Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Gets Underway

Virginia 87, #17 Minnesota 79
This result was pretty shocking when you consider how poorly Virginia has been playing. Particularly after Minnesota had a double-digit second half lead. But that said, I've warned you not to draw too many conclusions from a hot run at an early season tournament, and I particularly pointed out that Minnesota in particular is a team that always has up and down games, and that they were likely due for a bad loss or two this season. So in retrospect, it shouldn't have been too surprising to think that a feisty Virginia team that Tony Bennett will always have ready to play could pull off the upset here. But this Virginia team that was already without much talent is in even worse shape as they found out today that Will Sherrill has a broken fibula. But this season is all about developing Virginia's young talent anyway. Even if fully healthy, they just don't have enough players to make a run at an NCAA Tournament. This win is very nice, but it won't get them in the bubble discussion. As for Minnesota, they are trying to work Devoe Joseph back into the lineup, and he actually played pretty well here. Virginia's red hot shooting was a bigger cause of this defeat than anything in particular that Minnesota did. But if Minnesota really was the 16th best team in the country, they would have taken care of business at home against a team with the level of talent that Virginia has. I still think that Minnesota is only the sixth best team in the Big Ten, and they might even be seventh, so they still have improving to do. The Gophers have a pretty soft schedule the next few weeks before opening Big Ten play on December 28th at Wisconsin.

Northwestern 91, Georgia Tech 71
It just feels like there's been a lot of atrocious shooting so far this season (maybe I was watching too much Old Spice Classic... it felt like they were using 11 foot rims the way all those teams were bricking shots), but one team that is absolutely loaded with guys who can hit shots is Northwestern. They have an effective field goal percentage of 61% so far this season (third best in the nation), and have this demolition of Georgia Tech to go with a pummeling of Creighton, as well as some cupcakes they played to start the season. That said, I don't want to draw too many conclusions until Northwestern plays some more athletic teams, because historically they've struggled on the road against elite teams, as well as against teams that rebound the ball well. Their cupcake schedule remains soft before they open up Big Ten play with a fury, at Purdue, then at home against Michigan State, and then at Illinois. It doesn't get much tougher than that, and we'll learn a lot about the Wildcats really quickly. As for Georgia Tech, the bright spot was Glen Rice, Jr., who had played so well last year and had disappointed this season before this game. If he can play like this every game, then he'll form a really solid starting backcourt with Iman Shumpert. All of their starting five have talent and can go off on any given night - the challenge is getting them all going at the same time. The Yellow Jackets now fall to 4-3 and have a tough home game upcoming against rival Georgia, and also have Richmond and Siena before ACC play begins.

Miami (Fl) 86, Mississippi 73
With 12 ACC teams and 11 Big Ten teams, one ACC team always gets left out of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. This year that team was the University of Miami, but they made the most of their day off by thumping Ole Miss. The final score belies how much of a blowout this game was - the Hurricanes led by as much as 31 points in the second half before relaxing down the stretch. I think they relieved some tension after what had been a disappointing start to the season. After losses to Memphis and Rutgers, Miami finally has a win over a quality team, and they have to bounce right back with a Saturday game against West Virginia. Central Florida also lies ahead for Miami. As for Ole Miss, they haven't played too badly so far, and haven't done too much damage to any potential at-large resume, but they've got a soft schedule remaining before SEC play begins, and their SEC West schedule will be weak. So they've got to avoid any bad losses, because there won't be a lot of good wins available. Their toughest remaining out-of-conference game is their next game: Southern Miss, on Saturday.

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