ATB: The More Things Change…Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009
The More They Stay the Same… #11 UNC 89, #9 Michigan State 82. Ok, can we now all just agree that UNC just has Michigan State’s number? For the fifth straight time, and the third episode within one calendar year, North Carolina made Tom Izzo’s Spartans look like charlatans on the basketball court. How is this possible? How can a team like Nevada hang with the Heels a few days ago for most of the game, and a loaded, deep, talented, athletic team like MSU continually get punked and embarrassed by the same squad? Well, motivation helps. Ed Davis (22/6) and Larry Drew II (18/6 assts) both had career highs in points, and in watching the game, it seemed as if Carolina could get and make nearly any shot it wanted. Michigan State, for some reason, seems to think that it can run with Carolina, and as they learned for the third time with the same core of Lucas, Morgan, et al., they cannot. Why do they try? The thing about MSU is that they weren’t the second-best team last year, and they surely aren’t this year either — but aren’t we used to this with Izzo’s teams by now? They typically underachieve in the regular season, only to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament. The problem is that teams that are routinely blown out do not win national championships. Granted, Michigan State made a run in this game to get the margin back to a respectable score, but Carolina was never seriously threatened after the first ten minutes of the game. So what went wrong other than allowing UNC to shoot lights-out again? How about 2-20 from three (and many of those misses were open looks), a terrible evening from deep for a team that came into this game shooting 37% from distance? How about allowing point guards Drew and Dexter Strickland to torch the MSU defense for repeated forays to the rim for easy buckets (9-12 FG)? How about the rough-and-tumble Spartans getting outrebounded (36-34) by the admittedly bigger (but tougher?) Heels? Honestly, the reason we thought this game would go Carolina’s way was because they were playing at home, but we’re not sure that it would have gone any differently had they played this game on Mars. Michigan State simply cannot get over on Carolina, and it’s starting to get ridiculous. At least Raymar Morgan (18/6) looked healthy and played well, right?
ACC/Big Ten Challenge. We’re deadlocked at 3-3 going into the last day, and yeah, it’s gone exactly as we predicted so far. Which of course means all five games tomorrow will go crazy — expect all kinds of upset specials. Seriously, though, we still think it comes down to the BC-Michigan game tomorrow night. Winner of that one wins the Challenge (our choice: UM).
- #6 Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58. Wake played well enough for a half to win this game, but the Deacs don’t have enough offensive threats beyond Al-Farouq Aminu when he has an off game (12/10 on 3-11 FG including 6 TOs) and they turn the ball over like it’s their job. But we knew that already. Purdue, on the other hand, is only getting production from their Big Three of Robbie Hummel (11/11 on 3-11 FG), E’Twaun Moore (22/4/3 assts) and JaJuan Johnson (21/9/3 blks) — the rest of the team only scored fifteen points. That’ll carry the Boilermakers against the lesser teams, especially in Mackey Arena, but we have concerns about when they start playing athletic teams like WFU that also have multiple serious scorers. Wake played superb defense, holding Purdue to 34% for the game and 1-15 from deep, but their endemic problems with ballhandling and lack of a three-point threat will be problematic all season.
- Northwestern 65, NC State 53. Northwestern is quickly becoming our second favorite team of this season (behind Portland). With the injury troubles that they endured to start this season, we would have completely understood if the Wildcats had simply packed it in and hoped for next year. But they didn’t. Beating Notre Dame, Iowa State and NC State isn’t exactly equivalent to Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, as they’ll face in the Big Ten, but the key is that NW is gaining experience with winning and they’re doing it in environments away from the comforts of home. Tonight Michael Thompson stepped up with 22/4 and Jeremy Nash also chipped in 12/8/4 assts in the win. The Wildcats could realistically enter Big Ten play at 10-1 by the end of this month. Good for them.
- Maryland 80, Indiana 68. Greivis Vasquez didn’t shoot all that well in Bloomington tonight, but he put together his best all-around game of the season with a 23/5/8 assts performance that, along with Landon Milbourne’s 19/7/3 stls, was too much for the young Hoosiers to handle. Tom Crean’s team hung around for much of the game, but the Terp defense which was good all game (holding IU to 33%) shut Indiana down in the last five minutes with a 9-1 run in crunch time. Speaking of crunch time, Crean got very upset with the IU fans who were chanting vulgarities directed at Vasquez, attempting to take the mic to berate the crowd before game officials told him he could not. Maybe that’s how it is in Bloomington, but we’re sure Vasquez has heard far worse at Maryland (even as a member of the team!).
- Virginia Tech 70, Iowa 64. Malcolm Delaney suffered a poor shooting night (5-15) but the Hokies were still able to get a key road win against an Iowa team that wouldn’t go away. The Hawkeyes stayed in the game with hot three-point shooting (12-27), including six triples from guard Anthony Tucker. Virginia Tech finished up a four-game road trip with three wins, which has to please Seth Greenberg even if the other two Ws were against Campbell and Delaware.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #17 Florida 80, Florida A&M 59. People are getting a little too excited about this Florida team over a couple of good wins. After seven games, the defense appears to be MUCH improved (#19 in def efficiency) over last year, but we’re still having trouble believing in the front line of Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Dan Werner. Tonight those three combined for 45/21, though, to dominate the smaller FAMU Rattlers.
- #24 Cincinnati 94, Texas Southern 57. The Bearcats put seven players in double figures tonight, but interestingly, one of those players was not Lance Stephenson. Born Ready instead played an all-around game, pulling down eleven boards and dishing seven assists in the dominating victory by UC. As part of the Huggins fiasco four years ago, Mick Cronin’s team is still playing in only a half-full arena.
- Providence 76, Northeastern 72. PC avenged its loss last season to Northeastern by beating the Huskies in their place this time around. Sharaud Curry had 19/3 for the Friars while Jamine Peterson added 18/9 in the winning effort. Northeastern, a CAA preseason favorite, moves to 2-3 on the year with losses to Siena and BU in addition to this one.
- Notre Dame 80, Idaho State 70. ND’s team defense continues to look terrible this season, as the Irish gave up 51% shooting to Idaho State tonight in a closer-than-it-shoulda-been win. Luke Harangody had 27/12 and he continues his assault on the record books this year.
- UTEP 79, New Mexico State 58. The Miners are off to a nice 5-0 start this season after another win tonight, this time at NMSU. Guards Randy Culpepper (18/6/4 stls) and Julyan Stone (17/4) take care of the ball and, interestingly, will now have a 12-day layoff until New Mexico State visits El Paso for a return game.