Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is Cincy A Serious Bubble Team?

Cincinnati 68, Dayton 34
The Big East has gotten off to a strong start this season, and now has at least 12 teams that have fan bases thinking about the postseason. Cincy has gotten lost in the shuffle because there were not big expectations preseason. Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson are gone, and I've resigned myself to the fact that Yancy Gates will never live up to his potential and play a complete game. The lack of an elite player or go-to scorer is going to hold them back and keep them from finishing too high in the Big East, but their defense has been spectacular so far. As good as their defense is, of course, some of this game was just atrocious shooting by Dayton. They shot 21.7% on their two-point attempts, with only seven shots blocked, which is almost unbelievable. If Dayton could have hit a layup they'd have lost by a lot less than 34, but they were still outplayed, particularly in the backcourt. Cincy came into this game 4-0, but with all four wins coming against cupcakes. Now that they've beaten a real team the question is how they'll respond next to a few decent opponents over the next three weeks: Oklahoma, Wright State, Toledo and Miami of Ohio. As for Dayton, they came into this game 5-0 with a road victory over Ole Miss, fully looking like a team in the mix for one of the top positions in the Atlantic Ten. Dayton fans will have to hope that this game was just a fluke and that they'll bounce right back. An interesting test will be December 11th at Old Dominion, a game that would actually be a fairly big upset if Dayton could pull it off.

#10 Syracuse 80, Georgia Tech 76
Syracuse is in the Top Ten and they're now 6-0, but it's still been a very unimpressive start for them, in my opinion. Coming off consecutive three point victories over two teams (William & Mary and Michigan) that I doubt will be in the RPI Top 100, they now had to squeak by a Georgia Tech team that will be one of the worst in the ACC and has already lost a game by 17 points to Kennesaw State. Once again Fab Melo was effectively a no-show and the team relied heavily on its two most established stars: Rick jackson and Kris Joseph (a combined 29 points and 17 rebounds). They did get some quality minutes off the bench from freshmen Dion Waiters and CJ Fair as well. I still don't see a glaring weakness from the team, and it's possible that they'll round into form as the season goes along, but all of these close victories over mediocre teams are a really bad sign, as anybody that runs a computer rating system will tell you. They have a game against NC State coming up next week, but I'll be very interested to see how they handle Michigan State the following week. Michigan State will try to push them around inside and they'll hope to foul out Rick Jackson, so a lot will fall onto the freshmen. As for Georgia Tech, Brian Oliver has been a bright spot this season, but Daniel Miller hasn't really developed like I thought he would. Glen Rice, Jr. also has not really progressed after what I thought was a fantastic freshman season (the numbers aren't great, but he was just a true offensive energy spark off the bench). As a team they do have a ten point win over UTEP to hang their hat on, but they certainly don't look like an NCAA Tournament team right now. They head next to a tough road game at Northwestern as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

South Carolina 87, Western Kentucky 85, 2OT
South Carolina is now 2-0 in the Darrin Horn Bowl. This game was a battle, and it will help this Gamecocks team develop as they head closer to what will be a fairly difficult SEC East schedule this season. The star of their season so far has been freshman Bruce Ellington, who is leading the team in both points and assists. Ellington was one of the three very good recruits that Darrin Horn brought in this season, but the other two (Damontre Harris and RJ Slawson) are playing more like true freshmen usually play, and have still not made much impact. To be fair, guards always develop much more quickly than big men, so Harris and Slawson could have a huge impact down the road. South Carolina is now 4-1 with the one loss being a very respectable nine point loss at Michigan State. But the weird thing about the SEC this season is that all six teams in the SEC East have looked like Tournament quality teams so far, and zero of the SEC West teams have looked Tournament quality so far. But the SEC East teams all play each other twice, which means that at least one of those six teams is going to lose too many conference games to make the Tournament. So while this is a quality win and South Carolina has a good coach and some young talent that should keep developing, they still have to show me a lot more than a win over Western Kentucky before I put them in the Field of 68. As for Western Kentucky, it's pretty clear right now that they will live and die with their trio of Sergio Kerush, Steffphon Pettigrew and Juan Patillo. In 50 minutes of game time, the three of them sat for a combined ten minutes. They will wear out against elite teams, but against the Sun Belt they should blow out enough teams that they'll be able to keep those three fairly fresh throughout the season.

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