Thursday, December 03, 2009

Butler Falls Again

I'm still catching up on games from this past weekend. I apologize for this, again, and hope to be caught up soon:

#19 Clemson 70, #10 Butler 69
This was a close game most of the way, and Butler did play well, but in the end they just could not match up inside with Clemson's size. As has become the norm this season, Matt Howard got himself in foul trouble, forcing Butler's defense to totally collapse on Trevor Booker, which opened things up for guards like Tanner Smith. It was only a one point loss for Butler, of course, so obviously this easily could have turned into a victory with one ball bouncing in a different direction, but they did shoot 54% from the field, and usually win when they shoot that well. As I've said before, I think Butler simply has a ceiling due to their lack of athleticism, and their lack of any good inside player who can stay out of foul trouble. They'll be a Top 25 team all season, probably, but they should never have been ranked in the Top Ten. As for Clemson, I'll have more to say about them when I finally get around to their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Illinois, but this win over Butler assured them of having a Tournament-quality out-of-conference resume. I don't think they will make a run at an ACC title, but they're certainly looking like a safe Tournament team at the very least.

Texas A&M 66, #16 Minnesota 65
There sure were a lot of close games at the 76 Classic, although this game wasn't played with the quality of the Clemson/Butler game. Derrick Roland was the player of the game for the Aggies here, with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He's always been a good defender, so if he can score like this consistently (he's averaging 12.6 points per game this season, after 6.3 last season) then he'll be quite a weapon for a team that is starting to make noise in the Big 12. Obviously the Big 12 looks to be Kansas and Texas and then a big gap to everybody else, but I'd argue that Texas A&M has been better than any of the others. Sagarin agrees, giving them an ELO_CHESS of 14th and a PREDICTOR of 22nd (yes, it's gotten late enough in the season that I feel confident using Sagarin numbers... soon I'll be ready to go with Pomeroy numbers. It will likely be another month before the RPI rankings seem accurate). That says that Texas A&M has overperformed a little bit (1 point upset victories will do that to a computer rating), but that they're quite possibly a Top 25 team. Not many people expected that when this season began. As for Minnesota, it's time to go back to the drawing board, because they're in a pretty bad slump. When I look at that roster I just don't understand how they're not winning more games. The only thing I can think of is that their big rotation is a problem as much as its an asset. They don't have that go-to scorer that can lead them in a close game like this.

Florida State 57, Marquette 56
This was a very interesting match-up for the championship of the Old Spice Classic. Both of these teams were expected to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences, and both had played surprisingly well while pulling at least one upset to get to this game. Both teams are full of very talented athletes, but are young and unproven, and lack good scorers (other than perhaps Lazar Hayward for Marquette). In the end, the difference was offensive rebounding and interior passing, which allowed Florida State's big men to get a lot of easy baskets. The Seminoles don't have any really good individual scorers, so it's a key for them to get easy baskets. I still don't think FSU has the offense to hang with the big boys in the ACC, but they're clearly good enough to at least be a bubble team. For Marquette, they still have to prove that those wins over Xavier and Michigan were as good as we thought they were at the time (both teams have really struggled since their respective losses to the Golden Eagles, dropping the value of those victories). They still have an excellent chance of entering Big East play with something like a 10-2 record, which will still have them in excellent position to make the NCAA Tournament if they can go 9-9 in conference play. You have to give Buzz Williams credit for bringing this team together so quickly. He has been able to recruit since taking over, but we knew he could recruit. I've been more impressed with his ability to prepare this year's team to win.

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