Friday, December 18, 2009

Cincinnati Loses Again

UAB 64, Cincinnati 47
Neither team shot well in this game, with both teams hitting lower than 40% from the field and 25% behind the arc. UAB is probably a bit underrated this year because their key contributors were not big recruits. Instead, they have been powered by a pair of transfers: Elijah Mills from Louisiana Lafayette, and Jamarr Sanders from Alabama State. Mills led all scorers with 22 points in this game, and both had double digits in rebounds. Mike Davis still has to do a better job of building his program through high school recruiting, because it's not sustainable to keep relying on transfers with only one or two years of eligibility, but he's got a nice squad for the time being. Conference USA is still pretty wide open, so there's no reason that UAB can't compete near the top. As for Cincinnati, obviously they didn't play as badly as the final scorer indicated - it was just one of those days when they couldn't get a shot to fall. But the problem that I see is that Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson weren't able to carry this team at all. When the shots aren't falling, you've got to have players who can get to the rim and create easy buckets and free throws, and neither player did that. The two combined for 15 points and 7 rebounds. Deonta Vaughn seemed content to launch threes, so the only player who showed any offensive life at all was Dion Dixon off the bench. It's disconcerting that Yancy Gates still hasn't developed into a player who can carry his team on his back to a victory over a quality opponent. The Bearcats have now lost two straight games against mid-majors and fall to 6-3 overall. One thing they've got going for them is an easy start to their Big East schedule. Other than an opener against UConn, they've got a schedule full of the likes of Rutgers and South Florida for the first month or so. Of course, they end their regular season at West Virginia, vs Villanova and then at Georgetown, so they'd better have their NCAA Tournament bid wrapped up before then.

South Carolina 76, Richmond 58
This game was a lot closer than the final score suggests, as these two teams were actually tied with about eight minutes left in the second half. Devan Downey got to the basket at will and led all players with 18 points, but he didn't do a good job of creating for others. In fact, neither team had more than eight assists. South Carolina won by dominating the boards and creating easy baskets that way (20 offensive rebounds for them compared to only 18 defensive rebounds for Richmond). Richmond isn't a glamor team, but a victory over them is good for the computer numbers, which are essential for a bubble team like South Carolina. The Gamecocks move to 7-2 with no bad losses, although this is probably their best win. They still play Boston College and Baylor before beginning SEC play, but it's pretty clear that they'll need to get that resume-building win in conference play. They'll get two shots each at Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, so they've got to win at least one of those. As for Richmond, they didn't play very fundamental basketball here as they passed poorly and clearly struggled to boxout on the boards. They had more than twice as many turnovers as assists. More importantly, they missed an opportunity for what might have been one of their better wins of the year. They still have wins over Mississippi State, Missouri and Old Dominion, but they already have at least one loss to a team that might finish the season out of the RPI Top 100 (William & Mary). They have a chance to get back on track tomorrow against Florida, and that's not their only tough game remaining before Atlantic Ten play begins, but it seems very likely that Richmond will enter A-10 play having to gain ground on teams like Xavier, Dayton, Rhode Island and Temple for those at-large bids.

South Florida 69, Central Florida 65
South Florida continues to rack up wins against good (if not great) teams, and now moves to 8-2 overall. They won this game without star Augustus Gilchrist, who is suffering from an ankle sprain. Dominique Jones has been a big scorer since showing up at South Florida, so he can shoulder much of the scoring load, but depth is a bigger problem. They only have an eight man rotation when healthy, and right now they're not healthy. They basically went with a six man rotation in this game. The Big East regular season is brutal, and South Florida is going to need to get healthy and they're going to have to find more production off of their bench if they're going to finish near the middle of the pack in the Big East. Central Florida, meanwhile, is a young team that is still developing. They have no seniors in their regular rotation, and yet have still gotten off to a pretty solid start to the season. This loss drops them to 7-3 with a win over Auburn, but also a loss to Niagara to go with this loss to South Florida. UCF appears to be a program on the rise, but they've got a lot of learning to do, and are not as good as Memphis, Tulsa or even UAB right now in Conference USA.

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