Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alabama Defeats Wichita State In Puerto Rico

#15 Alabama 70, Wichita State 60
Alabama's defense, while excellent last year, has been vicious in the early going this year. It's too early for the stats to mean too much (the sample size isn't large enough), but Alabama is currently rated #1 in the nation in Pomeroy defensive efficiency (they finished 7th last season). Wichita State had a 39.2 eFG% which, believe it or not, increased Alabama's average eFG% against to 34.5%. The offense is still a work in progress, but it's getting better. Freshman Levi Randolph has started producing, which would give the team a backcourt weapon alongside Trevor Releford. JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell are plenty good in the frontcourt. Alabama has won all four games they've played this season, against increasingly difficult opponents (North Florida then Oakland then Maryland and now Wichita State). They're upping the difficulty even more, in my opinion, when they play Purdue tomorrow in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Wichita State's offense couldn't get anything going outside of star Toure' Murry (Murry had 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, while all other players combined had 39 points on 14-for-49 shooting). But in their defense, I don't think anybody's going to produce much against Alabama this season. Alabama is going to be an RPI Top 50 team this year, so this loss won't be held against Wichita State on Selection Sunday. With a victory over Colorado in the opening round, they can finish the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on a positive note if they can beat Temple on Monday in the third place game.

New Mexico 76, Arizona State 71
New Mexico fell a little bit too in love with outside shots in this game, and it almost cost them this game. Despite this game being in Tempe, the reality is that Arizona State is in total rebuilding mode this season, and New Mexico should be the much better team. Arizona State is still without prized recruit Jahii Carson as well - they're still waiting to hear on his eligibility. ASU was actually carried in this game by Carrick Felix, who had 20 points on only eight shots from the field (including 3-for-4 behind the arc) and 7 rebounds. New Mexico got another good performance from Kendall Williams (16 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists).

All that said, a win on the road at Arizona State is a nice result for New Mexico as they head off to the 76 Classic. They'll open on Thanksgiving against Santa Clara. Their second game will be against either Washington State or Oklahoma. Arizona State, following this loss and a loss to Pepperdine, heads off to the Old Spice Classic. They open on Thanksgiving against Fairfield and will play either Dayton or Wake Forest in their second game. Arizona State should be an underdog against Fairfield, but considering their likely match-ups in the Consolation Bracket they should be able to win at least one game in Orlando.

#2 Kentucky 85, Penn State 47
I give Penn State credit for coming in and giving great effort. They're feeding off of the energy of new coach Pat Chambers. They actually won the rebounding battle against Kentucky and earned 18 offensive boards. The problem is, they also only had 18 made baskets, and it's never ever a good sign when you have as many offensive rebounds as made baskets. The reality was that the talent differential was just staggering. It looked like Kentucky was playing against a high school team. Chambers looks capable of keeping his kids motivated and playing hard all season, but this will be just the first of many games where effort won't matter. It's going to be a long season for the Nittany Lions on the basketball court.

It's hard to draw too many conclusions about Kentucky from a game against an opponent this weak, but this was something of a breakout game for Kyle Wiltjer (19 points on 6-for-12 shooting). Wiltjer is the forgotten man in this John Calipari recruiting class - overshadowed by Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Marcus Teague - but Wiltjer looks like a quality player in his own right. Kentucky should get more of a challenge tomorrow from Old Dominion, but I doubt they'll have too much trouble winning. Their next big test will be December 3rd against North Carolina. Penn State will play South Florida tomorrow. South Florida has more talent than Penn State does, but they'll give the game away if Penn State can play disciplined. Penn State's next game after that will be Wednesday against Youngstown State.

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