Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘UCLA Bruins’

December 5: The Day After

Posted by Zach on December 5, 2008

UCLA Texas Basketball

A.J. Abrams would not let Texas lose that game.

The sweet shooting senior scored 31 points- including the final six in the game- to lead the Longhorns to a hard-nosed victory over an energized UCLA team not only looking to exact revenge following last year’s defeat at the hands of Texas in Pauley Pavilion last season, but a UCLA squad hoping to silence some doubters following a disappointing performance in the 2K Sports Classic, a game in which they looked completely lost on offense against the Beilein Zone. The Bruins fought back valianty after falling behind by nine at intermission, but ultimately A.J. Abrams would have none of that.

Matching his career high with 31 points, Abrams can certainly score points. We all knew that. But for the senior to take over the point guard duties and step into the esteemed shoes of D.J. Augustin is no easy task, especially a kid burdened with being the #1 scoring option at all times. Not many college players, even experienced seniors like Abrams, can take that much responsbility and experience success. The assist totals have been unimpressive, sure. The scoring, and the success of the Texas Longhorns, though, has not suffered.

Abrams was awesome Thursday night, sinking 9/18 from the floor, 5/9 from three and 8/9 from the free throw line, coupling another strong double-double from Damion James into a Texas win over a fellow Top 10 team (at least right now). Abrams is now averaging 18.0 PPG on the young season, an improvement from a year ago. This Texas team legitimately looks like an Elite Eight contender- Justin Mason is an underrated player, James is a beast on the boards and can score inside, Pittman and Johnson give them bulk. Rick Barnes is also a fine coach. After losing a heartbreaker to a good Notre Dame team in Maui, this was a much-needed boost for Texas. If Abrams can handle the point and maybe get some help from Balbay down the road, the Longhorns will, like always, be in the mix in March.

UCLA will also continue to improve as the season wears on. Going into Austin and leaving with a victory is no easy task. Darren Collison needs some help, though. He took 22 shots in the game and turned the ball over 6 times. It just doesn’t feel like UCLA is a true threat like they have been the last three years under Ben Howland. Aboya, Dragovic and Keefe are somewhat useful players, but there’s just so much pressure on Collison and the inconsistent Josh Shipp. Look for Jrue Holiday to improve more and more (he did not play well last night) and contribute in all areas. For now, UCLA seems like a contender to be upset early in the tournament and fight for the Pac-10 title with Arizona State.

You can’t make the Final Four every year, Ben.

Other Top 25 games played on Thursday night:

  • #2 Connecticut (8-0) remained perfect, but it was not easy. Buffalo and their star Rodney Pierce (28 pts on 10/19) gave the Huskies all they could handle, notably guards A.J. Price (another so-so outing), Kemba Walker (did not put up a shot) and Jerome Dyson (major off night). Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien had to muscle the Huskies to the win, sinking 14/21 shots and combining for 39 points and 25 rebounds in a 68-64 bullet dodger.
  • #6 Oklahoma (7-0) survived a Leonard Washington cheap shot on Blake Griffin for a 73-72 win at home to remain undefeated. DeMar DeRozan is still struggling (5/13 FG, 0/1 3pt) and Daniel Hackett still cannot get on track scoring-wise, meaning it was Dwight Lewis who had to handle the scoring for the Trojans (25 pts). Blake Griffin was excellent again (8/12, 25 pts, 6 reb) and the Sooners finally received a promising outing from point guard Austin Johnson- 7/12 FG, 17 pts, but only 1 assist.
  • #16 Villanova (8-0) destroyed Houston Baptist 93-57 behind five double-digit scorers, notably Scottie Reynolds with 23/6 and Corey Stokes hitting six triples. Villanova hasn’t really played anyone of note (other than Rhode Island, which is a nice win) so we should be able to evaluate them more effectively after facing Texas this Tuesday in the Jimmy V.
  • #19 Arizona State (6-1) took care of Jackson State 81-60. James Harden: 7-10 FG, 4-5 3pt, 22 pts, 8 reb. He’s good.

Other games of some interest:

– Could Charleston be the team to end Davidson’s Southern Conference streak? They improved to 6-1 (1-0) on the season Thursday and have a win over South Carolina this season.

– Saint Mary’s picked up a quality road win against a fellow mid major, toppling Kent State 75-69 in Ohio. Patty Mills is starting to get back on track- 8/17 FG, 4/7 3pt, 6/6 FT, 26 points, while Diamon Simpson (I love this guy) grabbed 15 rebounds in the winning effort. Kent State nearly came back in this one after the Gaels jumped out to a big early lead, but didn’t get enough out of their star Al Fisher: 5/14 FG, 14 points. Kent State is 3-4, but they’re stronger than their record indicates.

