Monday, November 22, 2010

Minnesota Gets Another Big Win

#17 Minnesota 74, West Virginia 70
You can make the argument that no team is off to a stronger start to their resume this season than Minnesota. They are 5-0 with wins over West Virginia, North Carolina, Western Kentucky, Siena and Wofford - those might all end up being RPI Top 100 teams... and their primary playmaker (Devoe Joseph) hasn't even seen the court during a game yet. Trevor Mbakwe, the transfer from Marquette, has been a tremendous addition. The Gophers already had a ton of size with guys like Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson, but Mbakwe is a far more athletic front court player than either of them, which gives Minnesota the chance to turn up the tempo and stay strong in the paint even against shorter, more athletic teams. But that said, I need to throw a little bit of cold water on any Minnesota Big Ten title talk - the fact is that they have been an up-and-down team as long as Tubby Smith as been there, and they still need to prove that they won't have a bunch of letdown games this season. Last season they beat Butler, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin, but they also lost to Portland, Indiana and Michigan (at home). The Gophers are going to leave Puerto Rico with a ton of confidence. Let's see what they do with it. For West Virginia, this won't be a bad loss, but they again lack much scoring outside of Casey Mitchell. Their offense is overall fairly efficient, but they lack go-to scorers and creators when they need a basket, and that will be a problem in tight Big East games. They will next be tested on December 4th at the University of Miami.

UConn 83, Wichita State 79
Wichita State's players and coaches are going to spend a lot of time thinking about how they let this one get away. They had a 9 point lead with under ten minutes left in the game, and they allowed Kemba Walker to just take over. They kept trying to guard him one-on-one and just couldn't. I know that they like to play man-to-man, but you've got to think about going to a zone when a player is scorching you for 29 points in a half. Alex Oriakhi (12 points, 7 rebounds) was the only other UConn starter to do much. Roscoe Smith has been playing very well of the bench as well, and has possibly been the best of UConn's strong freshman class. The Huskies are 3-0, and playing well in comparison to some of their competitors in the middle of the Big East. They'll get a chance to really make a splash (although I doubt it) tomorrow night against Michigan State. For Wichita State, this loss is most disappointing because it throws them into the consolation bracket and severely damages their chances of collecting a big win at the Maui Invitational. Their next game will be a no-win situation against Chaminade, and they'll have to hope for a decent opponent in their final game (either Virginia, Washington or Oklahoma).

Clemson 64, Seton Hall 58, OT
Seton Hall has to learn to score without Jeremy Hazell, who will be out for another six weeks or so. They managed just 19 first half points and ended up with 20 turnovers, 2-for-21 shooting behind the arc, and another disappointing loss to start this season. They're now 2-3 on the season, and while none of the losses are bad losses, at some point you've got to beat a good team. In the Big East, teams always have a chance to work their way back onto the bubble by winning a few games in a row, but I haven't seen anything yet that suggests they have that in them. For Clemson, this was a solid way to bounce back from a tough one-point loss to Old Dominion. They're quietly 4-1, and have some winnable games against quality opponents over the next couple of weeks (vs Michigan, at South Carolina, at Florida State).

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