Saturday, January 16, 2010

UNC Gets Rocked By Clemson

#19 Clemson 83, #13 North Carolina 64
The best case scenario for North Carolina is that this ends up being a learning experience for their best players. Early in the second half, with Clemson rolling and UNC's starters looking horrible, Roy Williams pulled all five players from the floor and brought in five freshmen. He then proceeded to get on one knee, pull out his clipboard and teach the five starters like it was a timeout, seemingly oblivious to the play of his freshman on the floor behind him. It didn't have a great effect on this game, but maybe it will show after a few days of more motivated practices. There were two main issues with UNC's play in this game, and it's been the same problems that have plagued them all year: ball control (25 turnovers here) and inconsistent play from Marcus Ginyard. Ginyard has been the one player that the Tar Heels have been able to lean on in tough times, but coming off a mild injury he was pretty invisible here. He played 23 minutes and collected four points on four shots from the field, two rebounds, one assist and five turnovers. Dexter Strickland was the best guard on the floor for the Tar Heels, and I continue to insist that they should be starting him over Will Graves and going with a lineup with three true guards. It will improve ball-handling and it will improve defense. John Henson continues to be a monumental disappointment as a true freshman (seven minutes played in this game, with zero shots taken, zero rebounds, zero assists, one turnover and one foul committed - even a walk-on should be able to amass one positive stat during seven minutes on the floor), but North Carolina has enough good frontcourt players that they can be an elite team if they can get better guard play. I don't mean to ignore Clemson, because they obviously played a good game, but this game was more about North Carolina's poor play than Clemson's good play. The good news for Clemson is that their soft out-of-conference schedule (a 12-2 record, but their only good win was over South Carolina) is not going to burn them this season. They are firmly on their way to the NCAA Tournament, and can get themselves in the discussion for a 2 or 3 seed in the Tournament if they continue to improve.

Virginia Tech 81, Miami (Fl) 66
Miami was flying a little bit too high on a very soft 15-1 record and was due for a little reality check, and a Virginia Tech team that always plays good teams close but struggles to close out tight games finally collected a quality win. Tech didn't have to worry about closing out a close one here as they actually led by as much as 35 points in the first half, and took a 27 point lead into the locker room. A little spurt by Miami midway through the second half got the game within reach, but they never were able to close to within single digits. Miami is, of course, still 15-2, but the computers are not happy with their soft schedule. Their RPI is actually 70th at the moment, although that will improve naturally as they play more ACC games and their strength of schedule improves. Sagarin and Pomeroy view them as somewhere around the 30-35th best team in the nation, and I agree that they're more likely than not to make the Tournament, but they'll be close enough to the bubble that a losing streak at any point in this season will endanger their at-large hopes. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has very quietly gotten themselves to 13-2, including a win over Seton Hall to go with this win. Their RPI is up near 50th in the country, although I need to see them prove that they can win close games before I put them in the bracket. Virginia Tech just could not close out a close game last season, and this season hasn't gotten off to a better start. It will be impossible for them to get to the 8-8 ACC record that they probably need to go Dancing if they can't close out close games, particularly on the road.

Missouri 94, Texas Tech 89, OT
Both of these teams like to play uptempo basketball (Pomeroy ranks them both among the Top 20 in the nation in adjusted tempo), so you knew this game would be high scoring and entertaining. In the end, Texas Tech continues to struggle in close games because they lack the late game assassins that Missouri has in players like Zaire Taylor and Kim English. The teams were even in every major game category (turnovers, rebounding, shooting, etc), but Missouri just hit more big shots. Missouri moves to 2-0 in the Big 12 with a big game this afternoon at an Oklahoma team trying to use its homecourt to get back into the at-large discussion. Missouri is a solid 14-3 with wins over Kansas State, Illinois and Texas Tech, and they also seem to still be improving after a slow November start. We will now see how Texas Tech responds to their reality check, which consisted of two straight losses to start their Big 12 season after a 12-2 out-of-conference performance that included wins over Washington and Stanford. They now head to Kansas where they will be big underdogs before they head to two near must-win home games against Iowa State and Oklahoma. They are near must-wins because they are followed with road games at Texas and Texas A&M. There is a real possibility of a 1-6 start to Big 12 play if they don't take care of business at home. An 8-8 Big 12 record might be good enough for an at-large bid for Texas Tech when you consider the strength of the conference this year, but it's hard to see a 7-9 Big 12 team with a weak out-of-conference strength of schedule (Pomeroy rates Texas Tech's out-of-conference strength of schedule 233rd in the nation) getting in.

1 comment:

DMoore said...

Although UNC's loss to Clemson was a lot uglier, the loss to GA Tech today is much more damaging. A ceratin number of road losses in the ACC is expected this year, but losing a home game will be much more difficult to make up.

Also, Zeller's loss is substantial. Zeller was one of the few players showing solid improvement this year, along with Drew II and Dexter Strickland. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis have not been performing up to expectations, and UNC needed the additional help inside.