Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Major Conference Teams Struggle: Rutgers, South Carolina & Villanova

Elon 58, South Carolina 53
Darrin Horn was quoted after this game saying that perimeter shooting is "an area that we think is going to be a strength for us this year." And maybe he's right (though they shot only 27.7% on threes in SEC play last season), and maybe this game was a fluke, but at some point you've got to recognize the situation you're in and stop launching the ball before you end up 3-for-27 on threes. The reality is that South Carolina should have won this game easily - they had seven fewer turnovers and eight more offensive rebounds than their opponents. It's extremely difficult to win 15 more possessions than your opponent without winning the game.... it typically takes something like 3-for-27 three-point shooting.

Now maybe Darrin Horn is right and this game was just a fluke. And no matter how bad they are at shooting, it's always a mistake to draw too many conclusions from a game like this. I'm not giving up on South Carolina's at-large hopes yet. but they need to bounce immediately back against a couple of cupcakes before having to play North Carolina on November 25th. As for Elon, I don't think this result changes the fact that I expect Davidson and the College of Charleston to dominate the SoCon this season. Their next Division I game is on the road at Princeton on Tuesday.

Miami (FL) 72, Rutgers 57
After a strong finish to last season under energetic new coach Mike Rice (it didn't translate into a ton of wins in the Big East, but you could see the improved play, particularly in the Big East tournament), Rutgers fans were really hopeful coming into this season. I was not alone in thinking that Rutgers actually had a shot to finish 9-9 in Big East play this season. But it's been ten years since Rutgers finished .500 in Big East play, and sometimes it can be hard for up-and-coming programs to handle the pressure. And there's no question that the start to this season has been a disappointment for the Scarlet Knights. After a six point win against arguably the worst team in the Ivy League (Dartmouth), they now got thumped by a very mediocre Miami basketball team reeling from the losses of Reggie Johnson (injury) and DeQuan Jones (scandal).

Reggie Johnson should be out a while longer, but Miami fans have to be happy with how Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has done in his place (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals in this game). It's hard to draw too many conclusions about Miami yet, though, with just this game and a cupcake opponent (Tennessee Tech) to look at. They have a couple more easy opponents ahead before playing at Ole Miss on November 25th. Rutgers should bounce back tomorrow against Sacred Heart. Their next quality game will likely be in Cancun, where they'll play Illinois State on Tuesday, followed the next day by a game against either Illinois or Richmond.

Villanova 76, La Salle 69, OT

This was a tough game for Villanova all the way through. Their biggest lead through the entire 40 minutes of regulation was three points. But that said, I don't think Villanova fans should be too down after this game. The reality is that they couldn't hit a shot (4-for-23 behind the arc), but despite that they got solid play from Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, who torched La Salle for 24 free throw attempts. Their athleticism is going to be hard for any team to handle. The biggest concern for Villanova (as it is every year) will be size, as they actually started this game with a four guard lineup. JayVaughn Pinkston is a redshirt freshman (he was suspended all of last season for an off-court altercation) and Markus Kennedy is a true freshmen. Both played well off the bench, and if they can develop throughout the season then Villanova could end up being just fine this season.

For La Salle, the story was Tyreek Duren, who scored 24 points after having 17 in his season opener against Lafayette. This was expected to be a down season for La Salle after star Aaric Murray transferred out, but Duren is trying to fill that scoring role. La Salle next plays James Madison on Saturday, and then heads to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Villanova will play Delaware on Friday, and their next quality game will be at the 76 Classic where they will open on Thanksgiving against UC-Riverside, and the next day will play either Boston College or Saint Louis.

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