Monday, December 22, 2014
Can we all agree that that was bonkers? I think we can agree that that was bonkers. London Perrantes sank a pair of free throws, and just over four minutes into the game the score was 11-2, which is officially lopsided. From then on it was never anything but. 24-4. 39-6. 51-12. 61-19. The game delved into the realms of the absurd even before then, with Mike Tobey doing all of the scoring without really caring where he had to do it from.
This team - this defense - has turned into a traveling carnival. Come see the magnificent Antonio Bennettio! Watch as he performs incredible feats of strength and defensive prowess. See his amazing illusions. Watch as he and his assistants hold yet another team under 30 points. Marvel as they allow just one field goal in a half. Who will be their next victim? Step inside the tent and find out!
You can have your Kentucky-UCLA - this is the blowout of the year. The uneducated rabble will look at the John Wooden pedigree of one team and the Ivy League pedigree of the other and assume otherwise. But Harvard, before the two blowouts, was the higher-ranked KenPom team. Wesley Saunders is a more dangerous player than anyone UCLA has. UCLA was able to fight back some, being outscored by only five in the second half, and not against the Kentucky scrubs, either - the last UK point was scored by Aaron Harrison, the Cats' leading scorer. Besides, Kentucky allowed three times as many baskets in the first half as UVA did. So.
Speaking of Harvard being good - check out their D-rating on KenPom. 91.1 - good for #26 in the country. That's a damn good score that would've been 7th at the end of last season (early-season ratings are always a little more extreme as blowouts are tough to come by in conference play.) That's the same defense on which UVA just scored nearly 1.3 points per possession. And that 91.1 is the post-blowout number.
The Hoos have all the fingerprints of an elite, Final Four-contending team, except for a blue-blood name on the jersey front. They've handled all comers with at worst minor difficulties. They've gone into any gym they liked and walked out with a big win. They've bombed really good teams back to the Stone Age. They have a pair of elite star players - Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill check in at #3 and #4, respectively, on KenPom's POY rankings, behind only Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor and ahead of everyone on the rosters of Kentucky, Louisville, and Arizona. These Hoos have one game left in the OOC and regardless of the outcome, they've built a top-notch resume already and are almost certain to plow through the ACC with a ruthlessness not seen since.... uh, last year. Being able to score the way they have is kinda new, and it's letting us recapture some of the wide-eyed wonder from last season, but this team is also, somehow, even better at keeping the ball out of the basket than they were last year. Fiat Defensio.
-- Cleveland State got off easy, getting beat by a very workmanlike effort from the Hoos. I took nothing away from that game except this: Anthony Gill wiped away any last vestiges of doubt that he could fully replace Akil Mitchell with a second-half sequence where he hedged hard, about 30 feet from the basket, and recovered all the way under the rim in time contest the eventual shot. I thought he blocked it at first, but on replay, it was just a two-foot airball. Still impressive. Gill is just fine in the learn-the-defense department, I think.
-- Mike Tobey also impressed on defense. Particularly on one play against Cleveland State in which his man caught the ball very deep in the post and looked ready for a simple layup - and Tobey, somehow, cajoled him into something resembling a monkey rodeo. Tobey admitted culpability for the one Harvard bucket in the first half, but whatev - that was actually a really well-contested basket.
-- Merry Christmas. Nothing is happening until next Tuesday, so rather than a regular Monday post, I'll probably work in some smaller other stuff in between, maybe work on those highlights I keep putting off. Possibly, for giggles, a preview of Davidson.