ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009
Word of the Day. Exposure. What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t. Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March. Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season. This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.
UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 Classic. Portland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood. In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN. Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll? James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler . Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow. As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this…
- #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one. Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended). The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around. The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep. While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up. If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
- #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62. LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game. The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker). The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action. In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action. Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
- Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies. BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going. Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.
Old Spice Classic.
- #13 Michigan 83, Creighton 76 (OT). This was an excellent game to start the day, but Creighton found itself on the end of another hard-luck loss at the end. After holding a six-pt lead with eight minutes to play, Michigan rode its star Manny Harris (who was one board shy of a trip-dub: 20/9/11 assts) to pull back into the lead and when he hit two FTs with 5.7 seconds remaining, it appeared they had it in the bag. Antoine Young had other ideas, however, as he pulled a Tyus Edney to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the extra period, UM’s defense held Creighton scoreless for three minutes and the Wolverines will move on to play Marquette tomorrow while Creighton gets Xavier. Justin Carter came off the bench for CU to contribute 21/8 even though he’s been injured since before the season started, and DeShawn Sims added 16/11 for Michigan.
- Marquette 71, Xavier 61. Lazar Hayward shredded the Xavier defense for 27 pts in a cohesive effort surprising from a team that has lost as much talent as Marquette lost last season. But Xavier, who likewise has lost a significant amount of talent, really only got a good performance from one player, Jason Love (21/19/5 blks) in this afternoon’s game. Jordan Crawford appeared to be pressing, especially in the first half when he was 0-9 from the field. He settled down to go 4-11 in the second, but Xavier is going to need better than 9 pts and zero threes from the talented guard. The Golden Eagles will take on Michigan tomorrow in what should be an evenly-matched game if Hayward plays well again, while Xavier will get Creighton in the battle of high middies.
- Alabama 79, Baylor 76. Alabama’s JaMychal Green is one of our RTC stars to watch this year, and he made us look smart tonight as he went for 22/6 on 9-13 shooting, including a couple of ridiculously athletic dunks. More importantly, Bama also harassed Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn into a poor shooting night (5-16) where he got 19 pts, six below his average coming into the tournament. The key for Alabama this season is whether they will buy into the discipline and defense that Anthony Grant is preaching, and tonight showed at least a glimmer of hope for improvement in that area. The Tide will play FSU tomorrow in an ACC/SEC tilt, while Baylor will get a break with Iona.
- Florida State 54, Iona 49. In what was described to us as a very ugly game, FSU outlasted Iona behind a late 6-0 run to put the game away in the closing minutes. Solomon Alabi has failed to impress this year, and tonight was no exception, as the 7’1 center had more turnovers (7) than points (6) in a lackluster effort. Superstar recruit Michael Snaer has also been disappointing thus far, as he put up his fourth straight game of five points or fewer tonight. From what we saw out of FSU against Florida the other night and again tonight, we’d expect Bama to handle them, but of course, you never know in college basketball. Iona will play Baylor tomorrow.
Other Games of National Interest.
- Houston 100, Oklahoma 93. In true Great Alaska Shootout form, Oklahoma and Houston melted the snow up in Alaska with four players going for 20+ tonight — Houston’s Kelvin Lewis (28) and Aubrey Coleman (29), and Oklahoma’s Willie Warren (25) and Steven Pledger (23). OU actually hit 54% from the field, made twelve threes and even had an 18-pt lead in the first half, yet still lost the game because of a +11 margin on turnovers. Oklahoma could be fairly said to be reeling right now, with three Ls in their last three games, and from what we can tell, perimeter defense and ball security are two of the root causes. In the three losses, teams have hit 29 threes against the OU defense, and gotten 45 extra possessions due to turnovers. Jeff Capel is really going to have to work hard with his young players to figure how to solve these problems.
On Tap Black Friday (all times EST). Tomorrow is one of the better slate of games you could ask for until conference play starts kicking in…
- #15 Michigan vs. Marquette (ESPN) - 12 pm – Old Spice semifinal features Manny Harris vs. Lazar Hayward in a battle of stars.
- LSU vs. Arizona State (ESPN2) – 2:30 pm – the PNIT undercard features two teams searching for an identity this season.
- Xavier vs. Creighton (ESPNU) – 2:30 pm – neither one of these teams wants to leave this tournament with two, or worse, three losses. Gulp.
- #8 West Virginia vs. Texas A&M (ESPN) – 2:30 pm -we’re anticipating that this will be a defensive battle that WVU barely pulls out, but we’ve been wrong before.
- #25 Georgia Tech vs. Mercer – 4 pm – these are the type of games Georgia Tech wouldn’s show up for in recent years; let’s see what happens here.
- #7 Duke vs. #13 Connecticut (ESPN) – 5 pm - it needs no further introduction other than to say it’s a classic matchup between two HOF coaches and perennial powers in MSG.
- Alabama vs. Florida State (ESPN2) – 5 pm – Alabama looks better than everyone thought, and FSU looks worse. Which means, of course, FSU will dominate.
- #19 Clemson vs. Long Beach State (ESPNU) – 5 pm – Egads, Clemson never loses in November!
- Siena vs. St. John’s – 5:30 pm - Siena needs to get this win against a vulnerable Big East team to improve their overall profile.
- Richmond vs. Mississippi State (FCS) – 6 pm – interesting game because MSU has looked shaky and Richmond has the talent to give them trouble.
- #9 Syracuse vs. Columbia – 7 pm - Cuse gets an ‘off’ night against a team they should easily throttle at home.
- #11 Tennessee vs. Charleston (ESPN FC) – 7 pm – what kind of ridiculous score will UT put up on Charleston?
- Baylor vs. Iona (ESPNU) – 7:30 pm - Baylor can’t afford to drop this one.
- Nevada vs. VCU – 7:30 pm - really intriguing battle of middies in this one.
- #1 Kansas vs. Tennessee Tech (ESPN FC) – 8 pm - the Jayhawks invite another sacrificial lamb into the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse.
- #2 Michigan State vs. Florida (HDNet) – 8 pm - MSU traditionally makes Florida look soft and silly, but we’re still intrigued by this semifinal at the Legends Classic given how well Florida handled FSU the other night.
- Notre Dame vs. Northwestern (BTN) – 8:30 pm – ‘Gody and company will put the pride of Big East vs. Big Ten on the line in this one.
- Missouri vs. Old Dominion – 8:30 pm – Mizzou has looked really good against limited competition so far, so we’ll be interested to see how they handle a good CAA team.
- Minnesota vs. Portland (ESPNU) – 9:30 pm – as we saw tonight, Portland is not to be taken lightly. But neither are the Gophers.
- #21 Illinois vs. Utah – 10:30 pm – Utah hasn’t impressed yet, so this one could be a total wash. Looks good on paper though.
- #10 Butler vs. UCLA (ESPNU) – 11:30 pm – Either Ben Howland or Brad Stevens is going to be very unhappy this time tomorrow night. Our guess is that it’ll be Stevens for some reason.