Friday, December 07, 2012

Utah Honors Majerus, Destroys Boise State

Utah 76, Boise State 55
Utah did a nice job of honoring Rick Majerus here. Although with stuff like this, you always wish they could have done it while he was still alive. What Majerus did at Utah was remarkable. He was one of the greatest coaches of the past 25 years. Now I don't think even the most diehard Utah fan would put Larry Krystkowiak on a list like that, but I do think he has the Utes program moving in the right direction.

The Utah offense has been pretty poor the past few years, but they were incredibly sharp here. Not only did they hit 56% of their threes, but they also hit 75% of their twos and assisted on 74% of made baskets. Their 78.8 eFG% was their best shooting performance since an 85-79 victory over Air Force on January 16, 2007.

How long has it been since Utah had a win this big? It's hard to say. They swept a New Mexico team better than this Boise State team only two seasons ago, but you can argue that it's more important for now Utah to be moving forward as a program, to prove that they are going to be competitive in the Pac-12 this season and moving forward. It's definitely a very big win for Larry Krystkowiak. The Utes will next play on Saturday at BYU.

This is a really bad loss for a Boise State team that had a win over Creighton and came in without a single bad loss. The Mountain West is strong enough that Boise State can afford a single bad loss if they play well enough in conference play, though I'm not sure they themselves are good enough to achieve that. They will have more than a week before they will play LSU, on December 14th.

Temple 76, Villanova 61
I don't think anybody is shocked that Temple beat Villanova - they're the better team, after all. But Villanova really got beat down pretty badly at home here. Villanova was very sloppy, committing 20 turnovers to only 10 for Temple. Scootie Randall led the way for Temple, scoring 21 points with 5-for-9 shooting behind the arc.

Temple will play Duke, Syracuse and Kansas this season. The Duke game is up first, on Saturday. But what makes games like this Villanova match-up important is that wins in all of their other non-conference games will make those Duke, Syracuse and Kansas games no-lose situations for Temple. They can lose all of them and still enter non-conference play on pace for an at-large bid. But an upset victory in any of those three games and they'll really be in good shape.

Villanova drops to 4-4 after this loss, with a decent win over Purdue and a bad loss to Columbia. I don't think they're anywhere near good enough for an at-large bid, but they're very young. If they can improve throughout the season and win 7 or 8 games in conference play then that will be a successful year for them, I think. Their next game will be on Saturday at Pennsylvania.

Dayton 81, Alabama 76
Alabama's offense has never been tremendous under Anthony Grant, though it was in particularly rough shape here. Alabama chucked up threes all night, taking 25 and hitting only 7. If not for 29-for-32 free throw shooting, they would have lost by even more. Dayton was driven by Kevin Dillard, one of the most underrated players in the Atlantic Ten. The former highly-touted Southern Illinois player has never averaged fewer than 12 points per game in any of his four college seasons. He scored 25 points on 7-for-14 shooting here, and added 7 assists. I also like freshman Dyshawn Pierre as a good player for the future, though he was quiet here (only 3-for-3 shooting and 4 rebounds in 30 minutes).

This was far and away the best performance by Dayton this season. Their bad loss to Weber State more than counters this win for Alabama, though they will have plenty of opportunities for big wins in Atlantic Ten play. They shouldn't be particularly tested the next couple of weeks by Miami-Ohio or Florida Atlantic, but I'll be tuning in for home games after that against Illinois State and Murray State. Those are games that an NCAA Tournament team should win. If they start struggling again then this win over Alabama really might just be a fluke.

Alabama had a nice early season victory over Oregon State, but haven't had any quality wins since. And most likely this will end up being a bad loss. They have a very tough road game on December 15th at VCU. If they can't win that one then, even assuming they don't suffer any more bad losses, they'll enter SEC play as a bubble team, at best. They will need to go at least 10-8 in conference play, and might need to get to 11-7 if the SEC continues playing so poorly.

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