Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Around the Boxscores Wednesday Edition

I usually only go around the boxscores on Saturdays, but there was too much interesting stuff on Wednesday to just comment on one game.

1) Georgetown lost to Cincinnati tonight, but the worse news was that leading scorer DaJuan Summers went down with a twisted ankle. JT3 is notoriously unwilling to share information on injuries, so we’ll have no idea of the severity until we see Summers running up and down the court again. I thought the Hoyas had a weak case for a Top 25 ranking coming into this week, but until Summers is 100%, Georgetown is a lower division Big East team. On the plus side, given Summers terrible rebounding for a big man, a significant injury might actually improve the Hoyas rebounding weakness. Nikita Mescheriakov chipped in with 7 rebounds tonight, but only 1 of 6 shooting.

2) Is Providence legitimate now after beating Syracuse? Maybe not, but at least they didn’t blow the lead like they did against Marquette. Syracuse is reeling losing 3 of 4, but relative to Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin, it doesn’t seem too bad.

3) LSU finally won a big road game, at Tennessee no less. I would have never guessed that out of the Old Spice Classic that Michigan St. and Siena would be having the best seasons while winner’s bracket teams Gonzaga, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Maryland have all suffered losses they would like to forget.

4) In a game no one had any business watching, Indiana had a chance to win its first Big Ten game of the season at Northwestern. Indiana had the ball down 2 with 5 seconds left but the Wildcats stole the ball and ran out the clock.

5) I’ve finally figured out the secret to Nebraska’s high number of steals. It isn’t so much the full court pressure, although they use it occasionally. It isn’t so much the half-court pilfers. What Nebraska does better than anyone is play like smart cornerbacks. When getting back on defense the cornhusker guards are always keeping their eyes back on the ball. So if you try to push the ball ahead they are always there to get the interception. I think this helps explain why they could beat a good Missouri team and yet suffer losses to slow-tempo teams that never push the ball like Oregon St. Speaking of Missouri, the Tigers are getting blown out by Kansas St. tonight. Talk about a team that doesn’t want to be ranked. Every time it looks like Missouri might be a Top 25 team, they go and lose a real head-scratcher.

6) Pitt lost to Villanova. Is any team more dependent on a 12 point per game scorer than Pittsburgh? When DeJuan Blair gets in foul trouble, this is just not the same team. We already knew Villanova was good, so this hardly comes as a shock, but this is still a big win for Nova. Villanova has spent several years scratching and clawing for the final Big East NCAA tournament berth, and wins like this make the road a lot more comfortable. Meanwhile, Pitt’s reward is to face a Notre Dame team that is absolutely desperate for a win on Saturday. This is the Big East where quality teams desperate for a win match up on a nightly basis.

7) Georgetown’s game wasn’t on Full Court, so I got to watch a great game between Wake Forest and Duke. Both Duke’s Gerald Henderson (to tie) and Wake Forest’s James Johnson (to win) made huge shots at the end of regulation against fabulous defensive teams. To anyone who thinks that size is eventually going to do the Blue Devils in, this game is evidence that the answer is… maybe. While Wake Forest’s size clearly bothered the Blue Devils, (see the sick block after the officials failed to call the offensive foul on Duke), Duke still had a chance to win at the end on the road. And Duke had a chance to win without any contribution from players outside of Singler and Henderson. It is hard to think of many other teams with frontlines like Wake Forest, so in my eyes, this game actually did more to convince me that Duke was a national title contender than the other way around.

And at the same time, Wake Forest which already established themselves as a true contender proved why they can beat any team at any time. There are plenty of teams that I put in the category of “Can beat a top 10 team if that team plays poorly.” Wake is one of the rare teams with enough inside presence and PG play that I think they fall in the category of “Can beat a top 10 team when that team plays well.” They still lack the consistency to call them a lock for the Final Four, but they should clearly have those aspirations.

8) Umm, is North Carolina actually tied with Florida St. with 3 minutes to go? This is college basketball.