Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tennessee Survives More Drama

#23 Tennessee 60, Missouri State 56
It's already pretty clear that this is going to be a year full of drama for the University of Tennessee basketball program. After all of the off-the-court problems for Bruce Pearl and the exhibition loss to D-II Indianapolis, the Vols went and barely survived a pesky Belmont team and needed a series of clutch free throws to survive a tough challenge from Missouri State here. Lost in this mess is that Tennessee is actually a fairly talented team - that #23 ranking is not totally unwarranted. They have two explosive guards in Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum, and Brian Williams is a load inside. And Missouri State actually represents a quality scalp - they're likely going to be a bubble team. The Vols now head to New York City to face a good VCU team in the NIT semifinals. As for Missouri State, they are going to feel like this was a big missed opportunity. They won the battle of the boards against the more athletic Vols, and they were only doomed by 6-for-26 shooting behind the arc. If they do end up on the bubble, they could have really used a win at Tennessee. But they can't dwell on this loss, because Friday night they head to Tulsa, and they still have games left against St. Louis and Oklahoma State before beginning the Missouri Valley regular season.

Mississippi 77, Murray State 61
Believe it or not, this is actually a really nice win for Ole Miss, particularly when you consider how poorly the SEC West has performed so far this season. What made this win even sweeter was that they did it with an uncharacteristically poor game from star Chris Warren (10 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) and very poor outside shooting (5-for-18 behind the arc). They earned this win by attacking the rim and getting easy shots, with 16 assists on 25 made shots, and 20-for-38 shooting inside the arc. Zach Graham led the team with 22 points, but he has been a key member of Ole Miss for the past few years. The surprise star was Nick Williams, the sophomore transfer from Indiana who had 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and also tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Ole Miss didn't make things easy on themselves with their schedule - their next four games are vs Dayton, vs Penn State, at Miami (Fl), vs Southern Miss. Murray State will be disappointed with how they played here, but to me they remain the heavy favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

BYU 78, Utah State 72
BYU was the best team in the Mountain West last season, but they've been overshadowed this year by big wins for San Diego State and New Mexico. They now have their first quality win, beating a very good Utah State team. Jimmer Fredette led the team with 26 points, but he's a preseason All-American and is expected to score in bunches. The key player I noticed was Chris Collinsworth. We forget when BYU loses key players to Mormon missions (such as Tyler Haws before this season) that they also eventually get these guys back two years older and stronger. Chris Collinsworth had 4.8 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2007-08, then spent the past two years on a mission in Australia, and now is back and led the team with 8 rebounds in this game. His inside presence will help replace Jonathan Tavernari, who graduated after last season. BYU's next test will be Friday night at South Florida, and they will also head to Creighton on December 1st. As for Utah State, they should absolutely dominate the WAC this season, but they know very well how important it is for teams like them to build a strong resume. Last season they dominated the WAC but got knocked off in the WAC tournament and barely snuck into the Tournament as one of the final at-large teams. A win at BYU would have looked really good on their resume. They play two more quality teams next week in Utah and Northeastern.

No comments: