Saturday, January 09, 2010

Georgetown Makes Up Ground In Big East

#12 Georgetown 72, #13 UConn 69
Both of these two Big East title contenders entered this game with one loss in Big East play, meaning that one of them would leave with a huge gap to make up in the conference title race. The Verizon Center was silent as UConn opened up a 19 point lead, but Georgetown fought back with a scoring outburst by Austin Freeman, who had 28 points in the second half alone. Freeman had to do the work because once again Georgetown struggled to get shots for Greg Monroe, which is something I've talked about many times here, although the announcers of this game (I believe it was Dan Shulman with Dick Vitale) took it to an embarrassing level. For about five minutes of game time they were breaking down every single play for how Georgetown could have done a better job of getting Monroe the ball, and celebrated after each of his good plays like they were his parents. In the end, UConn was probably done in by the fact that they struggle to score in the half court, and so are prone to big runs, both positively and negatively. When Georgetown was struggling, UConn was turning every turnover and bricked shot into a layup. While UConn does have a big match-up with Texas looming, their upcoming conference schedule is pretty easy (vs Pitt, vs St. John's, at Providence, vs Marquette, at Louisville, vs DePaul). If they're going to make a run at the Big East title they've got to run through those games. As for Georgetown, they have a few more stern tests on the horizon, heading to Villanova next weekend, then heading to both Pittsburgh and Syracuse the following week.

Louisville 75, St. John's 68
Neither of these teams played particularly well here, and both teams went very deep on their benches, but there seemed to be more of a coherent system from Louisville. Rick Pitino knows the limitations of his team, and knows how to maximize what he has. Norm Roberts more often seems to just be throwing random combinations of players on the floor to see what works, which has the benefits of surprise stars from game to game (Dwight Hardy putting on a little shooting display was a surprise star in this game), but also makes it hard to sustain runs. The Johnnies played pretty well out-of-conference, but the computers thought that they weren't as good as their record and have been backed up so far as St. John's is off to an 0-3 start in the Big East. They now have near-must win home games against Cincinnati and DePaul, because they follow that up with games against UConn and Villanova, and could end up in a hole they'll never get out of. They will need to go at least 9-9 in the Big East to make the Tournament. As for Louisville, they're looking more and more like yet another classic Rick Pitino team, with a very slow start that caused many to question whether they'd even be Tournament bound, and now a quick 3-0 start to Big East play. That said, it's been a soft 3-0, and things immediately get more difficult with Villanova coming to town Monday evening. But I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see this Louisville team finish up near fourth or fifth in the Big East.

Vanderbilt 95, Florida 87
Florida didn't seem at all bothered by the goofy Vanderbilt arena, playing well in all aspects of the game. They shot 52% from the field, including 13-for-27 behind the arc, but Vanderbilt just played very efficient basketball. They turned the ball over only seven times, and by adding 13 offensive rebounds just ended up with more shot attempts (only three more from the field, but 12 more at the free throw line). Sometimes basketball is simpler than we make it out to be: if you get to take more shot attempts than your opponent, you're probably going to win. This game was important for both teams because of the suspensions to four Tennessee players (including the outright dismissal of leading scorer Tyler Smith) which makes second place in the SEC wide open. It's now a battle between Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, and Vandy gained a small step forward with this win here. The Commodores went a quiet 11-3 out-of-conference, with wins over Missouri, St. Mary's and Arizona, and a loss to Western Kentucky. Their RPI is up to 23rd, and they should lock up an at-large bid if they can get to 10-6 in the SEC. Florida is better than their RPI of 81st, but not much better. They're overrated because of that win against Michigan State, as Vanderbilt actually probably had the better overall out-of-conference performance. Florida next has a big home game against Kentucky, on Tuesday night.

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