Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Villanova Falls To Santa Clara

Santa Clara 65, Villanova 64
Even though Villanova struggled throughout this game, it still looked like they had this game wrapped up in the final minutes. They still led by seven and had the ball with a little over a minute to go, but from then on out it was a total meltdown. A few turnovers, a couple missed shots, and the missed front end of a 1-and-1 all led to an 8-0 run by Santa Clara to end the game. The final six points were scored by Evan Roquemore, who also led all players with nine assists and who is rapidly becoming the best offensive weapon Santa Clara has.

This is just one of a series of bad results for the Big East the past two weeks. The sample size is too small for the computer ratings to be that accurate, but it's worth nothing that the Big East has slipped to sixth in the Sagarin ratings. I don't think anybody really believes that Atlantic Ten is better than the Big East, but those stats are just a statement on what has happened in recent weeks. Villanova now has two losses, with one being a bad loss, and zero quality wins. Their next chance for a quality win will be December 6th against Missouri. Before that they'll play UPenn on Saturday.

Santa Clara now has two quality wins (they also beat New Mexico a couple of weeks ago). They have losses to Oklahoma and UCSB, but neither of those is particularly bad. While Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's are on another level, it's plausible to suggest that Santa Clara might be the fourth best team in the WCC. Their next game will be Saturday against Cal State Northridge.

Saint Louis 83, Oklahoma 63
Saint Louis hasn't gotten a lot of attention this season because they haven't had a signature victory, but boy are they continuing to roll. They are 6-0 with wins over Washington, Villanova and Oklahoma. Their Pomeroy rating (though obviously those ratings aren't that accurate this early in the season) is all the way up to 16th. A point of concern is that their hot shooting may not be sustainable (their eFG% is 58.4%, up from 48.7% last season, and they were at 69.8% in this game against Oklahoma). But at some point a fluke becomes a trend, and Saint Louis has had an eFG% over 60% in four of their six games. They get good shots, and they've got good shooters. They won't finish the season at 58.4%, but I expect them to shoot well all season.

Of course, St. Louis doesn't need to be that great shooting the ball. Rick Majerus teams are always about defense first, and they shut down Oklahoma the same way they've shut down everybody else they've played this season. The Sooners finished with a 44.2 eFG% and only five assists all game. But honestly, I think the 76 Classic was a success for Oklahoma. A loss to Saint Louis is not a bad loss (they should end up an RPI Top 50 team this season), and they earned wins over Washington State and Santa Clara.

That said, I don't think Oklahoma has a lot of chances to get quality wins before starting Big 12 play. They will play Cincinnati, Arkansas, Houston and Oral Roberts, all of whom will be decent wins, but nothing special. The only really good team St. Louis will play before conference play is New Mexico, but they don't need any more big wins. Avoiding any really bad losses and putting up an 11-5 record in A-10 play should be sufficient for an at-large bid at this point. Their next game will be late tonight against Loyola-Marymount.

#6 Louisville 79, Long Beach State 66
Louisville hasn't played like the sixth best team in the nation so far, but they were doing much of it without star Peyton Siva. He's now back in the lineup, and while he's still got a ways to go to get back to the player he was late last season, he should be there soon. And with Syracuse looking a little vulnerable, Louisville is definitely a true contender in the Big East. Siva had four points and six assists in his first game back on Friday against Ohio. Here, against a better opponent, he scored 11 and had five assists. As a team, Louisville did a good job of containing Casper Ware. Ware finished with 13 points and eight assists - Louisville will be happy to allow those types of numbers to him.

Louisville, while going against a soft schedule (this was probably their toughest game of the season so far), has gone 6-0 and is in a good position to play their first top tier opponent - Vanderbilt, on Friday. Long Beach State, meanwhile, has played well this season but falls to 3-3 because of their schedule. They've got a non-Division I cupcake up next, but then will play Kansas and then North Carolina. In other words, their record will likely get worse before it gets better.

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