Thursday, December 04, 2008

ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Part I

#4 Duke 76, #10 Purdue 60
Duke's sharpshooting offense is well known, but I think less emphasis in the media is put on their defense. Coach K does a great job working with his personnel, since he has oodles of athletic guards, but lacks any real big bodies inside. So he just throws out his guards in waves and presses like crazy on the perimeter. Purdue wasn't ready for it, and they just could not get an open shot. They also weren't able to get anything going inside, as Robbie Hummel again got in foul trouble. I think this is getting to be a problem for the Boilermakers, because they're so dependant on Hummel and E'Twaun Moore, yet they can't stay on the court. Each of them has collected four or more fouls in four of the seven games so far this season. Both of them, therefore, are actually playing less minutes per game than they were as freshmen. This is all part of the reason that I can't put Purdue as the favorite in the Big Ten. They've got a lot of talent, but it's just so different in year two. It's so different being the hunted instead of the hunter. It's so different trying to lead the team as a sophomore as opposed to being too-young-to-feel-pressure as a freshman. I'm curious to see how this team plays on December 20th, when Davidson comes to town. If they can stay out of foul trouble against any good team, it will be against a small team like Davidson.

Ohio State 73, #22 Miami (Fl) 68
I was pretty surprised by this result. When Ohio State fell down by double-digits, I assumed this one was over. But this is why player psychology is so important, because if you let your foot off the pedal for even a few minutes against a decent team, you're in trouble. It's why UNC and Duke are so good: they never take a second off. That said, it also helps when you have one player who is your unquestioned star and leader, and he gets thrown out of the game after playing only eight minutes. Miami has a lot more around Jack McClinton than they did last year, but it's clearly not enough. Still, this isn't a bad loss, and I still think Miami is firmly is the chase for third place in the ACC. For Ohio State, this is a win that really puts them back on the radar. Jon Diebler is starting to put to bed the idea that he was going to be one of those high school stars whose skills wouldn't translate to the NCAA game where the defenders are more athletic (remember: Diebler scored more points in high school than any other player in the history of the state of Ohio). Also, I think Evan Turner still isn't even close to his ceiling. I think he has the ability to be one of the best players in the Big Ten someday.

Clemson 76, Illinois 74
Trevor Booker is just a load inside, and he was probably the difference here against Illinois. This is the best win of the season for a Clemson team that is now 8-0, but let's recall that fans of this team shouldn't get too excited about an early season undefeated record against relatively weak competition. Surely, they still remember two seasons ago where a 17-0 start led to a 4-9 finish and a trip to the NIT. So while Clemson is (along with a slew of other teams) firmly in the race for third place in the ACC, they can't start pretending like they've won anything yet. It's a long season, and with this Illinois win likely going to be the best win they'll have in the out-of-conference, they'll probably need a 9-7 record in the ACC to earn an at-large bid. For Illinois, they have to view this as a game that they lost a lot more than their opponent won. They just went ice cold down the stretch. Normally they will respond to tough times with a Demetri McCamey run, but he was a very mediocre 4-for-12 from behind the line. McCamey ended with 20 points in this one, but on 17 shots from the field. It's a game that Illinois will really regret letting away, because they are likely to be a true bubble team down the stretch. And one loss or one win could possibly be the difference between making the Tournament or not.


Unknown said...

"Duke...lacks any real big bodies inside"

Well, they're obviously not an inside-out team. But, in a college basketball world where all skilled big men go directly to the NBA (do not pass sophomore year, do not collect $200), Duke is now just fine inside. If you combine Lance Thomas & Brian Zoubek's numbers, they're averaging almost 15 points and 9 rebounds over 31 minutes a game. Those are solid numbers for a college center, unless you're playing UConn or UNC.

Jeff said...

I will agree that as far as other teams in BCS conferences go, Duke's big guys are pretty much average. Lance Thomas is pretty good, even if he's not quite big enough to be able to handle UConn, UNC or any other team with a star big. I think Zoubek's numbers are deceptive because he is so slow. So when Duke plays a slow team, he is very valuable. He's a very smart player who does a great job of organizing the defense and helping with weak side defense and rebounding. But against fast teams, he's useless. So when Duke plays UNC, I just don't see how Zoubek will be able to get more than 10 minutes on the floor. I just don't see how Duke can possibly match up with UNC's combination of speed and size, and it's why I can't pick them to win the ACC and get a 1 seed.

Unknown said...

Oh sure, UNC will win the ACC. I don't doubt that, and I wouldn't have picked Duke for a 1 seed even if they had beaten Michigan today. I'm partial to Gonzaga for a 1 seed, who is playing great in the non-conference, and will have a gaudy record by selection time. I'm just saying that outside UNC & UConn, Duke's bigs look just fine.