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November 15, 2010
The Viewer's Guide
24 Hours of Hoops

by John Gasaway


Now that college hoops has begun in earnest, ESPN's about to give us fans 24 continuous hours of the sport where the chance to play for a championship is decided by actual performance. (What a concept!) Think of it as breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow of this season. Let's crack open the bubbly.

Although I of course heartily recommend watching all 21 games on Tuesday in their entirety--yes, some of the games overlap: use picture-in-picture--space constrains me here to looking at just a few of the more intriguing matchups. To do so I'm going to use the same simple three-step process you've seen in this space before, and ask a trio of questions about each team. How good were they last year? Who's back? Who's new?

(By the way, all data on scoring margins comes to us courtesy of the College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11. In my unbiased opinion it's a fine book. Margin: per-possession scoring margin, 2010 conference games only. RPMs: returning possession-minutes from last season.)

(All times ET)

Miami at Memphis

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
Miami           -0.08     64         Rion Brown
Memphis         +0.09     29         Joe Jackson

Take these scoring margins with a grain of salt. Miami faced much stiffer competition in the ACC than did Memphis in Conference USA. Be that as it may I've already previewed this game and said that the Hurricanes will pull the upset. Since I posted that piece the Tigers have decided to part ways with talented freshman Jelan Kendrick. The loss of Kendrick in and of itself probably isn't earth-shattering either way. So I'll stick with my prediction, even though I realize forecasting a road win for the ACC's last-place team in 2010 is a bit of a reach. I see a surprisingly beastly Reggie Johnson staying out of foul trouble and leading the 'Canes to the win.

St. John's at Saint Mary's

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
St. John's      -0.05     89         Head coach Steve Lavin
Saint Mary's    +0.14     29         Kenton Walker, Rob Jones

I say St. John's. Yes, once again I'm going with the road team that posted a negative scoring margin in league play last year. What's up with that? Head coach Steve Lavin may be new to his role but, as that gaudy number up there under "RPMs" makes clear, his players are not new to theirs. On the other hand the Gaels are looking to replace not only Omar Samhan, who was the teamís leading scorer and rebounder as a senior last season, but also the underrated but highly effective Ben Allen.

Virginia Tech at Kansas State

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
Virginia Tech   +0.02     99         Jarell Eddie
Kansas State    +0.08     63         Will Spradling

This should be a great game between two opponents likely to be highly ranked all season long. But this is where my road streak ends: I have to go with the home-standing Wildcats over the veteran crew from Blacksburg, Virginia. I may think No. 3 in the country is a little high for K-State, but they do have a certain Jacob Pullen and they will be playing in front of a sea of Purple in Manhattan. Tune in to see if KSU's newly assertive Nick Russell (he of the 14 shots in 31 minutes in the Wildcats' season-opening 75-61 win over James Madison) keeps firing away. If he does his effectiveness will be a large factor in determining the success of Frank Martin's offense this season.

Ohio State at Florida

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
Ohio State      +0.12     61         Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas
Florida         +0.02     87         Patric Young, Casey Prather

Included under the "Who's new?" column for this game between two top-10 opponents are no fewer than three McDonald's All-Americans: Sullinger, Thomas, and Young. I expect big things from all three freshmen in the very near future, but Tuesday night's outcome could well be determined by who's old: Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, and Kenny Boynton for the Gators versus William Buford, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty for the Buckeyes. I'll get back on my road team wagon and pick OSU. They're facing the prospect of replacing national player of the year Evan Turner, but if anyone's shown an ability to replace talent with more talent surely it's Thad Matta.

Butler at Louisville

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
Butler          +0.20     61         Chishawn Hopkins
Louisville      +0.03     46         Gorgui Dieng

Yes, the Bulldogs' gaudy scoring margin was recorded in part against the struggling likes of UIC, Loyola, and Youngstown State. But March and early April pretty well settled the question of just how good this team really was, did it not? Gordon Hayward is now a member of the Utah Jazz but Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, and Ronald Nored are still around. I'll go with Brad Stevens' team over youthful Louisville in the first regular season game ever to be played in the Cardinals' new KFC Yum! Center.

South Carolina at Michigan State

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
South Carolina  -0.07     44         Bruce Ellington
Michigan State  +0.08     74         Keith Appling

In a shocker the metrics favor the more experienced team that was better last year in this home game against a younger visiting team that was not as good in 2009-10. You heard it here first.

San Diego State at Gonzaga

                margin    RPMs(%)    Who's new?
SDSU            +0.11     82         LaBradford Franklin
Gonzaga         +0.18     69         Mathis Moenninghoff

The Aztecs return the bulk of the talent from a team that was much better than commonly realized last year. SDSU's Kawhi Leonard and Gonzaga's Elias Harris are both likely 2011 first-round picks, but where Steve Fisher's club has the luxury of being set in their ways Mark Few's team has to replace the hole created by the departure of Matt Bouldin. I'll go with experience over home-court: the Aztecs in a close one.

John also fearlessly predicts Michigan State will beat South Carolina on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 is now available as a PDF.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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