Monday, January 05, 2009

UNC Is Toppled

Boston College 85, #1 North Carolina 78
This is why it's so hard to go undefeated. In fact, even those who argued that North Carolina was going to lose a game missed the point, by pointing to the Duke games. No, North Carolina will be motivated for those games, and a motivated UNC team is nearly impossible for anybody to beat. Undefeated teams are often taken down in games like this, where the Tar Heels players and fans figure that they'll win because they showed up in their uniforms, and where their opponent is talented enough to compete. Of course, nobody questions the fact that North Carolina is still the best team in the land. They have been dropped from the #1 spot in the Top 25 polls because, as we know, the polls are not intended to rank the 25 best teams. I won't drop them from the #1 spot in the BP65, and I would still bet on them being the #1 team overall when Selection Sunday rolls around. For Boston College, though, this is a massive win that completely turns their season around. They were already 12-2 before this win, but their best wins were over Iowa and UAB. Now they have a defining win that they can hang onto all season long. At this point, a 9-7 ACC record will almost definitely be good enough for a Tournament bid. If they finish 8-8 then they'll probably have to sweat out the conference tournaments.

#24 Michigan 74, Illinois 64
A very nice win for Michigan, which bounces back from that big loss to Wisconsin. The difference here was that Michigan found a way to create on offense. They like to run an up-tempo, somewhat wild offensive style that relies on creativity. Wisconsin forced them to run a deliberate offense, and this Michigan team can't win that way. Here, they got a lot of easy baskets off of creativity by Manny Harris and Laval Lucas-Perry. When they can move the ball freely like this, while also hanging onto the ball (only 8 turnovers in this game), they're a tough team for anybody to beat. They still have their big wins, and zero bad losses, so they're in excellent shape for a Tournament bid. For Illinois, this loss doesn't sting too much since it comes on the heels of that very nice win at Purdue. This is only their second loss of the season, and they'd unquestionably be a Tournament team if the season ended now. Even a 9-9 Big Ten record will probably be enough for Illinois, and looking at their upcoming schedule I can't see them finishing worse than 7-11. This means that they have a large room for error, and barring a really awful collapse should be in good shape to play in the Tournament.

#18 Louisville 74, Kentucky 71
Louisville probably deserved to lose this game after blowing a late 7 point lead with utter incompetence. They even blew the final play of the game, settling for a 25 foot three-pointer by Edgar Sosa that somehow found the net. It's possible that this miracle victory will bring the team together, since I've already mentioned how this team is so talented and yet just seems to lack team chemistry. But it's also possible that this win will obscure the reality of the situation, that Louisville is underperforming and will continue to underperform. They are still only 9-3, and this is their best win of the season. Beginning on January 10th, they play a three-game stretch against Villanova, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. I think it's safe to say that they need a minimum of one win in those three games to avoid completing their fall from third ranked team in the nation to bubble team. For Kentucky, this was a missed opportunity as they fall to 11-4 with only one win over a quality team (West Virginia) to balance that bad opening night loss to VMI. That said, they're still off to a better start than they were last year, when they salvaged the season with a 12-4 SEC record. This year they probably will only need a 10-6 SEC record for an at-large bid, but there's no question that a 9-7 SEC record will make them a real long shot.

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