Sunday, November 14, 2010

Southern Miss Deserves Attention In C-USA

Southern Miss 60, South Florida 53
I've already talked a couple of times (such as here and here) about Southern Miss being a sleeper in Conference USA. And what's impressive about this game isn't that they beat South Florida, but that they actually didn't even play that well and still won. Last year their strengths were on defense, both at preventing good shots and preventing offensive rebounds. They did force South Florida into 35% shooting from the field, but they gave up 14 offensive rebounds, struggling with the size and athleticism of Jarrid Famous and Augustus Gilchrist. Boxing out with surely be a point of emphasis in practice for Larry Eustachy over the next few days. Southern Miss shouldn't be seriously tested against until they head to Ole Miss on December 4th. As for South Florida, it's fair to say that they are who we thought they were. They have tremendous athleticism, particularly inside. And some of the newcomers at the guard position are solid athletes as well. But what they lack is scoring. Dominique Jones was the one guy who could create his own scoring last season, and they are really going to struggle to score without him.

Austin Peay 64, Saint Louis 62
Saint Louis has major issues as long as they're without Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, a situation that I have discussed here. While those two were both expected to be big scorers this season, the most irreplaceable facet of their games is Reed's rebounding. Rob Loe, while a talented newcomer, is clearly very raw, and he fouled out in 20 minutes with only two boards in this game. That's not a surprise because players that tall often take a year or two to develop. It was still shocking to see Saint Louis completely blown off the boards (31-to-19 in total rebounds, including 10-to-4 on the offensive end) by an Austin Peay team that not even one of the top 200 rebounding teams in the nation last season. Kwamain Mitchell still hopes to be back, but at this point it's more likely than not that neither player will play for the team again this season, and that really puts Saint Louis's at-large chances in limbo. Saint Louis gets their next test on Saturday against Georgia, a team that could end up being another bad loss if the Billikens can't take care of business.

George Mason 66, Harvard 53
It's obviously going to take some time for Harvard to really learn how to play without Jeremy Lin. They committed 24 turnovers, took 40% of their shots behind the arc, and shot a combined 33% from the field. The performance can be taken in comparison to Princeton's very sharp performance against Rutgers (17 assists on 26 made baskets). I expect Princeton and Harvard to duel for the Ivy League crown all season. Harvard has more raw talent, but they can't have ball handling this poor or they'll come up short yet again. As for George Mason, this is a solid opening day victory for them. Cam Long was their best player with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, but it was a solid performance all around, including the bench. Old Dominion is still the heavy favorite in the Colonial, but George Mason is going to be fiesty, and it's not out of the question for the conference to be a multi-bid league.

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