Thursday, December 25, 2008

Final Old Spice Post

With no college basketball on Christmas, I decided it was time to clean out my notebook with some final thoughts on Thanksgiving's Old Spice Classic.

Inside Wichita St.

The Shockers didn’t have the most fans in Orlando (more like 4th most), but the fans they brought sure seemed to know how to make the most noise. The Key: the mid-major foot-stomp. On bleachers, this creates much more noise than clapping.

Against Georgetown, Sienna, and Michigan St. in the Old Spice Classic, Wichita St. had a simple strategy: Slow the pace down, lull your opponent to sleep, and hope that Clevin Hannah can get hot and win the game at the end. It worked against Siena (in the biggest comeback in the tournament), and the strategy certainly gave Georgetown and Michigan St. a big scare. But will it work over the course of a season? It is hard to say. I’m still big on Gregg Marshall who did wonderful things at Winthrop, but it is a lot harder to win on a consistent basis in the MVC. Huge game this Sunday (Dec. 28th) when Wichita St. takes on Creighton.

Random Thought: It looks like former Missouri Tiger Stefhon Hannah and Wichita State’s Clevin Hannah are not related. I thought with Missouri and Wichita St. being in close proximity that they both might be local, but Stefhon was from Illinois and Clevin is from Mississippi. Trust me, you wonder these things when you watch 12 games live in 4 days.

Inside Michigan St.

Spartan fans like to claim they have lots of depth, but in the case of Michigan St. seniors Marquise Gray and Idon Ibok, what they really have is two warm bodies. To be fair, Gray is off to a decent start this year, but no one thinks the team is getting to Ford Field this year on the backs of its senior forwards.

The result in Orlando was that Tom Izzo rushed Delvon Roe back into the lineup. I was very excited to see Roe in person, and in warm-ups I could see why people are excited about the redshirt freshman. He seemed big, mobile, athletic, and a force to be reckoned with. But he was tentative when he got in the game, and the injury seems to have taken away some of his aggressiveness. With mostly Roe and Gray in the lineup (Sutton – injured, Morgan – fouls), Michigan St. lost the opener of the Old Spice Classic to Maryland. So maybe Michigan St. isn’t quite as deep as we thought.

Certainly, Michigan St. proved against Texas that if Sutton is healthy, and if one of the emerging guards (Allen or Summers) can make plays in the half-court, Michigan St. can be one of the best teams in the country. But the main feeling I got from Michigan St. fans in Orlando was that of impatience. The fans want the team to be dominant now, and while watching Roe develop sounds good on paper, it sure isn’t as much fun as winning right now.

Inside Tennessee

I’m going to be honest, it is hard for me to evaluate Tennessee vs Georgetown from a non-Georgetown perspective. Going into the game, I was wondering if Georgetown would even be able to compete with a Top 25 team, especially a run-and-gun team, on day 2 of a tournament, when Georgetown doesn’t have much depth beyond the starting five. But despite this lack of depth, despite facing tough full court pressure, Georgetown overcame several runs and the Hoyas were in position to knock off Tennessee. But that’s when the Vols hit some late threes to take the lead. Tennessee was 10-15 on 3’s in the game. Were it not for that fabulous outside shooting, I don’t think Tennessee wins. But that’s not really fair to Tennessee. The Vols deserve a lot more credit than that, and Bruce Pearl deserves every bit of praise he’s getting in Knoxville. Sometimes, it is just hard to write that you got beat by the better team.

By the way, the Tennessee fans were easily the nicest fans we met at the tournament. They were humble, gracious, and excited to be part of a new winning era in Knoxville.

Random Notes

-On Sunday of the Old Spice Classic, there was a rain delay due to rain blowing in an exhaust vent in the building. This reminded me of the time Michigan St.’s ACC-Big Ten challenge game was cancelled due to a wet floor, and it reminded some nearby Tennessee fans of last year’s SEC tournament.

-I spoke to some Volunteer fans who remember Georgetown’s Omar Wattad from high school. Wattad has yet to win me over, but he had a career day against his home state school, hitting 3 three pointers.