Saturday, January 03, 2009

Arizona State Is For Real

#14 Arizona State 90, Stanford 60
Stanford loses by 30 to Arizona State just five days after beating Texas Tech by 45. Does that mean that Arizona State would beat Texas Tech by 75? And what if they played East Central (the team that Texas Tech beat 167-115 back in November)? Would they win by 127? On a more serious note, I think this is just the Stanford team returning to reality. They're a good team, but seeing them (and Illinois State) on the list of the six remaining nationwide undefeated teams was just silly. They're not in the league with Pittsburgh or UNC, or even in the league of UCLA or Arizona State. They are good enough that they could battle USC, or potentially some other schools (Arizona, Washington, Washington State, or Cal) for third place in the Pac-10. But they have zero chance of winning the conference. The team that does have a chance to knock UCLA from their perch atop the Pac-10 is Herb Sendek's Arizona State squad. They now move to 12-1, including a 4-1 record over the RPI Top 100. UCLA is definitely the heavy favorite to take the Pac-10, of course, but the fact that we're in January and Arizona State is still a contender shows just how much progress this program has made under Sendek. As a side note, you're not crazy if you click on the link to this game's recap and get confused. At the time of this posting, somebody at has goofed and accidently posted the text of the Associated Press's story about the Arizona State-Stanford women's game. But all of the stats, as well as the boxscore, are all correct at this time.

California 69, Arizona 55
After discussing USC and Stanford today, it's worthwhile to discuss two more teams in the massive chaotic battle for third place in the Pac-10. Of the six teams that could potentially finish in third place in the Pac-10 (assuming that UCLA and Arizona State will finish first and second, and that Oregon and Oregon State are the two worst teams in the conference), I don't think many people would argue with me when I say that Arizona is the most talented team. But they are just so frustratingly inconsistent. That said, the one constant for the Wildcats has been the dominant play of Jordan Hill, who led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds. But they are never good in all aspects of any game, and this time it was perimeter defense that failed them. Cal was able to drive and kick to open jumpers the entire game. Cal also continues to benefit from the improvement of possibly the most unknown star in any BCS conference: Patrick Christopher. The junior is completely unknown among casual fans (other than casual Cal fans), but he now is up to 15 ppg, 4 rpg and 2 apg, on 48% shooting from the field and 88% from the line. And he has led an over-performing Cal team to a 12-2 record, including three wins over the RPI Top 60, and a ranking in the RPI, Sagarin and Pomeroy in the Top 30 nationally. I don't think they're a Top 25 team, but at this point you have to say that they're a likely Tournament team.

#3 Pittsburgh 70, #8 Georgetown 54
Georgetown manhandled the #2 team in the nation, and then five days later was blown off the floor by Pitt, and nobody was really too surprised by either result. It's just another week in the Big East. In fact, even as far as the Big East goes, Georgetown is in the midst of a run that is just unbelievable. They are in the middle of a 6 game run that includes five of the top 11 ranked teams in the nation. I don't think I've ever seen something like that before. And it will be a challenge for a Georgetown team that lacks depth. That said, their problem in this game was not depth, as JTIII did a good job of rotating his guys in and out so that he always seemed to have at least three starters on the floor. The fact that Pitt doesn't run up and down the floor meant that the Hoyas starters weren't as fatigued as they could have been, and were able to play more minutes. No, the difference in this one was inside, where Pitt just blew Georgetown away. Georgetown didn't even attempt to get offensive rebounds, with everybody running back on defense as soon as every shot was taken. But it felt like half of Pitt's points came on tip-ins or offensive put-backs. DeJuan Blair collected a dominating 20 points and 17 rebounds, but it was a team effort. The total rebounding battle was 42-18 in Pitt's favor, including 18-to-4 on the offensive glass. And they didn't do this to a SWAC team, they did it against a team that is historically a good rebounding team, and that features arguably the best freshman center in the nation (Greg Monroe acquitted himself well with 15 points and 8 rebounds). But other than DaJuan Summers, who couldn't miss from the floor during the first half, the rest of the Georgetown team really just did not show up. During the last 10 minutes of the game, Greg Monroe was really the only positive force on the floor for the team. And no matter how good your freshman is, he's not going to beat the #3 (soon to be the consensus #2) team in the nation by himself. That said, this is the way that the Big East season is going to go. As well as Pitt looked today, they are going to lose a couple of games before all is said and done. And Georgetown has more good wins ahead this season. Don't read too much into any one game.

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