Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Hoops

Utah 94, Virginia 70
I don't know what's going on with the Cavaliers. They had such an outstanding start to the year that it seemed like they might compete for a spot in the top four in the ACC or so. But at this point, Virginia's Tournament resume is pretty suspect with back-to-back losses to Appalachian State and Utah. To be fair, Utah did shoot an insane 62.3% from the field. They also took down 8 offensive boards while Virginia only managed 10 defensive rebounds the entire game (can anyone remember a good team having so few defensive rebounds?). If Virginia is getting worked on the inside by Utah, they're in trouble when they head to Chapel Hill in a few weeks.

#9 Arizona 79, #18 Memphis 71
For a young team, Arizona really looks like a polished product. Chase Budinger and Ivan Radenovic are already looked like seasoned players, and both scored 18 points in this one. It helps to have a real seasoned veteran in Mustafa Shakur who can score whenever you really need a basket. Also, I don't know if it was Arizona's athleticism or just some lazy defense by Memphis, but in a matchup between two top-20 teams you almos never see a 38-10 free throw advantage. Other than that, Memphis played well. Regardless, Conference USA doesn't look all too good this year, so don't expect to see Memphis getting outworked like this on most nights.

Texas 80, Arkansas 76
Pretty amazing that these two teams hadn't played since the Southwest Conference broke up. Also, I don't know if it's just that the atmosphere doesn't translate on television, but it just doesn't seem like Texas is a very intimidating place to play. The crowd didn't seem like much of a factor at all. As for the game, just a very close match the whole way. Texas has the stars in Durant and Abrams, but Arkansas just seemed to have a slew of solid, consistent players. When push came to shove in the last minute of the game, though, the Texas stars took over. Either way, this game needs to happen more than once every fifteen years.

#17 Washington 88, #15 LSU 72
This wasn't as big of a blowout as the final score indicates. Early on, the Huskies went on a ridiculous run, scoring at an insane rate. Meanwhile, Big Baby really struggled to score with the heavy Washington pressure. They figured out that if the whole team just collapsed on him every time he was in the paint, LSU didn't have many good spot-up shooters for Glen Davis to kick it out to. After the early run, the last 30 minutes of the game had fairly even scoring. As for the two young big guys for Washington, Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes, they're both good but I'm not ready to really consider them elite. Washington always plays well at home. I'd like to see those two score 42 points on the road in the Pac-10. Because remember, Washington needs to learn to play away from home if they want to have real Tournament success under Lorenzo Romar.

#14 Oklahoma St 95, #7 Pittsburgh 89, 2OT
A very good, well-played game. Definitely no reason to drop Pitt after this one, because they didn't show any new faults that weren't already on display at Wisconsin. They have good players all over the floor, but they just don't have that superstar, go-to guy. Gray needs to try to be a more dominant force inside. He has a bad habit of wandering outside near the three point line, where it's impossible for him to be anything but a guy to kick the ball to. Pitt already has players to kick the ball to - Ronald Ramon is deadly from outside - and what they really need is a guy who can demand the ball and score at will. As for Oklahoma State, it looks like Sean Sutton's teams are a lot like those of his father. A lot of good athletes, though not necessarily the most fundamentally sound or smooth. I wonder if they still practice with football pads. On a side note, you have to like the acting job by Byron Eaton on that flagrant foul that ended the game. It was clearly a flagrant foul, but Eaton was barely touched. Eaton went with the flow and flipped himself over, then lay on the ground with his head in his hands until the intentional was called, then got up with a huge smile. Before Pitt fans complain, it was clearly the correct call, but Eaten definitely made sure the ref called it.

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