– The Horizon began their conference season last night (actually earlier in the week with one game) with Valparaiso winning on the road at Youngstown State, Butler getting a Zach Hahn three at the buzzer to stay unbeaten and win at preseason favorite Cleveland State, Milwaukee handled Detroit at home and Green Bay sent Wright State to 0-5 with a home victory.

– Isaiah Thomas is an impressive freshman for Washington. He and Abdul Gaddy should form a nice backcourt for Lorenzo Romar in the next couple seasons. Thomas finished with 18 points and Washington toppled Oklahoma State at home for a much-needed victory. They’re now 4-3 and the Cowboys (James Anderson 3/12 FG) fall to 5-3.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: A.J. Abrams, Texas

Arizona @ Texas A&M on the U tonight.

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/1-12/7)

Posted by Zach on November 30, 2008

While the non-conference tournaments are complete, take a long look at this week’s slate of games and you won’t be disappointed. I doubt I’ll have a harder time picking out the best ten out of these the entire month of December.

1. #4 Duke at #9 Purdue– Tuesday (ESPNHD)- The premiere game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was supposed to be the battle at Ford Field between North Carolina and Michigan State. I give a slight edge to undefeated and #7 Duke heading to West Lafayette to face Purdue in front of a surely raucous crowd pumped for the biggest basketball game for the Boilermakers in years. No longer the Baby Boilers (still young though), Purdue fell to Oklahoma in OT in the Preseason NIT final for their only loss, led by the sharpshooting E’Twaun Moore, do-everything sophomore Robbie Hummel and defensive stalwart Chris Kramer. This will be the first true road test for Duke, who will certainly need a big performance from junior Gerald Henderson and point guard Nolan Smith. These two teams could be #1 and #2 for the 2009-10 season. Not a bad game for this season, either. Prediction: Purdue 70, Duke 69

2. #1 North Carolina at #13 Michigan State
– Wednesday (ESPNHD)- Rumblings suggest this game could hold the largest regular season crowd in college basketball history. And why not? Most pundits pointed to this game as the one stumbling block for the seemingly unstoppable Tar Heels. Those notions have been put to bed by three things: 1) Goran Suton may be out with a knee injury, 2) North Carolina straight up dominating Maui in epic fashion, 3) Michigan State slipping in the first round of the Old Spice to bubble-bound Maryland. But this is college basketball, and in front of tens of thousands at Ford Field, Tom Izzo and the Spartans could come out firing behind Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Michigan State 75

3. #12 UCLA at #8 Texas
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These two teams are likely barely separated in the rankings now that Texas lost, but if UCLA should march into Austin and take down the Longhorns, that would be considered a pretty big upset following the Bruins stinker against Michigan just two weeks ago. Texas impressed me at Maui- they lost to a very strong Notre Dame team by 1- with their size, athleticism and clear improvement on defense. A.J. Abrams and/or Damion James can have monstrous games at any time and Justin Mason has turned into the best passer on the Texas team. Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and the veterans of the UCLA squad will have to be the ones to lead the Bruins in a difficult environment. Prediction: Texas 73, UCLA 66

4. Wisconsin at #25 Marquette- Saturday (ESPNU)- How this always entertaining rivalry game isn’t on ESPN confuses the hell out of me. Both of these teams and their fans have a general disdain for each other. Don’t count out the Badgers just because the game is in Milwaukee, either. Road teams have won the last two games of this contest, with the Golden Eagles scratching out a rare victory in Kohl Center last season. It’s also a battle of contrasting styles: Dom James, Jerel McNeal and fast-paced Marquette will try to keep the tempo high against sluggish-but-always-efficient Wisconsin and Marcus Landry. I know I’m going to regret picking against Wisconsin, but Marquette should be fired up this week after losing to Dayton. Prediction: Marquette 70, Wisconsin 67

5. USC @ #6 Oklahoma
– Thursday (ESPNHD)- These were my two sleeper Final Four contenders before the season. Fair to say, at least thus far, I whiffed on USC and hit a grand slam on Oklahoma. If anyone can contain Blake Griffin individually (usually takes a team effort- ask Purdue), it could be Taj Gibson in the paint. Which means Oklahoma’s secondary pieces must contribute to the winning cause once again, players like Taylor Griffin, Cade Davis and Austin Johnson. This would be an excellent bounce back win for the Trojans following the disaster in Puerto Rico. Will this finally be DeMar DeRozan’s breakout party? Plenty of storylines in this one that I’m excited to see how it plays out. Prediction: Oklahoma 77, Southern Cal 72

6. #21 Miami (FL) @ Kentucky
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- Is Kentucky getting back on track like they did after the Gardner Webb loss last season? Remember, the SEC isn’t exactly loaded with NCAA-caliber teams at this point (Tennessee must be licking their chops). They’ll look to defend their home turf against a very underrated Miami team led by Jack McClinton, who is due for a huge performance, and solid secondary pieces like Dwayne Collins and Brian Asbury. Kentucky is receiving improved point guard outings from Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins (when he decides to play…I would suspend him for that). Winning the Las Vegas Invitational was huge for Billy Gillispie. This win would be even bigger. Prediction: Miami 69, Kentucky 68

