Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday's Shootaround: Two undefeateds lose, Creighton upset

No. 12 Georgetown 71, No. 4 Louisville 68: See here

No. 17 Michigan State 80, No. 15 Indiana 65: See here

Missouri State 77, No. 19 Creighton 65: See here

No. 7 Baylor 54, No. 14 Mississippi State 52: I'm torn about how I should interpret this game. The talent level on both teams was evident. Baylor is certainly good enough to make it all the way to New Orleans, especially if Scott Drew can ever figure out how to bring out the mean side of Perry Jones III. The amount of size and athleticism Drew has at his disposal is simply staggering. But Mississippi State has quite a bit of talent themselves, enough that I think they can end up being the second best team in the SEC.

But this game also highlighted why there is so much to be concerned about on each team. I'll start with Baylor. PJ3 is infuriating to watch at times. He has such an immense amount of talent -- I think his worst-case scenario as an NBA player is some cross between Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani -- but he is such a passive basketball player. He doesn't demand the ball the way he should on that team, and when he finally does get it, he's taking deep jumpers or fading away from contact in the post. If I'm Scott Drew, I pay someone to punch him in the face before every game just to get him pissed off. With PJ3 struggling with his assertiveness on the offensive end of the floor, Pierre Jackson is the guy that has become to go-to player in the Bear's offense. That's not a terrible thing -- Jackson can create and he's hit some big, big shots down the stretch of the past few games, including the game-winner Wednesday -- but Jackson has a tendency to play a bit out of control. Once he learns to control his absurd athleticism, he'll be better. But right now, when he is forced to score early, he becomes a gunner. That's not what Baylor needs.

For Mississippi State, the question isn't simply their late-game execution. I'm not even going to touch the disaster of a final possession in this space (see here and here for explanation). What I will talk about is Renardo Sidney. With Mississippi State up 52-50 in the final minutes, Sidney was called for his fifth foul when he failed to block out against Quincy Acy. He argued with the official and ended up getting called for a technical foul as well. While the tech didn't directly cost Mississippi State the game -- Baylor ended up missing two of the four free throws they shot -- that may not be true next time. And its a shame because Sidney actually played well. We've been over this: he is never going to be the superstar he has the potential to be. But he doesn't need to be for Mississippi State to be a good basketball team. All they need from Sidney is to be a low-post presence, block a shot or two, grab a couple of rebounds and avoid to immature blow-ups. For most of the season, he's done well. The technical was a slip-up, but its up to Sidney to determine whether this was simply a misstep or a full-blown relapse.

No. 1 Syracuse 75, Seton Hall 49: The Pirates just never had a chance against the Orange. They struggled all game long trying to figure out the 2-3 zone, turning the ball over 23 times (Syracuse had 17 steals) and shooting just 31.4% from the floor. Fab Melo turned in his best performance of his career, finishing with 12 points, seven boards and 10 blocks. So much for that 11-1 start for the Pirates.

No. 2 Ohio State 87, Northwestern 54: Since we're on the subject, remember how people were saying this could be Northwestern's year? Not if they continue to put up duds like they did against the Buckeyes. Ohio State used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to take a commanding lead, and the Wildcats were never able to make it interesting. William Buford had 28 points while John Shurna and Drew Crawford combined to go 9-30 from the floor.

No. 9 UConn 60, South Florida 57: The Huskies always seem to struggle with South Florida. On Wednesday, UConn never got into a rhythm offensively. Jeremy Lamb had 23 points, but he was the only Husky in double figures. While Lamb shot 8-11 from the field, the rest of the UConn team was 13-37. As much as Husky fans would like to blame this on not having Jim Calhoun (they got a technical foul before tipoff for not turning their lineup card in on time), UConn's struggles against inferior competition is starting to get a bit worrisome.

West Virginia 83, Villanova 69: Truck Bryant had a career-high 34 points and combined with freshman Gary Browne to score all 20 points in a game-ending, 20-6 run. Kevin Jones had 13 points and seven boards, but he took a solid elbow from a teammate that opened up a cut over his right eye that required stitches. Jones was a non-factor in the second half, but Bryant put on a show. The duo of Bryant and Jones is as good as any 1-2 punch in the Big East.

Maryland 83, Albany 72: Keep in mind that it came against Maryland, but in his collegiate debut, Alex Len -- who missed the first 10 games of the season due to a suspension -- had 14 points, eight boards and three blocks. Throw in the 11 points, eight assists and six boards Pe'Shon Howard added, and just maybe the Terps have a shot at sneaking up on some people in the ACC this season.

The rest of the top 25:

No. 3 Kentucky 86, Lamar 64: Terrence Jones returned to the Kentucky lineup for what seems like the first time in a month. He had seven points and six boards in 27 minutes off the bench.

No. 20 UNLV 124, Central Arkansas 75: Two insane stats from this game: the last time UNLV scored this many points, their head coach Dave Rice was wearing a Rebels uniform (1990-91), and UNLV finished with more assists (40) than rebounds (36).

Other notable scores:

- Temple 87, Buffalo 85 OT
- Loyola MD 72, Bucknell 67
- St. Joe's 81, Morgan State 50
- Drexel 77, Fairfield 69
- Wichita State 90, Bradley 51
- Arkansas 80, Charlotte 67
- North Dakota State 96, Oakland 69
- Gonzaga 90, Portland 51
- New Mexico 89, New Mexico State 69

Top performers:

Cameron Moore, UAB: What's more impressive than the 19 points and 24 rebounds that Moore had against GW? The fact that GW had 22 rebounds as a team. Moore outrebounds an entire team!

Drew Gordon, New Mexico: The Lobos are a different team now than they were back in November when they lost to New Mexico State at home. Gordon was a perfect example, finishing with 23 points and 19 boards in the 89-69 win

Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: The 25 points and 15 boards he had against Gordon was noteworthy as well.

Mike James, Lamar: Give James credit -- he's fearless. How else would you be able to score 29 points on Kentucky in Rupp?

BJ Monteiro, Duquesne: Monteiro had 28 points and eight boards as the Dukes knocked off a solid Bowling Green team.

Keiton Page, Oklahoma State: The diminutive Paige had 27 points as the Pokes won a much-needed game in double-overtime against SMU in Dallas.

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