Monday, December 07, 2009

John Wall Leads Kentucky Over UNC

I know that I'm a few days behind on these recaps, so I apologize for rehashing some games from a few days ago. But I do hope to be all caught up by the end of this coming weekend:

#4 Kentucky 68, #11 North Carolina 66
This Kentucky team is still very young and still learning how to play together, and a lot of their talent is still very raw, but the one piece that is clearly in place (other than Patrick Paterson) is John Wall. He is the best freshman that we've seen since Kevin Durant, and might even be better than Durant was at this point in the season. It makes you wonder how scary good this Kentucky team will be whenever DeMarcus Cousins matures and plays to his natural ability level. Tennessee is a very good team, and will challenge for the SEC title, but if this Kentucky team continues to improve then it's hard to see them not winning the conference. As for North Carolina, the guard play is definitely continuing to improve. The way they were playing early in November it looked like they were going to have 25 turnovers every game in ACC play, but Larry Drew seems to clearly be getting control of the position. And while Dexter Strickland hasn't really developed point guard skills yet, I still really like his raw talent. He's eventually going to be a 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals per game kind of guy. One question mark continues to be John Henson, who has not at all lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school. But it's probably not fair to compare Henson to John Wall, since players rarely ever develop as quickly as Wall has. North Carolina's hopes of staying as favorites in the ACC clearly depend at least somewhat on Henson becoming more of a force as the season goes along.

Texas Tech 99, #10 Washington 92
This was a really bizarre and crazy game - how often do you see a crowd rush the court twice? One really surprising part of this game was Texas Tech's guard play - it's not just John Roberson, as they collected a total of 18 assists while forcing 19 turnovers. They managed to win this game despite Washington's Quincy Pondexter absolutely dominating inside (31 points on 10-for-17 shooting). So even while this won't be a great loss for Washington, the play of Pondexter has to be a real positive because of how weak the frontcourt play is on their top Pac-10 opponents. I can't think of another inside player in the entire conference with the scoring ability of Pondexter. Washington is still the clear favorite in the Pac-10. As for Texas Tech, you can no longer ignore this team, even though their 8-0 record is against mostly patsies. Other than this win, their only other decent win is over Oregon State. Still, they have avoided bad losses, and are in a good position to potentially have an 18 or 19 win season. They now enter a key stretch: at TCU, at Wichita State, vs Stanford, at New Mexico. If they can go 3-1 stretch and avoid a bad loss in their final two out-of-conference games (McNeese State and UTEP, both at home), then they will be great position for an at-large bid if they can go just 8-8 in the Big 12.

Baylor 64, Arizona State 61
This is an outstanding win for Baylor, although I'm not sure how much it says about the team itself. They shot 60% from the field and 8-for-16 from behind the arc, compared to only 41% shooting from the field for Arizona State. Arizona State was most likely the better team in this game, but nobody will care about that when they are looking at Baylor's at-large resume in March. Arizona State is probably the third best team in the Pac-10, so this will go down as a good win for Baylor's resume. Baylor has that bad loss to Alabama, but they're now 7-1 with wins over Xavier and Arizona State, and they now have a fairly easy schedule before Big 12 play begins. And the thing about the Big 12 is that while the conference is good, there are no elite teams other than Texas and Kansas. Every other game is winnable for a team like Baylor, so they'll get plenty of chances to prove that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. As for Arizona State, they are clearly a solid team, but the resume isn't really showing it quite yet. This loss goes with a loss to Duke, and their only decent wins are over LSU and TCU - nothing that's going to get anybody too excited. Sagarin agrees with me, as he's got their ELO_CHESS at 76th, and their PREDICTOR is 28th. Pomeroy has them 31st. The computer numbers all back up the idea that they are the third best team in the Pac-10. They just don't have the results to back that up yet.

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