Saturday, November 19, 2011

Presbyterian Shocks Cincinnati

Presbyterian 56, #20 Cincinnati 54
This might be the biggest upset of the season so far. This is a Presbyterian program that is only in their fifth season in Division I. In their previous four seasons they had a grand total of 31 wins against Division I opponents, with the biggest win by far being a two point upset of Princeton last season. Beating a ranked team from the Big East is incredible for them. And for a while, Cincinnati actually looked to have this game in hand, leading by 15 points midway through the second half. And even after their lead had been slashed to seven points with 1:30 to go things still looked okay. But Presbyterian went on a 9-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Khalid Mutakabbir to put Presbyterian ahead. A last gasp three by Cincy's Cashmere Wright didn't go.

Now, I don't understand why Cincinnati was so highly ranked to begin with. They were a borderline Top 25 team last season, but lost a ton to graduation, including four of their top eight minute earners. I picked them to finish eighth in the Big East, and in my most recent bracket had them as a 10 seed. Teams have been able to overcome an early season inexplicable loss to earn high Tournament seeds, but this will be a huge drag on them. It will be brought up all season long. There is just no excuse to even be in a close game against a program like Presbyterian.

Cincinnati will try to get back on track on Monday against Northwestern State. After that they'll play Marshall. Their next big tests will probably be road games at Georgia (December 2nd) and Xavier (December 10th). Presbyterian, in case you care, plays their next game on Monday at Davidson.

Virginia 49, Drexel 35
Virginia is a very young team that is short on developed talent. Throw in a coach who loves to grind out close games with tough defense and Virginia wants slow, low-scoring games. If Virginia gives up 70 points in any game this season, they're probably losing it. Now take that Virginia team and put them up against a Drexel team that finished last season rated by Pomeroy as 20th in the nation in defensive efficiency and 234th in offensive efficiency, and you've got a game where the first team to 40 points is probably going to win. This game ended up with 55 possessions, which isn't that slow... but Drexel put up a dreadful 0.64 points per possession. It made Virginia's 0.89 PPP look like an offensive explosion.

Drexel actually only committed 13 turnovers in this game, and were instead doomed by a 28.7 eFG%. That's Virginia's typical style, since Tony Bennett likes to play sound defense and doesn't want his players taking themselves out of position to try to get steals or blocks. Offensively, Virginia was carried again by fifth-year senior Mike Scott (21 points on 6-for-14 shooting, along with 10 rebounds). This win puts Virginia into the fifth place game of the Paradise Jam, where they'll play Drake on Monday. Drexel, struggling big time, has to salvage something from this trip to the Virgin Islands. They'll try to do that on Monday in the seventh place game against Winthrop. After that game they'll have more than a week to celebrate Thanksgiving and to get their act together before playing at St. Joseph's on November 30th.

Cal Poly 42, USC 36
USC is going to have more than their share of bad losses this season. They're just not a particularly good team. But if you're going to lose, at least go down swinging. 42-36? It's not unheard of for lower-tier teams to get hot behind the arc to upset a major conference team... but Cal Poly shot 5-for-31 (16%!) on threes in this game. USC somehow made 12 baskets from the field all game (along with 12 turnovers). Just an all-around disaster. The best thing going for USC is that as bad as they are, Colorado is just as bad, and Utah so far has been even worse. The two newcomers to the conference will potentially make USC's spot in the standings not look quite so bad.

USC will play on Tuesday against Morgan State, and then they head off to the Las Vegas Invitational. They'll open on Friday against UNLV, and then will play the next day against either North Carolina or South Carolina. As for Cal Poly, this is a nice win for the scrapbook, but it doesn't mean too much longterm. USC is nowhere near a Top 100 team, unlike the heavy favorite in Cal Poly's Big West Conference - Long Beach State. Cal Poly will be back on the floor on Tuesday, when they play UNLV.

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