Saturday, December 12, 2009

Butler Gets Important Win Vs Ohio State

#20 Butler 74, #15 Ohio State 66
It's impossible to overstate how important this game was for Butler. This was almost definitely their last chance at a Top 25 victory this season. And if they were ever going to have a good chance at beating a team as good as Ohio State it would be in this game: not only was Ohio State missing Evan Turner (who had been the leading candidate for National Player of the Year before his injury), but it was their first game without him. The Buckeyes got off to a very sluggish start here, and you had to figure it would taken them a while to get used to playing without Turner. The Buckeyes did get positive offensive play from William Buford and Jeremie Simmons, so those two should pick up a lot of the scoring slack. A disappointment here was Dallas Lauderdale, who should have slaughtered a small team like Butler. Matt Howard had more points and rebounds than Lauderdale, and played on the floor for 30 minutes before he fouled out (that last number is actually good, considering how quickly Howard had fouled out against other big frontcourts this season - it's the first time all season he's played 30 minutes in a game). Ohio State is still going to be a good team without Turner, but it's hard to see them competing for a Big Ten title now. As for Butler, this now ends their really difficult games, and now it's about grinding out game after game. The fact that this is their only good win means that they can probably only afford two or three conference losses or they risk actually falling to the Tournament bubble. For the time being they're probably somewhere in the 4-8 seed range.

#13 Georgetown 74, #16 Washington 66
The final score doesn't at all give a sense of how big of a domination this was by Georgetown. The Hoyas were up by 20 with under 6:30 left in the game before the Huskies made a run near the end of the game to close up the score. The Hoyas had all five starters in double digits, but I was most impressed with Julian Vaughn, who has really improved since last season. He and Greg Monroe make a great inside duo that will be able to battle in the paint with any of the big frontlines in the Big East. They'll be one of the few teams that can bang with a team like UConn or Syracuse. Georgetown has been under the radar this season, but assuming they can avoid a really big upset they will soon be in the Top 10. We have to start considering them not only a potential Big East champion, but a potential Final Four team. As for Washington, it's clear that Quincy Pondexter is going to be one of the top post players in the Pac-10, and Isaiah Thomas is very good on the perimeter, but the rest of the team played badly here. Venoy Overton didn't show up today, and I've been particularly disappointed by Abdul Gaddy. Remember that just a few months ago there were people arguing that the best point guard recruit in the nation was Gaddy, not John Wall. Gaddy has 5.3 points and 2.6 assists per game. He is going to have to improve for Washington to be one of the best teams in the nation. Although as mediocre as Washington has played the last couple of weeks, they are still by far the best team in the Pac-10.

Mississippi State 72, UCLA 54
UCLA didn't just lose this game, they were slaughtered. They were down by 21 points at halftime. I know this was a "neutral" court game, but it was in Anaheim and John Wooden was in the audience - it was basically a home game. Believe it or not, UCLA has now lost five straight games to fall to 2-6. And things don't get much easier with New Mexico State and Notre Dame still ahead later this month. As weak as the Pac-10 is this season, it's still possible that UCLA will finish this entire season below .500. As for Mississippi State, Jarvis Varnado continued his act as the Human Vacuum Cleaner, but I'm particularly impressed by Ravern Johnson. Johnson has scored ten or more points in all games but one this season, and had 29 points on 12-for-15 shooting here. What I like about him is that he is an outstanding outside shooter, but he's also long enough to get to the rim and score inside. Mississippi State doesn't need a lot of offense to win games with Varnado inside. I think the Bulldogs are back to being the favorites to win the SEC West, even if Renardo Sidney never plays a game for them.

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