Friday, January 05, 2007

New Years Update, Part II

Miami 72, UMass 71
A tough loss for the at-large hopes of the Minutemen. They've showed a remarkable amount of improvement this year under young coach Travis Ford, but they just might not have enough to get beyond the NIT this year. Miami isn't exactly a pushover, so this isn't a bad loss. It's just a missed opportunity to rack up a win over a quality opponent that was outplayed. UMass outrebounded the Canes 31-23, and blocked an amazing 11 shots. Yet after all that, Miami still shot over 50% from the field, and 60% from behind the arc. It's hard to beat a team that shoots like that. Atlantic 10 play starts tomorrow for the Minutemen, and they need to get off to a good start. They need to go atleast 12-4 to think about an at-large bid to the Tournament.

Missouri State 86, Bradley 78

A good job by the Bears getting back to their winning ways. Bradley is a good team, and it's a solid win to set the tone for the rest of the Missouri Valley season. Missouri State's big guys absolutely ran Bradley off the floor, winning the rebounding battle by a remarkable 43-21. They're going to need that kind of strength inside to beat a team like Wichita State on Sunday. Missouri State does have that great win over Wisconsin on a neutral floor, but other than that they don't have any good out-of-conference wins. They don't have any real awful losses, but it's still not a water-tight resume. They need a solid conference season for a Tournament bid. This weekend's game against Wichita State will be huge for conference position, so watch out for it.

#18 Clemson 68, Florida St. 66

As I discussed earlier, this was exactly the game that Clemson needed to win to start off the ACC season. Amazingly enough, this is Clemson's best win of the year. So, they managed to make a 14-0 season even better. The fact is that we know Clemson isn't good enough to run through the ACC. They're going to lose some games. The key now will be winning the games they're supposed to win and building the best resume they can. At this point I'd say Clemson is pretty much a lock if they can go 10-6 in the ACC.

Minnesota 65, Purdue 59

A bad loss for Purdue. Minnesota has played awful this year, and they're supposed to be the easy game in the Big 10 schedule. Good teams don't come out and blow games like this. Purdue even outplayed the Gophers, but must have felt like they were shooting at a rim that was just a bit too small. Shooting 36% from the field, including 3-17 from 3-point land, is going to make it tough to beat anyone. There's no question that Purdue is playing better than expectations, and that they should feel good about this season, but they just don't seem good enough to pull off those good wins. They fell just short against Georgia Tech and Butler, their best win a 2-pointer over Virginia in the ACC/Big 10 challenge. If they want any hope of building a resume, they need some wins soon. Over the next two weeks the Boilermakers have home games against Michigan and Illinois. A win in both of those games (assuming no more mis-steps, like a loss at home against Penn State tomorrow) would put Purdue back on the right track. They need to take these opportunities when they come. It will be a lot tougher to get those Big 10 wins at Indiana and Wisconsin.

Providence 74, #21 Marquette 59
A meaningful game for both of these teams. For Marquette, the season has really taken a slide since the early season victories over Texas Tech and Duke. They might fall back out of the Top 25 altogether. For their sake, you have to hope this was a look-ahead game, because their schedule gets very tough very quick. Their next five games are against Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia, Louisville & Pitt. No easy wins there. Of course, on the other hand, you can view that as a great chance to get some resume-building wins. Is the glass half full or half empty? As for Providence, does this win shoot them into at-large discussions? They have a good overall record (11-3), but no real great out-of-conference wins, and that 30 point loss to Florida State sticks out like a sore thumb. I'd have to say that while their out-of-conference resume isn't going to get them into the Tournament, it won't keep them out either. If they keep winning Big East games over the likes of Marquette, they could possible earn a bid that way. But I'd like to see this happen some more often before I take them too seriously. For example, they could easily lose at home to Seton Hall tomorrow and all of this will be moot.

Wichita State 84, Bradley 63
I talked about this game yesterday. As I said they would, they came out to play and creamed Bradley. Wichita State dominated pretty much every aspect of the game, shooting a remarkable 62% (including 58% from behind the arc) and almost doubling Bradley in rebounds. They knew that while you can blow off a loss or two, an 0-3 start in the Valley would have been almost too tough to overcome. This win leads into a very important game at Missouri State. They follow that one up with a few easier conference games, but a loss to Missouri State would give the Shockers three losses, and would firmly knock them out of the "favorite" position in conference. On the other hand, a win would cement them as the best team, and we could ignore the losses as an unfortunate cold streak. Remember, the Valley is good, but it's not good enough that any team can go 9-7 in conference and expect to get into the Tournament. You can't lose 3 games before January 10th and expect an easy road.

#7 Arizona 96, #20 Washington 87

I could talk about how great Arizona has played lately, but everyone already knows that. I'd say Arizona is looking at no worse than a #2 seed right now, with a real good shot at the #1 if they can beat UCLA. But what I'd rather talk about is Washington, a team that got off to a great start but has really struggled as of late. They had a solid victory over Northern Iowa, the romp over LSU and the tough loss at Gonzaga (where almost nobody wins). But then they go and start off the Pac-10 season with an unfortunately tough first three games (at USC, at UCLA and at home vs. Arizona). None of those games are bad losses, but added together you question the ability of this team to win the big game without Brandon Roy. In fact, it makes you even question their earlier wins. Was that LSU performance, like many have suggested, only the product of the game being the last game of a long road trip? With the re-emergence of Oregon, Washington State and USC as Pac-10 powers this season, Washington is going to find it a lot harder to move back up the standings than they did moving down them. They have some winnable games coming up against Arizona State and Stanford, followed by potential resume-building games at California and Washington State. Washington really needs atleast one of the latter two, plus the former two games as well. Otherwise the January 25th game against Oregon State turns into a must-win game, as Washington will risk falling out of the Tournament altogether.

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