Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ohio State Outduels Florida, LSU Falls To Coastal Carolina

#3 Ohio State 81, #8 Florida 74
This might have been the best game of the season so far. These were two Final Four contenders playing high quality ball, and in the end it was simply Ohio State playing just a little bit better. With so much sloppy play in the early season games (as there always is), it was refreshing to see such a sharp performance from Ohio State. They committed only seven turnovers, and had 16 assists on 25 made shots. Despite only hitting 25% of their threes (they led the nation with 42.3% three-point shooting last season), they still finished with 1.16 points per possession against a Florida team that only gave up 1.16 PPP or more on two occasions last season (and one of those two occasions came against Ohio State).

What was particularly impressive about this offensive performance was that it happened despite Florida accomplishing their gameplan of containing Jared Sullinger. This year's Ohio State team doesn't appear to have the array of outside sharpshooters that last year's team had, and so teams will presumably be more confident in clamping down on Sullinger in the paint. In this one, Sullinger only took eight shots from the field the entire game. But Ohio State got efficient play not just from returning stars like William Buford and Aaron Craft, but also from Deshaun Thomas (who didn't play much last year) and Evan Ravenel, the new transfer from Boston College.

After this win and an impressive 31 point thumping of Wright State, the schedule eases up for Ohio State for a couple of weeks. They shouldn't be tested again until they play Duke on November 29th. Even though Florida lost this game, they impressed me and played like a Top Ten team. Ohio State might not lose at home all season long to anybody. This could also be seen as a breakout game for a player that people like me have been waiting to break out - Patric Young - who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Florida's next big test will be on the road at Syracuse, on December 5th. They also will play Arizona, Texas A&M and Florida State before beginning conference play.

Coastal Carolina 71, LSU 63
This performance from LSU was an embarrassment. They didn't lose in a fluke game against a team lighting it up from deep. Honestly, the margin of victory for Coastal Carolina should have been more. They absolutely dominated the boards (a 46.3 OR%, compared to a 23.8 OR% for LSU), and earned 26 free throw attempts to only 19 for LSU. The only reason this game was so close was because Coastal Carolina shot only 25% on threes and 69% at the line. Coastal Carolina is a pretty good team, but this is still their first win over any team from a BCS conference since 1993.

LSU doesn't have much time to recover from this result, as they're already off at the Charleston Classic. They open tomorrow afternoon against Northwestern, and will play their second game on Friday afternoon against either Tulsa or Western Kentucky. While Coastal Carolina won the Big South last season, my pick to win that conference this season is Liberty. And honestly, this result doesn't change that. LSU might just be awful. According to both Pomeroy and Sagarin, Coastal Carolina was better than LSU last year, and there's no reason why this year has to be different. Coastal Carolina next game against a Division I opponent will be Tuesday, when they play at Clemson.

Weber State 73, Utah State 63
After Utah State knocked off BYU, this result certainly stands out. That said, from a pure basketball standpoint, I don't think Utah State played poorly here. First of all, they were playing a good Weber State team. Preseason I said that I thought Montana and Weber State would dominate the Big Sky. Having to choose between the two I picked Montana as the favorite, but I wouldn't be surprised if Weber State ends up proving me wrong. Second of all, Weber State was unconscious behind the arc (12-for-23), despite the fact that Utah State was actually tenth in the nation with a 30.1 3P% against last season.

Still, I do see a couple of unsettling things about Utah State in this result. First, their point guard situation is still a problem. As a team they finished with only three assists. Also, this was the first time that the team really felt the loss of Taj Wesley, who in years past would take the team on his back to carry them through games like this. Utah State's schedule eases up over the next few weeks. They might be tested December 3rd at Pacific. If not, their next tough game will be a road game at Wichita State on December 10th. Weber State plays at UC Irvine on Saturday. They then head to the Shamrock Solutions Classic, where they could potentially play Saint Mary's on November 28th.

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