7. #4 Duke @ Michigan
– Saturday (ESPNHD)- This is Duke’s second game in five days going on the road to face a Big Ten opponent in their building. If they should escape Purdue with a victory, Coach K would be wise to not overlook a Michigan team that is beginning to click (look at me giving Coach K advice). They dodged the always-horrid Savannah State on Saturday in a shocker, so maybe Michigan is falling back to earth sooner than expected? Regardless, Duke pretty much dismantled the Wolverines in the final of Coaches vs. Cancer, and even though this game is in Ann Arbor, I expect more of the same. Although there’s epic upset potential here. Prediction: Duke 75, Michigan 65

8. Clemson @ Illinois
– Tuesday (ESPN2HD)- Quietly this game has become one of the top pairings in the ACC-Big Ten challenge this season. Clemson is 7-0 and have beaten teams like Charlotte, TCU and Temple behind double-double machine Trevor Booker and three-point threat Terrence Oglesby, while Illinois is 6-0 with wins at Vanderbilt, Kent State and Tulsa behind Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. So it’s not like these teams have been beating up on total cupcakes, although they both lack a real quality win. Here marks the first opportunity. The game being played in Champagne is a big advantage for the Illini in my mind. Prediction: Illinois 68, Clemson 66

9. #23 Florida @ Florida State
– Sunday (FSN)- The debut of Sunday night FSN games (the return of Tim Brando!) is an interstate rivalry game that was settled on the football field just yesterday. These two talented teams will do battle on the hardwood in a difficult one for Billy Donovan and his Gators. We can look at the Seminoles in two ways: 1) they struggled badly with Jacksonville, La Salle and Stetson at home and their 7-0 record is deceiving or 2) they toppled two quality opponents- Cincinnati and California- in Las Vegas over the weekend and could be a sleeper in the ACC. We’ll find out a lot more about Florida State after this game, surely. Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 70

10. #24 Baylor @ Washington State– Saturday (FSN)- I think this game is hugely underrated. In fact, I can’t wait to see how the run-and-gun Baylor Bears, who have certainly impressed followers with their performance in Anaheim over the weekend, match up with Tony Bennett and, well, let’s just say Washington State doesn’t run the same offense. This could prove a VERY difficult road game for Baylor, not only because it’s in Pullman, but the Wazzu defense is always a difficult one to figure out and could confuse the Bears. I expect the talent of Baylor to prove victorious in a nail biter. Prediction: Baylor 65, Washington State 62

Other Games To Watch

  • Wisconsin @ Virginia Tech (Monday)
  • Ohio State @ Miami (FL) (Tuesday)
  • Michigan @ Maryland (Wednesday)
  • Oklahoma State @ Washington (Thursday)
  • Arizona @ Texas A&M (Friday)
  • NC State vs. Davidson (Saturday)
  • UAB @ Cincinnati (Saturday)
  • Rhode Island @ Providence (Saturday)
  • Ohio State vs. #7 Notre Dame (Saturday)
  • San Diego @ San Diego State (Saturday)
  • California @ Missouri (Sunday)
  • #6 Oklahoma @ Tulsa (Sunday)

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Pac-10 Week in Review (Nov. 17- Nov.25)

Posted by Patrick on November 26, 2008

http://obscuresportsquarterly.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/pac103.jpg

Here is how the Pac-10 teams have fared thus far:

Arizona: 3-1 (3-1 this week)- I feel terrible for any Wildcats fan after that disaster against UAB. I don’t understand how a team as talented as Arizona and with some very experienced players can let that happen to themselves. So, they don’t take the trip to Madison Square Garden, but Arizona still showed a solid effort in a close win against Santa Clara, and if things go their way should be 5-1 heading into the game away at Texas A&M next week.

Wildcats Player of the Week: Chase Budinger- 23.5 points 5.3 rebounds 2.8 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/30 vs. Northern Arizona, 12/2 vs. Loyola Marymount

Arizona State: 3-0 (2-0 this week)- James Harden is proving why is one of the best players in the nation, putting up 33 points against Pepperdine on Monday night. Arizona State also had a signature win on the road against San Diego State earlier in the week. The Sun Devils will continue to benefit from a pretty easy schedule, except the Anaheim Classic this week which features Wake Forest as another top team in the field.

Sun Devils Player of the Week: James Harden- 25.5 points 8.5 rebounds 2.5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/27-11/29 Anaheim Classic (First game vs. Charlotte)

California: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- California has four players that are starting to emerge as leaders on the roster: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin. The Golden Bears have taken advantage of an easy schedule so far, but now they have six games in a row against formidable opponents.

