Brumby's Daily Column: November 22, 2005

Brumby looks at some of the news articles that are revolving around college athletics for the day and provides some thoughts on them and the world of Illini sports.

Yesterday was a great day. I was able to sit in my apartment and watch basketball from 1:30 in the afternoon until about 1:00 in the morning non-stop. The only other time of the year that I can watch that much basketball non-stop without shame is during what should be a national holiday, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The combination of the great games in the Maui Invitational and the Guardians' Classic made it an ideal early season time for any college basketball fan.

Michigan State vs. Chaminade
The Spartans struggled against the Silver Swords early, and it looked like they might be ripe for an upset, but in the second half State realized they were playing a Division II team, and not Hawaii, and pulled away for a 22 point win. Chaminade had its chances to make Tom Izzo even whiter than he was at the end of the first half, but they turned the ball over on four straight possessions to end the half while Michigan State built up a 6-point lead heading into the half. In the second half, Michigan State just took the game over with their defense and superior talent. Michigan State's defense was still a little bit suspect (allowing just over one point per possession), but their offense executed on all cylinders, especially in the second half to overpower the Silver Swords.

The question heading into today's game is simple: Can Michigan State slow down the Gonzaga offense, and if they can't how many points will be scored on Tuesday?

Gonzaga vs. Maryland
This was a very fun game to watch between two very talented teams. The announcers were commenting that in the past Gonzaga has had problems staying with the more athletic teams in the power conferences, but that is definitely not the case this year as Gonzaga was able to stay with Maryland all game en route to an 8-point victory. Adam Morrison, despite his moustache, is Gonzaga's best player, and he is coming off a performance where he scored 25 and pulled down 9 rebounds against Maryland. Gonzaga's defense was a little bit better against Maryland than Michigan State's was against Chaminade, but they still allowed 0.99 points per possession on Monday afternoon. The reason Gonzaga was able to win the game by eight (which is does not signify how close the game really was), was their offense. The Gonzaga offense was hitting on all cylinders, and they were scoring 1.13 points per possession. Freshman Jeremy Pargo played a very good game for Gonzaga, and he showed that he will be an asset for Mark Few and his staff when they are playing your traditional high major powers because he will not back down from any one. The match up between Pargo and Michigan State's Neitzel may determine who wins the game between Michigan State and Gonzaga.

On Monday, the Big Ten went 5-0. After last year when the Big Ten was a much maligned conference, and righfully so, outside of Michigan State and Illinois, this year looks to be an up year for the conference. Hopefully the Big Ten can parlay some of the success the conference is having right now into their first victory into next week's Big Ten / ACC Challenge.

Kentucky vs. Iowa
The Iowa Hawkeyes upset the Kentucky Wildcats 67-63 in the semifinals of the Guardian's Classic, and they will take on No. 2 Texas in the Finals. Gregg Brunner continues to show that he is probably the best rebounder in the Big Ten as he led Iowa in both scoring and rebounding with 17 and 12, respectively. On a night when the Hawkeyes only shot 38% from the floor, they used their defense to defeat the Wildcats, and held them to 32% shooting and 0.86 points per possession. This is nothing new for Kentucky this year, as South Dakota State was able to slow down the Kentucky offense as well, despite their loss. If the Wildcats are going to make a run at either the SEC Championship or in the NCAA Tournament, they are going to need to improve on their offensive efficiency because right now it is no where near a championship level for any conference outside of the MEAC.

Wisconsin vs. Old Dominion
Wisconsin's 84-81 win over Old Dominion is more impressive than many fans are giving the Badgers credit for. By the time the game started, the Vegas line had moved from Wisconsin giving one point, to Wisconsin getting one point, so quite a few gamblers in Las Vegas liked Old Dominion's chances. Once again Wisconsin's offense carried the Badgers while their defense struggled. Neither team turned the basketball over much, and both shot a respectable percentage, but it was Wisconsin that was able to make the plays down the stretch to win the basketball game. I think the player from Wisconsin to keep an eye out for is freshman Marcus Landry as he had 11 points and 6 rebounds in just 17 minutes of play for Bo Ryan.

In the other two games around the Big Ten, Indiana dominated Florida A & M with a 100-63 win. The Hoosiers had five players in double figures including Marshall Strickland's team high 20 points. The Northwestern Wildcats defeated Florida Atlantic 69-59. In something I am pretty sure we will be seeing throughout the rest of the season, Vedran Vukusic led the Wildcats in scoring with 27 points.

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