Blogpoll – Week 10

Posted by rtmsf on January 17th, 2008

Here’s this week’s version:

Blogpoll - Week 10

Note: keep in mind the blogpoll does not take into account Tues. and Wed. night games.

Justifying Our Ballot. Frankly, there’s not much we need to justify because we’re not too much at variance with the blogworld this week. We value Indiana a little more, and Pitt/Xavier a little less, but there’s nothing in our ballot that should raise an eyebrow this time around. The two teams we submitted that were left off the blogpoll this week were Oklahoma and Arizona. But we can live with their omissions. Glad to see Drake made the list at #23, but people really need to get Clemson outta here until they get a quality win on the road.

Variance. Georgetown (from #10 to NR) and Dayton (#8 to NR) again.

Conference Call.

  • ACC – 4
  • A10, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, Pac-10, SEC – 3 each
  • CUSA, Horizon, MVC – 1 each
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The Magic Eight Deconstructed

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2008

Today SI’s Grant Wahl published his annual January synopsis of the eight teams that he feels have sufficient chops to win the national title in April. He likes to point out that in the eight previous years of doing this article, he’s been correct in seven of them (the one miss: 2003 with Syracuse). FYI, here is a spreadsheet of his Magic Eight picks for each year since its inception. Looking at the document with the caveat that we generally like Wahl’s work, in the last eight years the only true “gotcha!” champion was that Cuse team, which raises the question of just how difficult it is to pick eight top-tier teams in the hopes that one of the group cuts the nets down.

The short answer is not very. Had Wahl simply chosen the top eight teams in the AP poll for the correlating January week, he would have nailed six of the eight champions during this period. The only other team he would have missed (besides 2003 Syracuse) would have been 2000 Michigan State, and Wahl would be the first to tell you that the reason for MSU’s relatively low ranking at that point in the 2000 season was completely because of Mateen Cleaves’ foot injury that kept him out of the lineup until conference play. After all, MSU was the preseason #1 team in America that year.

Magic 8 Ball

What we think is considerably harder to do is to pick Final Four teams three months ahead of time. The truly elite teams (champions) almost always rise to the top, but with the knowledge that there will inevitably be upsets and great-looking in January will be off the map by March, we figure that if you can consistently pick half of the F4 that far ahead of time, then you’re probably doing something right. Well, it turns out that in the eight years of Wahl’s M8, he’s nailed sixteen of the thirty-two F4 teams for a success rate of exactly 50%. Using our AP ranking measurement mentioned above, he would have gotten fifteen right (47%) by sticking with the poll. So at least he’s beating the chalk.

Which brings us to our analysis of his M8 teams for this season. Here are his eight selections:

  • Georgetown
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisville
  • Memphis
  • Tennessee
  • UCLA
  • Xavier

Perhaps getting a bit full of his record (or taking a huge gamble in an attempt to look really smart on April 7), this year’s selections omitted the UNC Tar Heels, who are currently 17-0 and the #1 team in both major media polls (#2 in the blogpoll). We can’t figure this one out.

Grant Wahl

Grant, what are you thinking?

Does Wahl really believe that Xavier (or Dayton, as he claims he almost chose) has a better chance of cutting down the nets than UNC? Is he willfully encouraging hordes of Carolina-blue hatemail upon his inbox? Is he simply trying to up his hit page stats ? We have no idea, but let’s see what his justification is for leaving off one of the four teams that has shown itself to be head & shoulders above the rest of the country this year, and quite possibly a juggernaut.

Carolina just doesn’t defend as well as the other three.

That’s it? While he’s right (they don’t), there is still time for significant improvement on that measure, and it’s not like they’re piss-poor (#31 nationally as of today). But more importantly, the Heels also are one of the very best offensive teams in the country, and that alone should indicate they’re worth a look as one of the eight teams most likely to win the national championship. We just don’t understand his reasoning here. If you don’t think they’ll win it all, that’s fine; but to make a claim that they’re not one of the eight most likely to do so… that’s just criminal. Moving on…

As for his 2008 selections, no Wazzu, no Michigan St., no Duke and no Texas A&M is fine – each of those teams has a major flaw or two. Had we produced a M8, we would have definitely taken UNC over Xavier and probably replaced Tennessee with Michigan St. We may have also left Louisville off because we don’t know where their outside shooting is coming from and who will be injured next, but we’re not sure who we think is a marginally better choice, so we’d probably end up leaving them. But really, no major beefs other than the UNC omission.

