Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Regressing to the Mean?

The theme of today's game summaries is regressing to the mean. Several teams with big wins last week came back with bad losses. Other teams off to tough starts came back with good wins. Let's try to separate which teams are for real and which aren't:

Villanova 56, Georgetown 52

This is what happens when Roy Hibbert doesn't get the ball. He is the most dominant big man this side of Greg Oden, so can someone explain to me how he doesn't have a single field goal attempt? That's right, he shot 0-for-0 from the field. He managed to hit two foul shots to keep from the total shutout, but it's just unforgivable not to give him the rock in the paint. JT III was off to a good start at Georgetown, but he has to start calling timeouts to just order his players to give it to Hibbert. Of course, Hibbert also has to be aggressive on the offensive end. Georgetown is a better team than Villanova, and when Hibbert is hitting his shots in the paint they can beat almost anyone, but they need to play more consistently if they want to finish near the top of the Big East. In fact, more play like this will knock them back to the NIT if they're not careful. To take a quick look at Villanova, however, this has to feel like a good win. Any road conference win is good, especially over a likely Tournament team. Best of all is that they pulled off a tight win with Curtis Sumpter on the bench. They have a ton of young talent that could really play some good ball by the end of the season.

Notre Dame 61, #21 West Virginia 58
A good bounce back win for the Irish after getting crushed by Roy Hibbert's Hoyas. West Virginia came on strong at the end, but they held them off for an important victory. For West Virginia, I consider this a good loss, if there is such a thing. It's not embarassing to lose a close game at a Notre Dame team likely to make the Tournament. The Mountaineers fell down by a lot early and fought back, almost pulling out the win. The courage they showed in coming back from a large deficit on the road will really pay off later this season. You're going to lose games in the Big East, so it's important for a team that lost so many seniors last year to show that kind of maturity. With the big win over UConn, West Virginia now has a fairly easy road to 10 conference wins, which would most likely be enough for a Tournament bid. A couple more wins would even secure a pretty nice seed.

#13 Alabama 71, #18 LSU 61
Another bounce back game, in this case for Alabama after getting rocked by Arkansas. It's a good win that will keep Alabama near the top of the SEC, but I'm still not entirely convinced they deserve such a high ranking. Without a doubt, they have a very talented starting five. Ronald Steele, Jermareo Davidson, Richard Hendrix - any of these guys can take over a game. But they seem to be somewhat weak on the bench. They also struggled to contain a sort-of-injured Big Baby, who sprung for 24 and 17. LSU had a frightful shooting day. Switch up their 3-for-17 from behind the arc with Alabama's 9-for-16 and this turns from an Alabama win to an LSU romp. Keeping in mind that this game was in Tuscaloosa and I wouldn't move LSU down in the polls for this loss at all. I still think they're the second best team in the SEC. Remember that they get a shot at Bama at home in three weeks.

#4 Wisconsin 72, #5 Ohio State 69
Sometimes you hear people say that a game was a lot closer than the final score, but this game was not as close as the score. In a lot of ways, this game felt a lot like the Ohio State-Florida game from a couple weeks ago. In both games the home team (Florida & Wisconsin) was ahead by a little in the first half before opening up a double-digit lead midway through the second half. And in both games Ohio State responded by just launching up three-pointer after three-pointer. In the Florida game those shots just bricked, and they ended up getting crushed. In the Wisconsin game they got hot and all those shots fell, actually managing to get the game within a single possession in the last 15 seconds. But if anything, the fact that they almost won this game using that strategy is bad for the future of this team, because they aren't going to learn the proper lesson. They can't settle for just launching threes, because elite teams don't live and die by the three. It's okay for mid-majors like Winthrop to rely on the three and hope to get hot in March. But if Ohio State wants to be an elite team in the Big 10 they have to win night in and night out. They need to have a much more consistent offense. They need to pound it in to Greg Oden. I know that his right wrist isn't healed, but if he's on the floor he needs to look to score in the post. Oden rarely looked to make his own shot, yet was pretty succesful when he did. He is the most physically imposing college basketball player since Shaq. If he can fulfill his potential, and the other young Buckeyes can show a little more maturity on the floor, this is a team that can beat anyone. Remember that Wisconsin's win here is at home, where they've only lost 2 Big 10 games in the past 5 1/2 years, so in a sense they only held serve. These two meet again in Columbus. And Ohio State already has a big win at Illinois, where almost nobody wins. Wisconsin could easily lose their game in Champaign two weekends from now. Keeping this in mind, I'm still keeping Ohio State as the Big 10 champion and as a #1 seed in the BP65. Of course, they could lose to Tennessee this weekend and I'd probably have to reassess.

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