Saturday, December 04, 2010

North Carolina Finally Beats A Good Team

North Carolina 75, #11 Kentucky 73
Believe it or not, this North Carolina team had gone more than one year since they beat a really good team (they beat Michigan State on December 1st, 2009), and they did have bright spots I hadn't seen in some time. The biggest one to me was John Henson, who showed some toughness I'd never seen out of him - he's still super skinny, but toughness is much more mental than physical. Henson led all players with 12 rebounds and completely shut down Terrence Jones (3-for-17 from the field). The defense was key because North Carolina was really struggling to score in the half court. Kentucky was packing the paint, daring UNC to shoot threes (which they do poorly), fully aware that Carolina's ball handlers struggle to get into the paint against anybody. If Henson and Zeller weren't playing so well in the paint this game would have been a blowout. And that's why I think Kentucky shouldn't get too down about this - they shot very poorly, they faced a UNC team playing at its very best, and even in Chapel Hill they only fell by two points. Kentucky is still arguably a Top Ten team, and I do believe that the SEC title will come down to a battle between them and Tennessee. They next play Notre Dame on a neutral location, but after that should not be seriously tested until they play at Louisville on December 31st. The Tar Heels head to a potential letdown game at Evansville, and have Texas coming up on December 18th.

Michigan 65, Harvard 62
Tommy Amaker has played Michigan tough since going to Harvard. And this year I actually think Harvard is just a better team than Michigan, which is why this is a very solid home victory for the Wolverines. That said, Michigan again demonstrated everything wrong with this team - namely that they never attack the rim and just spend all game launching jump shots. An amazing stat is that in the first 39:20 of this game the Wolverines managed to earn just three free throw attempts. They got seven more in the final 40 seconds when Harvard was fouling intentionally, but otherwise they simply did not get in the paint despite a large athletic advantage. Darius Morris was again the best player for the Wolverines, although his partner Tim Hardaway, Jr. didn't do much. The bright spot for Harvard might have been freshman guard Laurent Rivard, who scored 15 points while coming off a career-high 21 points against Fordham. Harvard did need this game more for any sort of at-large bid, but it's very unlikely that any Ivy League team is going to get an at-large bid this season anyway. If for nothing else, the fact that there is no Ivy tournament means that for Harvard to miss the automatic bid they would need to lose at least twice to Ivy opponents, which would be very damaging to their resume. In my opinion they need the auto bid, but they're the heavy favorites. As for Michigan, they now have back-to-back wins over Clemson and Harvard, but I still think they're a step below a bubble squad. Their remaining tough games before Big Ten play begins are against Utah and Oakland.

California 76, Iowa State 73
Cal seemed to have a narrow lead almost the entire way in this game, but Iowa State just didn't have enough offensive firepower to ever really grab a lead, despite some very hot shooting from Scott Christopherson (7-for-13 behind the arc). Cal got a huge game out of Harper Kamp - most interesting to me being his five assists. Jorge Guttierez is a pretty good ball handler for Cal, but if Kamp can play something of a point forward role then Cal can begin to put together a fairly efficient offense. This win helps Cal get over their two disappointing losses in Orlando, but they have a very tough task ahead: San Diego State on Wednesday night. They also have Kansas and Southern Miss coming up before beginning Pac-10 play. Iowa State failed again to collect a quality win this season. Games at Iowa and Virginia are their only remaining chances for "quality" wins before beginning Big 12 play, but even on the road those two games are really stretching the definition of a "quality win".

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