Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Wins For Duke, Michigan State

#1 Duke 82, #4 Kansas State 68
I've talked many times about how Kansas State lives and dies with the three, and they died here. And while they're always a poor free throw shooting team (66.9% last season) they were atrocious here (47.8% for the game, dropping them to 50.8% for the season). So other than that, Kansas State actually played pretty well here. They had five more offensive rebounds than Duke, which along with seven more turnovers meant that the number of possessions/shots was pretty much equal. And Curtis Kelly is finally back in the swing of things, and played extremely well against a very strong Duke front line (19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, along with six rebounds). Kansas State fans should not be distraught about a start to the season that includes wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, with the only loss coming to Duke. Their next test will be December 3rd at Washington State, and then they'll play at Florida on December 18th. For Duke, the high point of this game was Kyrie Irving's ability to get to the basket at will, which opens things up for the shooters, including Andre Dawkins (3-for-3 behind the arc). When Seth Curry really gets going, Duke is probably going to have the best backcourt in the nation. It doesn't get any easier for them either - over the next ten days they'll play Oregon, Michigan State and Butler.

#2 Michigan State 76, #11 Washington 71
The crazy thing about these early season tournaments is that one of these two teams was guaranteed to walk out of this game with losses on consecutive days. Michigan State played much better than they did against UConn - they showed much more energy and aggressiveness. Kalin Lucas missed the last couple of minutes with an injury, and obviously that could be a big problem, but he did limp all the way to the locker room and it doesn't appear to be too bad. Michigan State has struggled so far this season, but let's keep in mind that Michigan State has a history of starting seasons slow and finishing strong. Let's also remember that Michigan State had a lot of injury problems during the offseason, and many of those players are still finding their way back into the groove of things. While they'll drop from #2 in the polls after the UConn loss, I still think they'll end up being the second best team in the nation by the end of the year. As for Washington, they're going to be spending a lot of time thinking about what could have been with two consecutive very tough losses against teams ranked in the Top Ten. Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy really struggled this entire week, and Venoy Overton once again got himself in really bad foul trouble. Washington is a team that has Final Four talent, but they haven't gotten anywhere near to maximizing their abilities yet. I still view them as the solid favorites to win the Pac-10. They're too talented and experienced to not win a Pac-10 conference that will be down again.

#24 Tennesee77, VCU 72
Tennessee has been shaky in the early going this season, but they've survived each of their games and are now 4-0 with a couple of quality wins (VCU, Missouri State). The difference in the game was Tennessee's length and athleticism, which really bothered VCU's shooters. Jamie Skeen (12 points, 16 rebounds) was the star for VCU, and he'll be a key player when they move to the Colonial regular season and get to play smaller teams than Tennessee. Tennessee will next play the winner of Villanova vs UCLA. They'll head to Pittsburgh on December 11th. For VCU, they'll rue this loss, but it won't be a bad loss and they've already beaten Wake Forest and Winthrop, with another game on Friday against the loser of Villanova vs UCLA. And they still have a bunch more tough games before they begin Colonial play (South Florida, Richmond, UAB being the biggest), so they'll be able to build an at-large quality resume. Right now Sagarin and Pomeroy rate them just outside the Top 50 in the nation, so they should be in the bubble discussion all season.

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