Monday, November 15, 2010

Illinois Looks Very Impressive... Iowa Doesn't

#16 Illinois 85, Southern Illinois 63
Southern Illinois isn't the defensive powerhouse they were in the middle of the last decade (they haven't even been a Top-50 defense since 2007-08), but the way Illinois absolutely eviscerated them in this game was still very impressive. Demetri McCamey torched the Salukis for 7-for-10 shooting and 9 assists, and freshman Jereme Richmond will provide some nice scoring off the bench. Their nine man rotation is extremely talented, and Illinois has to be considered a serious contender for the Big Ten title, as good as Michigan State appears to be. It will be interesting to see how they handle their first real test, on Thursday against Texas. As for Southern Illinois, they did at least get a strong performance from Justin Bocot, who appears to improved since last season and should provide a good balance to Carlton Fay inside. Freshman Mamadou Seck also played very well off the bench. As badly as they were beaten here, it's possible that Illinois is just really good. We'll get a better sense of where SIU is when they play Northeastern tomorrow morning as part of ESPN's 24 hour college hoops marathon. If they're going to be back to the middle of the Missouri Valley pack, or even an at-large contender, they've absolutely got to take care of Northeastern at home.

South Dakota State 79, Iowa 69
The fact is, we all knew it was going to be a slow start for Fran McCaffery's tenure at Iowa. He doesn't have much to work with, and he lost his best player to injury. It will be a success if they win ten games all season, but even so it's got to be disappointing to fall to South Dakota State. Iowa's next opponent is Louisiana-Monroe before they head off to the Paradise Jam. As for South Dakota State, they're not as bad as their name would suggest. They're actually a sleeper team in the Summit, and they have an uptempo, athletic attack that will cause many teams problems. Not only did their guards completely whip Iowa's guards here, but they actually nearly fought to a draw on the boards despite a large size disadvantage, in no small part to freshman Jordan Dykstra, who might be the best freshman in the Summit. Their next big test will be November 30th against Nevada.

San Diego State 81, Long Beach State 65
San Diego State was picked by many (although not me) to win the Mountain West, and so it was interesting to see how they'd begin to deal with that pressure against a quality Long Beach State team (my pick to win the Big West Conference). And they dealt with the pressure well, taking care of business. It was no surprise to see Kawhi Leonard (21 points, 12 rebounds) play well, but James Rahon (a new transfer from Santa Clara) was a nice surprise off the bench. Rahon's 4-for-7 shooting behind the arc (he was a 41% three-point shooter as a freshman at Santa Clara) are particularly important because San Diego State is already stacked inside, but really struggled to shoot the ball from deep last season, when they were 8th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and 12th in two-point shooting, but 265th in three-point shooting. If Rahon can fill that big hole then San Diego State has a real good shot at being a Top 25 team. As for Long Beach State, the fact is that even a potential Big West champion is still going to get waxed by a Mountain West contender playing well. We'll get a better sense of where they are at the Paradise Jam where they open with Clemson, and will look to win at least one of their games.

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