ATB: UCSB Continues Surprising Upset WeekPosted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2010
The Lede. Upset Week and We Never Saw It Coming? A quiet week has turned into a not-so-quiet one as now two nights in a row at least one ranked team has dropped a home game to a visiting mid-major. Tonight’s victim was the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, who ran into a team in UC Santa Barbara that acts as a sort-of nemesis to the desert school. The two teams don’t play on a regular basis, but they have played a few times in the past dozen or so years since the Rebs left the Big West, and UCSB has won them all. It’s fairly amazing what UCSB was able to do against one of the better offensive teams in the nation, but the Gauchos entered the Thomas & Mack Center tonight and shut down Lon Kruger’s team. UNLV was only able to hit 29% of its shots and 6-29 from deep, startling figures for a team that came into the game as the fifth-best effective field goal shooting team in America. UCSB, with James Nunnally (23/7) and Orlando Johnson (12/15), is projected to win the Big West in March, but the Gauchos hadn’t put it together yet this year, already losing games to North Dakota State, Portland and Oregon. Perhaps this win is their coming-out, and they’ll have another chance soon to prove their mettle at SDSU over the weekend. Over the last two evenings, we’ve now witnessed Oakland, Drexel and UC Santa Barbara all enter ranked teams’ buildings and come out with victories — each name is one you should keep an eye on heading into March because each will be very dangerous given the right matchups.
Your Watercooler Moment. Jon Diebler Finds the Zone, Enjoys His Time There. Ohio State’s Jon Diebler is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation; the big Buckeye guard hit 212 treys at a 42% clip in the last two seasons, so you knew he had the stroke. Tonight his performance from beyond the arc can only be described as sublime. After missing his first two shots, Diebler proceeded to drain his next nine bombs from various places all over the court, matching a Buckeye record set by Jay Burson. He then missed his final three, logging a 9-14 shooting night from deep and upping his percentage on the year to 49.2%. OSU, of course, is on everyone’s short list of teams challenging Duke for the role of championship contender, and a big reason for that is the consistent play of Diebler. He doesn’t take bad shots, and even though a ridiculous 83% of his attempts are behind the arc, when you have offensive weapons like Jared Sullinger inside and William Buford on the wing, his role as the Lee Humphrey bomber is exactly what Thad Matta needs.
Tonight’s Quick Hits...
- Minny’s Trevor Mbakwe. It took forever-and-a-day to get him into a Gopher uniform, but he’s been well worth the wait. Tonight he put up his seventh dub-dub of the season (13/13/2 blks) in only eleven games, and he’s proven an absolute force inside with his strong hands and girth. On the year, he’s pulling 14/11 on 62% shooting, and in just about any other conference than the Big Ten, that’d be good enough for first-team all-conference consideration. Mbakwe is definitely a major reason that the Gophers are currently 10-1 and looking like a team ready to make some noise in the Big Ten race.
- Central Florida’s 9-0 Start. UCF crushed Louisiana-Lafayette tonight to keep their undefeated record intact. The laudable part of the win tonight, though, was that the Knights were able to win by 21 points without a good game from their rising star Marcus Jordan. The Son of GOAT shot 2-9 from the field in a 7-point, 4-turnover performance, but his slack was picked up by sophomore forward Keith Clanton’s 28/8/3 blks, a player who may not have the name recognition or pedigree but who actually is having a better season (17/9 on 59% shooting). The two make a formidable duo that the rest of Conference USA does not look forward to facing this season.
- Welcome Back, J’Mison Morgan. The last time we saw the enigmatic Morgan, the 6’11 redshirt junior was on his way out of Westwood to places unknown after leaving UCLA. He’s been coming off the bench for Scott Drew’s team this year, but tonight against Bethune-Cookman he showed some of the reasons why he was such a highly rated recruit a few years ago. In only fifteen minutes of action, he had 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks against their undersized opponent — his best game of the season so far. With the size and length that Baylor has at its disposal this year inside (6’11 Perry Jones, 6’10 Anthony Jones and Morgan), Morgan doesn’t figure to play starter’s minutes, but he can certainly provide talented depth off the bench beyond what most teams in the country can produce.
… and Misses.
- Jeff Bzdelik’s Tenure. We’re starting to wonder if Wake Forest’s new coach, Jeff Bzdelik, is going to survive a single year in Winston-Salem. The Deacs barely escaped an 0-8 UNC-Greensboro team tonight mere days after losing to presumably the worst team in the CAA by twelve points. Before you say we’re crazy, consider that Dino Gaudio only got three seasons at the helm and he went to back-t0-back NCAA Tournaments. If Wake doesn’t improve soon, Bzdelik could be facing an 0-16 type of ACC season this year, and we’re not sure if that kind of a complete collapse would be defensible. Making a coaching move after one year is highly unlikely, but so are 0-16 seasons. So we’ll see.
- Auburn & Oregon State. If Wake isn’t the worst team in a BCS conference, then it’s got to be one of these other two. Both lost again tonight, Oregon State to Montana (where the Beavers were a seven-point underdog, incidentally), and Auburn to South Florida. Throw in the Big East’s DePaul and you might have the fearsome foursome of major conference schools this year. Tony Barbee is in his first season at AU, so he’ll get a pass for a while at a school that could not care less about roundball, but Oregon State is a bit of a different story. Robinson came in with much fanfare two seasons ago as Barack Obama’s brother-in-law, and he immediately become a media darling with a shocking 18-18 campaign after a craptacular 6-25 (0-18 Pac-10) year under the prior coach, Jay John. But if anything, OSU has regressed in the interim with repeated losses to the bottom of the barrel of D-1 (e.g., Seattle, Utah Valley, Texas Southern), a trend particularly alarming as the Pac-10 was at its strongest in Robinson’s initial season. Both of these programs appear on the road to nowhere, but, well, at least Auburn has Cam Newton?
Tweet of the Night. Ok, you can choose the bottom six teams of the Pac-10 or the SEC West? Who ya got?