FWIW, since it’d be fairly disingenuous to rip Wahl’s picks without providing our own for review, we’re sticking with the F4 selections we made for STF at the beginning of the season – UNC, Indiana, UCLA, Gonzaga. The only one we’re currently nervous about is Gonzaga, simply because they haven’t taken off with the return of Josh Heytvelt like we thought they would. There’s still time, though.

Update:  we sent this link to Wahl, and he responded in an email that he thought we had mischaracterized his article in the sense that he never claimed to be picking the eight teams most likely to win the national championship.  He said that if that were the case, UNC would have been #4 on his list; however, his intent was to eliminate one of the “Big Four,” so as to make things interesting and avoid the appearance of playing it safe.  We thought the intent of the M8 was to create a pool of teams from which he “guarantees” the champ will come – if that’s the case, we still don’t really understand the UNC omission.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten.

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2008

When we started this post, we were thinking that the Big 10 was one of the better leagues.  What we were smoking?  Here’s our midseason check-in on our midwestern friends:

Big 10 Midseason Check-In

F4 CaliberIndiana and Michigan St. are the only two possibilities, and we believe that Indiana is the more likely of the two based on their unmatched inside/outside tandem of DJ White and Eric Gordon. 

Most Likely to Collapse.  Purdue.  It’s not that we think the Boilers are a bad team disguised with a solid record, it’s just that they’re so incredibly young and the Big Ten death matches can take a toll on anyone. 

Most Likely to Rise.  Illinois?  Surely they’re not this bad – we know Bruce Weber can coach a little bit, even if he can’t recruit his way out of a paper bag.  0-4 in the Big Ten is fairly pathetic. 

Biggest Disappointment.  Michigan.  Expectations weren’t high for John Beilein’s first year in Ann Arbor, but this team is a complete disaster.  When your best win after sixteen games is versus Brown, you have to be disappointed. 

Biggest Surprise.  Minnesota.  The Gophers won all of nine games last year, and with largely the same roster, they’re already 12-3.  Having found the right environment for his coaching style, he’s well on his way to another successful first season at a new job. 

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Sign Up Now!

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2008

CBS was advertising last weekend for its annual March Madness on Demand (MMOD) service, which is now available for sign-up.  According to their site, it’s worthwhile to get a VIP pass now (some 61 days from Selection Sunday) because the passes are limited.   Was it last year that their servers were overloaded with the throngs of fans who woke up on the Monday morning prior to the Tourney and realized they’ll have to work on Thurs/Fri again this year?  This is the message you get after signing up:


<!– Click here to view highlights from some of the most memorable NCAA March Madness games of all time.–>

Bookmark This Page — Return to this page to launch the video player. Check back with us in early March, when you’ll be able to watch past NCAA Championship highlights before the live games begin on March 20, 2008.

As a VIP member you will have access to the live games much faster on game day. Plus, you will have access to on-demand highlights, buzzer beaters and detailed recaps all at your fingertips.

MMOD logo 

So there you have it.  Now you too can contribute to the incredible $3.8B corporate timesuck known as March Madness.  Or not.  Us, we’ll be in Vegas anyway, contributing to their local economy in other ways.

(h/t to our buddy N-Bug for the find)

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ATB: Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2008

ATB v.4

Recap. Interesting weekend of games. We went into the weekend with five unbeatens, and we came out of it with only three as Vandy lost at Kentucky and Wazzu lost at UCLA. That leaves #1 Memphis, #2 UNC, and #3 Kansas as the only remaining unblemished teams. #4 UCLA at 16-1 is undoubtedly the best team of the one-loss group, which brings us to a midseason conclusion that these four teams have laid stakes as the top tier of college basketball this year. After these four teams, there is a fairly significant dropoff in talent, experience and depth. Which, of course, isn’t to say that these four are locks to make the F4 – teams sometimes stop improving, get lethargic and/or simply lose focus by March Madness. But out of the above group, we’d be absolutely and positively shocked if one of them doesn’t cut the nets down on April 7.

