Four of the Top 25 teams in the country are in action tonight in Madison Square Garden as a part of the Jimmy V Classic when Memphis takes on Kansas and Syracuse and Michigan State meet later on. Now the games might just be another game on the schedule, but these neutral-court appearances could have some major implications come Selection Sunday in terms of seeding.
Memphis (7-0) vs. Kansas (7-0)
Memphis and Kansas both head into tonight's match-up undefeated at 7-0, although neither team has faced a ranked opponent to date. Memphis is coming off last week's overtime victory against Arkansas State (1-6), where they led by as much as 18 points before tanking down the stretch. Kansas, on the other hand, clinched a victory over UCLA with less than a second remaining to extend a home winning streak.
The game will be up-tempo and expect to see a lot of buckets cashed in on; Kansas is third in the country, scoring a bit under 90 points per game (while converted on a nation's best .569 field goal percentage), while Memphis is scoring at a similar rate at 85 points per game, but converting at a less efficient .471 clip from the field. As similar as the teams are offensively, the Jayhawks are a much more experienced team led by junior forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris and point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Sophomore Thomas Robinson is having a tremendous year off the bench for Kansas, while guards Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and Travis Releford can be counted on in a supportive role. Memphis has eight new faces on its roster from top-ranked freshmen Will Barton and Joe Jackson and junior college transfer Charles Carmouche, but has some upperclassmen experience with forwards Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman. Witherspoon's versatility will be key against the Jayhawks the bigger, bulkier, yet still multitalented Kansas frontcourt. Barton will also play an important role now that he is a starting guard for the Tigers. In his first collegiate start last game, he responded with just eight points after consecutive 20-point efforts.
Michigan State (6-2) vs. Syracuse (8-0)
The Orange will be facing their first real test in the 2010-11 season, while Michigan State has already taken on the likes of Connecticut, Washington and Duke, all away from home this season. Unfortunately, the Spartans are just 1-2 in those games thus far. Syracuse beat Michigan and Georgia Tech on the road in Atlantic City, by a combined seven points in early season contests. Tom Izzo's team is battle-tested, but appears worn-down already with Kalin Lucas' Achilles' injury concern. Lucas was scoreless his last game out against Bowling Green in just 15 minutes of action. He'll need to be back at full speed with Scoop Jardine at the point for the Orange.
Can Syracuse resurrect its offense against a physical Michigan State defense? Jim Boeheim's team is shooting just .430 from the field, one of the worst marks in the nation after leading the country in that category a year ago. Big man Rick Jackson has been superb down low, both scoring the basketball and rebounding, but swingmen Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche are all struggling to shoot from the perimeter- combing to shoot .271 from behind the arc.
Durrell Summers, the Spartan guard, has been on from the perimeter this season, hitting .421 from behind the mark, but has been relatively inconsistent thus far. His scoring, especially from the perimeter will be key to breaking down 'Cuse's 2-3 zone. Another weapon that Michigan State boasts is Draymond Green, an undersized power forward at 6'6", but is by all accounts the best passing big man in the country. His toughness and vision will be needed to match-up with the Orange's size, but also break down the D.