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Top 25 Hoops Match-Ups
by Matt Fargo - 01/22/2010
Ohio St. Buckeyes (25) at West Virginia Mountaineers (12) 2:00 PM ET
Ohio St. was going through some struggles to start the month but the Buckeyes are currently riding a three-game winning streak that includes big wins over Purdue and Wisconsin. This recent run has coincided with the return of forward Evan Turner who has been back for five games with Ohio St. going 4-1 in those games and Turner putting up some big numbers. The Buckeyes are 4-3 in the Big Ten and they take a break from conference action this weekend although this is hardly considered a break. Ohio St. responded with back-to-back wins over two top 15 teams in a four-day stretch two weeks ago so facing another top 15 team will not be daunting.
West Virginia raced out to an 11-0 start before the wheels started coming off. The Mountaineers lost in Purdue and then two games later lost at Notre Dame. A recovery was expected at home last Saturday but they were not able to take care of business down the stretch as they lost to Syracuse by a point. This is the second straight non-conference game for West Virginia who is coming off a win over a very good Marshall team by eight points. The Mountaineers have allowed more than 70 points only five times and they are 2-3 in those games with the wins coming by just two points over Cleveland St. and in overtime against Seton Hall. We know what it takes for them to be successful.
While the defense has been the difference, the offense has been important in determining wins and losses. West Virginia had won 27 straight games when it scored 70 or more points until Syracuse won last Saturday 72-71. Ohio St. will be playing for some revenge here following a 28-point blowout loss at home last season at the hands of the Mountaineers.
Texas Longhorns (1) at Connecticut Huskies (21) 4:00 PM ET
And then there was one. Texas was one of two remaining undefeated teams entering the week but the Longhorns could not overcome the hostile environment of Bramlage Coliseum and lost to Kansas St. by nine points. They will try to bounce back in another tough road game against a pretty desperate opponent. The loss against the Wildcats seemed inevitable as Texas has not been playing as good as it did earlier in the season and it was down at halftime in the previous two games and actually did not take the lead against Texas A&M until overtime.
Connecticut had a rough couple weeks. Three straight losses against Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Michigan sent the Huskies from being 11-3 to 11-6 and then the news came that head coach Jim Calhoun would be taking a medical leave of absence. Connecticut handled the situation like a strong team should and it went out and easily defeated St. John’s after a slow start. The Huskies are 11-1 at home and 1-5 away from Storrs so the venue has played a big part in the season thus far. The Huskies will have no problem getting up for the Longhorns but depth could be a problem here.
Connecticut goes only seven to eight players deep while Texas has 10 players averaging more than 12 mpg. That will surely help the Longhorn toward the end of the game but negating that is the fact that they are shooting only 62.5 percent from the free throw line this season including 61.1 percent on the road. This could become a real issue when close games become more common.
Duke Blue Devils (6) at Clemson Tigers (16) 9:00 PM ET
First it was North Carolina that was falling apart in the ACC and that seemed to give Duke the inside track toward the regular season title. Now it is the Blue Devils that are struggling although one game should not start a panic. It is just that the loss against NC State on Wednesday was the third loss in three tries on an opponent’s home floor so Duke needs to starting playing better away from Cameron Indoor. The good news is that the Blue Devils are 4-0 in neutral court games but that does little good here against a Clemson team that is 9-1 at home, losing only to Illinois by a bucket.
The Tigers are coming off a loss as well as it went down at Georgia Tech by a bucket so they will be looking to bounce back as well. The difference of course is that Clemson is playing at home. Duke won the first meeting this year by 21 points at home setting up a revenge situation for the Tigers. Last season, it was the Tigers that destroyed the Blue Devils by 27 points at home so that first game this year surely had some carry over by Duke. The big thing that Clemson needs here is a better start as it managed only 12 points in that meeting three weeks ago.
Long range shooting should be a concern for Clemson as it is shooting only 28.4 percent from behind the arc in five ACC games after hitting 41.4 percent from three-point land in 14 non-conference games. Duke will have something to say about Clemson trying to get that back as the Blue Devils are allowing opponents to shoot only 29.1 percent from behind the arc. Coincidentally, that is the same three-point percentage the Tigers allow.