Wednesday, November 14, 2012

24 Hours Of Hoops: New Mexico, UMass And Temple All Collect Nice Wins

New Mexico 86, Davidson 81
New Mexico missed 10 of their first 11 shots from the field and Davidson hit four of their first six shots behind the arc. That all added up to a 25-9 early lead for Davidson. But Tony Snell and Kendall Williams led a New Mexico gradual comeback, chipping away at the lead piece by piece and delivering a really nice win for the Lobos. This is the best Davidson team since Steph Curry was there, and this would have been the type of win to really put them back on the map. Instead it's a solid win for a New Mexico team trying to prove that they, and not San Diego State or UNLV, are the class of the Mountain West.

De'Mon Brooks broke 20 points for the second consecutive game for Davidson, but scoring isn't really a concern for them. They scored 1.12 PPP last season and return basically everybody. Defense is the concern, and their inability to get a stop when they needed one in the second half of this game is not an ideal start. But to be fair, the fact that a five point loss on the road at the Pit is considered a bad result tells you how good this Davidson team is. They'll get a chance to bounce back on the road at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday. Next week they'll head to the Old Spice Classic where they'll open against Vanderbilt.

This is a nice (likely) RPI Top 100 win to start the season for New Mexico. They head off to the Paradise Jam next. They'll open on Friday against Illinois-Chicago. Their second game will be against either George Mason or Mercer.

UMass 67, Harvard 64
You never know how teams will deal with these odd-hour games in ESPN's 24 hour hoops marathon. This game tipped off at 10 AM local time, which required some very early wake up calls (as well as likely not very much sleep the night before). And that was probably one of the reasons why both of these teams seemed exhausted during the final few minutes of this game. And while it seemed like the victim of this would be UMass, whose full court press had lost its effectiveness. But instead it was Harvard that cracked under the pressure. UMass finished the game on an 8-0 run in the final 75 seconds. Two dumb Harvard turnovers were the catalysts for that final run.

This is a very young Harvard team, of course. And two of their youngsters really stood out to me. Freshman Siyani Chambers, who looks like he's 12 years, was superb with 14 points and 7 assists. I also really enjoyed the defense of 6'7" sophomore Steve Moundou-Missi, who had 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. As these young players grow up, Harvard should improve throughout the season. And if they can somehow get Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey back for the 2013-14 season, they're going to be awfully good. For this season, however, they're just going to try to survive the Ivy League to earn a second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. Their next game will be Friday against Manhattan.

I picked UMass preseason to narrowly earn their way back to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. Certainly I do think that they'll be on the bubble. And while they do seem a bit too over-reliant on Chaz Williams to create offense, this is a nice win to start their season. They head now to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they'll open on Thursday against Providence. Their second game will be Friday against either NC State or Penn State.

Temple 80, Kent State 66
Scootie Randall missed all of last season with a medical redshirt, but he didn't waste any time making an impact in his return to the lineup, scoring 31 points in a dominant Temple win. The Owls jumped out to an early 25-11 lead, and this game was never really in doubt after that. Their biggest concern in this game was rebounding - they lost the offensive rebounding battle 18-to-5. Considering that rebounding was their biggest problem last season, it's not the greatest sign that it hasn't seemed to improve. But Fran Dunphy will always have Temple competitive near the top of the Atlantic Ten and (most years) in contention for an at-large bid.

Obviously it never feels good to lose a winnable game, but I think that the start of this season has been encouraging for Kent State. They pulled an upset of Drexel in their opener. And they will feel like they were some hot three-point shooting (they finished 5-for-23 behind the arc here) away from pulling the upset of Temple. Despite what the ESPN announcers calling this game were trying to argue, the reality is that it's still unlikely that the MAC will earn an at-large bid this season. So Kent State isn't playing to build their resume. They are playing to best prepare themselves to take on Ohio and the rest of the MAC. They're definitely playing like a serious contender for the conference title.

Temple's next game will be Saturday at Rice. Their next difficult game will be December 5th at Villanova. Kent State will next play Chicago State on Friday, followed by Valparaiso on Sunday.

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