Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I hope everyone is feasting on Feast Week as much as I am! There is nothing better than food, family and excessive amounts of college basketball....Sigh. Bliss!
Unfortunately, a slightly less blissful part of my evening included MSU's loss to Connecticut. I know that techinically it counts as a "upset" because UConn is unranked and Michigan State was #2, but I'm not quite ready to say it was a total debacle. I refer you to the previous post, in which I said MSU would lose at least one game they shouldn't in the preseason that will make people question them...Well, they're over that hump. Pressure's off. ;)
I also think that UConn might also be slightly better than everyone gave them credit for...just a thought. Regardless of where they go from here, the Huskies played really well tonight and Kemba Walker has just been out of his mind...I think someone mentioned the kid has scored over 100 points in the last 3 games?!? Not surprising given he's a senior and has been a strong scoring threat his entire career at UConn.
As far as the Spartans go, I have mixed emotions. Obviously, it was a game they could have and should have won, so that's always disappointing. However, they didn't play "badly" so I can't say it was for lack of effort. HOWEVER, there were a few key issues--things that shouldn't happen given the level of experience on the team.
Missed free throws, not being able to grab rebounds (batting it around like a balloon is all fine and dandy and can often serve a useful purpose....but just grab the darn thing) and throwing the ball away down the stretch (Kalin Lucas, I'm talking to you) are things that won't get you a W in a late game situation. Annoying? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. But here's why I'm not freaking out:
1.) It's November. This kind of stuff happens early in the season and good teams remember and learn from it (and I do think Michigan State is a good team). I would MUCH rather see this now then in a tournament game. You can argue that Kalin's mistakes should be a concern, but at the same time, the kid also hasn't played in a game situation since the Sweet 16. I'm willing to cut him a little bit of slack as he gets back into it (but just a little).
2.) Tom Izzo is the head coach. There is no doubt in my mind that Izzo will make SURE they learn from what happened tonight.
3.) The vets of the team making some of those key mistakes (Lucas and Green) won't let themselves forget it. Not that I know them personally, but it seems like they're both too competitive to not use it as motivation to get better. And getting better is ALWAYS a good thing.
Off to watch the rest of K-State/Duke--PEACE!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Overall, I always maintain that the best teams are the ones with veteran talent combined with fresh, skilled underclassmen. That said, here's a few nuggets on who I expect to be tough this year...
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
I am HOPING they will be as good as expected, because that would mean they play for a national championship. Which, of course, would make me off-the-wall, over-the-top, head-to-toe happy--but it's a dangerous road to have such sky-high expectations. Too late.
There are a few HUGE question marks about this team that could hinder their process. And I'm sure they will lose a game or two early in the year that makes everyone question how good they will be and then in the middle of the Big Ten season they will lose a game they shouldn't lose and everyone will question them again. I don't care about that. It pretty much happens every year. What I DO care about is them being stronger, healthier and generally better in March than they are now.
It remains to be seen how well Kalin Lucas will respond after his Achilles surgery. Will he have the same agility and quickness? Izzo has mentioned Kalin's overall shot has improved which is fanstastic. If he gets back his old speed and quickness--watch out! But that's still an "if." There is no question he will be good--he has too much talent. The question is HOW good--and how his rehab over the summer will change his style of play. Additionally, it remains to be seen how all the new freshmen will contribute as well as how the team will adjust after losing Chris Allen. Allen came into his own toward the end of the year in terms of defense and 3 point shooting and I can't say his leaving wasn't a blow. Can Durrell Summers stay productive offensively ala the NCAA Tourney? Will Draymond Green continue to play a huge leadership role? Time will tell...
DUKE BLUE DEVILS
It pains me to say this, but as of now, this is the team to beat. They lost a lot of talent with the departure of Zoubek and Scheyer, but they also RETURN plenty and let's be real--this is DUKE. They aren't taking leftover recruits. Seth Curry finally gets to debut and with Kyle Singler back on the court, I think they'll be just fine.
Yes, Robbie Hummel went down (again! Poor kid!) but even still, I think Purdue can be a Sweet 16 team. E'twaun Moore is strong at the guard spot and JaJuan Johnson gives them plenty down low...so even just that inside-out combo is enough. Factor in fresh legs and the fact that Matt Painter always manages to get his teams to play hard no matter what and I'd say the Big Ten teams have plenty to worry about.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
I know, this is very Big Ten heavy. But sorry...that's where some of the best teams are coming from! OSU has a few freshmen that are highly recruited, PLUS David Lighty is finally back. He provides quickness, skills and leadership to guide the likes of Craft and Sullinger while they get their feet wet. It kind of blows my mind that all these talented kids opt for OHIO STATE (which isn't traditionally a men's bball powerhouse--always good, but not up there with the UNCs or Dukes or Kentuckys of the world)...but for some reason they DO...and with that, Thad Matta is building a really consistent program. Strange but true.
Like I would leave them out. Please. They lost Wes Johnson, which is huge, but overall, they have some great guards coming back in Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine (which, as a sidenote, is my 2nd favorite basketball player name ever after Squeaky Johnson). Additionally, they have a kid named Mookie and a guy named Fab...great names, great coach, lots of talent--it's pretty much a win for everyone involved.
Other teams that will be good (mostly because they always are) that have a good mix of old/new: Villanova and Kansas. I was going to put Butler in here as well, but after last night's performance against Louisville, I'm not so sure. I know it's early and they will get a lot better, but I'm not sure they will meet the expectations everyone else set for them. If Matt Howard can't stay out of foul trouble, they are going to have a LOT of problems.
I'm still not sold on Kansas State. I know they will be good, but I somehow never manage to see enough of them to make a solid judgement. Better get on that one!
TEAMS THAT SHOULD BE GOOD...BUT HOW GOOD REMAINS TO BE SEEN:
Illinois, Florida, Pitt, Kentucky, Baylor, Missouri and Georgetown. They have the tools and look good on paper...
TEAMS THAT EVERYONE SAYS WILL BE GOOD BUT I WILL BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT:
Wait for it...drumroll....NORTH CAROLINA, this means YOU.
Listen, I don't doubt for ONE SECOND that UNC will not be good. They're UNC. I think last year was a fluke and I don't expect that to be a trend...but going from the season they had to being ranked as a top 10 team without even playing a game? Nope, not buying it.
Could they be a top 10 team in a month or two or whatever? Sure! But that kind of brings to light my huge problem with preseason rankings. Teams like Duke, MSU, Butler, etc have EARNED that spot. Based on what they did and who is returning, it makes sense to place them high because we know, to a certain extent, what they can do. With UNC?! Not so much. I would also place Texas in that category...again, I have no doubts they will be good, but I'm not sold on their status as a top 25.
That's all for now! Happy B-balling!