Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Missouri Runs Notre Dame Off The Floor

#21 Missouri 87, Notre Dame 58
This game was one of the most interesting contrasts of style you'll see all season long. Missouri starts four guards and is very short, but plays uptempo and aggressively. Notre Dame is about as unathletic as top level BCS teams can be, but they're very tall. Notre Dame actually has a player named Alex Dragicevich who is 6'7" and is supposedly a point guard (really, if you're a 6'7" white point guard, don't you have to go play at Notre Dame?). Considering how much success Notre Dame had last season often playing four frontcourt players at the same time (Ben Hansbrough was the only starter last year under 6'7"), the Irish should have been able to handle the pressure. But this year's team doesn't have nearly the talent or depth as last year's team, and they looked completely overwhelmed by Missouri's defense. And on the other end of the floor, the Irish didn't have anybody that could stay in front of Marcus Denmon or Phil Pressey. This game was never close.

This is an encouraging win for Missouri in their first game against a non-cupcake. This team had a bunch of roster turnover and downgraded (in my opinion) at head coach from Mike Anderson to Frank Haith. I was curious to see how this team looked, and they certainly passed their first test. The top of the Big 12 is absolutely wide open right now. Notre Dame will try to lick their wounds in their final game of the CBE Classic, against Georgia. They also have a road game at Gonzaga on December 30th looming.

#17 Marquette 59, Norfolk State 57
Marquette beat Norfolk State by 31 points a week ago. What happened here? Marquette actually led by 14 points in the second half, but Norfolk State was brimming with confidence and managed to fight back to tie the game with two minutes to go. Norfolk State played tough defense all game long, collecting nine steals and seven blocks, and holding Marquette to 0.89 points per possession. A big problem was that Vander Blue, who had scored 37 points on 11-for-18 shooting in the first two games of the Paradise Jam, was shut out on 0-for-7 shooting here.

But whatever happened in this game, Marquette can breathe a sigh of relief now. While a loss to Norfolk State would have been an albatross on their resume the rest of the season, the reality is that by March nobody will care whether Marquette won this game by 2 or 20. It will be fine. Marquette is now 5-0 with at least one decent win (Ole Miss), and they now head home to play a cupcake (Jacksonville) before heading on the road for their rivarly game against Wisconsin. Norfolk State acquitted themselves very well in this tournament, beating Drexel and TCU and nearly beating Marquette. Just by virtue of how bad the MEAC is, Norfolk State has to be considered a contender now. But it's always wise to never overreact to teams getting hot for one week in November - this might not translate to March. Morgan State is still the favorite in that conference, in my opinion.

Indiana State 57, UW-Green Bay 56
This wasn't a particularly notable game, honestly. It's just an excuse for me to talk about Indiana State - the only team in the top half of the Missouri Valley I haven't written about yet this season. This was an underwhelming win for them, honestly. I don't expect UW-Green Bay to be particularly good this season, and it shouldn't have taken a Jordan Printy three-pointer with 15 seconds to go to lift Indiana State to victory at home.

Despite the difficulties here, Indiana State is now 4-0 with this win and a nice win over Ball State. In my opinion, Indiana State looks like the fifth best team in the Missouri Valley right now, behind Creighton, Wichita State, Missouri State and Northern Iowa, but that could change. We'll get a better idea of where this team is at the Old Spice Classic. They will play their opening game on Thanksgiving against Texas Tech. Their second game will be the next day, against either Minnesota or DePaul. UW-GB is now 1-3 against Division I teams, although against a relatively difficult schedule. They look to be who I thought they were - a mid-level Horizon League team last season that lost two starters and is now very young. They next play on Friday, at Virginia.

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