Monday, November 21, 2011

Temple Beats Wichita State, Tennessee State Knocks Off South Carolina

Temple 78, Wichita State 74, OT
Both of these teams were coming off a loss in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and either of these teams would have left town with a bad taste in their mouth had they lost their final two games. Temple was coming off a loss to Purdue, while Wichita State had lost to Alabama. Wichita State was undone here by cold shooting (4-for-20 behind the arc). Once it got to overtime, Ramone Moore was able to take over for Temple (six points and two rebounds during an 11-4 run to open the extra session). Temple also got a little bit of a breakout performance from fifth year senior Michael Eric, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

With this win and wins over Western Michigan and Penn, and only a loss to Purdue, Temple will feel good about the start to this season. It looks like, as many people had thought, that they, Xavier and Saint Louis will be a step ahead of the pack in the Atlantic Ten. They get a week of rest now before heading to Central Michigan on Sunday. They still have games against Duke, Texas and Villanova before beginning conference play. Wichita State won't feel nearly as good as they fly home, with a pair of losses and only a win over a bad Colorado team to their name. The Missouri Valley is good enough that Wichita State will still have time to work their way onto the Tournament bubble, but this is a missed opportunity. The Shockers also have quality games against UNLV, Utah State, UAB and Tulsa before beginning conference play. The UAB game is up first, on Friday.

Tennessee State 64, South Carolina 63
South Carolina is definitely short on talent right now. Sam Muldrow was a tough loss to graduation, and Ramon Galloway was a tough loss when he left via transfer. And Bruce Ellington is still playing football. But all that said, the loss of three players is no excuse for back-to-back losses to Elon and Tennessee State. That's inexcusable. There's not even much point in breaking down which parts of their game are weaker than others. Right now South Carolina is playing like a team that will be fighting for the SEC cellar.

I do think Darrin Horn is a good coach, and I think it's a mistake that South Carolina fans want to be rid of him so quickly. I'm not sure there's a better coach out there that South Carolina will be able to get. By the end of the year, particularly with Ellington back, I'd expect things to get better.... at least a little better. The Gamecocks will play Mississippi Valley State tomorrow, and then will play North Carolina on Friday. As for Tennessee State, this is a nice result, but it's not enough yet for me to see them as a serious contender to Austin Peay and Murray State at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference. They next play tomorrow at North Carolina.

Saint Joseph's 79, Tulsa 75
This third place game at the Charleston Classic didn't register much on the national radar, and for good reason. Neither of these teams is too likely to make the NCAA Tournament, after all. But for each of these teams this was an opportunity to finish this tournament successfully. And this was definitely true for Saint Joseph's, a team that I wasn't even really paying attention to preseason. But wins over Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and a narrow loss to Seton Hall, convinced me to add them to my list of "other teams I'm keeping my eye on" in my most recent bracket projection. And now they've got a win over a good Tulsa team.

The difference in this game was a tremendous shooting display from Langston Galloway (9-for-11 from the floor, including 5-for-5 behind the arc). Tulsa actually played pretty well in their own right, though I think they should run more of their offense through Steven Idlet, who's a player I really like. They have a good backcourt of Scottie Haralson and Jordan Clarkson, but they have a tendency to launch jumpers instead of working the ball into the paint. St. Joe's has a tough schedule upcoming. They head to Iona for a true road game on Wednesday, and then come home to play Penn State and Drexel. Tulsa plays Jackson State tomorrow, and then they head off to play at Missouri State on Saturday, followed by a road game at Oklahoma State.

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