Georgetown 57, #12 Alabama 55
This hard fought game was decided on a clutch three from Hollis Thompson with about two seconds left. Alabama's defense was strong, as it's been all season, but the fact is that Georgetown is a bad match-up for them. The Hoyas like slowing things down and grinding things out, and they're smart with the ball and don't turn it over often. Alabama's offense still isn't particularly good in the half court, and they depend on getting easy baskets off turnovers. Georgetown committed only ten turnovers. Jason Clark's ability to his threes (4-for-7 for the game) also helped open the defense up, increasing the number of passing lanes for Georgetown's offense.
This is a frustrating loss for Alabama, but it's not a bad loss. Georgetown is a good team, and they're the type of team that matches up well against Alabama's pressure defense. And with all that said, Alabama would have won if the three-point shooting had been a little more even (Georgetown hit 41%, compared to 19% for Alabama). The Tide are still 7-1, with wins over Purdue, Wichita State, Maryland and VCU, and they're rated 14th in the nation by both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. While Kentucky is the class of the SEC, Alabama is one of the teams (along with Florida and Vanderbilt), that will challenge for the top spots in an improved SEC.
Last season Alabama was undone by their non-conference performance - they played a soft schedule and had a bad set of results against it. This year they clearly intended to rectify that situation, and they still have quite a few quality opponents left before starting SEC play. They'll next play on the road at Dayton, on Wednesday. Their three games after that will be against Detroit, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
Georgetown is now 6-1 with this win, a win over Memphis, and only a four point loss to Kansas. With the top of the Big East looking a lot softer than it's been the past few years, they have to be considered one of the contenders. Their next quality opponent will be Memphis on December 22nd. And, yes, it does seem like there have been a lot of non-conference rematches this season.
#3 Syracuse 72, #9 Florida 68
I was underwhelmed by Syracuse winning this game by four points at home. Syracuse has an excellent zone defense, as they do every season. The question with them is always offense, and it's because their offense looks to be better this year than it's been for the most part recently that they're ranked so high. But a team like Florida is the perfect opponent for them. The Syracuse style works best against teams that will respond to a zone by chucking up deep threes, and who turn it over a lot, leading to a whole lot of transition offense for Syracuse. And that's precisely what Florida is - Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker just launch three after three, often from 25 feet out. Florida took 46% of their shots from outside the arc, hitting only 34.6% of them. And they committed 20 turnovers, ten of them coming on Syracuse steals. And with Erik Murphy out with an injury, Florida was not as strong on the boards as they normally would be. Yet with all this working in the favor of Syracuse the Orange still only had a 43.0 eFG% and scored 1.00 PPP.
Obviously the off-court distractions going on right now in Syracuse are a factor, and it's also possible that they just had an off day offensively and will come back in their next game looking a lot more efficient. I just thought they should have won this game by more considering what Florida does well and does not do well.
The Orange move to 8-0 with wins over Stanford, Florida and Virginia Tech. They will play Marshall on Tuesday. Their toughest game before starting Big East play is probably their true road game at NC State on December 17th. Florida is 5-2, meanwhile, but their record doesn't tell us a whole lot about them. Their two losses were to top five teams (the other loss was to Ohio State), but their five wins have all been over cupcakes. We'll get a better idea of whether their offense can play more efficiently on Wednesday, when they play Arizona.
Ole Miss 70, DePaul 68
Ole Miss actually led this game by 17 points in the second half, and had to overcome a fierce DePaul rally down the stretch. The Rebels, as they have all season, were living and dying by their aggressive guards. They are very good at getting to the rim and scoring, but they also turn the ball over a lot and don't shoot threes well. In this game, they were able to get away with taking on three shots behind the arc all game. And despite 20 turnovers, their 57.1% shooting on twos was enough to get them the win.
From the perspective of DePaul, just the fact that they fought their way back into this game is a good sign. Most of the time in recent years they'd have just rolled over and died, but this year's team is better and will be feisty in Big East play. They are now 4-2 with wins over Arizona State and Texas Tech, and losses to Minnesota and Ole Miss. They will next play Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Monday, and then head into cupcake city for a few weeks.
Ole Miss is a very quiet 6-1, with only a loss to Marquette, and wins over Miami (Fl), TCU, DePaul and Drake. Those wins aren't going to blow anybody away, but there's no question that at this point in the season Ole Miss has to be treated as a legitimate at-large contender. I'm curious to see how they play on Sunday at Penn State. The Nittany Lions have a shortage of talent this season, and it's the type of game that an at-large team should take care of business in.