Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mississippi State Stumbles While St. John's Isn't Much Better

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58
So is Akron better than we thought or is Mississippi State worse? I think it's a little bit of both. I said in my 2011-12 MAC preview that I thought Akron would be improved from last season, but they looked better than even I expected. Quincy Diggs led all scorers with 19 points, but I was more impressed with what I saw from Zeke Marshall (10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks) and Alex Abreu (8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals). Marshall was a 7-foot tall stick last season, but last night he was aggressive and physical against a slew of MSU bigs. And Abreu was a do-everything point guard, on both sides of the floor. As for Mississippi State, Dee Bost picked up right where he left off - he's got a great shot to finish first team All-SEC. But the rest of his team? There's not much there. Renardo Sidney is a lost cause at this point. The fact that he's overweight isn't what bothers me, since Miami's Reggie Johnson and UCLA's Josh Smith are among a bunch of players that are far overweight and are still very productive. Sidney simply doesn't put in effort, and he makes dumb decisions, and that's why he's played two games this season and been on the bench in crunch time in both of them. I see nothing that makes me think Mississippi State will go Dancing this season.

As well as Akron played, they have a brutal upcoming schedule. Next Friday they play at Valparaiso, and then get Duquesne the next day. The next weekend they will play Detroit and West Virginia. If they can even split those four games I'll be impressed. Mississippi State should get past South Alabama on Saturday, but next Thursday they'll be big underdogs when they play Texas A&M.

St. John's 78, Lehigh 73

On Monday night, St. John's trailed almost the entire first half against William & Mary, and was actually down by nine points early in the second half before pulling out the win. Despite that, I called the win encouraging. Despite only having seven active scholarship players, they got stronger in the second half and did a tremendous job of cutting down their turnovers despite being so young. They had another second half comeback here, and again kept up a strong press despite being so thin on the bench, but the four turnovers in that opener turned out to be a fluke. The Johnnies had 14 turnovers and only seven assists here. Honestly, Lehigh is not a good team. St. John's just made too many mistakes to dominate Lehigh the way they should have.

If St. John's is better than they showed this week, we'll get a good idea of it next Thursday when they play Arizona. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and talented. I don't think the Johnnies will be able to put together another double-digit second half comeback against Arizona. Lehigh next plays Iowa State on Saturday.

#16 Arizona 67, Duquesne 59
This is the type of game that makes you realize we shouldn't put too much stock in early November games. Both of these teams were playing hard and tough, and it was a good physical battle, but goodness could Duquesne not hit a shot (a 36.2 eFG%). Duquesne also committed a staggering 26 fouls. Why was the game so close? Arizona's 20 turnovers. Makes me wish this game could be played again a month from now when both of these teams will be sharper. But because of the slop I'm not sure what to make of this game. Is Arizona still the Pac-12 favorite? Is Duquesne an at-large quality team? We have to withhold judgment.

Arizona plays Ball State on Sunday, which is a game that will not be easy at all. Ball State is my pick to win the MAC this season. They'll play St. John's next Thursday. Duquesne plays UW-Green Bay on Sunday. Next weekend they'll play Akron and Valparaiso.

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