Golden Bears Player of the Week: Jerome Randle- 18.3 points 5.3 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 at UNLV, 12/3 vs. DePaul

Oregon: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Oregon lost to Oakland (Mich.) for the second straight year, but rebounded nicely with a convincing win over Alabama in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Ducks still have problems with ill-advised shots, but they are young and freshman center Michael Dunigan is showing that in a few seasons he may be the best big man in the Pac-10.

Ducks Player of the Week: Michael Dunigan- 15.5 points 8.5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Utah

Oregon State: 0-3 (0-2 this week)- Oregon State continues to prove that they are the worst team in the Pac-10 by far with losses to Yale and Howard. To the Beavers credit, they played a very tough game against Nevada. It should be expected that with a new coach, players that are not as talented will have trouble adjusting to the different situation.

Beavers Player of the Week: Josh Tarver- 17 points 4 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 Montana State, 11/30 at Fresno State

Stanford: 2-0 (1-0 this week)- I still don’t know what we should expect from the Cardinal this season because they haven’t played good competition. Anthony Goods put on a show against Cal State Northridge, and Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson are following suit, playing great basketball. However, before they play a tough team it will be hard to know how they’ll fare in conference play.

Cardinal Player of the Week: Anthony Goods- 25 points 5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Air Force, 11/29 vs. Colorado

UCLA: 3-1 (1-1 this week)- The Bruins were exposed by Michigan in New York. UCLA has no dominant inside presence and it will be tough for them to adjust because in the past three seasons they have always had a powerful big man. They play at Texas next Thursday and it will be interesting to see if they have recovered from the Michigan loss.

Bruins Player of the Week: Darren Collison- 14.5 points 5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 Florida International

USC: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Wow, what happened to Southern California in Puerto Rico? Two losses to teams that were not picked to finish high in their conferences, and giving up big leads at halftime. I was skeptical about this team at the beginning of the season because I didn’t think they played team basketball, and they don’t. The Trojans need to play together if they want to make it back to the NCAA tournament.

Trojans Player of the Week: Taj Gibson- 17.2 points 12.7 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. UT-Martin, 12/1 vs. San Francisco

Washington: 2-3 (2-2 this week)- The Huskies have really proved me wrong. I thought that Jon Brockman could lead this team back to the NCAA tournament, but it looks almost as if Washington is worse than last season. Quincy Pondexter is doing nothing on the offensive end, and the defensive play of the entire team is lacking tremendously.

Huskies Player of the Week: Isaiah Thomas- 15.2 points 4.2 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 vs. Pacific

Washington State: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- The Cougars are blowing out teams with their tremendous defensive play, and I think that Wazzu is the sleeper in this conference. Aron Baynes is one of the best defensive big men in the country, and freshman Klay Thompson is fitting in very nicely to the system. Though they have played some bad competition, I think they will continue to win their non-conference games leading up to the conference season.

Cougars Player of the Week: Klay Thompson- 13.6 points

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. Mississippi State, 12/2 vs. Idaho State

Pac-10 Team of the Week: California Golden Bears

Pac-10 Player of the Week: James Harden, Arizona State

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Storylines After Two Weeks

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Puerto Rico Xavier Memphis Basketball

What have we learned so far after two weeks of college basketball? That Samardo Samuels looks to be a force. That Wisconsin and Washington State keep on playing great defense. That Wesley Matthews finally wants to be the best player on Marquette. That Arizona doesn’t know that fouling in a tie game is a poor idea. That ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon was a roaring success. That Jimmy Baron is the best outside shooter in the nation other than Stephen Curry. That Duke loves dominating in November. That scheduling Mercer is a bad idea. That NJIT needs to rethink the whole Division I thing. That DeJuan Blair can be totally unstoppable. That it’s going to be a long year for Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

Okay, those are pretty important. But what are the single most looming and captivating stories that we should take away from the first two weeks of college hoops? Here’s a few:

1. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are the best players in the nation.
Okay, we’ll give Tyler Hansbrough an opportunity to reclaim his crown when he’s finally healthy, but these three superstars and eventual lottery picks have certainly filled up the box score while facing “weaker” opponents (should point out that Oklahoma did play Davidson). Harden is averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, including a line Sunday against Pepperdine where he made 11 of 13 two-point shots. Curry hasn’t let anyone down looking for an encore performance, averaging 34 points and shooting 43% from deep. Almost as important for Davidson? 8.8 APG and 2.8 TO/PG, meaning he’s made a smooth transition over to point guard. How about 26 PPG and 19.8 RPG for Blake Griffin? Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain to me. He’s played incredible this season, and even though it’s incredibly early to be ranking Player of the Year contenders, I’m going to do it anyway: Griffin is #1. Of course, these are all small sample sizes (three or so games). But there’s no denying these three are producing up to expectation and much more.

2. This freshman class is nowhere near last year’s crop.
Watching most of the top-ranked players in this years recruiting class struggle mightily in their transition to the college game, it’s hard to not think back and appreciate the likes of Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose dominating from day one on their respective teams. Beasley was putting up record numbers instantly, Love was clearly the best player on a Final Four squad right away, and Derrick Rose might have been the best point guard in the nation a year ago. Someone like DeMar DeRozan is a prime example. I expected him to dominate right away for the Trojans, and while I still think he’s a phenomenal player, the transition has been a difficult one initially. DeRozan has yet to top 14 points in five games and disappeared in two key USC losses vs. Seton Hall and Missouri.  Tyreke Evans has made 2 of 16 threes and went 4/16 in their battle with Xavier Sunday for the Puerto Rico championship. Jrue Holiday seems like more of a two or three-year college player. It’s been the Big East froshies looking the most comfortable: Samuels, Walker and Monroe.

3. Xavier is once again one of the top non-BCS schools in the nation. I hesitate to call them a mid-major at this point. They’ve undoubtedly graduated from that label, so I’ll go with non-BCS. Memphis should take some notes after freshman Terrell “Icewater” Holloway (I made up that nickname, just go with it and make me happy) sunk free throw after free throw to capture the Puerto Rico championship Sunday. B.J. Raymond is an excellent three-point shooter, Derrick Brown is a powerful scoring forward and Kenny Frease will continue to develop inside. Sean Miller also has solid players like C.J. Anderson, Jason Love, Dante Jackson and Jamel McClean at his disposal. Not many programs can rebound this quickly after losing players as important as Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Credit Sean Miller for re-tooling this quickly and building a Sweet 16-caliber squad.

4. The Big 12 looks stronger than ever. Some laughed when I said the Big 12 is deeper and more loaded than ever when I wrote their preview last month. It’s real early, but this conference could challenge the ACC for #2 in the rankings. We expected Texas and Oklahoma to come out firing. Contenders Kansas and Baylor are also playing well early (should get a nice gauge of KU after the CBE Classic). But it’s the bottom half of the conference playing exceptional basketball that’s the real story. Missouri played well over the weekend against stiff competition, almost beating Xavier in the first game of the tournament. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are scoring like crazy. Even Kansas State and Iowa State are dominating weak competition and avoiding the upset bug like some other high majors (Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, etc.) Combined, the Big 12 is 39-2 as a conference. That’s a good record.

5. It could be a down year for Los Angeles basketball.
Stress the word “could.” Southern Cal has been the #1 disappointment in two weeks of play- DeRozan hasn’t played like himself, Hackett is a turnover machine, they’ve shot 26% from deep and 64% from the line. The reason I used “could” instead of “will” is because I have faith DeRozan will explode sooner than later, and Tim Floyd the type of coach who can turn the ship around. UCLA should also improve as the season goes on as Holiday, Morgan, Lee and the other young players get more acquainted with the college game. They desperately need the passive and often uninterested Josh Shipp to bring his game to another level because Alfred Aboya isn’t going to score 20 points on most nights. Early on, the Bruins look more like a Sweet 16-caliber team than a Final Four contender we’re used to seeing in Westwood, while USC could be bubble-bound.

Any that I missed?

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November 21: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 21, 2008

Michigan UCLA Basketball

Michigan coach John Beilein finally got his signature victory. Upsetting #4 UCLA at Madison Square Garden is a win that could directly alter a program- a win that encourages disappointing Michigan fans to start caring about hoops again, a win that brings back memories of the Steve Fisher glory days, a win that top-flight Detroit recruits will remember when considering the University of Michigan. A floundering program that muddled in mediocrity for the entire Tommy Amaker era finally got its savior in John Beilein, its superstar in Manny Harris, and a signature win to tout.

How did Michigan topple the Bruins? Most will point first to the 1-3-1 zone defense Michigan used for most of the night, befuddling UCLA and taking All-American point guard Darren Collison completely out of his game. To effectively score against a 1-3-1 like the one Beilein employs, the offense must be able to find seams in the defense, something Collison and Holiday struggled mightily with last night. It often seemed as if Michigan had seven players on the court on defense, always swarming the UCLA guard with the ball immediately and preventing them from kicking it out to an open shooter like Dragovic or Shipp. Another way to defeat a zone is feed the ball quickly to a scoring big man who can manuever in the post and finish. With the loss of Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bruins simply lack that type of player. None of the freshmen have emerged yet, and Aboya/Keefe will not place scoring ability at the top of their resume.

