Friday, November 26, 2010

Say Hello to Tobias Harris

#24 Tennessee 78, #7 Villanova 68
A bunch of freshmen have gotten more hype than Tennessee's Tobias Harris, but at this point has any freshman played better? He has yet to score less than 15 points in a game, and his nine rebounds in this game led all players. Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum also played very well for the Vols, scoring 35 points and harassing Villanova's outside shooters into 19% shooting behind the arc. This win will also quiet a lot of Tennessee's critics, which have been calling for Bruce Pearl's ouster and predicting disaster this season. The Vols are now 5-0 with wins over Villanova, VCU and Missouri State. Their next big test will be December 11th at Pittsburgh. For Villanova, once again they live and die by the three. As well as Tennessee played, a hot shooting Villanova team would have won this game easily. It's this inconsistency which makes me doubt their chances of winning enough games to win the Big East, but they've got to at least be in the conversation at this point in the season. They have a pretty easy run between now and the beginning of Big East play, with their only decent opponents being their Philadelphia Big Five rivals.

VCU 89, UCLA 85
It's still hard to believe this even after how bad UCLA was last season, but this was a "take care of business" game for VCU. They're just a better team right now. Their guards won the backcourt battle and forced 21 UCLA turnovers, but the key for VCU was star Jamie Skeen and his ability to mostly neutralize the bigger UCLA front line. VCU's five point loss to Tennessee looks better now that the Vols have knocked off Villanova, and they've also now got wins over UCLA, Wake Forest and Winthrop. The Colonial will be in play for multiple NCAA Tournament bids this season, but VCU will have to continue doing their part by taking care of teams like UCLA. Their next game will be Wednesday night at South Florida. For UCLA, they actually played well in the loss here. Malcolm Lee does look to be back at near full strength, and Tyler Honeycutt is turning into a really nice paint partner for Reeves Nelson. But they still lack a win over a likely RPI Top 100 team, and unless they can pull off a miracle next week at Kansas they'll fall to 3-3. Avoiding bad losses in the month of December will be a key to UCLA's chances of making the Tournament.

Virginia Tech 56, Oklahoma State 51
I'm not totally sure that either team really deserved to win this game. Virginia Tech was blown away on the boards and ended up with only 49 shots from the field, hitting 43% on two-pointers, 14% on threes and 65% on free throws. But they won the game because Oklahoma State managed to hit only 30% of their two-point attempts. It might be a little bit hard to play in the Anaheim Convention Center, where it feels like a morgue because the crowds are so small for most of the games. The Hokies are 4-1 with their only loss coming at Kansas State. They will play Purdue at home during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, a game which is actually winnable for them. Oklahoma State is now also 4-1, but without a quality win yet. They have a tough stretch before Big 12 play begins, including games against Gonzaga, Tulsa, Stanford and Missouri State. And then they begin Big 12 play against Kansas State.

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