Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Michigan Falls Short Against Duke

#6 Duke 82, #15 Michigan 75
I thought this game might be difficult for Michigan because they weren't going to be able to win by just out-executing Duke, the way they out-executed Memphis. Duke doesn't make dumb mistakes. I assumed Michigan was going to have to get hot behind the arc to win. In fact, it took hot outside shooting for Duke (11-for-21) to overcome Michigan. What was particularly strange about this game was that Michigan - a team that almost never out-rebounds anybody - won the rebounding battle against the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly (11 offensive rebounds as a team compared to 6 for Duke). I like that Michigan put their game in the hands of Tim Hardaway, Jr. who, in my opinion, will need to be this year's Darius Morris for this team to have success. For Duke, Austin Rivers had his finest game of the season, leading the Blue Devils with 20 points and scoring both from outside (2-for-5 on threes) and by attacking the rim (6-for-10 at the line).

Duke next will try to keep their all-time record at the Maui Invitational perfect at the title game, where they'll play the winner of Kansas-UCLA. They also have a game looming a week from today on the road at Ohio State. Michigan will be disappointed to lose this game, but they re-emphasized the fact that they're going to be a really good team this year. That Memphis win was no fluke. Ohio State is obviously the class of the Big Ten, but Michigan looks like the team best positioned to challenge Wisconsin for second place. They will next play the loser of the Kansas-UCLA game in the Maui third place game. After that they'll head off to play Virginia as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Coastal Carolina 60, Clemson 59
This game was tight almost the entire second half, and it came down to the final play of the game. Down by one in the final seconds, Chris Gradnigo missed an attempted game winner, but then put his own miss back in for the win. Coastal Carolina had already gotten some notoriety for beating LSU, but heading into Littlejohn Coliseum and beating Clemson in a true road game is a completely different accomplishment. Coastal Carolina was the best team in the Big South last season (though they were upset by UNC-Asheville in the conference tournament), but I thought they'd take a little bit of a step back this season, and gave the nod preseason to Liberty. After the results so far, as well as some weak results from Liberty (losses to Eastern Kentucky, Lehigh and William & Mary), I'm thinking I should move Coastal Carolina back into the top spot.

Coming off a loss to College of Charleston, it's back to the drawing board for Clemson. Their big problem, without question, is offense. They don't have any real weapons (Andre Young and Devin Booker are okay, but I wouldn't really call them offensive "weapons"), and are barely cracking 1 point per possession this season despite a soft schedule. They will try to lick their wounds on Friday against Furman, but then have to head to Iowa on November 29th as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They also have a road game against Arizona looming.

Wofford 70, Bradley 66
Bradley hadn't really played anybody this season before Wofford, so I wasn't sure what to make of them. But this is a bad, bad result. This is a Wofford team that lost by 13 to Georgia and was destroyed by 36 points by Wisconsin. Everything was bad about this game for Bradley. They lost the rebounding battle (a 31.6 OR% for Wofford vs a 23.8 OR% for Bradley) despite the fact that Wofford is a small team that only played two guys over 6'7". They also scored only 0.92 points per possession against a team that was poor defensively last season and then lost four starters to graduation.

This game was technically part of the Chicago Invitational, though the tournament is rigged so that the semifinals would have the four big-named teams in it. For that reason, Bradley will still play in the semis on Friday against Wisconsin. Wofford will be stuck playing UMKC. The next day Bradley will play either BYU or Nevada. Wofford will play either Longwood or Prairie View A&M.

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