The energy and execution of the Wolverines last night was sensational. You saw it when DeShawn Sims finished a dynamite backdoor cut to ice the game under a minute. You saw it when Michigan’s Mike Gansey, freshman guard Stu Douglass, drained a quick catch-and-shoot three in the face of the UCLA defense. You saw the development of Manny Harris, a tremendous scorer who couldn’t escape defensive stud Jrue Holiday (the perfect Ben Howland player) instead find open teammates rather than force off-balance shots down the stretch. Michigan was all about three things last night: 1-3-1 zone, quality possessions and forcing turnovers. UCLA turned the ball over 17 times.

Now the Wolverines have another opportunity to play Cinderella when they face Duke in the championship game tonight in a much more difficult matchup, especially if Gerald Henderson plays with as much fire as he did in the second half of the Southern Illinois game. It may be too much to ask for this young Michigan squad to topple the Blue Devils, but they’ve certainly made quite an impact already. We could look back in January and laugh that UCLA was ever #4 in the nation. It’s possible. But for now, beware Big Ten. The Wolverines are back.

The Other Semi: I remarked to Pat midway through the first half of the Duke-Southern Illinois game last night that Gerald Henderson’s been the type of player who has failed to fully harness his talent in his Duke career, possibly associated with a lack of desire. Henderson managed just 9 PPG in three contests vs. Presbyterian, Georgia Southern and Rhode Island at home and went to the foul line just nine times in those games. Maybe he heard me. Henderson made five shots- including four from behind the arc- in a gigantic second half run for Duke, saying after the game he’s “not sure what happened.” Gerald is one of the most athletic and talented players in the country. With Kyle Singler emerging as a force and Nolan Smith an upgrade at the point, Duke could reach the Final Four if Henderson consistently plays up to his ability. Duke pulled away with a 54-35 second half, made 40 of 47 (!) free throws, and won 83-58.

San Juan Update: Every single year, Sean Miller produces a quality basketball team. They’ll try to topple another major conference foe today in San Juan when they face Virginia Tech after defeating Missouri 75-71 in the first round of the tournament. Terrell Holloway played hero for the Musketeers, sinking 10 of 10 free throws in the second half while Missouri sunk just 15 of 31 from the charity stripe in the game. DeMarre Carroll led the way with 17 points for the Tigers while Derrick Brown finished with 16 for Xavier.

Dick Vitale spent most of the Michigan-UCLA game screaming about how the Big East will be the strongest conference in his thirty years at ESPN. Um, he may have a point. The Seton Hall Pirates, predicted around 12th-14th in the loaded conference by most prognosticators, took down the consensus #3 in the Pac-10 last night in a stunning second half comeback. The halftime deficit was 43-28 and Taj Gibson was compiling easy buckets in the post against the Hall frontcourt minus Robert Mitchell. Eugene Harvey (18/5/5) and Jeremy Hazell (15/4 stl) stepped up in the second half to carry the Pirates into another tough game against Memphis later today. The Trojans have to be the most disappointing team in the nation thus far, struggling in two home games and now laying this egg against Seton Hall. DeMar DeRozan has not looked comfortable (3pts on 1/4) and Daniel Hackett was 0/7 last night. Great win for Bobby Gonzalez and his seven scholarship players.

Other Games of Note: Illinois scored a difficult road win against Vanderbilt 69-63. Super soph Demetri McCamey sunk 5/10 threes in the contest, while senior Trent Meachem chipped in with four triples of his own. Oklahoma State and new coach Travis Ford haven’t had much trouble scoring so far this year. They dropped 91 points on a quality Tulsa squad in Stillwater with Byron Eaton (7/13 FG, 11/14 FT, 26/7/5) leading the charge. #12 Memphis pulled away from Chattanooga and won 83-71 behind five Doneal Mack treys. #19 Florida has played awesome basketball so far this year, winning 64-50 over Southern Utah behind 18/7/4 from Nick Calathes, one of the best all-around players in college hoops. Florida State narrowly avoided what would have been a horrid upset for Leonard Hamilton, beating Stetson 79-77 at home.

Upset Special: What the hell happened to George Mason?? After an intensely contested road win against NCAA contender Vermont up in Burlington, Mason faltered 50-44 to Hampton last night. They made just 33% of their shots, 2/17 from deep, turned the ball over 23 times, and compiled just four assists. Four assists! A bad, bad loss on the resume of George Mason.

Craziest Score Ever: When I saw this score for the first time on ESPN’s Bottom Line last night during the Michigan-UCLA game, I honestly thought it was a mistake. East Central Oklahoma has allowed over 100 points in each of their two games this season (D2’s VMI?), so maybe we should have seen this coming: Texas Tech winning 167-115, shattering the school record for points in a game. The Red Raiders certainly built some confidence on his squad as ten, TEN!, Tech players scored in double figures. They made 67/113 FG, 13/25 3pt attempts and compiled 35 team assists. Probably should have taken the over. Your move, Graham Harrell.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Marshon Brooks, Providence- 30 points, 5 steals, 11/15 FG, 5/8 3PT, 3/3 FT

On The Tube Today:

  • Xavier vs. Virginia Tech, 130pm (ESPNU)
  • Southern Illinois vs. UCLA, 5pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Chattanooga vs. USC, 5pm (ESPNU)
  • Akron @ Pittsburgh, 7pm (ESPN FC)
  • Duke vs. Michigan, 730pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Memphis vs. Seton Hall, 730pm (ESPNU)
  • Pepperdine @ New Mexico State, 930pm (ESPN FC)
  • North Carolina @ UC-Santa Barbara, 10pm (ESPNU)

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

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November 14: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 14, 2008

I am extremely elated that UCLA won that game.

