Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Feast Week Everyone

I hope everyone was able to take some time out of these holidays to watch some of the great basketball being played in some of these pre-season tournaments. Before we get to Butler's remarkable run, let's go chronologically:

Pennsylvania 68, Drexel 49
Another good early season performance by the Quakers, who are proving that there's life after Fran Dunphy. Not that anyone is considering them for an at-large position in the tournament. But these early season games do have an effect on the eventual seeding of UPenn, should they win the Ivy regular season crown again.

#5 UCLA 73, #22 Kentucky 68
I'd call this a good game for both teams. UCLA is proving that they are capable of taking the next step towards bringing home their first National Title in over a decade (an eternity for that program). Meanwhile, Kentucky showed themselves well. They fought back from a tough early start and made a good game of it. They're clearly looking like a decent team early on - they'll have to play a few more tough teams before we can really hone in where they'll fall at the end of the season.

#17 Marquette 73, #8 Duke 62
There's wrong, there's really wrong, and there's my underrating the ability of Marquette's youth to come together so quickly. We'll see how much of this carries over as this long season goes on, but this team might only be a week or two away from the AP top ten. As for Duke, I'm sure Coach K has the kids calm. An early season loss on a neutral court to a top team isn't the end of the world for a young Duke team. It just seems like they lack the athleticism to run with the top ACC teams this year. They always have outstanding players on the floor, you just wonder whether they'll hold up in what is turning out to be a very good year for the ACC.

Purdue 81, Depaul 73
A good early season for the Boilermakers. Two wins over BCS conference teams in consecutive night are nothing to sniff at. I know that it's not exactly Kansas and Georgetown that they beat, but this is worthwhile news for a program that has really been through some tough years. Carl Landry already looks like one of the best players in the Big 10. And even though he happens to be in his last year, this is definitely a program on the rise. Don't expect to see them in the tournament this year, but they could possibly be back as early as next year.

#11 Memphis 80, #18 Kentucky 63
Definitely a worrisome game for the Wildcats. Memphis did have a good shooting night, and Kentucky did not, but the score differential was mostly due to rebounding. Memphis clobbered them on the boards 38 to 27, including 11-5 in terms of offensive rebounds. If Kentucky is getting dominated on the boards by a tiny Memphis team that only gives significant playing time to two guys over 6'6, and none over 6'9, what are they going to do when they start getting pounded inside by schools like LSU? It was possible for Kentucky to get some positives out of the loss to UCLA. But this game was definitely a downer for that team.

Butler 56, #21 Tennessee 44
And now we get to Butler and the Preseason NIT. It's not like the Bulldogs came out of nowhere here. They're a senior-heavy team that had already played well this preseason. But I don't think anyone predicted this run through the NIT. This win over Tennessee is a good one to put on the resume, since Butler can obviously be thinking about at-large possibilities at this point. Let's keep in mind, of course, that Butler didn't exactly take down the best that Tennessee has to offer. Bruce Pearl's team shot a miserable 25% from the field and 12-22 from the free throw line. They'll have better days.

#23 Gonzaga 83, #2 North Carolina 74
This game validates what Gonzaga has done early this season. They've achieved a lot of great wins over the past decade, but this has to be one of their premier wins. But does this mean that Gonzaga is going to make a return to the top 10 and be an elite team again? To quote Lee Corso: "Not so fast, my friend." Gonzaga was clearly outmanned, giving up 16 offensive boards and only bringing down 7 of their own. The Tar Heels got to the line 30 times, as opposed to only 13 for the Zags. North Carolina simply shot poorly when they had their opportunities. So we have to put some of this on a bad day for Carolina. On the other hand, UNC did look impatient and immature at times. They flung up three pointers incessently as they tried to get the lead back, despite the fact that they clearly weren't falling. A team should never go 6-27 from behind the arc. Roy Williams should have focused on that during timeouts. It was clear that if they could if they just focused on getting the ball inside to their superior big men they would have their best shot at winning..

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