Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unimpressive Opener For Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest

Stetson 89, Wake Forest 79
Jeff Bzdelik is a good college basketball coach who will gradually improve this Wake Forest improve, but it's going to be a slow slog, which is why I questioned the hiring back in April. I said that we are going to have to see how much patience Wake Forest fans have, and we're already going to find out, because a loss to the team that finished in last place in the Atlantic Sun last season was not the way they expected to start, even in a season with relatively low expectations. Wake was expected to suffer without Ishmael Smith and LD Williams, and ball handling was unexpectedly the biggest problem here (17 turnovers, including 12 steals allowed). This is a very young team, though, and true freshman JT Terrell (26 points on 8-for-17 shooting) was the team's lone bright spot, so it's not unreasonable to expect Wake Forest to improve at least a little bit as the season goes along. They will next be tested at the Preseason NIT, where they open up on Tuesday against Hampton.

#22 Temple 62, Seton Hall 56
With Xavier and Rhode Island suffering with injuries and setbacks, the Atlantic Ten has really opened up for Temple, and they began their regular season very strong here with a win over a solid Seton Hall squad. Temple does look a whole lot like last year's squad, with a lack of explosive scorers but with very strong defense, rebounding and ball handling. If they can find a strong scoring option or two over the next few months then they'll really be a good team, because it's going to be hard for any team to put up a lot of points against them. There are just no easy baskets. Seton Hall was feeling its way a bit under new coach Kevin Willard. He has a lot of weapons to work with, and he's just got to figure out the appropriate rotation. Using the bench is good, but double-digit minutes for ten different players is generally not a formula for success.

Western Kentucky 98, Saint Joseph's 70
Returners Sergio Kerush and Steffphon Pettigrew, along with Oklahoma transfer Juan Pattillo, give Western Kentucky a really strong trio, and are the reason I picked Western Kentucky to win the Sun Belt Conference. And all three showed up big here, combining for 65 points, 26 rebounds and 8 assists. Kerush is probably the best of the three and he led the way with 31 points, including 6-for-8 shooting behind the arc. The Hilltoppers can't plan on playing this well every night, but this win will give them some nice confidence heading into the rest of the season. Their next big game will be in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they open up against a very vulnerable Minnesota team. As for St. Joe's, it's fair to point out that Western Kentucky's 11-for-21 shooting behind the arc was something of a fluke, but there's no excuse for a good team to ever lose by 28 points to a Sun Belt team, even one as strong as Western Kentucky. I didn't give St. Joe's any real chance to earn an at-large bid this season, and my pessimism isn't going to change after this stinker.

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