Not because I’m evil. Not because I always root for the powerhouse to crap on the little guy. Not because I’m a diehard Redhawks hater. I just really, really wanted to see this new-look Bruins team and their fabulous freshman, along with mainstays like Collison, Shipp and Roll, on the Garden floor in a possible final against Duke next week. No UCLA would have meant Duke likely plows their way through the semis and finals, and that’s simply no fun for a variety of reasons.

So I’m relieved. Very relieved.

What we learned last night: Miami (OH) is a team to be feared. No, they’re not overly athletic or multi-dimensional or immensely skilled, but they grind out possessions and play excellent defense under coach Charlie Coles. That’s why I was fearful taking the Bruins +15 even with the talent disparity. I just felt early in the season Miami would confuse the UCLA freshmen and slow the game down enough where it would be mildly close by the last minute. And that’s exactly what happened. Holiday only had 5 points in 15 minutes, Gordon had 2 points in 8 minutes, Lee had 2 points in 11 minutes and Morgan with 1.

Instead, the veterans led the way for the Bruins. James Keefe hit a crucial, more lucky-than-good three late in the second half, Michael Roll connected on a few crucial treys, Alfred Aboya hit a couple big free throws, Shipp went 6/14 for 16 points, while Darren Collison went 6/11 for 16 points, as well.  The team only shot 13/20 from the line, but most of those misses came early. They sunk most of the clutch free throws late.

Michael Bramos led the way for the Redhawks with 22 points. Congrats, now you get Pittsburgh!

Crisis averted. We’ll still have the premiere matchups at MSG- Southern Illinois vs. Duke and Michigan vs. UCLA with possible Duke-UCLA final late next week. Miami certainly gave us a scare, though.

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day- Darren Collison, UCLA: 36 mins, 6/11 FG, 4/4 FT, 16 points 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block

On the tube tonight: (all times ET)

  • Toledo @ Florida- 6pm, ESPNU
  • VMI @ Kentucky- 7pm, ESPN FC
  • Western Carolina @ Connecticut- 730pm, ESPN360
  • Florida A&M @ Kansas State- 8pm, ESPN FC
  • Stetson @ Texas- 8pm, ESPN FC
  • UT-San Antonio @ Oklahoma State- 8 pm, ESPN FC
  • American @ Oklahoma- 8pm, ESPN FC
  • Detroit @ Purdue- 9pm, ESPN360
  • Hofstra vs. Clemson- 9pm, CSS
  • St. Francis @ Texas Tech- 9pm, ESPN FC

Other games of note: Bucknell @ Maryland, Albany @ Villanova, Stanford @ Yale

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Pac-10 Preview Roundup

Posted by Patrick on November 9, 2008

Links to my other posts: 1.UCLA, 2.Arizona State, 3.Washington, 4.USC, 5.Arizona, 6.Washington State, 7.Cal, 8.Stanford, 9.Oregon, 10.Oregon State

First Team:

James Harden (G-Arizona State)

Darren Collison (G-UCLA)

Jon Brockman (F-Washington)

DeMar DeRozan (G-USC)

Chase Budinger (F-Arizona)

Second Team:

Jrue Holiday (G-UCLA)

Taj Gibson (F-USC)

Jeff Pendergraph (F-Arizona State)

Aron Baynes (C-Washington State)

Patrick Christopher (F-Cal)

Third Team:

Quincy Pondexter (F-Washington)

Mitch Johnson (G-Stanford)

Derek Glasser (G-Arizona State)

J’Mison Morgan (C-UCLA)

Daniel Hackett (G-USC)

Player of the Year:

1) James Harden, Arizona State

2) Jon Brockman, Washington

3) Darren Collison, UCLA

Defensive Player of the Year: Darren Collison, UCLA

Breakthrough Player of the Year: Derek Glasser, Arizona State

Freshman of the Year: DeMar DeRozan, USC

Coach of the Year: Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Dark Horse Player: Tajuan Porter, Oregon

Dark Horse Team: Washington State

NCAA Teams: 5

NIT Teams: 3

CBI Teams: 1

Top Five Games:

1. Arizona State at UCLA (1/17)

2. UCLA at USC (1/11)

3. Arizona State at Washington (2/26)

4. USC at Arizona State (2/15)

5. USC at UCLA (2/4)

The SEC Preview will be up at some point this week. Oh yeah, and there is a college basketball game tomorrow night, in case your wondering.

