UCLA and Mississippi State May Not Recover After Meltdowns To Mid-Majors
Losing an early non-conference game against a mid-major can be an early death sentence for some teams, but for others it can just be a blip on a radar soon forgotten.
Kentucky's recent disasters under Billy Gillispie are the easiest examples to point out as ways an early-season upset can derail a season.
In each of the past two seasons, the Wildcats went down early against Gardner-Webb in 2007 and Virginia Military Institute in 2008.
The SEC also suffered several other significant upsets when Mercer knocked off not one, but two SEC West teams, Auburn and Alabama.
Neither recovered, and the Tigers may have been a mere one game away from making the NCAA Tournament. That loss to Mercer have doomed Auburn to the NIT.
But some teams can recover. The well coached, talented squads built for success can put a loss behind them and make a run in March.
Michigan State lost an exhibition game against Division II Grand Valley State, but eventually went on to the Sweet 16.
In 2005, when North Carolina won the national championship, the Tar Heels opened the season with a shocking loss to Santa Clara.
Georgetown made the Final Four in 2007 after losing to Old Dominion during the Hoyas' first handful of games.
Even last year, Washington reached the round of 32 after losing to Portland in its opener and Louisville became one of the most dominant teams in the nation after going down to Western Kentucky.
With all that said, there are several quality teams that have already suffered bad losses. Some should rebound, others not quite.
In the first week, Syracuse went down to Le Moyne in an exhibition game, Oregon State to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Mississippi State to Rider, Alabama to Cornell, and UCLA to Cal-State Fullerton.
What went wrong : The Orange almost never plays man-to-man defense. Against Le Moyne, the 'Cuse showed why. The Dolphins went off in the second half to come back and knock off their crosstown rivals.
Why things will go right: In the first two games of the season, Syracuse has looked as good defensively as the Orange has since the 'Cuse won the National Title in 2003. The length of this team from point guard to center and everyone off the bench should give the Orange one of the best defenses in the country if Jim Boeheim's squad continues to hustle and rebound.
Why things will go wrong: Syracuse doesn't have an established go-to guy yet and Wesley Johnson might be the Orange's only player that can efficiently create his own shot. Point guard play with freshman Brandon Triche may also prove to be an issue.
The verdict: Syracuse is good enough to do what Michigan State did when the Spartans lost an exhibition game and that's go to the Sweet 16. But a first-round exit or trip to the round of 32 is a better bet.
What went wrong: Oregon State simply couldn't score. A splendid .63 points per possession won't be too many teams no matter how low-profile they are. Center Roland Schaftenaar battled foul trouble early and only played 19 minutes.
Why things will go right: The Pac-10 isn't very good so the Beavers can come into their own in conference play. OSU has started slow under Craig Robinson almost every year, but last year the Beavers were able to recover fairly well.
Why things will go wrong: Oregon State didn't lose to just Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but also lost to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders aren't supposed to be very good so that loss doesn't bode well for the Beavers either. OSU will likely struggle all season to score as well.
The verdict: The Beavers have the look of a sleeper, but after losing twice already it doesn't look good for Craig Robinson's team. A trip to the NCAA Tournament originally looked feasible, but that goal is quickly become distant.
What went wrong: The Bulldogs have one of the best defensive front lines in the country, but it didn't matter as Rider had little trouble attacking the MSU defense from the three-point arc. Mississippi State also struggled to score down the stretch.
Why things will go right: Jarvis Varnado is the best eraser in the game and if Renardo Sidney receives clearance, Mississippi State is going to be almost impossible to score on around the basket. The Bulldogs should have one of the best two-point field goal defense in the country.
Why things will go wrong: Mississippi State was mediocre last season on the offensive end and should only improve marginally this year. When teams score against them on the perimeter, MSU might not have the firepower to answer back.
The verdict: Mississippi State should still be good for NCAA Tournament and should still be considered the favorite in the SEC West if Renardo Sidney is eligible. How far MSU can go? Well that's debatable--anything from a first round exit to a Sweet 16 is definitely possible.
What went wrong: The Tide just couldn't stop Cornell. Anthony Grant's team couldn't guard the perimeter which is Cornell's bread and butter. Alabama wasn't able to muster up enough offense after letting the Big Red go off from three-point land to start the second half.
Why things will go right: Well there isn't much hope in Tuscaloosa, but the hope that is there comes from former highly touted recruit JaMychal Green. In his sophomore season if he can consistently replicate his double-double from the open, Alabama has a shot to win a decent number of games.
Why things won't go right: Alabama simply doesn't have enough talent to compete in even a weak SEC West. There's question marks abound with this roster in Anthony Grant's first year.
The verdict: Alabama is good enough to go the NIT and that's all anyone realistically expected of this team. Even with the loss to Cornell, the Crimson Tide are likely still good enough to play postseason ball.
What went wrong: Injuries, injuries, injuries have UCLA completely out of whack. The offense looked completely dysfunctional and no one on this Bruins' squad looked comfortable knocking down shots from deep.
Why things will go right: Two consecutive strong recruiting classes give Ben Howland a ton of talent. If his roster gets healthy, Howland is a great coach that should get his players to gel eventually.
Why things will go wrong: This team is nowhere close to being as good as last year's round of 32 team. The Bruins don't have an established go-to guy and not enough shooters or creators to stop teams from zoning them out.
The verdict: If UCLA goes dancing it will be a product of the Pac-10 being pretty awful this season. The Bruins might win 10 or 11 conference games, but that likely won't be good enough to make the tournament.
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