Having A Good Knight

By Jeff Lippman - January 23, 2008

It's like, which one of these things doesn't belong? Except, they do belong. But for different reasons.

While it still might be too early to accurately predict the Final Four that will take place in Tampa, Fla., on April 6, that doesn't mean we can't try.

And while teams like Connecticut, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland seem to be getting a lot of hype, there is another team that deserves respect, but will beat you in a very different way then those others.

No. 5 Rutgers is a national title contender. They are the defending runners-up and they aren't fast, they don't shoot great percentages, they don't have a go-to superstar. What do they have? They have the ability to turn those other teams mentioned into brick-laying, turnover machines.

Look, at 10-8 and 1-5 in the Big East, Cincinnati is not a powerhouse by any standpoint. Rutgers went into Cincy and beat the Bearcats, 71-41. It's not a score I wouldn't expect. And it really doesn't prove much, until you look at the stats of the game.

Rutgers did to Cincinnati the same thing they plan to do to UConn at the RAC on Feb. 5, and that is play solid defense and make the other team play like garbage.

The Scarlet Knights defense held the Bearcats' offense to 23 percent shooting and 26 percent from long range. The Bearcats were outrebounded 46-28 - Kia Vaughn had 21 boards herself.

Did Rutgers play particularly well? Well, not really. They didn't shoot over 50 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Epiphanny Prince only scored two points, well below her average for the season.

But the thing is, Rutgers never plays "well" as other teams describe what that word means. We'll call it having a good "Knight," but what Rutgers does is make the other team play a game they never wanted to play.

When North Carolina met Connecticut in Storrs Monday the nation saw two of the best, fastest and most athletic teams in the country go head to head locked in a vicious battle. It was a scoring fest from two teams who can light it up better than most.

The Huskies, especially, were able to run up and down the court and score at will in the second half of that game. That won't happen in February when they play Rutgers.

Don't get me wrong, UConn may certainly win that game and will probably be favored to do so, but it won't be a pretty thing like it was against UNC. It will come ugly, it will be hard, Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer will see to that. Especially against bitter rival Geno Auriemma and UConn.

Big Day in the Big 12

The nation's most jumbled conference, the Big 12, has a big day of conference action Wednesday with five conference matchups.

The biggest and most important meeting is down in Austin, Texas where the Longhorns look to get back into the Top 25 by beating No. 14 Oklahoma State, undefeated in conference play thanks largely to sophomore guard Andrea Riley.

OSU is 4-0 and Texas is struggling at 1-3 but is always dangerous at home with coach G at the helm.

Oklahoma has struggled to a 2-2 record thus far, making tonight's matchup against Texas Tech a very important win for Sherri Coale and the Sooners. Luckily, they will be playing in Norman.

The Big 12's best, No. 6 Baylor heads to Missouri for a meeting with the Big 12's worst team, 1-3 Missouri (8-9 overall). Baylor is also 4-0 in conference play.

No. 22 Kansas State is also surprisingly undefeated at 4-0 in the Big 12. It looks like all three of the undefeateds in the conference will stay that way as the Wildcats have a home date with 1-3 Iowa State.

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the night comes from Lincoln, Neb., as the Corhuskers, fourth in the conference with a record of 3-1, play host to No. 21 Texas A&M.

This is a huge game for both teams. At 1-3 in the Big 12, A&M needs a conference win in the worst way and it won't come easy on the road against a team that has already beaten Texas, Kansas and Iowa State. Nebraska, on the other hand, needs another big conference win against the Aggies to keep pace with the leaders and continue their surprising run.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:37 AM on January 23, 2008

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