Saturday, December 11, 2010

Irish Nearly Blow Gonzaga Game

#23 Notre Dame 83, Gonzaga 79
This game seemed as good as over when the Irish were up by 13 with under four minutes to play. But Notre Dame took their foot off the pedal and lost their intensity, and Gonzaga grew confident and played their best ball of the game during a furious comeback attempt. As a whole, both of these teams played tremendously efficient offensive games, combining for 39 assists on 53 made baskets, and only 17 turnovers. Both teams shot over 50% behind the arc. Neither defense was any good, but I was particularly bothered by Gonzaga, which just seemed lazy when you consider their athleticism. Their defensive footwork was awful. The Zags are now an unfathomable 4-5 with only a win over Marquette. They still have Baylor, Memphis, Xavier and Oklahoma State ahead, but at this point I don't see any reason to see the Zags winning more than one of those games. Unless they pull a couple of upsets, they're actually going to have to win the WCC tournament or they will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, the year before they burst onto the national scene. For Notre Dame, this was a nice way to bounce back from their first loss of the season against Kentucky. I don't think they belong in any Big East title talk, but they certainly do look like an NCAA Tournament team right now. They have two cupcakes ahead before opening Big East play against Georgetown on December 29th.

Oklahoma State 84, Missouri State 70
Oklahoma State got a breakout game from Juco transfer Jan-Paul Olukemi, who had a career high 21 points off the bench. In all, Oklahoma State got 43 points off the bench as part of a solid victory. They've quietly moved to 8-1 with Alabama, Stanford and Gonzaga as their next three opponents. If they can somehow win all of those games they'll be in really good shape as they enter Big 12 play. Missouri State has been one of the two best teams in the Missouri Valley this season (along with Wichita State), but at this point it's looking very likely that the Valley will again be a one-bid league. Missouri State is 6-3 without a bad loss, but they do not have a quality win either. They play Saint Louis next Saturday, but in the end Missouri State's Tournament hopes most likely will lie on their Arch Madness success.

East Tennessee State 63, Mississippi State 62
The Selection Committee will take into account missing players on Selection Sunday, but they just don't care very much. The fact that Mississippi State has been without Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost because of suspension doesn't mean that we can ignore all of their key out-of-conference games. Even without a player like Sidney, there's no reason for a team like Mississippi State to get blown away on the boards by an Atlantic Sun team (ETSU had an offensive rebounding percentage of 58%, MSU had an offensive rebounding percentage of 30%). Mississippi State is now 4-2 against a cupcake schedule, with the losses coming against Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State. They should have Sidney back when they start playing quality opponents (Virginia Tech on December 18th will be the first), but Mississippi State has now dug themselves a huge hole to try to get out of. As for ETSU, this is a nice win, but to me they are not a serious contender for the Atlantic Sun title. Belmont is the best team, and Lipscomb has probably been the second best team so far.

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