Saturday, November 24, 2012

Oregon Stuns UNLV

Oregon 83, #18 UNLV 79
The Pac-12 is still the weakest of the six BCS conferences, but it's definitely improved over last season. And the best win for the Pac-12 in this young season is this one - a victory on the road at UNLV. And in fact, you can argue that Oregon should have won by more than four. They were an ice cold 3-for-19 behind the arc, while white hot 23-for-25 free throw shooting kept UNLV in the game late. The Ducks were able to exploit a sloppy UNLV squad, forcing them into 18 turnovers and collecting 9 steals.

In UNLV's defense, they are trying to incorporate several new players. Freshman Anthony Bennett was probably the best player on the floor for either team (22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, along with 10 rebounds). Freshman Katin Reinhardt and transfer Bryce DeJean-Jones also scored in double digits. This was also UNLV's first game against a competitive opponent this season. So I don't think there's reason to panic in Vegas yet. They will try to bounce back against Iowa State.

Oregon had shown hints of being a good team when they whooped Vanderbilt by 26 points last week. Now sure, Vanderbilt isn't good this year, but a 26 point margin is still impressive. Thrown in with this win and you can make a serious argument for Oregon being a bubble team this year. The emergence of Damyeon Dotson as a really good freshman is a huge reason that Dana Altman's rebuilding job is going ahead of schedule in Eugene. Their next game will be against Cincinnati, a team that looked less than impressive in taking out Iowa State.

#17 Gonzaga 72, Oklahoma 47
This was the first chance to watch Oklahoma against a likely RPI Top 100 team, and they did not look physically ready for the challenge. They were dominated on the boards (a 40.6 OR% for Gonzaga compared to an 8.6 OR% for the Sooners), seemed to lose every loose ball, and couldn't score in the paint (a 32.3 2P%, compared to 56.8% for the Zags). Oklahoma's offense doesn't have a lot of weapons, so if they're not getting the loose balls and ugly baskets then it's going to be very hard for them to score this season.

Gonzaga's offense struggled against Clemson, but they have whooped up on Oklahoma as well as West Virginia. It's a great start to the season, and it's starting to earn them buzz as a potential Final Four team. It's a stat worth repeating since most people forget, but Gonzaga has not been back to the Elite Eight since that original Cinderella run in 1999. This is a team definitely good enough to get back if they can get the right Tournament draw. They will play Davidson in the Old Spice Classic title game. Their next chance after that to build their resume will be December 5th at Washington State, or else December 8th at home against Illinois.

Oklahoma will face West Virginia in the Old spice Classic third place game. Their remaining schedule prior to beginning Big 12 play is a soft one, so they can definitely use a win over WVU. Their toughest remaining non-conference games will be against Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ohio.

#14 Creighton 84, Wisconsin 74
We know that Creighton can shoot the ball, of course, and they continued that here. They hit 40% of their threes, and hit 22 of 23 free throws before two meaningless misses in the final seconds. But what stood out to me watching this game was how incredibly physical Creighton is. And it's not just Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs either. Doug McDermott, for example, really throws his whole body around in the post, making him an almost impossible match-up. I don't think there's a player in the nation who can physically stop him in the post while also chasing him around the perimeter. The only way to contain him is to double-team or zone him. Wisconsin caught a bad break here when their best McDermott defender, Mike Bruesewitz, picked up a couple of soft fouls and ended up fouling out after only 9 minutes on the floor.

For Wisconsin, Jared Berggren was terrific (27 points on 9-for-14 shooting, along with 7 rebounds). The concern is that as a big guy he can't play at a high level for all 20 minutes in a half, and when he went to the bench to rest for a minute Creighton always went on a run. Frank Kaminsky is the one player on Wisconsin who has the ability to fill Berggren's shoes when he's on the bench. Wisconsin also can't afford too many 2-for-12 shooting days from Ben Brust, their best shooter and leading scorer, against top opponents.

Wisconsin will play Arkansas in the third place game in Las Vegas. After that they'll come home to face Virginia and then California. Unless Arizona State is way better than we thought they were preseason, Creighton shouldn't have a ton of trouble with them in the Las Vegas title game. After that they'll head home to face Boise State and St. Joseph's.

No comments: