Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Villanova Knocks Out West Virginia

#5 Villanova 82, #4 West Virginia 75
Villanova took the lead about five minutes into this game and never let it go again. Their lead seemed to fluctuate from about five to ten points for most of the game, but it never really seemed like West Virginia was going to pull it out. Scottie Reynolds was particularly impressive in this one, eating alive the West Virginia backcourt for 21 points on ten shots from the field (including 10-for-10 at the line). Da'Sean Butler, who seems to have a big game every time West Virginia has a big win, was ice cold (2-for-9 behind the arc). And the Mountaineers didn't do themselves any favors by hitting 56% from the line as a team (Villanova hit 86%). This win appears to make the Big East a two horse race, with Villanova and Syracuse atop the league with one loss, and West Virginia in third with three losses, and no other team has less than four. Nova is at a disadvantage that their one game this season with Syracuse will be on the road, but they obviously proved here that they can win on the road over elite teams. They will be an interesting match-up for Syracuse, which will have a huge size advantage but also relies on a lot of turnovers, which is something that the experienced and deep Villanova backcourt doesn't do a whole lot of. If either Villanova or Syracuse win at least a share of the Big East regular season title and then win the tournament title, it's very unlikely that they won't get a 1 seed on Selection Sunday. As for West Virginia, they'll get a chance for revenge at Villanova to close the regular season. They can get themselves back in the hunt for a 2 seed if they can finish the season on a strong note, or if they can win the Big East tournament.

#1 Kansas 80, #10 Texas 68
You might not have known which team was #1 in the country watching this game. I say that not because Kansas didn't look like the better team (they did), but because it just didn't seem like Texas was trying as hard as Kansas was. Kansas players were diving all over the floor for balls, and flying around the court on defense, while Texas players seemed to be jogging through the game. The reason we have seen so many upsets at the top of the rankings this season is because most teams get so fired up for big time opponents in front of their home crowds that they just hustle their way to a win. It's particularly perplexing from a Texas team that is one of the deepest teams in the country - it's not like they're going to get worn out. Texas committed seven more turnovers, and it was only an All-American game from Damion James (24 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including 4-for-4 behind the arc, 10 rebounds, five blocks) that even kept this game at all close. Freshman J'Covan Brown also exploited a match-up advantage, scoring a career high 28 points. Texas has now lost five of their last seven games and tumbles all the way into a tie for fifth place in the Big 12. And other than a Saturday afternoon game against Nebraska, their schedule is actually really tough over the final few weeks. They will continue to lose games unless their get their swagger back. As for Kansas, this win obviously just adds to the overwhelming evidence that they're the best team in the country. I don't see how anybody that watches basketball, other than devoted fans of one of the other five or so top teams, could disagree at this point.

#24 Vanderbilt 90, #12 Tennessee 71
This was a blowout from the opening tip. Vanderbilt scored the first six points of the game and it was never close again. The had the right attitude with a relatively thin Tennessee team, which was to go right at them and force them to foul. Vanderbilt then hit their free throws when they got to the line. They actually made 16 more free throws (37) than the Vols even attempted (21). This win gives Vandy a pretty solid hold on second place in the SEC East, with a one game lead over a Tennessee team that they've now swept head-to-head. I continue to have question marks about this team away from home (other than that one win at Tennessee, Vandy has struggled mightily away from home the last few years relative to how good they've been at home). And with a home game remaining against Kentucky, it's not out of the question for Vandy to steal a share of the SEC regular season title. As for Tennessee, they get no time to breathe with a road game at Kentucky on Saturday. And they still have remaining road games at South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi State. Tennessee's computer ratings have all fallen out of the Top 20, so their seed could really start to tumble if they don't win a tough road game or two.

No comments: