Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Louisville Dominates UConn

Louisville 82, UConn 69
This was never much of a game at all. Louisville opened up a double digit lead in the first ten minutes of the game, cruised to a 14 point halftime lead, got it up to 19 before some sloppy play temporarily got the lead down to seven before the Cardinals cleaned things up and closed out the game. I mentioned the sloppy play because it has become increasingly clear how bad UConn's offense is in half court sets. Pomeroy rates their offense 72nd overall, but that's distorted by how many transition offensive possessions they have because they force a lot of turnovers, they block a lot of shots, and they force a lot of bad shots that give long rebounds. Their two-point, three-point and free throw shooting percentages are all well outside the Top 100 in the country. They remind me a lot of Florida State, another team that blows inferior teams off the floor with their athleticism, but just finds it incredibly difficult to score against elite teams that don't give the ball away. And it's because of those facts that they are really a bubble team at this point. UConn is now 3-6 in the Big East with two very difficult games in their next four (at Syracuse, at Villanova). They'll almost definitely make the NCAA Tournament if they can get to 8-10, but that is going to be no easy feat. Louisville moves to 5-4 with as easy a game as you can have in the Big East coming up next (vs Rutgers). But the tail end of their regular season schedule is really quite rough, so it will do Louisville well to try to wrap up that at-large bid over the next three weeks.

#21 Clemson 62, Maryland 53
Neither team could hit an outside shot in this game, so it came down to which team could create more easy shots. Clemson won the turnover battle by five (although with 47 total turnovers in the game, both teams got a whole lot of transition layups), but the real difference was post play, with Trevor Booker and Jerai Grant just shoving around the Maryland front line for a combined 28 points and 28 rebounds. By dominating the rebounding battle Clemson ended up with 17 more shots from the field and five more shots from the line. It would take an epic difference in shooting percentage for a team which takes that many more shots to lose a game. This win only pushes Clemson to 4-4, but the first half of their ACC schedule was a whole lot tougher than their second half will be. Their remaining schedule really isn't that bad at all, and I'd be shocked if they finish worse than 8-8. As for Maryland, they now fall to 4-2 with a much more difficult upcoming schedule. They head to Florida State, and then have home games against the perplexing North Carolina Tar Heels and Virginia Cavaliers, and then have a road game at Duke. Maryland probably needs to get to 8-8 to earn an at-large bid. I don't think they have the resume to get in at 7-9, although that could always change if we have a weak bubble this season.

#10 Texas 72, Oklahoma State 60
Depth is always a big issue in college basketball, and not just because you may need somebody to step up if an injury happens. Texas had lost three of four since moving to #1 in the nation, and was down ten points on the road to a very good Oklahoma State team, with players like Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason unable to get anything going. But Rick Barnes has a team that goes 10 or 11 players deep, and he was able to just try different combinations until something clicked, and in this game it was relatively unknown true freshman Jordan Hamilton who clicked. Hamilton was overshadowed in the Texas recruiting class by Avery Bradley, but he was a big time blue chipper nonetheless, and despite previously having a career high 17 points against Texas A&M Corpus-Christi he blew up for 27 points in only 19 minutes on the floor here. Even if not for the losing streak this still would have been a very big for Texas in the hunt for a 1 seed, which is still possible even if the regular season Big 12 title is looking unlikely. They can't afford to lose more than one or two more games if they're going to have a good shot at a top seed. As for Oklahoma State, you have to hope that the little sideline scuffle (I believe it was between Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim) doesn't mean much, because as well as they've played they haven't won anything yet. This loss drops them to 4-4 in the Big 12 with four very tough road games still remaining (Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas, Texas A&M). They'd have a good shot at the NCAA Tournament even if they only finish 7-9, but you never want to have to enter your conference tournament needing to either win the whole thing or to get some help from around the nation.

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