Monday, November 19, 2012

Oklahoma State Blows Out NC State

Oklahoma State 76, #6 NC State 56
This isn't that shocking of an upset. Oklahoma State looked very shaky against Akron a few days ago, but they have the raw talent to be an NCAA Tournament at-large team. And the reality is that NC State is not the 6th best team in the country. They're over-hyped a bit. So two months from now we won't be too surprised to be reminded that Oklahoma State beat NC State. But what was surprising was the margin - NC State was blown away.

The Wolfpack seemed just a step slow on both sides of the floor. They got beat on the boards (a 41.4 OR% for OSU, compared to a 25.0 OR% for NCSU), and could not keep the Cowboys out of the lane and off the line. Le'Bryan Nash got himself to the free throw line 13 times. Marcus Smart poured 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks as well. Smart averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game in his three games in Puerto Rico. A pretty nice start to his freshman season.

Oklahoma State is not a team I've been picking in the NCAA Tournament, but the emergence of freshmen Smart and Phil Forte is making me re-think that. The one cautionary note I have is that it's always a mistake to put too much stock in results at these early season tournaments, particularly the ones that take place outside of the contiguous 48 states. A lot of kids lose focus on the beach, and weird things have a tendency to happen at  these tournaments.

After playing Portland State, Oklahoma State's next quality opponent will be Virginia Tech on December 1st. They also will play Gonzaga, Missouri State and South Florida before opening up Big 12 play. If they can avoid no more than one loss in this set of games (including avoiding any losses to cupcakes) then they'll be in excellent shape heading into Big 12 play. A 10-8 conference record would then put them in a good position for an at-large bid. Now 3-1, NC State will lick their wounds on Friday against UNC-Asheville. Then they'll head on the road to play Michigan on November 27th, in their next big test.

#16 Baylor 97, St. John's 78
St. John's actually led 28-19 early in this game. And it would be easy to blame fatigue and the short St. John's rotation for the way things got away from them in the second half, but I don't believe it. St. John's actually has a quasi-nine man rotation now. And besides, it was Baylor's 11-for-18 three-point shooting (including 8-for-12 from Brady Heslip, who seems to have a game like this a few times a year) that really put this game out of hand. Baylor deserved this win, though, regardless of the shooting. They continue to be really, really good offensively in the paint. They're hitting 59.2% of their two-pointers this season,

St. John's falls to a disappointing 2-2 record after this loss. Both of the losses were to likely RPI Top 100 teams, but they really needed a quality win. The reality is that the closest thing that they have to a quality opponent before the start of Big East play is a home game against South Carolina as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge. Yuck. It's not the schedule that a coach who thinks he has an at-large team puts together. Baylor will come home to play College of Charleston on Saturday. Then they get to prepare for a massive road game at Kentucky on December 1st.

Minnesota 72, Richmond 57
This was an interesting battle between two teams that Ken Pomeroy's ratings really loved coming in. I'm not sure I totally agreed with his ratings there, but I was certainly interested to see if Richmond could live up to their Pomeroy love. And it would be a mistake to think that they got beat up here. Richmond was ice cold from the field, and some of that is just bad luck. Despite forcing 15 steals they only had a 36.4 eFG%. Minnesota, on the other hand, hit five of the ten threes that they attempted.

Richmond certainly didn't seem to have anybody who could match up with Rodney Williams or Trevor Mbakwe. Those two finished a combined 10-for-17 from the field with 18 rebounds. But Richmond also had a guy like Darien Brothers, who had a 52.2 eFG% last season, shooting 1-for-11 from the field. I'm willing to give Richmond a little pass for this one.

Richmond plays Wofford tomorrow, but then have a tough road game at Ohio on Saturday. Minnesota heads off to the Battle 4 Atlantis next, where they'll open against Duke on Thursday. Their second game will be on Friday against either Memphis or VCU.

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