Saturday, November 27, 2010

Syracuse Barely Survives Michigan

#10 Syracuse 53, Michigan 50
This game will be a learning experience for this very young Syracuse squad. Syracuse may end up a Top Ten team by the end of the season, but right now they're still finding their way and that ranking is insanity. Star freshman Fab Melo was actually benched for most of this game because of the way he was playing, and this Orange team has a short bench even when Melo is playing. The one bright spot was Kris Joseph, who might be establishing himself as the best player on the team, and led all players in this game with 22 points. As for Michigan, I just really have no clue what they were thinking in this game. With seven fewer turnovers and three more offensive rebounds they had ten extra possessions, and teams rarely lose when they have that. But they just launched brick after brick from behind the arc (8-for-32 for the game) instead of attacking a Syracuse team that ended up committing only nine fouls. If you're ever going to attack the rim it should be against a team with a short bench that can't afford to foul. I know that John Beilein likes his teams to take a lot of three pointers, but at some point he's got to understand his opponent and the situation. They should have and would have won this game if his players had attacked the rim. Freshmen Tim Hardaway, Jr. was strong off the dribble in this game, and he can potentially be that spark for Michigan. Syracuse will play Georgia Tech next, but the next game they might realistically lose is a potential look-ahead game against NC State on December 4th, only three days before they'll Michigan State. As for Michigan, they aren't a likely NCAA Tournament team anyway. I'll be more focused on the development of young guards Hardaway and Darius Morris. Both have looked really good so far this season and could help open things up for John Beilein's shooters.

#20 Temple 65, Georgia 58
This game was definitely closer than I thought it would be. I figured Georgia's super-athletic but undisciplined players would wilt against the very fundamental and solid Temple squad. But weird things are going on at this Old Spice Classic, and none of the eight teams can hit shots. Temple also got an uncharacteristically poor game from Juan Fernandez (7 points, 3 assists, 5 turnovers), who otherwise has been very strong so far this season. But a win is a win, and this is a solid victory to follow up the disappointing loss to California. They will play an interesting 5th placed game against Texas A&M on Sunday, and then head to Central Michigan and Maryland. They have three big time opponents remaining out-of-conference (Duke, Villanova, Georgetown). A win against any of those teams along with a solid Atlantic Ten regular season record (something like 11-5 or 12-4) plus a lack of bad losses will be sufficient for an NCAA Tournament bid. As for Georgia, they are going to have to clean things up further to start pulling out these close games. They've played very well so far at the Old Spice Classic, but two close losses against quality opponents and Manhattan as their final opponent means that they won't get anything for their resume at this event. They do have wins over Saint Louis and Colorado, and they'll obviously get plenty of chances for quality wins in the SEC East, but I'd like to see them beat either UAB or Georgia Tech over the next couple of weeks if I'm going to take them too seriously as a potential bubble team.

Saint Mary's 88, Texas Tech 68
To be fair, this game was closer than the final score suggests. Saint Mary's came out white hot from the field, and Texas Tech never really recovered. For the game, the Gaels hit 50% of their threes, 63% of their twos, and 85% of their free throws. But Saint Mary's was the better team and they clearly deserved to win, and I have to imagine that Texas Tech's athletic department won't put up with too many more 20 point losses in virtual home games against mid-major opponents before they make a coaching change. There just is no real positive momentum with the Texas Tech basketball program right now. As for Saint Mary's, they continue to keep developing fresh new talent - Tim Williams was the latest youngster to make a big impression, putting up 20 points and 10 rebounds off of the bench in this game (after averaging 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last season as a freshman). They are talented, deep, and now 6-0 with wins over St. John's and Texas Tech. Their next big test will be Wednesday night at San Diego State.

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