BGTD: Maui Musings, Act IIPosted by rtmsf on November 22nd, 2011
Twelve straight hours of hoops here in Maui can leave you a little loopy, but that’s the situation we’re facing here after 160 minutes of fairly entertaining basketball spaced out over half a day. Ok, maybe it was 140 minutes of compelling stuff until UCLA woke up against Chaminade in the first evening game, but the point is that the quality of hoops being played this year in Maui is good for so early in the season.
Here are some thoughts from the afternoon/evening games. For Act I on the morning/early afternoon games (Michigan-Memphis and Duke-Tennessee), click here.
- UCLA is a conundrum surrounded by a riddle wrapped in a question mark. There’s just no figuring this team out. It’s spurious to try to draw reasonable conclusions from a game against a D-II school, but in two halves we saw a team that couldn’t impose its will against a group half its size versus a team that looked talented enough to make it into the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. Here’s what we do know — the Bruins’ company line in the aftermath of Reeves Nelson’s latest flub (oversleeping and missing the team bus to the airport, causing him to need to take a later flight) is that his addition to the game in the second half “brought energy” and helped UCLA go on a 29-3 run to blow the game wide open.
- So let’s talk about Nelson, shall we? The 6’9″ junior was forced to sit out the first half as a penalty for his transgression, but if you heard Ben Howland and his players talk about his contributions after the game, you’d have thought he went for 20/10 after the intermission. Instead, he took two shots (making neither), hit one of two free throws, grabbed five boards (all defensive), tallied a couple of assists, and got a steal and a block. For 11 minutes of action, it’s a nice hustle line — no doubt about it. But to hear Team Bruin tell it, they wouldn’t have won this game without his performance. While we love glue guys who put their all into every play, Nelson typically isn’t that guy and this situation sounded a bit too much like Intervention where everyone is afraid to tell the truth about someone for fear it’ll set him off. This UCLA team is definitely worth watching for the next few weeks, at least until the semester break.
- The second game between Kansas and Georgetown was hard-fought if not very well played. Basically it was a defensive battle between two teams that thrive on that end of the floor, but KU simply had a little more offensive weaponry than the Hoyas in this one. Tyshawn Taylor said after the game that his teammate inside, Thomas Robinson, was a “beast,” and John Thompson, III, said it felt like the big man had “14 dunks” tonight. Just from a sheer power perspective, the guy was impressive — one of his dunks on our end of the court seemed to rattle the very foundations of the building. Poor Henry Sims simply couldn’t match up with him, and you got a sense during parts of this game that all the hype about him turning into a 1st Team All-America this year could come to fruition. KU is going to be just fine again this year — not dominant, but more than capable of winning another Big 12 regular season championship and playing into the second weekend of March.
- If you base your evaluation of Georgetown on just tonight’s game, then everyone is underestimating the Hoyas this season. In typical Big East fashion, they defend and they’re physical, but they’re going to struggle scoring enough points to beat good teams. Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson are adequate players, but they’re not nearly as good as Chris Wright and Austin Freeman were, and last we checked, the Big East hasn’t gotten any easier. A possible future star could be Otto Porter, the 6’8″ freshman wing who appears capable of putting the ball on the floor and stroking it from outside. He’s an added dimension for JTIII’s team that nobody could have seen developing this early. From what we saw tonight, we’d peg the Hoyas to again be competitive in the Big East, but below the top tier of five or six teams who will compete for the conference title.
- Tomorrow night’s games have the pedigree of a Final Four, even if all of these teams are arguably not as good as they were last season (Michigan possibly excepted). The four semifinalists — Kansas, UCLA, Michigan, Duke — have combined for 19 national titles and 52 Final Four appearances in their illustrious basketball histories. Furthermore, they have strong fan bases here in Maui to boot. We tweeted out at the beginning of the Kansas-Georgetown game that we never thought Kentucky fans’ presence in Maui last year could be topped, but Kansas fans did so tonight. Whereas UK fans may have held 75% of the seats in last year’s Invitational, Kansas fans were at 80% of above. Jayhawk fans will have trouble dominating the tickets against the likes of the other schools in this event.
- And now, for this lovely moment from earlier today…