Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Michigan Puts Away UCLA, SDSU Knocks Off Arizona

#15 Michigan 79, UCLA 63
UCLA never really threatened to win this game, and Michigan led basically the entire way, but this match-up ended up being a lot closer than I thought it would be. UCLA is yet to win a game against a Division I team this season (they're now 0-4), but they've shown a spark the past two games that they hadn't shown all season. If they'd played like this against Loyola Marymount or Middle Tennessee State they wouldn't have lost those games. But I've been very impressed with two big improvements in Michigan from their previous seasons under John Beilein. First of all, they're much less dependent on threes. Their passing and cutting have gotten much better, and they can now win games over quality teams even if they're not hitting outside shots (a statement that wasn't true last season). Michigan's defense has also gotten really sound.

With victories over Memphis and UCLA, and only a narrow loss to Duke, this trip to Maui was definitely a success for them. The Wolverines get a few days off now before heading to Virginia for their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on Tuesday. Their next game after that will be against Iowa State.

The encouraging sign for UCLA is the fact that they got better each game in Maui. The fact is that with good performances in conference play you can put some awful November performances behind you, as the 2007-08 Kentucky team can attest to. UCLA can easily turn this around if their attitude continues to improve. They certainly have the physical talent. Their next game will Monday against Pepperdine. They play Texas on December 3rd.

San Diego State 61, #23 Arizona 57
In Arizona's defense, they were probably the better team in this game. San Diego State, a team that isn't even a good three-point shooting team, got white hot and finished 8-for-12 behind the arc. Arizona finished 5-for-26. Get those shooting numbers closer to normal and Arizona wins relatively easily. To put in perspective how bizarre that San Diego State shooting was, they hit only 5-for-15 at the free throw line. I don't think I've ever seen a team have a shooting percentage in a game that was twice as good on threes as it was at the line.

This is a particularly frustrating result for Arizona coming after their loss to Mississippi State. They now fall to 4-2, and suffer another loss for a Pac-12 conference that has had a horrendous start to the season. It's the worst of the six BCS conferences this season by far. Arizona's tough schedule to begin the season continues on Tuesday when they head to New Mexico State. And honestly, their December 3rd game against Northern Arizona is no cupcake game either.

San Diego State has had some iffy performances to start this season (a two point win over USC and an overtime win over Long Beach State stand out), but in the end it's about wins and losses and they're 6-1 with only a loss to Baylor. Their resume looks excellent so far, thought there are still worries. Offensively, they just don't seem to have enough playmakers. They have played four games this season against competitive opponents (Baylor, Arizona, Long Beach State and USC) and have scored only 0.92 points per possession in those games. They head on the road next, to play UCSB on Saturday. After that they come home for two key games, against Creighton and against California.

Campbell 77, Iowa 61
Campbell shot the lights out here, finishing with a 66.7 eFG%, compared to a 38.6 eFG% for Iowa. It's how they gave up eight more offensive rebounds and committed seven more turnovers but still won by 16. And this is a tough loss for Iowa coming off a 23 point thumping at the hands of Creighton. In some sense, Iowa is kind of the rich man's Rutgers. Both teams turned a corner last season under a brand new head coach, and both optimistically thought about making it to the middle of their respective conferences this season. Both have struggled early with the expectations, but both have plenty of time to improve before conference play begins.

Iowa will try to bounce back on Saturday against IPFW. Tuesday night they'll play Clemson as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. As for Campbell, this is now their second decent win of the season (they also beat East Carolina), and they're now 5-0. Coastal Carolina is still the class of the Big South, but Campbell could be a top contender. They have a tough turnaround coming up next, though, playing Friday night at Creighton.

No comments: