Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Mexico Survives UConn To Win The Paradise Jam

New Mexico 66, #21 UConn 60
If I can go on a brief rant before talking about this actual game.... I do think ESPN deserves a lot of criticism for basically all of their programming that is not live sports. The analysis is even more inane than it used to be, and the Skip Bayless-ization of the entire network is a bad turn of events. But one thing they're great at is putting on a game. If they lose the broadcast signal from a game, they will send it to studio to have somebody talk to you and tell you what happened. CBS has no similar organization with its sports channel, CBS College Sports. In the middle of the second half here, they lost the broadcast signal for about 20 minutes. Not only did they not have a studio to send it back to, but they put on totally irrelevant pre-taped programming, and only alerted viewers of the situation for about 2% of the time, when the message flashed quickly through a bottom line that otherwise was dominated by fantasy football stats. They couldn't at least put a permanent message on the screen telling viewers about the situation? Amateur hour.

Anyway, they did manage to get the signal back on for the last ten minutes or so of the second half. And it was a nice, competitive finish. The difference was probably New Mexico's 21-for-21 performance at the free throw line, which helped them establish their lead and then hold it down the stretch. Other than that, there wasn't a whole lot that stuck out about this game. Shabazz Napier, who tends to be pretty streaky, had a good game for UConn (23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including 4-for-7 behind the arc). I guess if I have one comment it's that it's pretty impressive New Mexico was able to not really play that well and to still beat a UConn team that had a streaky-good performance from Napier.

There's a decent chance that UConn's win over Michigan State will be their top achievement of the season. They haven't looked nearly as strong in any of their games since. It took two overtimes for them to get past Quinnipiac on Sunday. They'll head home to play Stony Brook on Sunday.

New Mexico is now 4-0 with three very solid wins - UConn, George Mason and Davidson. The Mountain West is definitely shaping up to be an awesome battle for the top three spots. They now head home to feast on a bunch of cupcakes, beginning with Idaho on Friday.

Illinois 94, USC 64
There are some games where one team plays completely out of their minds and gets all of the breaks, while the other team plays completely like crap and can't catch a break. That was this game. Illinois led by as many as 34 points... in the first half. It's hard to do analysis of a game because like this because, lets be honest, this is the best Illinois is going to play all season and probably the worst USC is going to play. And at the same time, I just don't think USC is a good team. Illinois is a bubble team, but USC is going to be near the bottom of the Pac-12. And this game was.... brutal.

Usually when you win your opening game at Maui you get a good opponent to challenge yourself against next. Illinois is going to be playing Chaminade, however, thanks to their upset of Texas. Assuming they beat Chaminade, they'll get either Butler or North Carolina in the Maui title game. The Illini still do not have a win this year against a likely RPI Top 100 team, so a win in that title game would be huge for them.

USC will get a chance to avenge this loss next against a Texas. It's going to be an interesting match-up of two very wounded teams looking to bounce back. In the final game in Maui they'll get either Marquette or Mississippi State.

Marquette 89, Mississippi State 62
This game was never close. Marquette led 15-4 early and their lead was never less than double digits again. Buzz Williams was able to get his bench players some action - 11 different Marquette players got at least 10 minutes on the floor. They outrebounded Mississippi State, forced 22 turnovers and hit 7-for-11 behind the arc.It's hard to say much else about this game.

Mississippi State has been thoroughly embarrassed in Maui so far, losing to Marquette and North Carolina by a combined 73 points. They will try to salvage something in the 7th place game, against either Texas or USC. But honestly, I wouldn't bet on it. Rick Ray really has to rebuild this team from scratch. Wins will be few and far between all season.

This is a nice bounce-back win for Marquette after that brutal buzzer-beater loss to Butler. A win against either Texas or USC next will definitely salvage Maui. After Syracuse and Louisville, the top of the Big East is wide open. I give Marquette the narrow edge over Georgetown for third place, and I'm not going to jump off that bandwagon because Rotnei Clarke hit a miracle shot. They're still in good shape.

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