Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Indiana Destroys North Carolina; Are The Tar Heels Actually Good?

#1 Indiana 83, #14 North Carolina 59
North Carolina kept this game close... for the first few minutes or so. In the second half this game just got embarrassing, with the Tar Heels falling behind by as many as 32 points. The North Carolina transition defense was a mess (Cody Zeller had a number of fast break layups), they were badly out-rebounded, and were out-assisted by Indiana by a count of 21 to 8. This game was a blowout in every possible way.

This result could be a fluke, or it could be a sign that Indiana is a really great team... but there's also a chance that North Carolina just isn't that good. Remember, Indiana has beaten up on cupcakes but they needed overtime to escape Georgetown and only beat Georgia by 13. Meanwhile, North Carolina has only beaten cupcakes this year. Their only previous quality opponent was Butler, who beat them by 12.

I'm not saying that North Carolina isn't good. I'm saying that we don't know. They will play UAB on Saturday, and won't be too seriously tested again until they head on the road to play Texas on December 19th.

Now 7-0, Indiana has a really soft schedule left before beginning Big Ten regular season play. Their only serious test will be Butler, on December 15th. Their next game will be on Saturday, against Coppin State.

#21 Minnesota 77, Florida State 68
A 15-7 run by Florida State to close this game made the final score closer than it probably deserved to be. Minnesota torched the Florida State defense for 1.20 PPP, including a 65.4% A/FGM ratio. Last year, Florida State's Pomeroy Adjusted Defensive Efficiency was 0.89 PPP. This season? They haven't held a single opponent below 0.89 PPP. Their defense was always going to take a step back this year, but it's surprising just how large of a step back it's been.

With back-to-back-to-back wins over Memphis, Stanford and Florida State, Minnesota is starting to get some real hype. I don't think anybody thinks they can seriously contend to win the Big Ten, but they can definitely contend for a top three or four spot in the standings. They shouldn't be too seriously tested again before Big Ten play, but they aren't playing too many cupcakes either. Beginning December 4th they'll play against South Dakota State, on the road at USC, and then at home against North Dakota State. That's a pretty tough three game stretch.

Florida State is looking more and more like a bubble team. They have nice wins over St. Joseph's and BYU, along with that bad loss to South Alabama. They'll play Mercer at home on Sunday before a huge opportunity against the Florida Gators on December 5th.

Maryland 77, Northwestern 57
Northwestern always struggles with rebounding. Going up against the team leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage was always going to be ugly, and the Terps dominated with a 45.2 OR% (compared to a microscopic 8.6 OR% for Northwestern). More than anything this game was about an athletic disparity. Northwestern couldn't keep Maryland players from getting into the paint at will, while they were stuck launching long jumpers over the top of the Maryland defense. 25 of the 53 shots Northwestern attempted were from behind the arc.

Dez Wells was superb here, with 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting, but the dominant force on both ends of the floor was Alex Len. Len had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks and looked like a man among boys against Northwestern.

That all said, I think we need to chill all of the Maryland hype. They're playing well, but beating Northwestern doesn't mean we should treat them as a serious contender in the ACC quite yet. Northwestern is a perfect match-up for them. Let's see them do this a few more times against quality teams before we view them as anything other than a bubble team. Unfortunately, their game against George Mason on Sunday is probably their final real test before ACC play.

Northwestern is now 6-1 with a win over Illinois State. They will lick their wounds on Saturday against Illinois-Chicago before going on the road to face Baylor next Tuesday.

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