What a strange tournament that was. The Advocare Invitational didn’t shake out the way anyone, or at least the two of us, predicted. Since I didn’t have the opportunity to watch any of the games live (thanks, Nicaragua) box scores and recaps will have to do.
Let’s Just Ignore What Happened Last
Let’s tackle this in order. After winning a quality neutral court game against an Iowa team that will at least be in tournament discussion UD was robbed of another strength of schedule-helping game when Notre Dame managed to cough up a hairball against Monmouth. I’ll leave it to Nate to vent about that loss properly but…woof. Then whatever happened against Xavier happened. Losing by 29 is always a bad look but losing by 29 to Xavier is particularly infuriating. Still, there were some positives to be gleaned from this tournament as well as a few negatives.
- Welcome back, Kendall Pollard. He had a solid tournament scoring although it was a bit of a mixed bag. Over the three games he averaged 14.3 / 3.3 / 3.3 / 3. The first one is points, which is where he needs to be. The rest of them aren’t so good: rebounds / fouls / turnovers. Those numbers are far too low / far too high / unacceptable. I know I keep harping on this but if this team is going to hit its ceiling he has to play much better than he has so far this season.
- “Big” Steve McElvene remains a work in progress. He managed 4 points and 13 rebounds for the whole tournament, including a particularly putrid showing against Xavier with five fouls and zero points and just two rebounds in just six minutes. I’ll take a little credit for remaining skeptical about his ability to play with quality teams after a hot start to his UD career but I didn’t think the market correction would look that bad.
- While we’re talking about players who had rough tournaments: Darrell Davis. Sweet fancy Moses was he bad: 0-10 from 3, 6 total points. That’s obviously not going to work for the first guy off the bench.
- Lucky for Darrell, Kyle Davis picked up his scoring slack. He had an uncharacteristically productive offensive tournament scoring a huge 16 points against Iowa and 12 more against Monmouth before regressing like the rest of the team against Xavier. He also chipped in with 6 steals and 6 assists in 3 games. This will work.
- Saving the best for last, let’s keep talking about how good Scoochie Smith is getting. At the end of both the Iowa and Monmouth games, he controlled the action and took over the scoring (along with Cooke, who had a mediocre tournament) which they desperately need until Pierre comes back. His slash line was worthy of his First Team All-Tournament award: 14.3 ppg / 4.3 apg / 6.6 rpg (!) / 2.3 tpg. That TO number is a little higher than you’d want but he’s basically the team’s only ball handler at this point and playing over 33 minutes per game, so that’s a touch nitpicky. That 6.6 rpg number is bolded because of how odd it is, but if he wants to average 14/4/6 for the year I’m not going to be mad at him. He’s rocketing up my Favorite Flyer list.
Overall, a second place finish in this tournament is just fine and the Iowa win should counter the margin of the Xavier defeat for tournament purposes. The biggest two remaining items on the 2015 calendar are a game at current #16 Vanderbilt and a resolution to Pierre’s status for the A10 season.
Tournament Picks Recap and General Thoughts
Heading in to this tournament you could have made an argument that Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Iowa were the three best teams in the field. Kinda hard to do that now. After Xavier laid waste to the tournament field they are clearly the best team in this field at the moment. For those three teams, all of whom lost at least two games over the weekend, this tournament was a nightmare.
Wichita State has some truly awful injury troubles but couldn’t even manage one win against either USC (mediocre at best) or Alabama (they’re…not good) before getting their doors blown off by an Iowa team coming off of consecutive losses. This tournament will haunt their season.
Likewise, Notre Dame had a weekend they’d like to have back. Losing to Monmouth was stunning but, honestly, the Alabama loss is more troubling. After beating Iowa in the first consolation game, Notre Dame had themselves nicely positioned to salvage something from the weekend before losing to an Alabama team that lost horribly against the other two good (and healthy) teams they have played: Dayton (by 32) and Xavier (by 19). I was a little skeptical about Notre Dame after their early cream puff schedule. Now we’ll get to see how they respond to adversity.
Iowa had the most forgivable weekend of these three as losing to Dayton and Notre Dame isn’t too horrible. Still, if they can’t beat either of those two teams the B1G might eat them alive.
Given all of these upsets and the fact that I didn’t know Van Vleet was hurt until I was already out of the country, I don’t think my picks were too terrible. In fact, I would have picked Xavier-Dayton in the final had I known, so at least I can take solace in that. Otherwise, these three teams having terrible weekends made my picks look pretty silly. Hey, at least I got UD finishing second correct.