Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indiana Gets A Huge Program Win At NC State

Indiana 86, North Carolina State 75
Indiana came into this game having won six straight, and was coming directly off of a win over Butler. They were flying high, but heading into a road game at a quality NC State team. In years past, this is the type of game Indiana would have lost. But they won, and it's a huge win for that program, and will increase the hype that Indiana is "back". Cody Zeller is the difference this year, of course. He scored 19 points and had 5 offensive boards, and did a very good job of neutralizing CJ Leslie (10 points on 4-for-11 shooting). Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford also combined for 6-for-9 shooting behind the arc as the team finished with 54% three-point shooting).

NC State, I thought, was too passive. They had a physical advantage, and could have used their bigs to try to get Cody Zeller into foul trouble. Instead they took far too many jumpers. Even when they got the ball into the paint they tended to take fadeaways and hooks. Second, I thought the team really melted down mentally in the final couple of minutes. A few dumb mistakes cost them after this game had been really close for the first 35 minutes.

NC State is a talented team, but they're under-performing. I know NC State has continued to look for a coach post-Jim Valvano, and I know they'll refuse to admit they messed up by getting rid of Herb Sendek, but I don't see why a retread like Mark Gottfried is the answer. Still, they haven't had a bad loss yet this season, so they're very much in the Bubble hunt if they can get some good wins. They did beat Texas, and have a chance to get another big win on Sunday, at Stanford.

Indiana has a cupcake up next before they get their first real test against an elite team, when they play Kentucky on December 10th. A game one week later against Notre Dame will be their final game against a quality opponent before starting Big Ten play.

#17 Pittsburgh 80, Duquesne 68
The battle of Pittsburgh was a closer one than many people thought it would be. Pittsburgh had ten more offensive rebounds than the Dukes, but also committed 11 more turnovers. It was surprising how sloppy Pittsburgh was in the paint. Nasir Robinson had six turnover by himself. Lamar Patterson added four more. If Pitt hadn't shot so well on threes (11-for-21), they might have actually lost this game.

This is actually Pitt's first quality win of the season. Remembering the loss to Long Beach State, the reality is that Pitt just hasn't played that well early in the season. They actually entered this game with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS rated 98th in the nation. That will improve, of course. They have too much talent and a very good coach. I've still got them as a 3 seed. Their two final chances for quality wins before beginning Big East play will be on consecutive Saturdays against Tennessee and Oklahoma State. The Tennessee game is up first, this coming weekend.

I've already talked plenty this season about Duquesne's frustrating start to the season. And with this loss they drop to 3-3 against Division I opposition, with a win over Akron being their best. Without any games remaining against likely RPI Top 50 teams before starting conference play (George Mason and Robert Morris are their two toughest opponents), they're going to have to play really well in the Atlantic Ten to get themselves onto the Bubble. Their next game will be on Saturday against Tennessee Tech.

Ohio 70, Marshall 68
This game was far below the radar, but it was a very disappointing from Marshall. Marshall certainly can't complain about the reffing (38 free throw attempts versus only 11 for Ohio), but they fell behind early and just couldn't hit enough shots to chip into the lead. Trailing by 11 points with under four minutes to go, they actually got the game within two points and had a chance to tie at the buzzer, but DeAndre Kane couldn't be the hero.

Marshall had been 5-0 and was coming off a win over Cincinnati. But they're not the type of team that's going to have a large margin of error in trying to earn an at-large bid, so a loss to Ohio is a big problem. They now have close to a week off before playing at Syracuse on Tuesday. After that they'll have a big game at home against Iona.

Ohio, coming off a tough five point loss on the road at Louisville, came through with a big win here. The MAC, as it's been for about ten straight years, is a total toss-up. Ohio is definitely one of the teams to watch, along with Kent State, Ball State, Buffalo, Akron and others. The Bobcats will next take the court on Saturday, against Morgan State.

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