Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kansas Fades Against Kentucky, UCLA Gets Thumped by Middle Tennessee State

#2 Kentucky 75, #11 Kansas 65
Despite the high rankings, this game didn't quite live up to the hype. Kentucky is very talented, as we knew they were, but they're still kind of a mess offensively. They shot well in this game, but they don't move the ball well, and that will be a problem when their shots don't fall. In that respect, they're kind of a rich man's Memphis, which makes sense in more way than one. That said, John Calipari tends to do a good job of developing freshmen, and I expect this team to be much better in March than they are now. Tyshawn Taylor led the way for Kansas, doing a good job of getting to the line (15-for-17) since his shot wasn't otherwise falling (3-for-13 from the field), but the team appeared to wear down in the second half.

Kentucky next heads off to play at the Mohegan Sun, in Connecticut. They'll play Penn State on Saturday, and then will play either South Florida or Old Dominion on Sunday. Neither of those games should test the Wildcats much. In fact, they might not be tested again until they play North Carolina on December 3rd. Kansas heads to Maui, where they will open on Monday against Georgetown. Their second game will be against either UCLA or Chaminade.

Middle Tennessee State 86, UCLA 66
Before this game, Reeves Nelson was suspended indefinitely. And since he might be the best player on UCLA, that's a big blow. And Middle Tennessee State did shoot the lights out (10-for-11 behind the arc). But.... still. Losing at home by 20 points to Middle Tennessee State? Particularly coming right off a loss to Loyola-Marymount? There's just no excuse. This was supposed to be the season Ben Howland recovered after two straight down years. It's still early, but this season is a debacle so far.

UCLA now heads off to Maui where they open with Chaminade and, honestly, would it be that shocking if the Bruins lost? Chaminade, despite not being Division I, is a feisty team that often gives opponents trouble at that tournament. Whatever happens in that game, on Monday, UCLA will play either Georgetown or Kansas on Tuesday. I was actually relatively high on Middle Tennessee State in the offseason, picking them to be a contender in the Sun Belt, though I picked Florida Atlantic to win it in the end. This win, coming off wins over Austin Peay and Loyola-Marymount should have them confident heading into a very manageable part of their schedule, beginning Saturday with UNC-Greensboro.

Drake 74, Iowa State 65
This game was closer than the final score, though Drake led most of the way. To be fair to Iowa State, they are a team that is trying to integrate a bunch of new players into a new system. Guys like Royce White and Chris Allen need time to jell and get used to playing with one another. I never thought this team had much of a chance of making the NCAA Tournament this year anyway, but Fred Hoiberg has athletic talent to work with here. Making the personalities work is another question, however. Ben Simons and Rayvonte Rice led the way for Drake, combining for 42 points on 15-for-27 shooting.

Iowa State heads into a stretch of games that are all winnable, but where any single game can cause them trouble. That stretch begins with Western Carolina on Sunday, and is followed by Northern Colorado, Providence and Rice. Drake next heads to the Paradise Jam, where they will open on Friday with Ole Miss, and on Sunday will play either Marquette or Winthrop. In their final game, on Monday, they will play either Virginia, TCU, Drexel or Norfolk State. Honestly, the Paradise Jam has a pretty weak field this season. It will provide a good opportunity for Drake to try to steal a couple of wins to keep the momentum from this win going.

No comments: