Monday, November 19, 2012

Belmont Reps Pomeroy, Beats Stanford

Belmont 70, Stanford 62
I always find it amusing how some of the dinosaurs in the media get so apoplectic at non-hyped teams getting a lot of love from the Pomeroy ratings. Anytime they suffer a bad loss, or go down early in the NCAA Tournament, the dinosaurs all crow about how it proves that their eye is superior to a bunch of computer nerds who don't watch basketball. So I'm thinking that Pomeroy should deliver it back, and crow when he gets results like this. This is the third straight season that Belmont has been really good, and they looked impressive in beating Stanford here.

Belmont's calling card for years has been an uptempo attack that tries to get a lot of points off of turnovers. They forced 17 turnovers here, and really harassed Stanford's offense. The Cardinal just couldn't get a good shot all day. On offense, Belmont never has a go-to guy. Whoever is open gets the shot. They finished with five guys between 9 and 15 points scored here.

Switching to the Ohio Valley Conference means both good things and bad things for Belmont. The bad news, of course, is that they have a much tougher path to an automatic bid. Murray State is a really good team, and a potential OVC title game between those two teams will be awesome. The good part of the move is that it will give them a more plausible path to an at-large bid, though I'm not sure the Selection Committee is going to be swayed too much by a single game per year against Murray State. I do still believe that Belmont probably needs to win their conference to go Dancing.

Belmont heads to the Great Alaska Shootout next, where they will open against Alaska-Anchorage on Wendesday, followed by either Northeastern or UC-Riverside on Friday. This was Stanford's first game all season against a quality opponent. The good news is that they have a few more coming up. They head off to the Battle 4 Atlantic next, where they'll open against Missouri on Thursday, followed by either Louisville or Northern Iowa on Friday.

Colorado 81, Murray State 74
The Charleston Classic was underrated this season. There were plenty of nice games, and this was a properly high quality title game. It was tight and even the whole way, with neither team able to really outplay the other. There were two reasons Colorado ended up on top. The first was that they managed to contain Isaiah Canaan (21 points on 8-for-19 shooting, with 2 assists). The second was that they got to the line 36 times, compared to only 15 attempts for the Racers. This has been a problem for Murray State all season. They've struggled to stay in front of opposing players, and have spent a lot of time watching opponents shoot free throws.

Murray State leaves Charleston with wins over Auburn and St. John's, and this loss to Colorado. It's not great, but it's fine. It's pretty obvious that they will have a great battle with Belmont in the Ohio Valley this season. The Racers will come home to play Old Dominion on Friday.

Colorado moves to 4-0 with this win, with victories over Baylor, Dayton and Murray State. Obviously it's very early in the season and all computer ratings need to be taken with a grain of salt, but Sagarin has Colorado's ELO_CHESS up to 13th with this win. Are they really as good as their resume looks so far? Probably not. I'll be curious to see back-to-back games to start December: on the road at Wyoming and at home against Colorado State. Those are the types of tricky games that tend to trip up overrated teams.

Butler 72, Marquette 71
Rotnei Clarke. That's really all you can say after that miracle off-balance three-pointer he hit to win this game at the buzzer. But as I always warn people: don't draw too many conclusions from a game like this. I was tickled after the game as the ESPN analysts all praised Butler's ability to fight through adversity and to make big shots when it mattered, and talked about all of Marquette's struggles. Meanwhile, if Clarke had missed a shot that he probably had a 95-99% chance of missing, the entire postgame show would have been about how Marquette always found a way to make the big play when it mattered, as well as all of the areas that Butler struggled. It's that inane post-hoc analysis that is so ridiculous, yet so pervasive on tv.

One good thing that stuck out to me about Butler: 36 points on 16-for-23 shooting from Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones. Those are two guys with a ton of potential who had struggled badly on offense to start the season, who both suddenly broke out. Is it a trend or a fluke? We'll find out in the coming weeks. One good thing that stuck out to me about Marquette: Vander Blue, who led his team with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Blue is the Marquette player with the highest talent ceiling. If they're going to get back near the top of the Big East, he's going to have to lead them.

Butler will get a great challenge tomorrow against North Carolina. On Wednesday they'll play either in the Maui title game or third place game, against one of four possible teams (none of the games on the other side of the bracket have been completed as I type this). Marquette will move to the consolation bracket, where they shouldn't have too much trouble with Mississippi State tomorrow.

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