Saturday, December 10, 2011

Xavier Destroys Cincinnati, But Both Team Embarrass Themselves

#8 Xavier 76, Cincinnati 53
Obviously the story from this game isn't the game itself, but the fight with nine seconds to go that was the worst I've seen from a Division I basketball game in years. It's hard to know exactly where the fight got started. This rivalry has been heated for years, and Cincinnati did some ill-advised trash talking before the day of the game. Xavier was talking tons of trash all game long, clearly exulting in their strong performance. They pushed it far enough that a fight broke out, and that's when Yancy Gates lost his mind and threw a punch. After that it was just chaos. Somebody is going to spend a lot of time going through all the videotape tonight.

The question is: how many players will get suspended and for how long? Each team is going to have multiple players suspended. Gates will get the worst - he'll be gone a minimum of ten games, and very possibly will lose his entire season. Honestly, I was shocked with what Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons said in the press conference after the game. After having time to cool off, and after having Chris Mack surely telling them to behave like adults, they still talked trash, called themselves "gangsters", etc. Lyons was one of the lead trash talkers all game, as well. I wouldn't be surprised if the NCAA finds a way to suspend those two just because of those comments.

This game could decimate Cincinnati's season. Their best win this season was over Georgia, and they had bad losses to Presbyterian and Marshall. I had already dropped them to an 11 seed in my most recent BP68. They're now going to be without Yancy Gates as well as several other players for some time (I haven't bothered to break down the video tape to determine who else threw punches, and who it was that stomped on Kenny Frease after Gates had knocked him to the ground). Gates has been a monumental disappointment with his talent, in my opinion. When he was a freshman I thought he was going to be a future Big East Player of the Year. Instead he's actually regressed over the past three years. This is just an awfully sad way for his collegiate career to (potentially) end.

I just hope that this fight doesn't cost Mick Cronin his job. He's a very good coach - better than anybody else that Cincy will be able to get. And while he deserves a little responsibility for his team not behaving like adults, the reality is that Division I basketball stars need to take responsibility for their own actions. All of them knew that what they were doing was wrong. It's not like Cronin's team have a history of being thugs. At this point all we can do is watch and see what the NCAA does, and who will be out for how long.

Xavier is now 8-0 with wins over Purdue, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Butler. I've said that I felt like they were overrated at eighth in the nation, and I do still feel that way, but there's no question that they've been playing like a Top 25 team. But the question now is, who do they lose and for how long? You can make the argument that Tu Holloway is more important to his team than any other player is to any other team in the Top 25. Their next three games are all against quality opponents (Oral Roberts, Long Beach State and Gonzaga), so they can't afford any suspension to Holloway at all. Remember that the Selection Committee will not give teams a free pass for having their star missing during losses. Any loss will harm their eventual NCAA Tournament seed. We should find out soon what the suspension picture is.

Austin Peay 74, Tennessee 70
Cuonzo Martin is a good coach, but I don't think he has the right personnel right now. He's got a bunch of players that like to play physical, uptempo defense, and aren't particularly efficient offensively. But Martin is not a great defensive coach - he's an offensive specialist, only he doesn't have the shooters to make his offense work. And the result has been tremendously disappointing. Tennessee is 2-5 against Division I opponents this season, with the two wins coming over cupcakes. They've now lost to Austin Peay and Oakland. I didn't think Tennessee was a Tournament team, but the way they're playing they could end up around 8th or 9th in the SEC.

Austin Peay was my preseason pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference. They'd been disappointing in the early going, however. They played a brutally tough schedule and lost their first nine games of the season. They finally got a win on Monday against Arkansas State, and now they have a nice road win at Tennessee. The brutal schedule is obviously a big part of why they're 2-9, and they are still a top contender in the OVC, but Murray State has become my new favorite in that conference. That won't change even after this Austin Peay win.

Austin Peay's next game against a Division I opponent will be December 21st against Belmont. After that their schedule will ease up as they begin OVC play. Their home game against Murray State will be January 7th. Tennessee has a tough game on Wednesday at Charleston. Their next true quality opponent will be Memphis, on January 4th.

Ball State 58, Butler 55
The good news for Butler is that Khyle Marshall, after breaking out in last year's NCAA Tournament, has finally started playing like I and others thought he would this season. He had 21 points (on 9-for-15 shooting) and 16 rebounds here. But other than him, Butler's offense continues to be awful. Once again they were far under 1 PPP (they've only broken the 1 PPP barrier once in nine games against Division I opponents this season, after averaging 1.08 per game last season). Butler's backcourt is Ronald Nored, Chrishawn Hopkins, Chase Stigall and Jackson Aldridge. They played 76 minutes and had 18 points on 7-for-23 shooting with 9 assists and 10 turnovers. Not good.

Now 4-6, Butler will play Purdue next Saturday, followed by Gonzaga and Stanford. At this point, a win in any of those games would be a pretty big upset. Ball State, meanwhile, has been my pick all season to win the MAC. They move to 6-2, though this is their best win of the season. They don't have any bad losses either, so really we still need to learn more about this team. They have a deceptively tough game on December 19th at IUPUI. But after that? It's a pretty soft schedule over the next few weeks. As has been the case for each of the past few years, I don't think the MAC is really going to start to shake out until February.

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