Where is GameDay? One other note from Saturday night. Kansas at Nebraska was the featured ESPN Gameday matchup, but for the second consecutive weekend, we noticed that the crew was offsite. Does this mean that ESPN is no longer doing live broadcasts from the schools? If so, that really sucks and is stupid and we hate ESPN and hope it dies. Seriously, though, last year, some of those sites were utterly insane before the games, and that was half of the fun. What’s the problem? (note: if they’re onsite beginning this week, we’ll issue an apology)

Saturday’s Games. Saturday was absolutely packed with games, and for the first time all season, we felt like playtime was over, and it was time for teams to get down to some real business of winning a conference. Here were some highlighted games, and our take:

  • Florida 72, Auburn 56. We don’t think the Baby Gators are all that good yet, but we have to give credit to Billy D. for scheduling soft this year and giving his young guys some momentum going into conference play. 8-8 might get this team to the NCAAs, and they’re already 2-0 in the SEC.
  • #2 UNC 93, NC State 62. 43-13 at the half? And NC State was supposed to compete for an ACC title this year??? Pfshaw…
  • Depaul 60, St. John’s 54. The Blue Demons are now 3-1 in the Big East and appear to be clicking.
  • Kentucky 79, #17 Vanderbilt 73 (2OT). This was a must-win for UK, but Vandy has to be kicking itself for dropping another winnable one at Rupp.
  • Missouri 97, #16 Texas 84. Mizzou is going to be tough at home. Damion James with 27/16 in a losing effort.
  • #10 Georgetown 72, Connecticut 69. Everyone has seen the Roy Hibbert game-winning 3 by now, but how smooth was that shot?
  • Minnesota 76, Penn St. 73. The UK message boards continue to implode.
  • Virginia Tech 67, Maryland 66. The Terps (0-2) are digging themselves a huge hole.
  • #14 Marquette 92, Notre Dame 66. Um, forget what we were saying about ND the other day… carry on… nothing to see here…
  • Columbia 64, NJIT 52. 0-18 now for the NJITers. 11 games to infamy.
  • #4 UCLA 81, #4 Washington St. 74. We’re not sure which was more impressive – the UCLA clobbering in the first half, or Wazzu’s comeback in the late second half.
  • Boston College 112, Wake Forest 73. Where did this come from???
  • Purdue 75, Ohio St. 68. This one surprised us a little, considering how well OSU has been playing.
  • Kansas St. 84, Oklahoma 82. A solid road win for KSU – Beastley with 32/11.
  • USC 66, Washington 51. The battle between teams with great talent but not much in the way of coaching.
  • Clemson 97, Florida St. 85 (2OT). Clemson was just this close to losing another home game… perhaps the collapse has been averted (for now)?
  • Indiana St. 64, S. Illinois 62 (2OT). What has happened to the Salukis (7-9) this year?
  • #14 Dayton 68, St. Louis 57 (OT). SLU took Dayton to OT, but only scored 2 pts in that extra period.
  • #1 Memphis 68, Marshall 45. The only question is how complacent will the Tigers get?
  • #7 Tennessee 80, South Carolina 56. Vols roll on…
  • Drake 65, Missouri St. 54. The Drake (14-1) is a new name to watch in the MVC.
  • Iowa 43, #6 Michigan St. 36. How does a top 10 team lose like this? 36 pts is pathetic with all their talent.
  • #3 Kansas 79, Nebraska 58. Methodical and effective. Why wasn’t the GameDay crew in Lincoln again?

Sunday’s Games.

