Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stanford Destroys Oklahoma State

Stanford 82, Oklahoma State 67
Don't let the final score fool you. Stanford led by as much as 28 points in this game. A 21-8 run to the finish the game, much of it with bench players on the floor, made the final score much more respectable-looking. Stanford doesn't do anything spectacular, but they look to me to be solid in all facets of the game. They pass well, they rebound well, and they shoot well. A big part of the success this season has also been Chasson Randle, the 2011 recruit who has hit the ground running. He scored 17 points (on 5-for-9 shooting) to lift his scoring average to 10.4 per game already this season. Arizona and California are still, in my opinion, the class of the Pac-12, but Stanford put the conference on notice tonight that they're a legitimate contender as well. It will be interesting to see what they can do on Friday in the NIT title game against either Syracuse or Virginia Tech. After that game they will head home to play Pacific on Monday.

Oklahoma State was extremely underwhelming in this game. Even players who had big years last season disappointed. JP Olukemi had zero points and four fouls in ten minutes. Le'Bryan Nash, their bluechip freshmen, scored some of the most meaningless 16 points I've ever seen. Remember that meaningless 21-8 run to end the game I talked about in the opening paragraph? Nash had 11 of them. When the game was still in doubt he was invisible. My one defense of Oklahoma State is that this is just one game. Small sample sizes have large margins of error. Maybe this is just "one of those days", and the Cowboys will be a different team the next time they play. They will next play the loser of the Syracuse/Virginia Tech game on Friday. After that they'll play a week from today against Tulsa.

Iona 104, Saint Joseph's 99, 2OT
Iona played really well in this game. Scott Machado and Michael Glover are starting to break through the national consciousness, the way Casper Ware is for Long Beach State. They both scored 30+ in this game, and finished with a combined 67 points, 2o rebounds and 10 assists. At this point those two have to be considered one of the best inside-outside combos on any team in the nation. MoMo Jones, their star transfer, was actually relatively quiet with only 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting. And like Long Beach State, Iona is rapidly turning into a team that is going to be a scary opponent in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64. That is, of course, assuming they get there. Like Long Beach State, Iona is a long shot to earn an at-large bid. Their overall schedule is just too soft, and they don't face any teams likely to break into the Top 25. They head home to play LIU on Monday. After that they begin MAAC conference play, for some reason, on the road at Canisius on December 2nd.

You have to wonder if Saint Joseph's was affected by the fact that Phil Martelli played effectively a seven man rotation in a game that had 89 possessions and two overtimes. In fact, it was kind of a six-and-a-half-man rotation, since Halil Kanacevic fouled out after only 17 minutes played. Depth is important over the tough Atlantic Ten schedule, so it's a problem that St. Joe's doesn't appear to have much of it. I give St. Joe's a ton of credit for playing so many mid-majors this season, particularly on the road (Iona, Harvard and Western Kentucky are all true road games), but there's a reason why most other teams don't try that. There's just no way St. Joe's gets through this non-conference slate without a bunch of losses. They come home next to play Penn State on Saturday, and then Drexel next Wednesday.

Richmond 58, Rutgers 53
There's something weird about these games in Cancun. I don't know if it's the location, or the channel they're on, or the announcers, or the weird sound the substitution buzzer makes at the arena... it just doesn't feel like a college basketball game. I don't know if the weird feel contributed to the sloppy play in this game, but I hope for both teams involved that it did. There was plenty of effort on both sides, but the players couldn't execute. The two teams combined for 34 turnovers and 35 made baskets, with only 15 assists. Not good. The breakout player for Richmond was Greg Robbins, who had scored only four points combined in the first four games of this season but had 15 points (including 3-for-4 on threes) here.

This was yet another frustrating loss for a very young Rutgers team that clearly has a long way to go. They have a lot of talent, particularly in Mike Rice's excellent 2011 recruiting class, but they're just way too raw right now. I expect the Scarlet Knights to get a lot better as this season goes along. But for now they're 3-3, with losses against each of the three quality teams they've played. Their schedule does ease up a bit, as they come home for games against UMBC, LSU and Princeton, though they could potentially lose either of those latter two games.

For Richmond this is a decent win, but not a great one (Rutgers isn't even a Top 100 team right now), and they've also got that loss to Davidson, so it's been a relatively disappointing start to the season for them. They now head on the road for three straight away games, at William & Mary, Wake Forest and VCU.

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