the Buckeyes allow opposing teams to shoot 35.1% from deep. If you’re allowing opposing teams to shoot that consistently from three, you’re going to drop games, especially with the OSU struggles from three on their offensive end. The Buckeyes received some uncompromising news earlier in the week that starting point guard C.J. Walker is out with a significant injury, though he should return later in the season. Walker isn’t much of a scorer, but he’s the team leader; he’s an elite defender & facilitator. Without Walker, you don’t have a true point guard; Duane Washington Jr & Jimmy Sotos will run then point duties. Washington is the Buckeyes best shooter, and however, in his new expanded role, I’m curious to see if Washington overcompensates and tries to do too much. With how slow Ohio State likes to play, I’m curious to see if the pace is sped up without Walker. Rutgers post-depth is an issue with the injuries to Cliff Omoruyi and Mawot Mag. With the way E.J. Liddell has come into his own this season, he can draw fouls on Rutgers; as we saw in the previous matchup between these two when Johnson fouled out, Liddell scored 21 points. 

Keys to the game:

The Scarlet Knights are shooting 58.4% from the free-throw line, which cannot continue. Rutgers consistently have lost themselves game with the free-throw issues.

Do the OSU turnovers continue to be a strong suit? Without Walker, I’m unsure how things will fare; Chris Holtmann needs to find the right combo not to turn it over.

Players to watch:

Ohio State: Duane Washington Jr

Rutgers: Myles Johnson

Prediction:

Ohio State: 69

Rutgers: 75

Texas Longhorns (9-1) West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3)

What’s not to love about a battle between two of the top teams in College Basketball? For WVU, Oscar Tshiebwe has left the team and intends to transfer recently; since Tshiebwe left, WVU has played two games, one against Oklahoma, one against OKST. The Mountaineers were down a hefty amount of 18 points at the break; WVU came back but ended up losing. Gabe Osabuohein and Jalen Bridges have split the minutes since Tshiebwe’s departure. Osabuohein is one of the top defenders in College Hoops, but he adds virtually nothing on the offensive end of the ball scoring-wise; however, he can grab some offensive rebounds,. A lineup that worked down the stretch with the WVU pressure, with McBride-Sherman-Kedrian Johnson-Emmitt Matthews Jr-Culver. That lineup works with bringing in the pressure; with Texas’s savvy guards, I’m curious to see the effectiveness of the pressure.

The depth of talent with Texas is possibly the best outside of Gonzaga/Baylor in the country. Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey have been phenomenal, Greg Brown isn’t shooting the ball great from three, but has been tremendous, Brown flys everywhere on the defensive end of the floor. Despite Kai Jones playing only 21 MPG, he should be an All-BIG 12 player with all he contributes to the Longhorns. You don’t see a talent like Jones often. He can defend every position. He is shooting an absurd 64% from the field, can handle the ball, there isn’t anything Jones doesn’t do. I’m curious to see how Texas positions Jones against WVU; I would place him on Matthews/Sherman. Jericho Sims is an elite defender in the post, but most often, it’s due to his athleticism; how will Sims fair against the far bigger Derek Culver? Texas has a squad full of athletes and elite defenders; Texas doesn’t have a player that will score 20 every game, but Shaka Smart has five guys that’ll score 13 and defend everybody at a high level.

Keys to the game:

WVU needs to continue the hot shooting from McBride, Sherman, and McNeil.

Texas needs to prepare for WVU’s inevitable pressure on defense; it’s coming.

Players to watch:

Texas: Jericho Sims

WVU: Kedrian Johnson

Prediction:

Texas: 64

WVU: 67

Players to watch:

USC (7-2) Arizona State (4-4)

For the PAC-12, this is a massive game. Arizona State needs to win this Basketball game, Arizona State needs a victory, and USC could use another road win.

ASU lost in overtime against UCLA, as they were playing short-handed without the services of Remy Martin, Jalen Graham, Taeshon Cherry, and Jaelen House. Martin was attending his grandfather’s funeral back home in LA, but it could possibly return for this contest. If Martin is able to return, he, along with Alonzo Verge, Josh Christopher, and Marcus Bagley, a dangerous team. The Sun Devils need to find a way to stop star Freshman Evan Mobley, as the post defense without Jalen Graham could be an issue. Josh Christopher’s shooting from three hasn’t been as advertised this season, shooting 18% from-three, despite being tremendous from everywhere else on the floor. Christopher is still a young freshman but needs to improve his shooting from long-range, as that’s a team-wide issue. Shooting needs to improve from its 31% if the Sun Devils want to win this one at home whether Martin plays or not.

USC has to feed Evan Mobley, and he’s a 7-footer with elite ball-handling skills. You don’t see players like Evan Mobley very often against a depleted ASU team; Mobley needs the ball. The Trojans defeated Arizona in Tucson the other day; Isaiah White had his coming out a game for USC. Noah Baumann, the Phoenix, AZ native, needs more shots. A pure-shooter like Baumann can make the difference in this one. The Trojans have an elite defense that’ll need to stop the fast-paced Sun Devils, but USC has proven they can contain every kind of offense this season. Even besides Evan Mobley, feed Isaiah Mobley, and Chevez Goodwin, the depth of ASU’s bigs starts and ends with Chris Osten and Kimani Lawrence, as Pavlo Dziuba struggled in limited minutes.

Keys to the game:

Arizona State needs to stay out of foul trouble. Even if Martin returns, the post defense will continue to be a problem if Osten is in foul trouble; Osten is a great rim protector when playing.

The Trojans have to hit more of their free-throws. As a team, USC is shooting 61% from-the-line, playing on the road, and you need to hit the free shots.

Players to watch:

USC: Chevez Goodwin

Arizona State: Chris Osten/Kimani Lawrence.

Prediction:

USC: 72

Arizona State: 74

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