Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Missouri Rolls California By 39

#21 Missouri 92, #18 California 53
No part of this game was competitive. Missouri's pressure defense wreaked havoc. The Golden Bears finished with 6 assists and 19 turnovers. The turnovers led to a layup line for Missouri, and they finished with a 74.1 2P%. It's obviously hard to not be impressed with what Missouri did this week at the CBE Classic, beating California and Notre Dame by a combined 68 points. My only word of caution is that this is just a November tournament. These early season tournaments can be weird. They're not like anything else that teams go through all season, and sometimes teams with horrible tournaments go on to great seasons, and vice versa. Also, I've never been a Frank Haith fan, and I'm not confident that he'll be able to keep making adjustments after Big 12 opponents adjust to his personnel. Mizzou heads home for a couple of cupcakes. Their next competitive game will likely be December 6th against Villanova.

As for California, this game is a reminder of what I said after their last game - let's wait a little while before we crown them the best team in the Pac-12. Their 24 point win over Georgia was nice, but it was also a small sample size. I still think Arizona has the most talented team in the Pac-12, and they are still my favorite to win that conference. The Golden Bears return home for a couple of cupcakes before heading to San Diego State for a game on December 4th. They also have a road game at UNLV before beginning Pac-12 play.

#14 Kansas 72, UCLA 56
UCLA hadn't played well at all this season, and it looked early on like Kansas would just roll. They led by as much as 19 in the first half, and pushed the lead to 20 early in the second half. But a 12-0 run for UCLA got them back into this game, and they got the deficit down to five points on a couple of occasions before falling apart down the stretch. The ESPN announcers for this game credited the hard work during the comeback for their troubles down the stretch, arguing that UCLA had just worn out. I disagree. What I saw in the first half of this game, as I'd seen in previous UCLA games this season, was a team with no passion. While other teams stand up and applaud after every basket, UCLA's bench sat on their hands like they were in a math lecture. Even UCLA's home crowds have been awful this season (it's hard to blame them with the level of play on the court, honestly). But after they got the lead down to single-digits here? Suddenly everybody woke up and got excited. And this energy, in fact, worked against them. Players started feeling like they were literally on fire (NBA Jam style) and were launching 30 foot threes, or rushing acrobatic shots in the paint. They got away from what had made their comeback.

I don't think this close final score reflects too badly on Kansas. They were thinking about the beach for much of the second half, but woke up once the game result was in doubt again. They know that their real test is up next, when they try to be the first team to ever beat Duke in Maui. The next game for Kansas after Maui will be next Wednesday against Florida Atlantic. For UCLA, this was a moral victory. The second half of this game was the best half - by far - this team has looked all season long. But a moral victory is all it is, and this team is now 0-3 against Division I opponents this season. Next up is the Maui Invitational third place game, against Michigan. Their next game after that will be Monday against Pepperdine.

Illinois 70, Richmond 61
Illinois blew this game open early, taking a 19 point lead at halftime. Richmond made the game more competitive in the second half, but never got too close to actually taking the lead. Meyers Leonard led the Illini with 22 points, but this game was a real coming out party for Sam Maniscalco, who had 19 points. Maniscalco graduated from Bradley and chose to play his fifth and final season for Illinois, and he's had a big immediately impact. His transfer was a completely under-the-radar offseason move, but it could have a huge impact on the Illinois season.

These two teams move on in the Cancun Challenge. Illinois will play Illinois State, while Richmond will play Rutgers. The next quality opponent for Illinois will be Tuesday at Maryland. I wasn't expecting a good season for Richmond, and they haven't proven me wrong yet. They have losses to Illinois and Davdison, and only wins over a few cupcakes. A loss to Rutgers next wouldn't be entirely unexpected either. After Cancun they head on the road for what will be three more tough games for them (William & Mary, Wake Forest and VCU).

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