Saturday, November 20, 2010

West Virginia A Big East Sleeper?

West Virginia 74, Vanderbilt 71
This was a game so far below the radar that it didn't even get mentioned on Sportscenter this morning, but I expect both of these to be Tournament teams so this game should have seeding implications. The most important player to mention from this game is Casey Mitchell, who scored 31 points, including 6-for-12 behind the arc. West Virginia is again very athletic - they can rebound well and are strong defensively. Truck Bryant is also doing a much better job of taking care of the ball compared to last season. But if Casey Mitchell can shoot like this from deep then West Virginia has the ability to beat just about anybody. That said, teams that live by the three can die by it, and I don't think West Virginia can score consistently enough to have a serious chance of winning the Big East. But they deserve, at these early stages, to at least be in the discussion. For Vanderbilt, this was a very disappointing day for star Jeffery Taylor, who fouled out in only 14 minutes on the floor, with five points and one rebound. The bright spot was sophomore John Jenkins, who scored 27 points and is up around 20 points per game already this season. Vanderbilt doesn't have the raw talent to win the SEC East, but a third or even second placed finish is possible when you consider how many question marks surround Tennessee and Florida. And Vandy certainly appears to be better than any team from the putrid SEC West.

#16 Illinois 80, Maryland 76
This was a solid, but unspectacular win for Illinois. They were again out-toughed and out-hustled on the boards, and only won this game because of hot shooting behind the arc (10-for-19). I have already talked about the fact that Bruce Weber doesn't appear to trust his bench beyond Brandon Paul and Jereme Richmond. Richmond is the only freshman Weber trusts, and Tyler Griffey (who's a sophomore, but he played very sparingly as a freshman) also makes too many mistakes to earn a lot of time. He was forced onto the floor for an extended time here because Jordan Williams fouled out Mike Tisdale, but Griffey was unimpressive. The highlight for Illinois was probably Demetri McCamey playing great, but he played really well all of last season and Illinois only had marginal success - he needs more help. They're going to need these young players to at the very least provide some depth for the brutal Big Ten regular season. As for Maryland, they leave New York with losses to Illinois and Pittsburgh. Both are quality losses, and Maryland will have plenty of chances to collect big scalps later in the season, but the worry for Maryland is that nobody is showing much other than Jordan Williams. Their guard play has been poor, and Pe'Shon Howard hasn't lived up yet to the hype he got after that performance against College of Charleston a couple of weeks ago.

North Carolina State 78, George Mason 65
I have to give NC State a lot of credit for overcoming star Tracy Smith's injury to get a quality win here to earn an opportunity against Georgetown tomorrow in the championship game of the Charleston Classic. Star freshman CJ Leslie is having a big impact for NC State, even if it doesn't totally show up in the box score. George Mason had to completely collapse on him every time he touched the ball, opening things up for NC State's shooters outside. That said, NC State has games coming up in about two weeks at Wisconsin and at Syracuse. As good as CJ Leslie is, they're going to need Tracy Smith back to win those games. Particularly since both of those teams will be able to guard Leslie one-on-one in the post and will force NC State's perimeter players to create offense. George Mason will be disappointed that they couldn't win this game, but NC State will be an RPI Top 100 team so this won't be a bad loss. And after wins over Charlotte and Harvard, and with a chance for another decent win tomorrow against Wofford, George Mason is off to a strong start and will have solid computer numbers. I would tell you what their computer numbers are, but the fact is that the computer numbers are meaningless this early in the season. The Mountain West (which might get a majority of its members into the NCAA Tournament) is still currently behind the SWAC (winless against D-I opponents this season - an embarrassing 0-26 so far) in conference RPI. Even the best computer rating system (Pomeroy) is pretty meaningless until mid-December.

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