  • Louisville 64, Rutgers 49. UL continues to get back on track…
  • #18 Rhode Island 80, Duquesne 78. URI’s Will Daniels with 28/11.
  • West Virginia 81, Syracuse 61. The Big East is gonna be tough to figure this year.
  • #8 Indiana 62, Illinois 58. Does anyone get less press than DJ White (15/10)?
  • Oregon 71, Stanford 66. The Ducks just don’t lose at home.
  • #8 Duke 87, Virginia 65. UVa looked like it couldn’t even dribble the ball most of this game.

Update: turns out the GameDay show will begin on-site this coming weekend – boy, that Creighton-SIU matchup sure looks the stinker now, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t college hoops make weekly decisions on where to go, like football does???

January 19 Kentucky at Florida
January 26 Creighton at Southern Illinois
February 2 Arizona at UCLA
February 9 Georgetown at Louisville
February 16 Michigan State at Indiana
February 23 Tennessee at Memphis
March 1 Kansas State at Kansas
March 8 North Carolina at Duke

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Liveblogging: UCLA v. Washington St.

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2008

Ok, so this is our first attempt at liveblogging a game, so bear with us if it sucks (or if the game sucks). But it’s worth a shot, so here goes…

10 mins pregame: early scores indicate UNC throttled NC State, Xavier dropped Fordham easily, Florida defeated Auburn, and the suddenly resurgent Depaul Blue Demons beat St. Johns in NYC to go 3-1 in the Big East. Oh, and Kentucky is up ten in the first half against undefeated Vandy (thanks CBS for showing me this worthless Oklahoma St.-Texas Tech game instead).

5 mins pregame: just switched over to FSN to find that the Nebraska-Kansas women’s game still has two minutes left. Thank God this game isn’t going to OT, but STOP FOULING!!

2 mins pregame: this UConn-Georgetown game has the feel of being a good game so far – Hoyas up 1 mid-first half…

1 min pregame: ok good the women’s game is over…

2:30pm: Marques Johnson is the color guy, that’s a good thing. He played at UCLA, right? Frankly, the crowd seemed a little quiet, but maybe they’re not all there yet. After all, it is 11:30am in LA.

2:33pm: UK’s up ten at the half. Vandy did this last week against UMass, but that was at home. Still, we don’t expect that score to hold the entire game. Vandy will hit some 3s and close the gap.

2:34pm: Wow, only the sixth time the Pac-10 has had a Top 5 matchup – wanna bet how many of them involved the Bruins?

2:35pm: Gametime spread is UCLA (-6) – don’t think I’d take that many points this year.

19:22: Collison already shows his worth with a steal on Wazzu’s first possession, then turns it right back over…

18:04: has anyone figured out Kevin Love’s wannabe Justin Timberlake beard thing yet?

16:06: predictably ugly so far, but moreso for Wazzu. Derrick Low is getting penetration, but can’t finish inside. Some particularly poor passing from Wazzu as well – 4 TOs so far. Man, Russell Westbrook can get up…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Big East.

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

Wow, the Big East really has too many freakin teams… anyway, below is our midseason check-in on that bloated league.

Big East Midseason Check In

F4 Caliber. While the Big East appears to have a lot of solid teams, we don’t really see a bunch of contenders for the F4 this year. Georgetown must top the list, but we still have questions about how the Hoyas are planning on replacing the skill and clutchness of Jeff Green. Next in line would probably be Pittsburgh, but they always seem like a Sweet 16 team to us. Same for Marquette – we just can’t see them making that kind of a run this year. Louisville was supposed to be a contender, but unless the Cards figure out a) how to stay healthy; and b) how to get Edgar Sosa to come out of his shell, we don’t see them making much noise either. That leaves Syracuse as the only other team with enough talent to make a run, and we’ll leave them as the wildcard, because you never know how a young dynamic team is going to react to conference play.

Most Likely to Collapse. Connecticut. We’re going with the Huskies here. We thought about WVU, but they’ve beaten everyone they were supposed to and lost to only good teams. UConn just doesn’t have that same solid guardplay that we’ve come to expect from them over the years, and their mental toughness appears tenuous. A couple of bad losses and this season could unwind quickly for Jim Calhoun.

