Sunday, December 23, 2012

Florida Suffers A Second Straight Tough Loss

Kansas State 67, #8 Florida 61
This game had to feel a little bit like deja vu from the Arizona game. Florida went cold from the field (5-for-19 behind the arc here) and found themselves in a battle with a fired up home opponent (and yes, this wasn't technically a "home" game for Kansas State, but it was a de facto home game in Kansas City). Patric Young played really well (19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, with 10 rebounds), but he didn't get a ton of help.

It's worth noting that Kansas State is not a mediocre team. Their two losses have come to Michigan and Gonzaga, two of the 15 best teams in the nation, and weren't at home. Also, they're transitioning from a coach who didn't focus on the fundamentals at all to a coach who is. Bruce Weber has talent he can work with, and they're already getting better at things like defensive rebounding and avoiding turnovers - two serious problems under Frank Martin. They are a team that is improving, and that I think will end up in the NCAA Tournament.

So while there's going to be some panic about Florida over these two losses, it's silly. Florida is the best team in the SEC, and it's not particularly close. They beat Wisconsin, Marquette, Middle Tennessee and Florida State very easily (all were by 18+ points). And while Kansas State probably deserved this one, Florida pretty clearly outplayed Arizona on their own floor last week. They just had a really bad collapse in the final two minutes. So when my new bracket comes out after the games wrap up late tonight, Florida will still be my pick to win the SEC and to earn a 1 seed.

Now with a big win, Kansas State has to get past two cupcakes before opening Big 12 play against Oklahoma on January 5th. A 10-8 Big 12 record should be sufficient for an at-large bid, and that's something that I expect them to achieve. Florida will play Air Force and Yale before opening up SEC play against Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M. They won't get a real test until they play Missouri on January 19th.

 #12 Missouri 82, #10 Illinois 73
The crowd was great for this one. The border battles between these two in Kansas City are always a lot of fun. That said, I do need to throw a little bit of water on this one, because this game wasn't as big of a match-up as it seemed on paper. Both of these teams are overrated - they'll both be borderline Top 25 teams once they've played more games. Missouri will probably move ahead of Florida in the polls on Monday, but they're still a pretty heavy underdog in the SEC title race.

Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriahki were the two sparks for Missouri here. Bowers is playing as well as he did before his injury, and Oriakhi owned the glass with 7 offensive rebounds here. And they were needed, because Phil Pressey was a horrific 3-for-19 from the field. Although Brandon Paul, at 5-for-18 shooting for the Illini, wasn't much better.

Missouri has their first big win of the year. They also have a decent win over Stanford. They have to avoid a letdown at UCLA on Friday, and then against a very tough Bucknell team January 5th. They also have a couple of good measuring stick games early in SEC play, on the road at Ole Miss and Florida.

The Illini will try to lick their wounds next Saturday against Auburn. They have a brutal open to their Big Ten schedule... although it feels like I can say that about just about every Big Ten team. The conference depth is filthy this year.

Old Dominion 63, Virginia 61
This was a really, really shocking upset. Virginia came into this game playing very clearly like an NCAA Tournament team. Old Dominion, on the other hand, came into this game 1-10 with losses to VMI, Texas-San Antonio, William & Mary, College of Charleston, Holy Cross and Cleveland State.... and the one win came against Morgan State. ODU didn't out-shoot Virginia, either. They just played an even game the whole way, and over the course of the night got one more shot to fall.

The big problem for Virginia is Jontel Evans. The team's offense has flowed so much better when he has played. They lost to Delaware and George Mason without him. Then with him they beat Wisconsin and Tennessee. But he's hurt again, and it's unclear how long he'll be gone. This is by far their worst loss of the season, and it's a crucial loss for their at-large resume as well. Even assuming that they beat Wofford on December 30th, they could go 10-8 in ACC play and still miss the Tournament. They're either going to need to get to 11-7 or they're going to have to do damage in the ACC tournament.

Blaine Taylor is trying to rebuild this team with young players. Freshman Aaron Bacote (17 points and 4 assists here) is the best of the bunch. This is certainly a very encouraging win, though it will probably end up being their highlight of the season. Their next game will be next Saturday, against Fairfield.

1 comment: said...

The real amazing thing in this game is that ODU only had 8 players in uniform and one of them was wearing a cast on his arm. Coach Bennet was plain out coached in this one. In stead of his usual slowdown and very delibert pace he should have tried to wear this team down by going fast. Blaine Taylor just plain ouutcoached him utilizing timeouts to keep his players fresh.