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Pac-10 Preview (#1): UCLA Bruins

Posted by Patrick on November 8, 2008

https://i1.wp.com/farm1.static.flickr.com/165/393553649_ebd59ed0c1.jpg

#1-UCLA Bruins: Coach-Ben Howland (6th year)

PG-Darren Collison (Sr.)- For the past two seasons Collison has been one of the best point guards in the nation and this year I expect that he’ll pick up just where he left off.  Collison has a young and talented group of players to pass the ball to, and also can take the ball to the basket himself. Sometimes people overlook Collison’s ability to shoot the ball, but last year he shot 52% from behind the arc on 101 attempts. If Collison can shoot the three like that this season, UCLA should compete for a national championship.

SG-Jrue Holiday (Fr.)- The most complete freshman in the nation makes his way over to Los Angeles to become part of a Bruins team that is looking to make yet another consecutive Final Four.  Holiday has great fundamentals, plays superb defense, knows how to score, shoots a consistent three ball, and is very athletic. He may be UCLA’s leading scorer this season, and will easily be one of the top players not only in the Pac-10 but in all of college basketball.

G/F-Josh Shipp (Sr.)- While a lot of people think that freshman Drew Gordon could be starting at this spot by season’s end, Howland will most likely give the nod to Shipp who was a major part of their Final Four run last season. He is a great shooter and a strong defender, hurting the opposition inside and out. Plus, who can forget his performance at Cal last season. Shipp is a vital part of this team and he could be a major factor if this team wants to win a national championship.

PF-Drew Gordon (Fr.)- Like I said, some people may think that Gordon will be better suited at SF instead of PF, but if you have a guy like Shipp already on your team you have to move Gordon to a different position. Gordon will fight for rebounds, and he definitely has the ability to post up and score.  He’s the wild card of the Bruins starting lineup; he could become a great player immediately, or he could fold under the pressure and UCLA fans will see more Alfred Aboya.

C-J’Mison Morgan (Fr.)- Morgan would be the best center in this year’s class if not for B.J. Mullens. Morgan is a force on the inside that can compete at the high-major level, matching up well with every other center in the Pac-10 right away.  Morgan is also a tremendous rebounder and blocks shots like its nobody’s business. If he can continue these trends in college, Morgan’s play will vault UCLA from a very good team to an elite team.

Bench: Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson are two stellar recruits that will be great bench players for UCLA. Anderson will be the back-up point guard. Alfred Aboya and Michael Roll round off the 9-man rotation that will be on the court for the Bruins this season. The bench provides talent, experience, and athleticism that will take UCLA a long way come March.

Bottom Line: This team reminds me of a worse version of last year’s Memphis. They are quick, athletic, and like to get into the fastbreak. They also are young but have experience where it counts. This team has the ability to get back to the Final Four, but most of the production depends on three freshman who I just don’t see getting the job done in March. UCLA is a stellar team this year and will win the Pac-10, but I see them falling in the Elite 8.

Backcourt: A

Frontcourt: B+

Bench: B

Coaching: A

Projected Post-Season Tourney: NCAA (Elite Eight)

Key Non-Conference Games: 2K Sports Classic (11/20-11/21), at Texas (12/4), Notre Dame (2/7)

Key Conference Games: at USC (1/11), Arizona State (1/17), USC (2/4), at Arizona State (2/12)

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Preseason Bracketology

Posted by Zach on November 4, 2008

Channeling my inner Joe Lunardi here as we gear up for the season:

Note: conference champion in bold

16 seeds- Jackson State, Morgan State, Radford, Stephen F. Austin, Mount St. Mary’s

15 seeds- Tennessee-Martin, Cornell, Cal State Northridge, American

14 seeds– South Alabama, Portland State, Oakland, Belmont

13 seeds- Vermont, Cleveland State, Providence, VCU

12 seeds- San Diego State, Temple, UTEP, Southern Illinois

11 seeds- Kent State, Nevada, Arizona, Alabama

10 seeds- Xavier, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, LSU

9 seeds- UAB, Ohio State, Creighton, BYU

8 seeds- Siena, San Diego, Villanova, Kansas

7 seeds- Davidson, UNLV, Syracuse, Kentucky

6 seeds- Wisconsin, Florida, Georgetown, Saint Mary’s

5 seeds- Marquette, Miami (FL), Baylor, Memphis

4 seeds- Arizona State, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Southern Cal

3 seeds- Duke, Pittsburgh, Texas, Gonzaga

2 seeds- Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Oklahoma

1 seeds- North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, UCLA

Last Teams In: Providence, Alabama, Temple, UTEP

Last Teams Out: Texas A&M, Washington, Massachusetts, Missouri

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