#10 Missouri 81, Villanova 71
I was down on this Missouri team preseason. I think the talent level is close to where it was last year, but the change of coach should be a big deal. Frank Haith isn't a terrible coach, but he's not as good as Mike Anderson, but more importantly he doesn't coach that "40 minutes of hell" style. It's hard to change styles with a group of players. They still play aggressive defense, but it's a half court pressure defense - they don't pressure full court like they used to. But they've looked great in the early going this season, and it's been because of offensive efficiency. Phil Pressey (8 points, 12 assists) is a tremendous offensive creator, Marcus Denmon is a nice scorer (28 points, including 6-for-10 shooting behind the arc) and Ricardo Ratliffe (17 points on 8-for-8 shooting) is a load in the paint. They had a tremendous 23 assists on 28 made baskets. I do definitely think I've underrated this team.
That said, I don't think I buy Missouri as a top ten team yet. Opposing coaches will start having more tape on their new style under Haith and will adapt. Also, Missouri has a depth problem (they only played seven players here). They have a few cupcakes coming up, but then will play Illinois and Old Dominion before starting Big 12 play. I'll be curious to see if Missouri can keep this high level of play up.
Villanova played pretty well here, honestly. They struggled to rebound at times, but they had the lead early after hitting a bunch of threes, and only lost this game because they couldn't keep that up (they finished only 11-for-29 behind the arc). While Villanova has a pretty good level of talent, they feel like a rebuilding team. There are no seniors in the rotation, and they're struggling to bang out wins. This loss drops them to 5-3 with a loss to Santa Clara and zero wins over likely RPI Top 100 teams. They have a road game coming up on Saturday against Temple, and then will play at St. Joe's the following Saturday, but that's it for quality opponents before beginning Big East play. Without wins in both of those games (which is unlikely, honestly), Nova will enter Big East play with an uphill battle just to make the Tournament.
UW-Milwaukee 87, DePaul 76
This game was a romp. Milwaukee took a 20 point lead midway through the first half, and never led by less than 8 the rest of the way. Milwaukee had a 73.4 eFG%, their first time over 55% all season. I wanted to talk about this game simply because I hadn't talked about Milwaukee yet this season. They haven't had any big wins yet, but they're 8-1 now, as well as 2-0 in Horizon League play. They don't have any big wins yet, but honestly a double digit win at DePaul is a nice win. DePaul is better than they were last season - they're not a bad team.
The question now is, can UW-Milwaukee keep winning as their schedule strength improves. They head to Northern Iowa on Saturday, and then have a home game against Wisconsin on Tuesday. A win in either game would be a huge statement.
As I said, DePaul is improved this season. I could see them winning 3-5 games this year in Big East play. So far this season they have wins over Arizona State and Texas Tech, without any particularly bad loss (this is their worst loss of the season thus far). Their toughest game left before Big East play will be against Cal Poly on December 21st. They'll open Big East play against Syracuse on New Year's Day.
#3 Syracuse 62, Marshall 56
This wasn't the most impressive win for Syracuse, and a late run by Marshall almost turned this into an upset, but the Orange did continue to win. They're now 9-0, which is impressive when you consider the whirlwind of off-court issues going on with that program right now. It's hard enough to get 18-22 year old to focus under ordinary circumstances. This game was an offensive slog for Syracuse, putting up 0.91 PPP, but their zone did what it's supposed to do, forcing Marshall to take a lot of threes and never getting any good shots from inside the arc. Marshall finished with a 37.7 eFG%.
With this win the Orange now have victories over Florida, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Marshall. Despite all the distractions, I still view them as the Big East favorites. They'll play George Washington on Saturday, and then head to NC State the following Saturday. They might not be seriously tested again until they play Marquette on January 7th. Marshall is 5-2. They have a win over Cincinnati, and a potentially bad loss to Ohio. They have a tough home game coming up on Sunday against Iona. Their next tough game after that will be against Belmont on December 19th.