Friday, December 10, 2010

Kentucky, SDSU & Wazzu Take Care Of Business

#16 Kentucky 72, #23 Notre Dame 58
This game was a lot closer than the final score. The two teams were within a few points for almost the entire game, with Kentucky not getting the lead to double digits until the final minute. The biggest problem for Notre Dame was shooting, with every player other than Ben Hansbrough shooting a combined 1-for-14 behind the arc. It's not a coincidence: Hansbrough was the only Irish player who looked comfortable playing against the Kentucky athleticism. Tyrone Nash, in particular, was awful (8 points, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers). For Kentucky, it's interesting how quickly Terrence Jones has completely made it his team. With so many highly touted recruits it wasn't obvious if they'd be able to find their roles, but Terrence Jones has been spectacular. I knew he was a great athlete - it's his shooting that has amazed me. He hit 9-for-18 in this game, and is at 55% on the season, including 37% behind the arc. He's also the team's best rebounder (by far) and can be an intimidating defensive presence in the paint. For Kentucky this was a nice bounce back from that tough loss in Chapel Hill, and this is their second big scalp on the season (along with a win over Washington). They play Indiana tomorrow, but their next big test is probably at Louisville on December 31st. This was Notre Dame's first loss, and it's more than balanced by a bunch of good wins (Wisconsin, California, Georgia). They have a chance to really firm up their position as an NCAA Tournament team tomorrow night against a reeling Gonzaga team that will come in desperate for a victory.

#15 San Diego State 77, California 57
If you're not hitting your outside shots against San Diego State then you'd better have some really, really good froncourt players or you don't have a chance. Offensively they are in the Top 20 in the nation in two-point shooting percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and offensive block percentage. They are also far better at two-point percentage defense (60th in the nation) than three-point percentage defense (198th). But Cal hit 0-for-9 behind the arc in this game, and they don't have the post players to make up for that. If there's one worry I have for San Diego State it's defensive rebounding - their frontcourt is too good to give up so many second chances. Cal actually had 12 offensive rebounds in this game. San Diego State moves to 9-0, and they deserve to be ranked where they are, but they are actually lacking a big win now that their early season victory over Gonzaga looks so much less impressive than it did at the time. This is a nice win, but nothing that will bowl the Selection Committee over. Unfortunately, their only remaining chances for Top 25 wins will come in conference. As for Cal, they fall to 5-3, but have wins over New Mexico and Temple, and all three losses have come against quality opponents. It's the resume of a bubble team, and I do expect them to be a bubble team all season long. They play a deceptively dangerous game Sunday against Southern Miss, and then play Kansas on December 22nd.

Washington State 81, Gonzaga 59
Yes, the title of this post was correct - Washington State took care of business in this game. They were at home, and they're a better team - I expected them to win this game fairly easily. That said, I didn't see this kind of demolition coming. Wazzu had a 20 point lead just a little more than ten minutes into the game, and they got it up to 30 points in the second half before taking their foot off the pedal. Check out this line for Washington State star Klay Thompson: 24 points on 4-for-7 shooting on twos, 4-for-7 on threes and 4-for-5 at the line, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 blocks. I give a lot of credit to their other guards for helping to facilitate as well (all three starting guards had at least five assists). Washington State is now 7-1 with only a five point loss to Kansas State. As for Gonzaga, I'm not sure where to begin with their disappointing play. Elias Harris hasn't been nearly the player he was supposed to be, and Demetri Goodson (who was such a spark off the bench two seasons ago) hasn't really developed as a starter and is actually seeing his playing time decrease. When Robert Sacre isn't having an efficient game Steven Gray ends up having to do everything, and he ends up trying to do too much. In this game he was 2-for-10 from the field with 7 assists and 6 turnovers. And as a whole, Gonzaga's defense has been putrid (97th in Pomeroy adjusted defensive efficiency). They are now 4-4, but only 1-4 against quality opponents (the one win came against Marquette). They have two tough road games upcoming (Notre Dame tomorrow and Baylor the following Saturday). If they can't collect a win in one of those two games it will be time to talk about Gonzaga truly being a bubble team.

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