Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Isiah Thomas Gets His First Big Win At FIU

Florida International 79, George Mason 76, OT
Hey, remember that Isiah Thomas guy? The disgraced NBA legend who had promised he'd take FIU to the Top 25 but had instead gone 18-44 (including 9-25 in Sun Belt Conference play) in his first two seasons? Well he's now got a quality win. And as for new George Mason coach Paul Hewitt? He's had a brutal start. After barely surviving a rebuilding Rhode Island team in overtime, he now goes down to a poor Florida International team. This was a George Mason team I thought was going to be a Top 25 team with Jim Larranaga. But Larranaga left for Miami, Hewitt took over, the roster changed a bit, and now they're rated in the 80s by both Sagarin and Pomeroy. Obviously we've only had a very small sample size of George Mason so far, and the computer ratings don't become accurate for at least another month, but it's a statement on how much the team has struggled to start the season.

This loss is doubly damaging for George Mason. Not only is it a bad loss, but it throws them into the Consolation bracket at the Preseason NIT. Instead of playing Virginia Tech they're playing Monmouth. FIU will be playing Virginia Tech instead. In the extremely small likelihood that FIU knocks off Virginia Tech tonight, they'll head to Madison Square Garden to play the winner of Syracuse vs Albany.

Purdue 67, High Point 65

I've been higher than most on Purdue's chances for this season, and have them as a 5 seed in my latest bracket projection. Does this poor result mean I should re-evaluate that? I don't think so - not yet, at least. Purdue simply allowed this game to become a one-on-one battle between Ryne Smith and Nick Barbour, and that's not how they want to win. Robbie Hummel will take some time to find himself after missing so much time with injury, but there's no excuse at all for Lewis Jackson being so invisible (three points, one rebound and five assists in 28 minutes). Also, while Purdue isn't a very good free throw shooting team, I doubt they'll go 6-for-19 again anytime soon. Let's remember that this is the same team that just beat Northern Illinois by 62 points.

When will we find out more which Purdue is the real Purdue? Pretty soon, actually. They head off now to Puerto Rico, where they'll open up with Iona on Thursday afternoon. Their next game will be Friday afternoon against either Temple or Western Michigan. Their final game will Sunday, against one of four quality opponents (Maryland, Alabama, Colorado or Wichita State). As for High Point, absolutely nobody (including me) figured them to be a factor in the Big South this season. Is this game a sign that they've been underrated? Probably not, but they'll get a chance to keep rolling on Friday night at Central Florida.

Temple 73, UPenn 67, OT
Penn fans feel like the refs decided this game, and they might be right. Zach Rosen had hit a three to cut Temple's lead to two with seven seconds left in overtime. The refs then ruled that Penn committed an intentional foul before the ball was inbounded. When Jerome Allen explained his displeasure to officials he was slapped with a technical. That meant that instead of getting two free throws, Temple got four free throws and the ball back. And what made it even more galling? Temple missed the first two free throws, meaning that Penn fans believe that they'd have gotten the ball back with a few seconds to go and a chance to tie or win if the refs hadn't decided the game. In general, I think refs really should show discretion before calling intentional fouls at the end of games. I mean, we all know the players are trying to foul to put their opponent on the line - who are we kidding? Unless it's really bad, just let them play and make them hit their two free throws.

There's no reason for Temple to panic about this game. Penn is a good enough team that they'd probably contend for an Ivy League title in an ordinary season (Harvard is just ridiculously good - by Ivy League standards - this season). Temple now heads off to Puerto Rico, where they'll open against Western Michigan on Thursday, and then will play play either Purdue or Iona in their second game. Penn will next play at Rider, on Thursday.

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