Saturday, December 08, 2007

Evening Update

So many big games today, from big road wins to buzzer beaters (and canceled buzzer beaters). Too big for one post, so here's my early evening update:

#24 Arizona 78, Illinois 72, OT
There were a lot of questions about how Arizona would respond to the news that Lute Olson will not return this season. At first it seemed as if it was distracting the players, as Illinois opened up with a 12-0 lead and didn't let up for most of the game. But it turned it out it might have been jet lag more than anything else, because Arizona came back strong late in the game. One surprising thing was that the best sophomore on the floor was Jordan Hill (23 points, 14 rebounds), rather than his teammate Chase Budinger. It seems as if Budinger has lost a lot of confidence, and I don't know if it's the coaching change or the fact that there is more pressure on him to lead now that he's no longer a freshman. He was passing up open jumpers all night. Eventually, Kevin O'Neill started calling set plays for Budinger, to force him to shoot. If he can regain some confidence this can become a really good team.

Dayton 70, #11 Louisville 65
I don't know how many people got a chance to watch this game, as it was on tv at the same time as some bigger-name games, but it was a really great one to see. There was a ton of intensity, with players going all out for all 40 minutes. Louisville really looked out of sorts early on, but Dayton didn't take advantage enough to take a commanding lead. Louisville came all the way back and briefly took the lead, but Dayton came back and won going away. Pitino was obviously very unhappy with his team's play, and even made Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith (his starting backcourt) sit out the last few minutes of the game. This win is also causing a bunch of Atlantic Ten fans to come out of the woodwork and start making all sorts of crazy declarations. I keep hearing people talk about four Atlantic Ten teams making the Tournament. Now, that has happened in recent memory (close to a decade ago), but for this year people need to chill out. I do think there is a good chance that the A-10 gets two bids, and Dayton could be one of them. If they're on the bubble in early March, you can bet that this result will be the cornerstone of their argument. Definitely a huge win.

#15 Indiana 70, Kentucky 51
Yet another disappointing result for Kentucky. It's amazing how much Billy Gillespie's stock has dropped with this awful start to his Kentucky tenure while Texas A&M appears to be reaching new highs in its first year without him. I think this sentiment is a bit overrated. For one thing, Billy Gillespie comes from the Bill Self school of coaching, which means that recruiting is the most important thing. It's all about throwing superior athletes on the floor and letting them play basketball. Right now, Gillespie just doesn't have a lot of talent to work with. Don't expect anyone to jump on this team's bandwagon anytime soon, as they don't get another opportunity for a big win until the big rivalry game against Louisville on January 5th. I still think this team is making the Tournament, but it's going to come down to the end of the season. They can forget about winning the SEC.

#10 Michigan State 68, #22 BYU 61

A huge comeback and win for Michigan State. For those keeping track, this game was technically not a true homegame for BYU, so the 34 game home winning streak is still alive. But it was in Utah, and clearly a home crowd for BYU. This Michigan State team seems to be improving by leaps and bounds each week, and they really feel like a potential Final Four team. Drew Neitzel is a great player, but a Top Ten team by himself he is not. The best part of this game was the way that he wasn't the be all and end all of MSU's offense. When they get production from players like Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton, and still have Drew Neitzel to hit the big clutch shot, they are tough for anybody to beat.

#15 Marquette 81, #23 Wisconsin 76
Another excellent game, for those who got a chance to watch. Wisconsin and Marquette play very distinct styles, and both managed to execute well for most of the game. It was interesting to watch the tempo of the game change so drastically as each team went on its own runs. In the end, Wisconsin couldn't hit their free throws, and that probably cost them the game more than anything else. For Wisconsin, this game was about whether they could handle a really athletic team after Duke ran all over them. And they did do a good job on offense of handling the press, and the defense was pretty good after a poor start. But what killed the Badgers was a lack of depth in terms of athletic guards. When Michael Flowers and Trevon Hughes went out with foul trouble, Wisconsin's backcourt was simply way too slow. As for Marquette, it's hard to imagine a guard playing much better than Dominic James did in this one. And he fits perfectly in their system. I've talked recently about how the Big East seems really wide open this season, but I don't think anybody can hang with Marquette when they play like this.


Anonymous said...

"I keep hearing people talk about four Atlantic Ten teams making the Tournament. Now, that has happened in recent memory (close to a decade ago)"

2004 wasn't that long ago:
St. Joes (#1 seed) - elite eight
Xavier (#7 seed) - elite eight
Dayton (#10 seed)
Richmond (#11 seed)

A10 also had 2 teams reach the elite 8 that year

Jeff said...

You know, you're right. For some reason I thought that happened more like 7 or 8 years ago. All of these years are starting to blend together in my head....