Maui Roundup: Yesterday the Maui Invitational got underway with four less-than-stellar games. To start off with, Marquette struggled with Chaminade and their Division II All-American center, Marko Kolaric. Yet again, Marquette was out-rebounded 41-30 by a Division II team. I hesitate to think what the Big East will look like if they don’t get some inside help.
The second game was like seeing double; Oklahoma St beat LSU 83-77. Oklahoma State and LSU are the exact same basketball team: extremely athletic, with a glut of wing players, and not a competent point guard in sight. In fact, LSU had 17 turnovers in the first half, but clawed its way back into the game. Yes, LSU did not have injured Tasmin Mitchell, but the season looks grim for both these teams unless a point guard emerges.
The last two games hardly need to be mentioned at all. Duke blew out Princeton in a game that was 34-4 with 8 minutes to go in the first half. In the nightcap, the Illini downed Arizona State with Michael Jordan in attendance (his son, Jeffrey, is a freshman at Illinois), in large part due to a 20-0 run to start the game.
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CBE Invitational: Last night was also the semi-finals of the CBE invitational, pitting UCLA against Maryland, and Michigan State against Missouri. UCLA handled Maryland in an extremely sloppy game, but it is clear that they miss their point guard Darren Collison a lot. I’m trying not to buy into the hype about Kevin Love, but he certainly has nice post moves, and excellent awareness in the lane.
The second semi was much more exciting, although most of the country couldn’t see it. Here’s a big up yours to ESPN, who stuck us with the horrendous Duke Princeton game that was over in five minutes instead of the Michigan St-Missouri game which came down to the wire, with the Spartans pulling out an 86-83 win. Missouri is an extremely intriguing team under second-year coach Mike Anderson, and last night they proved that they can hang with the big boys.
Paradise Jam: Speaking of intriguing Big 12 teams, Baylor won the Paradise Jam with a 61-54 victory over Winthrop last night. Yes, you read that correctly, Baylor, who just four years ago was dealing with the murder of a player by a fellow player and the disgrace of coach Dave Bliss, is relevant again. Coach Scott Drew has brought in a stable of talented guards who were on display last night in a game that I was able to watch (thanks, Fox Sports Pacific!). Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn could play for any major program, and could lead Baylor into at-large consideration this year. Baylor, however, does not have a force inside, and could struggle in the Big 12, a league in which even the bad teams have good big men.
The consolation game was a match-up of two reeling BCS conference teams, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. Both came into the season with high expectations, and were humbled at the Paradise Jam. Georgia Tech pulled out a 70-69 win. There is still time for these teams to recover, but as of now, both need to play very well in the rest of their non-conference schedules.
Finally, lets give some love to Belmont, who went in to Alabama and finished what fellow-Atlantic Sun member Mercer couldn’t by beating the Crimson Tide 85-83 on a foul-line jumper by Justin Hare. Belmont has to be the early favorite to capture its second successive NCAA tournament berth in a league that looks a lot better today than it did in the preseason.