BGTD: Afternoon Commentary — Marquette, Big East/SEC, and a Healthy Dose of Tu…Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2011
It may have felt like #1 Kentucky’s big win over #4 North Carolina was the only game of the day, but another 200+ teams who suited up today might beg to differ. Our thoughts on the earlier Game of the Century are located here, but this post will deal with the rest of the afternoon’s key games.
- Marquette Wins Badger State Battle. The second-biggest game on today’s slate was a rivalry game in the Badger State. Marquette wasn’t feeling very Badgerly today, though, as Buzz Williams’ team made a statement of superiority in taking down Wisconsin in Madison. You know, at the Kohl Center, also known as the building where Wisconsin never loses (12 times under Bo Ryan coming into today). MU exploited its better quickness and play-making ability to regularly break into the gut of the Badger defense and gang-rebound the basketball, and despite a good second-half comeback from Wisconsin, Marquette remains unbeaten and served notice to the rest of the Big East that, once again, the small school on the frontier of the conference will be heard from. With a home-heavy schedule the rest of December and a neutral game against Washington next week at the Jimmy V Classic, the Golden Eagles have a great chance at hitting 2012 at 13-0. As for Wisconsin, Jordan Taylor suffered a poor game (4-10 FG, one assist, five TOs) write the Badgers out of your top ten at your own peril.
- Tu Holloway: Xavier Savior. We’ll probably be writing this a lot this year, but Tu Holloway put his team on his back in the second half of Xavier’s game against a fired-up and better-than-advertised Purdue team this afternoon, and carried the Musketeers to another win after being left for dead down 19. With under two minutes in the game and XU still down five points, Holloway drilled a three to cut the lead to two. After a Purdue turnover, here’s where we pick it up:
These are just one-on-one moves by a player good enough to not only create his own space, but also to knock down the long jumpers. XU had a horrendous first half (18 TOs), but was able to claw back into the game by taking better care of the ball and tightening up its defense. The key, though, is Holloway. He’s such a difference-maker with the ball in his hands that you have to believe that Xavier will win just about every close finish they’re involved in this year.
- Big East Dominance. The SEC/Big East Challenge hasn’t formally ended yet, but as of this writing, the Big East had run out to an 8-2 lead with the two remaining games happening later today. After Friday night’s 4-0 Big East record, the SEC had virtually no chance to tie, but Connecticut ensured the victory in a convincing win over Arkansas, while Pittsburgh outlasted Tennessee in Knoxville. Right now, we’d peg the SEC as a four-team NCAA league with a reasonable shot at a fifth, while the Big East looks like a surefire eight-team NCAA conference with a reasonable shot for a ninth and an outside shot at a tenth.
- Pac-12: Best Mid-Major Conference in America? We hate to pile on this league so much, but there were five Pac-12 games this afternoon, and the league went 1-4. Perhaps worse, other than Arizona State’s somewhat surprising win at Tulsa by three points, the other four teams — UCLA, Oregon, USC, and Utah — were all noncompetitive in their losses. And it’s not like they were playing ranked teams here, folks. UCLA couldn’t hang on to an early lead against Texas in its home-away-from-home; Oregon got run out of the EnergySolutions Arena by BYU; USC put up a miserable 40 points in a loss against Minnesota; and, shudder… new Pac-12 member Utah lost by 30 to a largely mediocre Fresno State team. We were joking in the blurb title here about being a mid-major league, but the Pac-12’s KenPom profile is actually closer to the Atlantic 10, Mountain West and Missouri Valley than it is the SEC or ACC. (note: gulp, and that was before today!)
- Butler Not Butler. Nobody expected Butler to immediately recover from its personnel losses after last season’s run to the national championship game, but Brad Stevens’ team is really struggling after an overtime home loss to Valparaiso today. Through eight games, the Bulldogs’ best win came against Savannah State, and a murderer’s row awaits in the next few weeks — Purdue, Xavier, Gonzaga, Stanford. We have learned our lesson about writing off Stevens teams, but right now it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if BU enters the meat of the Horizon League schedule with an overall losing record. The Bulldogs are having trouble shooting the ball from both the line ( 61% on the season, 17-29 today) and behind the arc (29% on the season, 6-20 today), two key components of their attack — until Stevens shores up those areas, Butler will be just another mid-major team.