Most Likely to Rise. Notre Dame. On the flip side, speaking of mental toughness, we really like what the Irish are putting on the court this year. We think they could end up in the top three of the league.

Biggest Surprise. West Virginia. This team was supposed to suck, but Huggins has them playing defense and defending home court with his usual rough-and-tumble style. At this point, even an 8-8 Big East slate probably gets them an at-large bid.

Biggest Disappointment. Louisville. Rick Pitino has been back in the Bluegrass for seven years now, and it’s easy to see that he’s simply not the same coach that he once was. Despite consistently recruiting well, he’s only had one excellent team there during his tenure, the 2005 team that went to the Final Four. This year appeared on paper to be another breakthrough year for the Cards, but we’re having trouble seeing consistency (and health) out of Palacios and Padgett on the interior, and Terrence Williams has also been up and down. That’s without mentioning the Waldo act that Edgar Sosa has pulled this year.


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Wazzu @ UCLA Preview

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

#4 Washington St. @ #4 UCLA preview.   Ok, let’s get this out of the way immediately.  Wazzu is 1-49 all-time at Pauley Pavilion.  What else do we know?  We know that the last four games at UCLA have come down to the last possession of the game (UCLA won all four by 3/3/2/3 pts).  We know that both of these teams play old man ball (each has a tempo hovering near the bottom of D1), but they also play stifling defense (Pomeroy has UCLA as the fifth best D and Wazzu as the eighth) and don’t make many mistakes (each is in the top thirty most efficient teams on both ends of the court).  We know that both teams play a high-caliber basketball and do not suffer fools lightly (poorly coached teams simply stand no chance against these two).  We know that Tony Bennett and Ben Howland are both tremendous motivators and tacticians.  We know that Wazzu has been criticized for a soft nonconference schedule (#304 – Pomeroy) to get to their 14-0 mark but we also know that winning at Washington and USC are no cupcakes, and UCLA already lost once this year at Pauley to Texas.  And we know that the old-school game of Kevin Love (16/10) and how Wazzu handles him with Aron Baynes (12/7) and Robbie Cowgill (8/5) will probably be the deciding factor in what will likely be another very close matchup tomorrow.   

Fwiw, Pomeroy is only giving Wazzu a 24% chance of winning the game, gives them a 30% chance and Sagarin has the Bruins as a seven-point favorite. 

Let’s see what’s coming out of both camps today – it appears that both sides are expecting an all-out war:

From UCLA:

Well we are going to need lot more of Love, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Shipp and AA2 on Saturday when taking on the Cougars. Howland described what Saturday is going to be like to Dohn:

“It will be like getting a root canal without any pain killers,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Playing them is going through the grinder. It is unbelievably hard because of how patient they are offensively, and how they just wait for a breakdown.”

Hopefully Luc and DC will be ready to go on Saturday. And if one of them can’t or they are not 100 percent, rest of their team-mates will have to step up through the adversity. It is going to be another all out war. And judging from the past we know our warriors will battle through the adversity and give it everything they have.

From Wazzu:

If there’s one thing to worry about heading into Saturday, it’s this: Low, Rochestie and Weaver each played 37 minutes or more, including 38 high-effort minutes for Weaver, who had the unenviable task of chasing O.J. Mayo around for most of the game. He’ll likely draw Josh Shipp on Saturday, who doesn’t figure to run off 32 screens the way Mayo did.

One key factor could be the availability of UCLA uber-guard Darren Collison.  According to Bruins Nation blog:

“Right now, my hip hurts a lot,” Collison said. “I’m going to be doing treatment (today) and I don’t really know the status of how things are, if I’m even going to play or not. Hopefully, I can play Saturday. Right now, they’re looking at it as a hip contusion.”

“I am frustrated, but I’m going to continue to stay positive,” Collison said. “This team has a bright future ahead, and all I can do is keep my head up and stay positive. I’m going through a lot of adversity right now. It’s going to really challenge me to see how I’m going to progress and mature through those situations.”

