Game preview and keys to the game after the jump...
RICE OWLS AT A GLANCE
Conference: Conference USA
Record: 4-1 (L 49-66 at AZ)
Last Season: 10-22 (4-12)
Starters Lost/Returning: 1/4
Coach: Ben Braun (2nd year)
Rice returns four starters from a season ago, but if there's a big step forward to be made this year, it will be thanks to the arrival of freshmen Arsalan Kazemi and Tamir Jackson, both of whom were recruited by East Coast schools. Kazemi, a 6-7, 205 lb. forward averaging 7.2 points and 6.0 rebounds off the bench (including 5 blocks), is the first Iranian to play Division I hoops. Most encouraging for the Owls, Kazemi's best game of the year came during the team's road loss to Arizona when the freshmen registered a double-double with 13 and 10, while blocking a pair of shots. Tamir is a quick and active 6-2 combo guard averaging 10.8 points and 3.4 boards a game; he's terrific at slashing to the hoop, but his game is still pretty raw -- he's connected on just 1 of his 16 three point attempts on the year and has 19 turnovers to 13 assists.
Joining Jackson in the starting backcourt are sophomore Connor Frizzelle (6-1, 180) and senior Lawrence Ghoram (6-5, 195), both of whom can hit the deep ball -- Frizzelle has hit 12 of 22 (54.5%) of his threes on the year, while Ghoram has connected on 4 of 7 (54.1%). In the frontcourt, sophomore Lucas Kuipers (6-8, 225) and junior Suleiman Braimoh (6-8, 225) have been rounding out the starting five, but I wonder whether junior Trey Stanton won't get the starting nod over Braimoh this afternoon. At 6-10, 230 Stanton has more length to deal with Texas's Dexter Pittman, and he's coming off his best game of the year last week against Furman, when he contributed 23 points and 9 rebounds coming off the bench.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Protect the basketball. The degree of the blowout will correspond directly to Texas's ability to protect the basketball: take care of the rock and they win by 30, turn it over 20 times and Rice might halve it. The Owls are a bad offensive club, but they're quick and active defensively and do a nice job forcing turnovers.
- Dominate the paint. Rice has no answer for Texas near the rim and this is a match up Dexy should put up 20 and 10 in 25 minutes of play. I'll be watching for how well Texas gets their big man involved.
- Make a &#*@ free throw. Texas is literally doing everything well but shoot free throws -- just 62% on the year so far. Fix it.
PREDICTION: Texas 70 Rice 48