Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Mexico And San Diego State Roll

New Mexico 76, Arizona State 62
New Mexico was the pretty solid favorite coming into this game. I projected them before the season to be the slightly better team, and The Pit is one of the best homecourt advantages in college basketball. But I was still surprised to see this game turn into a slaughter. New Mexico opened up a 27-13 lead to start the game, and got the lead up to 20 before taking their foot off the pedal over the final couple of minutes. They don't have a star scorer like the other Mountain West contenders have, but they take care of the ball and rebound well, which is a good formula for victory. The Mountain West is off to a tremendous start this season - not only have the big four (New Mexico, UNLV, BYU and San Diego State) all looked like solid Tournament teams, but even teams like Utah and Colorado State have looked strong. The computer ratings aren't accurate this early in the season, but in my subjective view the Mountain West is better than the SEC this year, and it's not crazy to suggest that the nine team conference could end up with five Tournament teams. As for Arizona State, the one bright spot was Trent Lockett, who blew up for 22 points in a game where none of his teammates even scored in double digits. He only scored 6.7 points per game last season in a shade under 20 minutes per game, so he will be a nice new weapon for them to work with. There's nothing to be ashamed about losing at New Mexico, and we'll get a better sense of where this team is on Saturday afternoon when they host UAB.

San Diego State 79, #12 Gonzaga 76
This was a really high quality game between two good teams. The difference was rebounding, which isn't a surprise since San Diego State was the 8th most efficient offensive rebounding team in the nation last year, while Gonzaga was an atrocious defensive rebounding team. San Diego State 18-to-8 differential in offensive rebounding (with a virtual draw in turnovers) meant the extra possessions that gave the Aztecs a big scalp to start the season. It's surprising that Gonzaga struggles so much with defensive rebounding since they're otherwise so well coached, and defensive rebounding is much more about fundamentals than athleticism or raw talent. Even Steven Gray's coming-out party (a career-high 35 points) were not enough to help Gonzaga avoid just their fifth home loss since 2004. San Diego State came into this game off a very solid (and underrated) 16 point win at Long Beach State. Unfortunately, the CBE Classic (like most preseason tournaments nowadays) guarantees the big ticket teams a spot in the semifinals, so Gonzaga will move on while San Diego State won't be seriously tested until they play Saint Mary's on December 1st. Gonzaga will play that semifinal game on Monday night against Kansas State. It will be a virtual road game (the game will be played in Kansas City), but I think Kansas State is overrated, so there's no reason Gonzaga can't bounce back with a big win.

#2 Michigan State 82, South Carolina 73
This was Michigan State's first real game of the season (they blew out an over-matched Eastern Michigan in their opener), and they looked a little rusty. After opening up a 17 point halftime lead they took their foot off the pedal a little bit too early and ended up with a closer final score than they would have liked. But the result was never in doubt, and the Spartans now head to Maui where they'll open with Chaminade and could potentially end up in the finals against Kentucky, a mouth-watering match-up between Michigan State's brutal strength and experience versus John Calipari's latest set of super-freshmen. As for South Carolina, it will have to encourage them that they weren't blown away by the second best team in the country. They are a potential at-large team, although they'll have to be careful in their out-of-conference slate because a very poor SEC is not going to provide a lot of opportunities for big wins. Unfortunately, they don't have any good chances for big scalps out-of-conference (assuming they won't be able to beat Ohio State in Columbus on December 18th). They're just going to have to avoid bad losses. Their next tricky game will be November 27th at Western Kentucky.

No comments: