Ohio State 76, Michigan 63--Hardly unexpected result. Folks not paying very close attention to the Big 10 may be surprised to hear about Mike Conley, Jr. He's another one of Ohio State's freshman phenoms, and he poured in 23 points against a Michigan team that played tough for about a half before folding. Greg Oden sat for over 8 minutes in the second half because of foul trouble. He finished with 3 fouls. This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts about basketball strategy. I just don't understand why coaches refuse to get the most out of their players as possible. It didn't matter in this case, but why not sit Oden for a little less time. If he fouls out, you've gotten all you can out of him. I'd love to see stats on how often pulling a player to "protect" him costs a team a lead. With this loss, Michigan's postseason hopes are pretty much done, unless they can pull some kind of miracle. Given their history the last couple of years, that seems unlikely. Michigan star Courtney Sims rocks a really retro look--he's sports the kind of mustache that was prevalent in the late 80's. It's fucking awesome.
Speaking of finished season, LSU lost at Tennessee tonight 67-70, brining their conference record down to 2-7. Glen Davis was held to 5 points on 2-10 shooting. That's quite the fall off from last year. It's tempting to wonder about how good this team could have been if Tyrus Thomas had stuck around, but it matters not now. Tennessee got back Chris Lofton, who had missed a few games with a bum ankle. Tennessee also has their work cut out for them, especially with a late season surge coming from Kentucky.
Former Michigan coach Steve Fisher knows a little something about the importance of late season surges, and beating ranked teams. His current project, last years Mountain West Conference champs San Diego State University beat #15 Air Force 62-41. The Mountain West looks like it could be a spoiler conference. Of course, the winner of the conference is going to the dance--but that could realistically any of four teams BYU (who won tonight), Air Force, UNLV, or SDSU. So what happens to the other 3 teams that could conceivably notch 20 wins this season. If you are a bubble team in a major conference, you should be watching the Mountain West very carefully.
I'm just segueing like crazy--speaking of Major Conference bubble teams, let's talk about a couple that used to be bubbles, but are now moving in very, very different directions. Virginia beat Maryland 69-65 in College Park to take the lead in the ACC conference standings. Buh? Snuh? The Cavaliers sit atop the ACC standings? I assume ESPN is going to cover this fact as diligently as they are going to hype the game between the 3rd and 5th place teams in the Conference, UNC and Duke. I had no idea they were doing that well (If I had to guess, I'd assume now the ACC has so many teams in it, Virginia has played some weaker competition). But don't sell the Cavaliers short, as they have something that is particularly rare in the ACC these days--talented seniors. Also worth noting is that Maryland, a team I had been guardedly optismistic about this year is completely tanking in conference play, now just 3-6. Thanks for playing, you stupid Terrapins.
It might strike you as odd that UNC & Duke are so highly ranked and lauded when they are behind at least nationally unranked two teams in their own conference. And you're right, that is fucking odd.
Another Conference to watch is the Big South--every major conference better be rooting for Winthrop to continue its dominance into their tournament, because at 20 wins already, they seem to be a lock for the NCAA's.