By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH ON WEDNESDAY
DUKE AT UNC
THE SKINNY: The most storied rivalry in the sport takes center stage as the Blue Devils try and bounce back from Sunday’s loss to Miami at Cameron Indoor Stadium. North Carolina has been on a tear since the second half of their road win at Virginia Tech a few weeks ago and Roy Williams’ team is starting to resemble the team many thought we’d see at the start of the season. Keep an eye on Tarheels swing man Reggie Bullock, who will likely have the task of attempting to slow down Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers.
GEORGETOWN AT SYRACUSE
THE SKINNY: Can the Hoyas break the Orange vaunted 2-3 zone? It may be up to whether or not Georgetown senior Henry Sims can operate things out of the high post. “He’s always been a good player, but he’s taken a quantum leap in terms of his production,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of Sims earlier this week.” The Hoyas will need solid outside shooting to pull the upset, especially from point guard Markel Starks, who had been in a bit of an offensive funk before scoring ten points in Saturday’s rout over South Florida.
CINCINNATI AT ST. JOHN’S
THE SKINNY: If the Bearcats want to reach the NCAA Tournament, this is a game they have to have. After already falling to the Red Storm at home, Cincinnati can’t afford to be swept by a team that starts five freshman. Keep an eye on Bearcats sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick, a White Plains native who always seems to play his best on the bigger stages — and there’s no stage bigger than Madison Square Garden.
SETON HALL AT RUTGERS
THE SKINNY: There’s one word I think of regarding this game — desperation. Both the Pirates and the Scarlet Knights are coming off losses where their coaches were ejected and each of these teams desperately need a victory to try and right their respective ships. I’ve always felt this was one of the more underrated rivalries in the Big East and you can bet the RAC will be one of the best venues in all of college basketball on Wednesday night at 9 PM.
KANSAS AT BAYLOR
THE SKINNY: Can the Jayhawks drop two straight in the Big 12? Without a doubt. Despite their decimation of Baylor a few weeks ago in Lawrence, it’s going to be very hard for Bill Self’s team to go into Waco and get a win. The Jayhawks will need a big bounce back game from center Jeff Withey, who was ineffective in Saturday’s loss at Missouri.
BREY BULLISH ON MARTIN
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey can’t say enough the job senior forward Scott Martin has done for the Irish this season.
“He’s been the best glue guy in America on both sides of the floor,” Brey said of Martin earlier this week. “He’s been a big brother to Jack Cooley and the rest of our younger guys.”
Martin and Notre Dame travel to West Virginia tonight on a four-game winning streak.
Brey said that the Irish have already filed the necessary paperwork with the NCAA in hopes of Martin getting a sixth year of eligibility. A transfer from Purdue, Martin suffered a knee injury and missed an entire season after sitting out during a year while red shirting.”
“If he comes back next year, I’m going to make him a player-coach,” Brey said of Martin. “We’re just waiting to hear at this point.”
HAWK HILL RISING?
No team in all of college basketball may have as big of a week as St. Joseph’s. The Hawks have two home games against Saint Louis and UMass and have a real chance to make a move in the Atlantic-10 standings.
“Our fan support has been unbelievable,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “We can’t lose games at home and the atmosphere this week is going to be tremendous. I couldn’t get my best friend a ticket if I wanted to for Saturday’s game.”
The Hawks are only 15-9 with a 5-4 record in conference play but have a strong RPI including wins over both Creighton and Drexel.
“We have nice balance,” Martelli said. “We have to get Tay Jones back to having a scorers mentality and we have to be more competitive against Saint Louis. Rick Majerus’ teams have dominated my teams since he’s been in the league. I love their team this year. They’ve got great role allocation and Brian Conklin is everything college basketball should be about. He’s undersized but his ticker is much bigger than his skill level.”
Martelli also had an interesting take on what the month of February is going to be like for the officials in the Atlantic-10.
“They’re not going to have a night off because every game is so important to the standings,” Martelli said. “Every game is going to be competitive. The league is tremendous. It’s going to be an unbelievable Atlantic-10 Tournament in Atlantic City.”
LARRANAGA HOPES HEALTH REMAINS A CONSTANT FOR CANES
Jim Larranaga wasn’t surprised when his Miami team went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat Duke on Sunday.
He expected his team to be a tough out since he took over for Frank Haith last spring — if they ever got healthy.
A plethora of preseason injuries derailed the Hurricanes early season continuity and it never allowed Miami to get into a rhythm in November and December.
“We couldn’t practice,” Larranaga said. “Our roster was so sporadic. We liked what we had on paper but we never saw it.”
Moving forward, this team has all the pieces to contend for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes have a solid front court with Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji as well as an experienced back court in Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott.
The key though, has been freshman guard Shane Larkin.
“We knew he was going to be very good,” Larranaga said of Larkin. “Both Durand and Malcolm love playing with Shane because it gives them opportunities to get off the ball.”
What’s your prediction for Duke-UNC? Sound off below…