Friday, November 25, 2011

Central Florida Knocks Off UConn

Central Florida 68, #4 Connecticut 63
This is an upset, but not as big as you might think. I say that partially because UCF is a pretty good team that simply had a clunker early in the season against Florida State. But I say that also because UConn is overrated - that #4 rating is ridiculous. I've talked about this quite a few times, and you can click on the UConn label to see my recent posts on them, but it's summed up by the fact that people overrate how good they were last season. Yes, UConn won the National Title and that's what playing in the Tournament is about, but it doesn't in any way mean they were the best team in the country. If they had lost in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, as they almost did, they'd have gotten an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They did add some very nice recruits, but when pollsters start from the assumption that UConn finished last season #1, they were logically going to overrate the Huskies to start this season.

UConn is a pretty good team, of course. They have a ton of talent and will be one of the better teams in the Big East. By the end of the season, when all of this raw talent matures a little bit, I think they'll be one of the 15 best teams in the country. But they've got a way to go. They really struggled against the UCF zone in this game. Their offensive struggles kept the game close enough that some poor defense for them down the stretch (UCF scored 1.31 points per possession over the final ten minutes of the game) cost them the win.

Marcus Jordan led the way for UCF (20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists). Jordan has been good ever since he showed up at UCF, but he's been inconsistent the past two seasons. He's been consistently good in four games played this season, which is an encouraging start. This is the second straight good win for UCF, coming off an 11 point win over College of Charleston. If that Florida State demolition really just was a fluke performance, it's not implausible that UCF could be the second best team in Conference USA. They're nowhere close to Memphis, though. They will play Harvard tomorrow.

UConn had thought they'd be playing Florida State tomorrow in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. They will be playing Florida State tomorrow, but it'll be the third place game. That should be a tight, low-scoring game between two very athletic defenses. After they come home they'll play Arkansas on December 3rd.

Saint Louis 80, Villanova 68
Saint Louis shot well in this game (14-for-27 behind the arc), but that wasn't why they won this game. They won because against a Villanova team which tends to be very effective when they choose to press, they turned the ball over only seven times. This was just a nice steady performance from them, and felt like a "took care of business" game, despite being against a team likely to finish above .500 in the Big East. It's a statement on how good this Saint Louis team is.

This won't be a result that makes Villanova fans happy, but this was also their team's first game this season against a quality opponent. Saint Louis had already played a couple of quality teams and looked more ready for a game like this. Saint Louis now moves into the 76 Classic title game, where they'll play either Oklahoma or Santa Clara. Villanova will also play one of those two teams, but in the third place game. After tomorrow, Saint Louis won't play another quality team for a few weeks. Their toughest opponent over the next few weeks could be Vermont, on December 7th. Villanova will start playing their Philadelphia city rivals after they get home. They'll play UPenn on December 3rd, and then Temple a week later.

Minnesota 76, Indiana State 69
This was a tight game the entire way, which was what I think most people expected. Both teams shot the ball well from deep (10-for-21 for Indiana State, 8-for-15 for Minnesota), and Minnesota wiped out four more turnovers with four more offensive rebounds. The breakout performer for Minnesota was definitely Julian Welch, the transfer from UC-Davis. Welch has been slowly stepping into the role of point guard for the team. After not scoring in his first two games for Minnesota, he scored five against Mt. Saint Mary's, then 11 against DePaul, and 17 here against Indiana State. There's nothing the Gophers needed more this season than a point guard who could create offense for himself and his teammates, and it will be very good news for them if Welch can fill that role.

Minnesota moves to the finals of the Old Spice Classic, where they'll play Dayton on Sunday. While the field at the Old Spice Classic is a lot softer than it's been most of the past few years, a tournament victory would still be a nice early season accomplishment for Minnesota. Indiana State heads to the third place game, where they'll play Fairfield. This is their only loss of the season, and they've already got wins over Texas Tech, Ball State and Wisconsin-Green Bay. That won't blow anybody away, but it's a respectable start to the season. A win over Fairfield would be nice as well, since Fairfield has a good chance of finishing inside the RPI Top 100.

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