Thursday, December 3, 2009

BIG TEN BREAKS MAIDEN IN B10/ACC CHALLENGE

There seems to be a fair amount of chest-thumping this morning west of the mighty Mississippi River as advocates of the Big Ten celebrate their first ever win over the also mighty ACC.

Hey fellas, before you get to worked up, you’re 1-10.

Well, now that we type that, it does beat the crap out of 0-11. Congrats, men, well done.

What did we learn, if anything?

First off, it’s early December, so a whole bunch of analysis isn’t appropriate. These are all young teams shaping their personalities. No need for late-season predictions as we head off to buy a Christmas tree and prepare for a 30-day onslaught of Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad. The time for serious analysis and predictions comes in February in the heat of the regular season.

Having said that, this flurry of competitive earl-season games, does give us some insight into the makeup of the participating teams – both winners and losers as we careen through the holiday season.

Duke lost its first game ever in the challenge and the primary reaction has to be “no big deal.” Wisconsin will always be a tough out at home as long as Bo Ryan is at the helm. In losing a virtually meaningless game in the grand scheme of the Big Dance, Duke did what all teams are doing this time of year – trying to establish a consistent third scorer, looking for consistent outside shooting and trying to figure out how to function smoothly in close end-game situations.

Good news for the Devils is Andre Dawkins looks to be emerging as the answer to the first two questions.

Just last week we thought Clemson’s game-ending curse had subsided when they coolly used their previous Achilles heel – the humble free throw – to win a close game. Last night, the Tigers had a meager 23 point lead and yet found a way to loose one of the pivotal challenge swing games to Illinois.

While taking nothing away from an inspired Illinois comeback – their biggest ever – Clemson has to take some heat for the loss. As Jay Bilas put it so succinctly last night in a post-game ESPN analysis, no incredible comeback occurs without a simultaneous incredible collapse. Sad, but true.

Clemson is a good team and this loss will sting and sting badly. The Tigers will need to learn how to keep their collective feet on the pedal and finish off teams in games against legit D1 teams.
We don’t know how good Boston College is and we wager neither do they. But beating Michigan without Rakim Sanders is a good sign. Are they a NCAA tournament team, who knows? Check in later.

Miami is off to an 8-0 start which is impressive considering the dire pre-season predictions aimed at the Canes (picked to be 10th of 12 in the conference this season). Without superstar guard Jack McLinton, Miami has had to complete reinvent their wheel.

Florida State, meanwhile, is bigger than the Buckeyes, but Ohio State is better. In fact, the Noles will turn out to be bigger than almost everybody they play, but they don’t yet have the right mix just yet to turn back higher ranked opponents.

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