Monday, November 21, 2011

Michigan Out-Executes Memphis

#15 Michigan 73, Memphis 61
Memphis had a tremendous athleticism advantage in this game, and they didn't lose this game the way you might think. Michigan didn't shoot the lights (6-for-20 behind the arc), and because the Wolverines sit back on defense and never press, they didn't force a lot of Memphis turnovers either (only eight all game). Instead, Michigan just out-executed Memphis, on both sides of the floor. On offense, Michigan took advantage of a Memphis team that over-pursued and often left players open on the back side. On defense, Michigan sat back in their typical zone, confusing the heck out of a Memphis team that hasn't been good at passing the ball since John Calipari left. No matter how good your players are one-on-one, you've got to pass to beat the zone.

I think Memphis will clean up their defensive errors. They won't often have to chase players around the perimeter like they did against Michigan, where they were obviously told pregame to prevent threes at all costs. But learning to defeat the zone will be harder. They will be able to out-athlete many of their Conference USA foes, but there's a limit to how far you can get in college basketball by out-athleting opponents.

These teams have two more Maui Invite games to play. Michigan will play Duke tomorrow in the semifinals. Memphis goes off to the consolation bracket where they'll play Tennessee. Memphis/Tennessee games are always competitive and always fun, so don't miss that one.

#6 Duke 77, Tennessee 67
Duke was uncharacteristically sloppy in this game. Tennessee forced seven steals while the Blue Devils only had 11 assists all game. Duke also rushed some shots, and at time struggled to work their offense. Midway through the second half, when Tennessee got the game close, Austin Rivers spent a lot of time beating his men off the dribble trying to score. Rivers is better attacking the rim than anybody on the Duke roster, but that's not the way Coach K likes to play. That said, I don't see why people are saying this game means that Duke is overrated. The fact is that Duke always has the most trouble with long, athletic opponents that press them defensively, and despite not playing their best they still controlled this game and won by ten.

Duke now has an intriguing game tomorrow against Michigan. Both teams should execute at a high level, and if either team gets hot behind the arc they'll probably win. The advantage Duke will have is in the paint. Michigan is a horrendous offensive rebounding team, so if Duke can crash the boards on their own missed shots then that can be a real advantage for them. Tennessee heads to the Consolation Bracket to play Memphis, which as I said higher up in this post is always a fun game to watch. The Vols look better than I thought they'd be this season. There's no reason they can't take out Memphis.

Virginia 60, Drake 52
For the second straight game in the Virgin Islands, Virginia enforced their will on the game, keeping it slow and low-scoring. And for the second straight game they got a pretty good win. They beat Drexel last time, and today they beat Drake. Drake ended up with a 41.4 eFG% and a 25% turnover rate. Despite how young Virginia is, Tony Bennett is clearly going to make them a tough beat this season. Considering how bad the bottom of the ACC looks right now (Boston College, Wake Forest, Maryland, etc), Virginia could be a middle-of-the-pack team. They next head home for UW-Green Bay on Friday. Their Big Ten/ACC Challenge draw is a difficult one, against Michigan on November 29th.

Drake is now 2-2 in their games against Division I opponents, though it's been against a relatively difficult schedule. None of the losses have been that bad relative to Drake's preseason expectations. They next will play Cal State Northridge, on Saturday. After that they'll head to Boise State.

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