Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Rick Barnes Is Killing Texas

USC 73, #20 Texas 56
This was an amazingly bad performance by Texas, and I put so much of this on Rick Barnes. He has always been a great recruiter who can't coach, but my chief criticism had always just been that his teams played so undisciplined. This year he has a new problem: he's just playing the wrong guys. I've said many, many times that Dogus Balbay is the best and most important player on Texas. The offense only flows when he's leading it, and he's also their best defender. Ken Pomeroy's individual stats were finally put up online a couple of days ago, and you can see the Texas stats here. Pomeroy's stats back up everything I'm saying: Balbay is their most efficient offensive player, and he is by far their best assist man. Pomeroy doesn't have individual defensive stats, but I don't think anybody follows Texas hoops and disagrees that Balbay is their best individual defender. So naturally, Balbay is getting less than 20 minutes per game this season, and he played all of six minutes in this game. Instead, Barnes gives 27 minutes to a guy like J'Covan Brown, who has regressed severely from last season and is a dreadfully inefficient offensive player. Everytime Balbay is off the floor the team just plays one-on-one basketball, and they look terrible at it. It's no surprise that without Balbay for 34 of 40 minutes that the team shot 32% from the field in this one. As for USC, let's recall that USC had that crazy game in December of 2009 when they beat a Top Ten ranked Tennessee team by 22 points, which turned out to be a complete fluke. So this game might turn out to be a fluke as well. USC is 5-4, but this is their first good win, and not one of their losses is against a really good team (Rider, Bradley, Nebraska, TCU). The RPI stats are meaningless at this early point in the season, but the Sagarin & Pomeroy ratings are pretty accurate already, and I've said many times that the most accurate metric for seed on Selection Sunday is the Sagarin ELO_CHESS, and even after this win USC is still rated 174th in the ELO_CHESS. Both Sagarin & Pomeroy actually think USC is more like the 70-75th best team in the nation, so their ELO_CHESS will improve. But they are a longshot bubble team. As for Texas, they remain a Big 12 contender, but I think Kansas has surpassed them as the Big 12 favorite. Bill Self is another guy who is a better recruiter than coach, but he's a far better coach than Barnes, and that's the difference.

Montana 66, UCLA 57
This is another shocking upset involving the Pac-10 from the past few days. This was a UCLA team coming home off of narrow losses to Kansas and Villanova, looking to bounce back at home against an inferior Montana team. UCLA was actually starting to look like a realistic Tournament team, but games like this sometimes happen when you're so dependent on young players that aren't used to the grind of a college basketball season. Tyler Honeycutt, who has been dominating the boards for UCLA, was shut out entirely on the offensive boards in this one. Reeves Nelson and Honeycutt combined for 5-for-19 shooting. UCLA still has a game against BYU before beginning Pac-10 play, but without a win there they will not have an RPI Top 100 win out-of-conference. The Pac-10 is better than most people think it is, but there aren't a lot of glamor wins, so UCLA will have to go at least 11-7 in conference play to go Dancing. As for Montana, they might be the new favorite in the Big Sky after this win. I do think that the Big Sky is wide open between them, Weber State, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona.

Georgia 73, Georgia Tech 72
Georgia continues to impress this season, and for their fan base this might be the biggest win yet - hanging onto a one-point victory over in-state rival Georgia Tech. They actually didn't get a big game out of Travis Leslie. Trey Thompkins had another strong game, but the star was Dustin Ware, who shot 7-for-9 from behind the arc, the last of which being the effective game winner. Ware has been a solid outside shooter the past two seasons, but nothing like this. We'll see if this was a one-time deal or a trend. Georgia moves to 6-2 with a couple of decent wins (Saint Louis, UAB, Georgia Tech), but nothing special. They don't have any bad losses yet either. They have five cupcakes coming up, so they'll likely be a soft 11-2 when they play Kentucky on January 8th in what will be the biggest home game for Georgia basketball in years. Georgia Tech is 4-4 with a win over UTEP and a loss to Kennesaw State. They do look to be one of the worst teams in the ACC. They have a home game against Richmond on December 18th, and then head to Siena on December 22nd.

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