Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ACC & Big 10 Starting to Clear Things Up

The ACC/Big 10 challenge is a great opportunity for teams to pick up big wins and validate their early season performances. It's also a chance to mess up and shed uncertainty on what's been done against inferior competition. So while you hopefully enjoy the amazing OSU/UNC game, some quick thoughts on some of the other games in the Challenge:

#19 Maryland 72, Illinois 66

A very good win for the Terps. I know that they're ranked and Illinois isn't, but few teams have the home-court advantage that the Illini have. It's impressive for any team to win there, and it's a very important win for a Maryland team trying to validate its return to the Top 25. There were questions in the pre-season whether this team could return to the Tournament, but they've clearly answered those questions early on. Right now, they're looking solid as far as getting a bid. In fact, they have a reasonable shot to finish 2nd in the ACC and land an outstanding seed when March comes around.

#10 Duke 54, Indiana 51
A missed chance for the Hoosiers. After really struggling early on this year, they seemed really motivated to steal a big win. Meanwhile, Duke looked like they didn't want to be there. The whole game they just seemed to be waiting for Indiana to go away - they didn't want to take the extra step to bury the Hoosiers. They were lucky to escape with a win, to save their spot in the Top Ten. Meanwhile, Indiana has to prove that they can play like this every night if they want to get themselves back to the Tournament. Indiana gets two more shots for good out-of-conference wins: In a few weeks at Kentucky, then a game at home vs. Southern Illinois. By the way, raise your hand if you would have dared suggest five years ago that Indiana would really help their tournament resume by beating Southern Illinois at home.

Boston College 65, Michigan State 58
A poor performance by Michigan State, and the kind that makes you question Tom Izzo's control over this team. It's one thing to have a bad shooting night, but Michigan State looked like they didn't want anything to do with that game. No one was diving for loose balls, hustling on defense, or pushing the ball on offense. I've never seen Michigan State that tentative. All of that was good news for a Boston College team needing a big win after a rough early start to the season.

Virginia Tech 69, Iowa 65
Iowa does not look like a Tournament team right now. They may have been on the road, but Virginia Tech is one of the worst the ACC has to offer. If they can't win there, what hope do they have at Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois? Unless something changes, I see Iowa most likely falling out of next week's BP65.

Purdue 61, Virginia 59
I liked this matchup. Two similar teams: Rebuilding programs coming out of some their darkest times. Virginia is a few years ahead of Purdue, with a good shot at making the Tournament this year. Purdue is probably a year or two away from making a legitimate bid at an at-large bid. Still, another good win for the Boilermakers, and a big missed opportunity for Virginia. They have the talent to be one of the top teams in the ACC, but not enough talent that they can sleepwalk into March. They still need some more good wins to feel good about their resume.

Oregon 57, #23 Georgetown 50
Of course, there have been important games outside the ACC & Big 10, so moving on: I was willing to pass off the Old Dominion game as an anomaly, but after this game I really have to question what is going on with the Hoyas. On paper, they should be one of the top teams in the country, but right now they're 5-2 with absolutely zero resume-building wins. Right now they really need to steal that game at Duke in a few days. Otherwise they might not just fall out of the Top 25, but they might be gone for an extended period of time.

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