Ah, Thanksgiving weekend, a time for food, family, friends, football and
corny alliterations college basketball. Yours truly has the privilege of being on site to cover the Old Spice Classic, an eight-team tournament at the HP Field House located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL.
Day 1 thoughts:
No. 5 Oklahoma State 97, Purdue 87
As has been the case many times already this season, the NCAA’s new foul rules ruined what should have been an excellent game between two talented teams. The zebras called a staggering 60 fouls in the game which led to a ridiculous 74 free throw attempts.
Super sophomore Marcus Smart dropped 24 points in the first half for the Cowboys and finished with 30. Purdue valiantly fought back in the second half and trimmed Oklahoma State’s lead to four late after trailing by 23 at the break, mostly thanks to huge contributions from some of the team’s younger players. But again, sadly the story in this one was the piss-poor officiating which made the game unbearable to watch.
Butler 76, Washington State 69
The Bulldogs’ Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall both set career-highs with 32 points and 30 points respectively. The Cougars were 0-of-10 from behind the three-point line in the first half but shot the ball much better in the second half to keep the game close until the final minute. A Dunham fade-away three with 54 seconds left sealed their fate.
Butler lacks depth this year, especially in the front court, but their starting five is solid and they bring two to three decent guards off the bench, including Mike Brown’s son, Elijah, who is a freshman with definite upside. The Bulldogs’ bigs off the bench could best be described as YMCA hoopers who can make hustle plays but not much else.
Washington State has a talented sharpshooter in junior guard DaVonte Lacy, but overall the Cougars look poorly-coached and undisciplined. When the Cougars needed a quick foul late, they inexplicably let Butler kill six to seven seconds off the game clock and then decided to foul Dunham, one of the best free throw shooters in the country.
No. 21 Memphis 87, Siena 60
Dan Dakich made quite a prediction in the ESPN studio just before this game tipped off. He picked Siena – an 18-point underdog – to upset the Tigers, citing Memphis’ inability to defend and rebound as reasons for his ballsy pick. Well, to put it bluntly, he was very, very wrong.
Memphis actually did get out-rebounded by Siena 41 to 47, but Memphis’ dominant interior defense and constant full-court pressure completely stifled the Saints. Twelve steals and 11 blocks later, the usually-knowledgeable Dakich was forced to eat some serious crow in regard to the Tigers’ defense. Siena simply had no answers for the length and athleticism of Memphis. The Tigers have an amazing young core that will only get better as the season progresses.
LSU 82, St. Joseph’s 65
Led by senior guard Andre Stringer’s 18 points, LSU rolled past St. Joseph’s thanks to a balanced attack that saw six Tigers players score at least eight points, including four starters in double figures.
The Hawks like to operate at a much faster pace this season than they have in recent years, which was emphasized by coach Phil Martelli all offseason. Coming into the game, the Hawks hadn’t scored fewer than 74 points in a game yet this season.
Unfortunately for St. Joseph’s, LSU dictated the tempo and disrupted St. Joseph’s rhythm offensively. The Hawks shot a mediocre 45 percent from the field overall and a dismal 19 percent from long range.
LSU’s decisive win is even more impressive considering St. Joseph’s just went blow-for-blow with Creighton, a team many pundits hold in high regard. For the Hawks it was just a classic bad night at the office, and this team should still contend for the Atlantic 10 title.
Day 2 Semifinal predictions:
No. 5 Oklahoma State (6-0) vs. Butler (6-0) – 1:30 PM ET
Butler’s weaknesses could best be described as the “Double D’s”: defense and depth. The Bulldogs have no one who can guard Marcus Smart on the perimeter. Their only hope is to constantly send Kam Woods over to help on Smart when he attacks the paint. Markel Brown will prove equally as challenging.
The Cowboys have six players who average nine or more points per game, while the Bulldogs have three. Butler just doesn’t have the horses to run with Oklahoma State’s thoroughbreds, so the Cowboys winning and covering a nine to 11-point spread seems likely. The over/under will likely be in the low 150s and will be a sharp number to stay away from.
Prediction: Take the favorite to cover.
No. 21 Memphis (3-1) vs. LSU (4-1) – 5:30 PM ET
This game should be a frenetic-paced shootout. Memphis has the more talented roster and will probably open as a six to eight-point favorite and could easily win the game outright, but taking LSU plus the points makes a ton of sense given their edge in experience and current form. LSU is also an elite rebounding team, which, as Dan Dakich pointed out, is Memphis’ most glaring weakness.
But nothing is more appealing in this game than taking the over. The over/under will probably be in the mid to upper 160s, which seems absurdly high, but these two teams cruising into the upper 170s is not far-fetched at all.
Prediction: Take the dog to cover and the over.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @konundrum8