Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Duke Survives Their First Test

#1 Duke 82, Marquette 77
Duke spent the first three games of this season destroying inferior foes, and this was the first team to actually put up a fight against them. And Marquette played really well here. What most impressed me was that they fought to a draw on the board against a much larger Duke team. That has to be a concern for a Duke team that was such a good rebounding team last season. Only Mason Plumlee (12 rebounds, including six on offense) showed fight on the boards. This game will also be a learning experience for star freshman Kyrie Irving, who struggled with Marquette's perimeter pressure and committed five turnovers. In the long run I don't think there's too much reason for Duke to worry about this close game - they're still the best team in the country. Nobody blows out every team they play. For Marquette, they'll be disappointed to play so well but to still come up short. They'll have to avoid a letdown on Saturday at UW-Milwaukee. Their next tough game after that will be December 11th at home against Wisconsin.

Old Dominion 67, Xavier 58
Old Dominion doesn't win games in style, but they have a system that works for them. They play stout defense and they rebound the ball, and that's a formula for a lot of wins. They had a tough three point loss to Georgetown to start the season, but they've now had two straight strong wins over Clemson and Xavier. They still have out-of-conference games remaining against Richmond, Dayton and Missouri. For Xavier, this hasn't been a strong start to the year, but this is only their first loss. But with only one game against Temple, and no other team in the Atlantic Ten likely to get ranked, Xavier needs a big win out-of-conference. Their chances will come in December against Butler, Gonzaga and Florida.

#3 Kansas State 81, #12 Gonzaga 64
A lot of teams live and die by the three, but very few teams have the ability hit threes in bunches like Kansas State does. They blew this game open by hitting 9 of their first 13 threes, and it completely rattled Gonzaga. The Zags played awful after that initial shock - I've never seen them miss so many layups. Elias Harris, Demetri Goodson, Steven Gray and Robert Sacre are Gonzaga's four stars, and they combined to shoot 11-for-38. Gonzaga's two losses this season have come to San Deigo State and Kansas State, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but Gonzaga can't afford to not collect a big scalp out-of-conference. Their remaining big time opponents are Illinois, Baylor and Memphis, and they also will play Xavier, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. The Illinois game is up first, on December 4th. As for Kansas State, they finally got Curtis Kelly back from suspension, and freshman Will Spradling continues to play really well this season. They're 4-0 and clearly look like they'll be part of a really fun Big 12 conference battle between them, Baylor, Texas and Kansas. They play Washington State on December 3rd, but shouldn't be too seriously tested again until they head to Florida on December 14th.

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