Saturday, December 01, 2007

Big Ten/ACC Wrap Up

Another year, another ACC win. Not that an overall win really means much, as I'll talk later about different ways to rank conferences. I'm fleshing that out for a post on Basketballforums (don't worry, it will be simul-posted here as well). Since it's the individual games are the ones that matter, let's get to those:

#15 Indiana 83, Georgia Tech 79
Again, it's a good thing for this Indiana team to be pulling out close games this season. But this matchup probably shouldn't have been this close. Not only is Indiana the better team, but Georgia Tech has struggled on the road. Remember, they went 1-8 in true road games last season. This game was pretty even the whole way and at every position, although Eric Gordon and DJ White excelled. Indiana did a good job of getting to the hoop and drawing fouls (38 free throw attempts), but you have to wonder if they'll get as many of those on the road. DJ White dominated the boards in this one (18 points and 14 rebounds), and he won't be able to do that in the Big Ten. One clear thing during this Challenge is that the ACC is faster but the Big Ten is bigger.

#18 Clemson 61, Purdue 58
This very tight contest should actually give hope to Purdue. Like most people, I figured Purdue would take a huge step back without Carl Landry, but they have looked pretty good early on. Right now, they've probably been the sixth best team in the Big Ten. This game was very tight the whole way, with the biggest lead for either team being six points. Purdue struggled from beyond the arc, and Clemson got the homefield free throw advantage, so you have to say that Purdue would have won this if they'd been at home. Purdue gets a few more chances to build the resume, including Indiana State at home later today. They also get Louisville at home in two weeks, and go on the road for Missouri and Iowa State. If they can steal two of those and win all of the rest of the games they're supposed to win, that would put them at 9-3 during the out of conference. If they can finish 10-8 in the Big Ten they'd be 19-11 overall and could pick up that 20th win in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney. They'd be a real bubble team, which is more than most people would have thought just a few weeks ago.

#7 Duke 82, #20 Wisconsin 58

Duke looked ridiculously good in this one. Their pressure seemed to rattle Wisconsin early on. And along with some perceived unfair reffing, the Badgers got a bit too riled up. You could see it in their shooting from the field, which was pretty poor for that squad (37%). Meanwhile, Duke couldn't miss a shot, hitting 9-for-17 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. Taylor King, especially, was unconscious. His final stats are deceptive (5 for 10 on three-pointers) because he was shooting some of those from about 30 feet out. I wouldn't be so discouraged from the Wisconsin perspective, as this game was a huge step up from the competition they'd had so far. It's pretty tough to play your first road game at Cameron Indoor, and the Badgers simply got off to a bad start. If nothing else, Big Ten fans got to discover freshman Jon Leuer, who seems to fit Bo Ryan's system perfectly. Like Joe Krabbenhoft, he can play any position on the floor. I also still think Wisconsin is one of the four best teams in the Big Ten, because....

Maryland 69, Illinois 61
A very disappointing result for Illinois. Certainly, Maryland had the homefield advantage. And Illinois was just cold from the field. But Maryland is not a very good team this year, and this is the kind of game Illinois has to win if they're going to get a good seed in the Tournament. They've broken away from the lower teams in the Big Ten, and just about everybody ranks them in the Top 5, but this result keeps them from joining the Big Four at the top of the conference. The Illini get Arizona at home next week, and that would certainly be a good resume builder. As for Maryland, this win goes well with the win at Missouri to create a decent set of out of conference victories. If they can survive VCU tomorrow and BC next weekend, they'll have a very easy run until the ACC season starts up. I still severely doubt that Maryland will make the Tournament, but they could find themselves in the Top 25 when they play their first ACC game. They have a good shot at being 14-2 when they had to Cassell Coliseum. Even 13-3 will probably get them ranked. If they can go 14-2, then a 9-7 ACC season will very likely be enough to get into the Tournament.

#2 North Carolina 66, Ohio State 55

The headliner of the Challenge actually had these two teams playing below their best. Carolina was short Ty Lawson, and Ohio State was short an offense. Ohio State shot an atrocious 27%, including an atypical 1-for-10 from Kosta Koufos. You have to give North Carolina's defenders a lot of credit for this, especially the way they excelled. They showed great perimeter defense in shutting down Stephen Curry in the season opener. In this one they showed excellent interior defense, and not only on Koufos. In all, Ohio State shot an unbelievable 9-for-37 (24%) from two-point land. And it wasn't because UNC was being rough, as they were only called for 13 fouls and Ohio State only got nine free throw attempts despite it being a home game. A possible big story to keep an eye on will be Carolina's undefeated record. You can't look past today's game in Rupp Arena, but after that the Tar Heels have a real easy end to the out of conference season. In addition, their ACC schedule is backloaded. I don't see a real losable game until Duke comes to town on February 6th. A 22-0 Carolina team against Duke? Dick Vitale might need to be medicated.

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