Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Catching Up

Just a quick catch-up for action from the past few days that I haven't talked about yet. I won't discuss any of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, as I'll have a post mortem after all of the games are over:

#4 Kansas 76, Arizona 72, OT
Kansas showed a lot of toughness pulling out a good win at home. They're going to be pretty tough to beat at Allen Fieldhouse this year. Don't be fooled by Arizona's lack of a ranking, as they're a very talented team. They shot well (48% from behind the arc) and got to the line (21 times) in this one. Kansas struggled to pull out close games last year, so this was a welcome turn of events for Jayhawks fans. This game was won with ballhandling, and I hope Arizona gets that under control when Lute Olson gets back. Chase Budinger will be a household name soon enough, and he should be leading this team far into the Tournament. But they're going to have to pull out some of these close games to build the resume for a top seed.

USC 70, #18 Southern Illinois 45
A shocking result for sure. What intrigued me about this game was how Southern Illinois came up with a gameplan, succeeded in achieving what they wanted to achieve, and lost big anyway. The Salukis have some great perimeter defenders, and can shut down just about anybody on any given day. So coming into this one, you'd figure that if you could contain OJ Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson that you would beat USC. And SIU did that for the most part, holding that trio to 25 points. No worries, though, because freshman Davon Jefferson came out of nowhere to post 18. More production came from other players coming off the bench. Meanwhile, SIU looked a bit unsure of itself on offense. They had only played three games before this point, and none against an elite team or hostile crowd. I think they perform a whole lot better if this game is in another month. I wouldn't jump off the SIU bandwagon yet - this result says more about how deep USC is than about SIU not being a very good team.

Davidson 71, Appalachian State 60
Yes, we have now have had a major intra-conference matchup. In November. What did we learn here? Davidson is going to run through the SoCon. Stephen Curry hit nine three-pointers as Davidson won on the road against their only real competition for the conference title. Don't be surprised to see Davidson run the table in the SoCon this season. And they will need it if they want a decent seed, because the Western Michigan loss really took the shine off this very-hyped team. Assuming they don't win on the road at Duke or UCLA, a matchup at NC State is their only remaining shot to build the resume. The recent criticism of Davidson is that they can beat bad teams, but lose to good teams. They went 0-5 against the RPI Top 100 last year, and need to prove that they can beat someone good this year.

UMass 107, Syracuse 100
A crazy game all around, and UMass walks out with the big win. I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised by the Minutemen this year, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year without Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman. With this win, they're already back on the bubble. UMass won this game with great shooting, but they were getting a ton of layups and easy put-ins as well. Syracuse has some very talented offensive players, but they don't seem quite as motivated to make great plays on defense. 97 points to Siena? 91 points to Washington? 80 points to Fordham? Yikes. Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene are a very talented freshman duo, but they need to play with a little bit more maturity. We don't need to see you pose for the cameras every time you score two points. Try holding teams to under 100 points before you start showing off. Sorry... I didn't mean to turn into Jay Mariotti. I wouldn't care about the preening and showing off if Syracuse won some big games and played some good defense. This is a very talented team, but defense like this will mean a repeat trip to the NIT.

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