Sunday, December 02, 2007

There Was Basketball, Too

Believe it or not, there were some important basketball results yesterday. In case you spent the day watching college football, here's what you missed:

#7 Duke 79, Davidson 73
Davidson did a really good job of this one. Duke kept opening up double-digit leads, and Davidson kept coming back. Duke did a good job of keeping a relative muzzle on Stephen Curry, who only scored 20 points. In all Duke actually out-shot Davidson from behind the arc, although that's not a big surprise for anybody who watched the Duke-Wisconsin game. Again, Duke received a balanced attack, with five scorers in double digits. The only thing they have to watch for are turnovers. Greg Paulus hasn't convinced me that he's a great ballhandler, and they might need to start Jon Scheyer against teams like North Carolina that will press and that have great athleticism.

Vanderbilt 92, Georgia Tech 79

With this win, Vanderbilt makes its first appearance in the BP65. Another game with absolutely great shooting (55% from the field, 46% from behind the arc) and Georgia Tech didn't really have a chance. In all, Vandy is now 7-0. You might point out that Vanderbilt doesn't have any real glamor wins, but what they have are a lot of good wins. A majority of their games are what I would call losable: Utah State, South Alabama, at Bradley, at Toledo, etc. They get a few more chances at decent out of conference wins, including Wake Forest later this week. Their out of conference schedule probably won't give them any jaw-dropping wins, but it will build a very good RPI. They are going to have a good record and a strong strength of schedule. The problem is that they're in the SEC East. Right now I'd put the Commodores ahead of Georgia and South Carolina, but they probably have to finish above Kentucky or Florida to move into third place and put themselves in prime position for an at-large bid.

#16 Butler 65, Ohio State 46

Yet another atrocious offensive performance out of the Buckeyes. I can't keep calling these games flukes, because they're becoming the norm. Against North Carolina the failure came in the shooting game, where they hit less than 1-for-4 from two-point land. In this one their shooting was acceptable (46% from the field), but they turned the ball over a remarkable 24 times. And despite a size advantage, they were slightly outrebounded (including 10-to-8 among offensive rebounds). Those two stats combined added up to 56 shots from the field for Butler to 44 for Ohio State. And OSU only got to the line six times. It's almost impossible to win if you have to take 12 fewer shots and 7 fewer free throws than your opponent. I hadn't thought about this before, but Ohio State is really lacking a true point guard. Jamar Butler is really a two-guard, as is Jon Diebler. They need to find a solid ballhandler, because they're going to find better defenses in the Big Ten than Butler threw at them.

#15 Indiana 64, #22 Southern Illinois 51

Possibly the most impressive game yet for Eric Gordon. Southern Illinois shut down OJ Mayo and Daniel Hackett, but they couldn't hold Gordon to less than 22 points in this one. Jamarcus Ellis also had a bit of a coming-out game, joining DJ White with a double-double of his own. One thing to worry about with this Southern Illinois team is that they seem to struggle to rebound. Their defense will be good, but if they keep giving up so many offensive rebounds they're going to struggle to keep scoring low. The Salukis can't score a lot of points, so they need low-scoring games if they're going to be an elite team. Other than Randal Falker, there is almost nothing on the inside to speak of. There are some big bodies on the bench, and perhaps they'll start getting some more minutes to see what they can do.

California 86, Missouri 72

Like Vanderbilt, California has quietly had a very solid start to their season, and earned their first spot in the BP65 today. What's even more impressive about this team is that seven of their top eight scorers are sophomores and freshmen. That means they might blow some close games, but it also means they're going to improve as the year goes on. With Arizona struggling without Lute Olson and Washington a real question mark, California could finish as high as third or fourth in the Pac 10. Ryan Anderson, specifically, should soon become a household name. He might be the Pac-10 player of the year, as a sophomore. I bet he goes to the NBA after this season, so Cal needs to exploit his abilities while they still have him. The Golden Bears have one real test remaining in the out of conference season, when they head to Manhattan to play Kansas State next Sunday. A win there and Cal will probably be 10-0 when the Pac-10 season begins. The Pac-10 has been a big disappointing, but if Cal can go 10-8 and finish at 20-8 would they really get left out of the Tournament? And the way they're playing, something like 11-7 or 12-6 is very realistic.

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