Friday, November 18, 2011

Alabama Beats Maryland, Purdue Survives Iona

#15 Alabama 62, Maryland 42
It shouldn't be too surprising that Alabama shut down the Maryland offense here. Maryland is short on talent, and Alabama finished seventh in the nation last year in Pomeroy defensive efficiency. Maryland couldn't get any flow on offense, and finished with a 28.6 eFG%. What was of more interest was that Alabama seemed to be moving the ball better on offense. Maryland is pretty good defensively, and Alabama scored - not dominantly, but okay. I really liked the freshman Trevor Lacey, who was a relatively highly touted recruit. Levi Randolph, another of Anthony Grants highly rated 2011 recruits, played well also.

Remember that Alabama doesn't need to have a great offense. Their defense looks to be as good or better than last year, when they were only held back by an atrocious offense. As long as their offense is at least decent they'll be heading to the NCAA Tournament. I don't think I'd rank them as high as 15th in the country yet, but they've looked good so far.

This game was the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Alabama's next game will be against Wichita State. In their final game they'll play Temple or Purdue. Maryland heads to the Consolation Bracket, where they'll play Colorado. In their final game they'll get Iona or Western Michigan.

Purdue 91, Iona 90
One of the facts I've stressed many times is one that is well understood by basketball stat-heads, which is that "clutch" play is far overrated, and there is little correlation game to game in results in close contests. With as much randomness as there is in a 40 minute basketball game, there just isn't a big difference between winning by a point and losing by a point. Purdue, in their last two games, has now beaten High Point and Iona by a combined three points. Does this mean it's time for Purdue to panic?

Not necessarily. While I thought Purdue played poorly against High Point, I thought they played pretty well here. They fixed just about everything I complained about from the High Point game. The offense was much more balanced, Lewis Jackson was much more involved (17 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds), and Robbie Hummel played like the Robbie Hummel of old for the first time in nearly two years (24 points on 10-for-21 shooting, along with 9 rebounds). Purdue wasn't playing High Point here - they were playing an Iona team that not only will be a Top 100 team, but that could end up being an RPI Top 50 team, and that shot the lights out (9-for-17 on threes). This is a quality win... even if it was obviously very close to turning into a loss.

A lot of questions still surround this Purdue team, particularly with their lack of size, but we should learn more in the next couple of days as they move on in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. They will play Temple next, and then will play their final game against either Alabama or Wichita State. For Iona, this is a big missed opportunity in more ways than one. Had they won this game, not only would they have gotten some of the hype that Long Beach State is getting, but they'd also have given themselves a chance for more success in Puerto Rico. Instead, they're stuck playing Western Michigan in their next game. Their final game will be against either Colorado or Maryland.

Northwestern 88, LSU 82

Northwestern fans probably thought this was going to be an easy win after LSU's loss to Coastal Carolina suggested another bad season from them, but instead they really got a fight. After LSU opened up a 14 point lead, Northwestern star John Shurna was forced to take over, and he scored 37 points in the comeback win. It's an ugly win, but it saves them what would likely have been a bad loss. For LSU, this is a moral victory. The reality is that Coastal Carolina is a pretty good team, and so that loss isn't that bad of a loss. While they certainly don't look like an NCAA Tournament team, they do look to be a lot better than last season.

This game was the opening round of the Charleston Classic. Northwestern's next game will be against Tulsa, and their final game will be against either Seton Hall or Saint Joseph's. LSU heads to the loser's bracket, where they'll play Western Kentucky. Their final game will be against either Georgia Tech or VCU.

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