Saturday, December 03, 2011

Illinois Continues To Roll, Beating Gonzaga

Illinois 82, #18 Gonzaga 75
The title to the Associated Press article on this game says that Illinois "upset" Gonzaga. Um, no. Don't confuse Top 25 poll rankings with how good teams are. These are even teams, and homecourt advantage gave the edge to the Illini. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy projected an Illinois win here, and Illinois was a three point favorite in Vegas. This game was no blowout, but Illinois was in control the whole way. Gonzaga's final lead of the game was at 6-4, and they were down by 5-10 points for almost the entire second half.

Sam Maniscalco took the role of a distributor in this game, helping set up Meyers Leonard (21 points on 9-for-11 shooting) and DJ Richardson (19 points). Illinois still has front court depth problems, but Gonzaga really wasn't able to take advantage. I'm not sure if Sam Dower has regressed, but he's just not getting on the floor much (16 minutes in this game, and only 9 minutes in their last game), which makes Robert Sacre the only real front court weapon that the Zags have.

With this win, Illinois moves to 8-0. It hasn't been the toughest schedule, but they've beaten Gonzaga, Richmond, Maryland and Illinois State. As deep as the Big Ten is this season, I could see Illinois finishing anywhere between third place and eighth place right now. They'll play St. Bonaventure on Wednesday. This is Gonzaga's first loss of the season. They have wins over Notre Dame and Washington State. Their next game will be Saturday against Michigan State.

#10 Connecticut 75, Arkansas 62
This game was never particularly competitive, thought it was closer than UConn would have wanted it. Ryan Boatright had the first home game of his collegiate career, and made it count with 23 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. The reason why the score was so close was rebounding, and UConn's horrible execution. It's not news that UConn has great offensive rebounders that tend to execute poorly on the defensive end - they entered this game leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, while rated 207th in defensive rebounding percentage. In this game? They only had a 19.0 OR% while Arkansas had a ridiculous 44.2% rate (even worse than UConn's season average of 33.5% against).

Despite the poor execution on defense and on the defensive boards, I think we can put part of that on effort. Coming back from Bahamas it's hard to get focused when going into a game where you know you can just show up and win fairly easily. They got the win, and will move onto play Harvard on Thursday. After that game the Huskies might not be too tested for a few more weeks. A road game at Seton Hall on January 3rd could be the next time they're seriously tested after the Harvard game.

Arkansas has been playing well so far under Mike Anderson. He doesn't have the personnel in place yet, but they've been tough to beat. They could still end up near the middle of the pack in the SEC. Their next game will be next Saturday at Oklahoma.

Texas 69, UCLA 59
UCLA's been playing better, and they actually jumped out to a quick 11 point lead in this game. But their defense started breaking down, and Texas actually ran away with this one in the second half. While J'Covan Brown led all scorers with 22 points, the most encouraging part of this game was Myck Kabongo scoring 13 points with 8 assists. For Texas to have success this year they're going to need to see more of that from Kabongo. Of course, they're also going to need to rebound better. The Wear twins alone had nine offensive rebounds in this game.

It hasn't been pretty, but Texas is 5-2. This is their best win, and their two losses were against Oregon State and NC State. While Texas is clearly an NCAA Tournament quality team, they don't have an NCAA Tournament resume yet. They will play Texas-Arlington on Tuesday. Their next competitive game will be against Temple on December 17th. They also have a road game at North Carolina before beginning Big 12 play.

While UCLA has been playing better of late, their schedule hasn't done them any favors and they're now only 1-5 against Division I opponents. They should start getting some wins in the coming weeks. Their next game will be next Saturday against Pennsylvania.

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