Friday, November 26, 2010

Temple Falters Late Against Cal

California 57, #20 Temple 50
Temple's strengths and weaknesses are pretty clear at this point. They are tremendous defensively, they rebound, and they take of the ball. But they lack scorers, and that means two problems that both flared up last night against Cal. First of all, they are never going to blow quality teams out, they're going to win ugly. Second, when they fall behind late and need a big basket they do not have a go-to player. Up by seven with under eight minutes to go, Temple went ice cold and missed eight consecutive shots from the field during a 16-1 California run. Temple just did not have a player who could get to the rim, and when all you are doing is launching long shots you are bound to have stretches where you go cold. That all said, this is a learning experience for Temple and not a reason to panic. Iit's their only loss, and it's a loss against a pretty feisty Cal team. Temple will now get a chance to bounce back later today against a Georgia team that is perfect for them - undisciplined and raw. They'll then hope to play Texas A&M in their final game of the Old Spice Classic, rather than Manhattan. For Cal, this is a very strong win, particularly coming off a 25 point domination of New Mexico. Washington is the clear favorite in the Pac-10, but the conference is wide open after that. Cal, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State... all of them have a shot to finish second. And I think the Pac-10 will get at least three Tournament teams (after only two last season).

UNLV 80, Tulsa 71
Tulsa lost this game, but I was very impressed with their aggressiveness. UNLV is much more athletic, and they also proved again (as they did against Wisconsin) that they can get white hot from behind the arc (8-for-14 in this game). But Tulsa managed to hang in this game by attacking the rim and getting to the line, which not only gave them a lot of points (26 made free throws), but also slowed down the game. Tulsa falls to 2-2, but they've played a tough schedule and now have to play a Stanford team that they have the ability to beat. They can't afford to lose too many games, even against decent opponents, because the Selection Committee always wants to see very high winning percentages from non-BCS conference potential at-large teams. For UNLV, they are going to have to be careful against a dangerous Murray State team later today. UNLV tends to be loose and undisciplined with the ball, and if their threes don't fall then they could get upset if Murray State can maintain their composure. On Sunday they'll play either Virginia Tech or Oklahoma State. Their remaining schedule is tough, including road games at Louisville, Kansas State, Illinois State, and Nevada. Not to mention what will be a brutal Mountain West schedule. And once again this makes me thankful that college basketball rewards tough schedules, unlike college football which rewards teams for scheduling softer schedules.

Wisconsin 65, Boston College 55
This was not a good match-up for Boston College. As I've already talked about, Boston College is not talented, but they're playing very fundamental, smart basketball. The problem is, nobody out-fundamentals Wisconsin, and the Badgers have a talent level that's beyond what BC has right now. But the match-up was pleasurable to watch, with the two teams combining for 26 fouls and 12 turnovers. I've seen plenty of teams outdo that by themselves in 40 minute games already this season. Wisconsin by themselves committed three turnovers and nine fouls - the best they've looked all season. Wisconsin actually opened up a 22 point lead late in the second half before taking their foot off the pedal and allowing a 15-0 Boston College run that actually forced Wisconsin to hit some free throws in the final minute. They should use that as a learning experience. But for Boston College, this was an encouraging effort. They are under-manned, but Steve Donahue does a really good job of using a zillion substitutions to allow players like Reggie Jackson to play a lot of minutes without ever getting worn down. I still believe that this is a team that will actually get onto the bubble before ending up just a little too short on talent to make the NCAA Tournament. They will play either Cal or Notre Dame on Sunday, and then will have to play an improved Indiana team on Wednesday as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. For Wisconsin, this was a nice way to bounce back after a really ugly win over Manhattan. They still have to find more offense outside of Jon Leuer. They are going to see a lot of zones this season that focus on swarming Jon Leuer and forcing somebody else to score.

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