If Collison can’t go, Russell Westbrook is a more than adequate replacement at the point.  But knowing Howland players’ penchant for toughness, we’d expect to see DC out there tomorrow afternoon.  At least we hope so.  Should Wazzu pull the upset, we’d like to know that it happened with a full-strength UCLA.  Not that we’re calling the upset.  Just sayin’… 

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ATB: Pac-10 Showdown Set

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

ATB v.4

Recap. The most important thing that happened last night was centered in the City of Angels. On one side of town, #4 UCLA handily took care of business against Washington 69-55, while across town #4 Wazzu kept its unbeaten season alive against USC with little problem 73-58. This sets up the first big matchup of the conference season – UCLA v. Washington St. tomorrow at 2:30pm EDT at Pauley Pavilion. In a normal year, this could have been a #1/#2 matchup, but as we talked about earlier this week, the upsets among the elite have been sparse. Looking at the conference representations in the blogpoll, however, this game and its counterpart in February may be our only chance at top five matchups for the remainder of the season, so let’s enjoy it. Given the enormity of this game, we’ve put together a separate preview which will be posted later today.

Other Games Last Night.

  • Louisville 63, West Virginia 54. The Cards appear to be getting healthy, and that’s not good news for the rest of the Big East. Earl Clark 11/12 off the bench.
  • George Washington 49, St. Louis 20. See post here.
  • Oregon 79, California 70. Just bank it – pick Oregon at home every time, and pick against Cal on the road every time.
  • Arkansas 76, Auburn 70. Our boy Frank Tolbert had 17/9 in the loss.
  • Stanford 66, Oregon St. 46. Lopez boys with 20/13 combined.
  • #19 Wisconsin 70, Illinois 60. Illinois fans have said this year was coming due to Weber’s recruiting (8-8, 0-3 B10).
  • #12 Butler 74, Wisconsin-Green Bay 65. BU’s Matt Howard with 22/9/2 blks.
  • San Jose St. 62, Nevada 60. Mark Fox’s team is running out of time to get it together (8-6, 0-1 WAC).

Friday Night. Nothing much going on. Let’s move on to Saturday…

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Twenty Points?

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

What the hell is going on out there in the nation’s midsection? Just three short days after Savannah St. laid a second-half egg against Kansas St. to the tune of four pts in the second half (25 total for the game), Rick Majerus’ St. Louis squad put up a blistering twenty points last night in its game against George Washington. This total of sixty-nine points (49-20) set a new record for offensive futility in the shot-clock era of D1 basketball. Let’s take a quick look at the Billikens’ stats:

  • 14.6% shooting (7-48 from the field)
  • 5.3% 3FG shooting (1-19)
  • 50% FT shooting (5-10)
  • 0.35 pts per possession
  • leading scorer (Bryce Husak) came off the bench for 5 pts
  • SLU missed 23 straight shots at one point in the game

Majerus and Biliken

Hey, Coach, do you think you have some offensive issues?

“I thought GW played tough on defense. We had some issues. You have to credit GW for playing very well. We have some issues in terms of our offensive proficiency,” Majerus said. “I tried to keep coaching the game. Sometimes you miss. We are a team that has some issues. That is why we are practicing [Friday]. We did miss some good shots, yes. Anyone can look at us and see we don’t have height, we don’t have depth.”

What gets us is that St. Louis really isn’t that bad of a team. Their record is 9-6 with a win over Southern Illinois to their credit, and their RPI ranking is #144, which puts the Billikens in the range of Maryland and Oklahoma St. Still, their offensive output is troubling in their six losses – 58, 56, 40, 39, 53, 20. We realize their tempo this year is among the slowest in the nation (#336), but clearly something isn’t being communicated well between Majerus and his players. SLU was 20-13 last season and returned four starters, so what’s up? [insert joke here about Majerus spending more time eating than coaching]

Update: our blogpolling colleagues Vegas Watch and Super, Scintilliating & Sarcastic beat us to the punch on this last night, and have better takes than us. Enjoy.

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