Sunday, December 04, 2011

Marquette Knocks Off Sluggish Wisconsin

#16 Marquette 61, #7 Wisconsin 54
Wisconsin had looked so sharp in the early going this season. They had blown away Bradley and BYU, and arguably outplayed North Carolina in Chapel Hill. But this was an atrocious performance by them in every possible way. Jordan Taylor picked up his third and fourth fouls in quick succession early in the second half and had to sit out for nearly ten minutes, but he didn't even play well when on the floor (two assists and five turnovers). Wisconsin had a 37.0 eFG% and 12 turnovers. They had 0.86 PPP, their worst offensive performance in nearly two years other than that 36-33 game against Penn State in last year's Big Ten tournament.

But it wasn't all Wisconsin giving this game away. What impressed me about Marquette was their offensive rebounding. When Buzz Williams took over that team from Tom Crean a few years ago the front court cupboard was totally bare. They basically had no contributors over 6'6" that first year. But this year's team has some serious size and athleticism. They also took a chance in this game crashing the boards, daring Wisconsin to try to leak out on fast breaks, which they didn't. All of that led to 16 offensive rebounds for Marquette, and a need for Bo Ryan to go back to the drawing board to figure out what happened here.

As my regular readers know, I try not to overreact to single game samples. There's no reason for Wisconsin fans to panic because of one bad game. In my opinion they're the #2 team in the Big Ten until they prove otherwise. They will play Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Wednesday, and then have UNLV on Saturday.

This is Marquette's biggest win of the season by far. Their second best win was over Ole Miss. Their next game will be on Tuesday against Washington in Madison Square Garden. The only other game that might give them some trouble before beginning Big East play will be December 19th at LSU.

#17 Pittsburgh 61, Tennessee 56
This was Pitt's first game since losing Travon Woodall for a month, and it wasn't the smoothest performance from them. True freshman John Johnson played well in his place, scoring eight points (on 3-for-6 shooting) and adding three assists. Nasir Robinson was the star for Pitt, though. He scored 16 points and had 9 offensive rebounds, more than the entire Tennessee team combined. Tennessee's problem in this game, as it's often been this year, was bench production. Five different bench players combined for 48 minutes on the floor, during which they collected a combined six points, six rebounds and an assist. Their starting lineup isn't good enough to get so little from their bench.

While this wasn't the prettiest victory for Pitt, it's a quality true road victory. They also have wins over Duquesne and Robert Morris, with a loss to Long Beach State. They will play VMI on Tuesday, and next Saturday they'll play Oklahoma State at Madison Square Garden. If they can get past Oklahoma State, the question will be if Travon Woodall will be back in time for their next quality game, their Big East opener at Notre Dame on December 27th.

Tennessee now falls to a disappointing 3-4, with the three wins coming over a pair of cupcakes and a non-Division I opponent. Three of their four losses have been against very good opponents (the fourth loss was to Oakland), but at some point you've got to win games. They should be able to get a win next Saturday against Austin Peay. They'll have a tough game the following Wednesday, though, on the road at Charleston.

BYU 79, Oregon 65
This was a pretty dominant win for BYU. They grabbed an 18 point lead early in the second half, and held a double-digit lead the rest of the way. Oregon seemed to really struggle with BYU's size. Not only did they get out-rebounded but they also hit only 37.1% on two-pointers. Because they play so many front court players, BYU can be vulnerable to teams with a lot of athletic guards, but that's a description that doesn't apply to Oregon. The silver lining for Oregon was a breakout performance by Juco transfer Carlos Emory, who had a career high 11 points.

With this win, BYU finally collects their first quality win of the season (unless you count the win over Nevada, which is borderline). They suffered losses to Wisconsin and Utah State, and had beat up on a bunch of cupcakes. They'll play through the rest of their Utah rivals over the next week, and at Utah on December 10th.

Oregon does have a win over Nebraska, along with losses to BYU and Vanderbilt. In my opinion, Oregon hasn't looked like an NCAA Tournament team so far, but the results haven't been that bad. They haven't lost any games yet that they were supposed to win. They'll play Fresno State on Saturday. Their next quality opponent will be December 18th against Virginia.

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