Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Big Night In Detroit

Detroit 69, St. John's 63
It's been a brutal season for Detroit. The team was supposed to be about the superstar duo of Ray McCallum and Eli Holman, but Holman was suspended indefinitely before the season began and hasn't played yet. While it sounds as if Holman will be allowed back on the team soon, it could be too late. They've already dropped a pair of home conference games, including one against bottom-feeder Youngstown State. They're effectively out of contention for an at-large Tournament bid already, and even with Holman back they'll just be fighting to put themselves in the best chance to win the Horizon tournament. But as tough as the season has been... this was a big night. They named their court after Dick Vitale, and he was there (as well as ESPN2) to broadcast a game against St. John's. The players felt the energy of the moment and came up with a nice upset victory.

To be fair, beating St. John's this season isn't the same as beating last year's St. John's team. In fact, what's interesting to me is that Malik Stith is seeing his minutes reduced (he scored zero points in seven minutes here), despite the fact that he's the only returning scholarship player from last season. That means that nearly all of the minutes are going to six players, none of whom ever played Division I college basketball before this season (though they're all 2011 recruits, they're not all freshmen - some are Juco transfers). St. John's just doesn't have the weapons or the depth to win a lot of games.

Despite already playing a pair of conference games, it will be a few weeks before Detroit plays another. They get Western Michigan on Thursday, and then head to Alabama for a game on Sunday. They also have a game upcoming against Mississippi State. St. John's will play Fordham on Saturday, followed by Texas-Pan American. They'll open Big East play on December 27th against Providence.

Kansas State 69, Virginia Tech 61
I know that the fans in Blacksburg are getting frustrated. The injuries are piling up, and this is their second straight tight loss. And on top of that, this was just a frustrating loss in and of itself. Despite playing at home, the Hokies couldn't hit a shot. They finished with a 36.2 eFG%, and only 0.87 PPP. They couldn't even take advantage of the typical poor free throw shooting from Kansas State (61%) by shooting poorly themselves (67%).

Virginia Tech falls to 5-3 with this loss, though they haven't lost to a bad team yet and they've got a win over Oklahoma State. Their next game will be on the road at Rhode Island, followed by a home game against Norfolk State. Kansas State, meanwhile, has quietly climbed to 5-0. The reason it's been so quiet is because they haven't played anybody - Virginia Tech is the toughest team they've played by far. Their schedule starts getting a lot tougher, however. They will play West Virginia on Thursday. Then after a game against North Florida they will play Alabama. And later on this month they'll head to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, where they'll open against Southern Illinois and will play their second game against either Clemson or UTEP.

Ole Miss 72, Penn State 70
Have to give Penn State credit for fighting hard here against a more talented opponent. They out-hustled Ole Miss to win the rebounding battle, played aggressive defense and had 16 assists on 26 made baskets. It can be argued that they actually deserved the win here, but once you end up in a tight game in the final minutes it just comes down often to luck, and Penn State lost their third game of the season. The silver lining was a breakout game from Sasa Borovnjak, who had a career-high 15 points.

For Ole Miss, the breakout star was true freshman Jarvis Summer, who has a career-high 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting. The biggest need this season for them has been offense after losing Chris Warren and Zach Graham. Before this game they had scored 1 PPP or more in only two of their seven games. They have a couple of cupcakes coming up next, but then they have a true road game at Southern Miss on December 17th. After that they'll play Middle Tennessee St, Dayton and SMU before beginning SEC play. The key to watch will be if their offense continues to play better, or if this game was just a fluke.

Penn State is 6-3, which sounds pretty good until you break it down. They have no wins over likely RPI Top 100 teams (their best win was over South Florida) and they've got mediocre losses to St. Joe's and Ole Miss. Their next game will be against Lafayette, but they'll follow that up with a difficult true road game at Duquesne.

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