And the Angels Shall Sing…

Posted by rtmsf on April 22nd, 2008

Several commentators are already all over this story, but we cannot simply sit by without giving our view on the NY Daily News blurb that Mr. Cash and Purveyor of All Things Hoops and Holy, Mr. William “Billy” Packer, might be on thin ice at CBS for his insistence that the national semifinal game between Kansas and UNC was “over” at the 7:32 mark in the first half.

Bill Raissman writes:

CBS is paying $6 billion for the right to air the tourney over the life of its contract with the NCAA. From a business perspective, telling viewers to turn off the TV is not a great idea, especially in a soft advertising market. Naming a “winner” with plenty of time left in a game does not sit well with corporations paying top dollar to advertise their products during the tournament. Some of these same companies will be asked to purchase time on next year’s tourney.

Photo Credit – Where’s He Get the Mask?

You might recall that we wrote last week that, from a purely statistical standpoint (h/t Bill James), Packer was egregiously wrong (the magic number of insurmountability was 44 at that point in the game); but from our own sensory perspective and the ultimate result of the game, he was absolutely correct.

Still, we find it beyond hilarious that a man who has based his entire career on unabashed vitriol, criticism, vituperation and downright nastiness could end up getting canned (or at least censured) for something like this. Should that happen, there will undoubtedly be a national day of celebration not unlike what we saw when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon – angels will sing, the dealers will bust and even the strippers will taste a little sweeter.

In summation, remember kiddies – all you young Packers out there with your mics and your viscous hatred – you cannot call a game over in the first half, but you can do this:

  • Call Allen Iverson a “tough monkey” on the air of the Georgetown-Villanova game in 1996.
  • Publicly disparage two Duke women checking press passes at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2000 by stating, “Since when do we let women control who gets into a men’s basketball game? Why don’t you go find a women’s game to let people into?” When asked if he was joking, Packer reported said, “No, that’s just the kind of guy I am.”
  • Tell Charlie Rose in an interview in 2007 that he always “fag[s] out,” as in promising to help but not following through.

All we can say is best of luck to Billy in his dealings with CBS brass, as we’d hate for him to have to revert to his Mr. Cash persona full-time. For poking fun at such a sinister figure, we’d normally be a little nervous that Packer might read this and hunt us down with his henchmen, but remember, the man famously doesn’t even own a computer. Whew.

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FIU Still an NBA Breeding Ground

Posted by rtmsf on April 21st, 2008

Spring is in the air, the F4 is well into our rearview mirror and we’re gearing up for nightly visits with Ernie, Chuck and The Jet on Inside the NBA (with occasional stop-ins from Magic, Reggie and several others, of course). This means it’s playoff time in the Association, which also means its time for RTC’s second annual review of the pedigree of the key contributors for all sixteen playoff teams. Yes, second annual. That’s the first time we’ve been able to say that and it feels invigorating.

Where Are All the Auburn Players, Chuck?

As the three of you who were around at the beginning of this blog may recall from last year’s post, we learned that 56% of key contributors on playoff teams went to a BCS conference school, another 18% came from other levels of college basketball, and 26% were foreign and/or never stepped foot on a college campus. We also learned that the historically best schools tend to produce the most contributing pros on playoff teams, as Duke, Kentucky, UConn, UNC and UCLA led the way with the most players last year. But that trend was bucked somewhat when one considers that teeny little Florida International University managed to produce two players who were key contributors to playoff teams, more than such notable programs as Syracuse, Louisville and Indiana.

So what about this year? For ease of analysis, we did what we always do – we created excel tables! Remember, all data only considers what we call key contributors – players who played in at least half of its team’s games and averaged over 10 minutes per game. For the starters data, we used the starting lineups as announced in the first game of each playoff series last weekend (therefore, Gilbert Arenas is not represented, having only played 13 games this year and coming off the bench in the first game of the playoffs). We ended up with 158 key contributors and 80 starters over sixteen teams.

Quick Hits:

  • Roughly the same number of key contributors on this year’s playoff teams (25%) never stepped foot on a college campus as compared to last year (26%). We expect that the foreign cohort will stay roughly the same (15%/16%) or even rise a little in the future, but with the NBA’s new one-and-done rule now in the second year of its implementation, the high school-only crowd (11%/14%) should continue to dwindle in the next five years.
  • Last year Duke, UConn and Kentucky each had six players contributing to playoff teams. This year, only UNC has as many as five contributors, all of whom are starters (R. Wallace, J. Stackhouse, M. Williams, A. Jamison, B. Haywood). There are five other schools with four contributors each, and seven schools with three each. After UNC’s five starters, only Duke (C. Boozer, G. Hill, S. Battier), UConn (R. Allen, C. Butler, R. Hamilton) and Wake Forest (T. Duncan, J. Howard, C. Paul) have as many as three starters in the playoffs this year (although we’d take Wake’s three over anybody else’s).
  • The cream rises, doesn’t it? Of the top 13 schools mentioned with three or more contributors this year, they account for 38 of the last 60 Final Four teams (63%) and 10 of the last 15 national champions (67%).
  • Which school doesn’t belong (again)? Thanks to Raja Bell and Carlos Arroyo, little Florida International once again made its name onto the list among all the heavyweights with two key contributors. FIU has more players contributing in the playoffs than the likes of hoops stalwarts Ohio St. (0), Louisville (0), and Indiana (0).

More Quick Hits:

  • Considering only the 118 players who went to college in some capacity, the six BCS conferences account for 69% of key contributors and 50% of playoff starters. This is a dropoff from last season (76%/77%), which shows some of the variability that goes into comparing different playoff teams in a year-over-year manner – four of the sixteen teams in this year’s NBA playoffs are different.
  • Take a look at the top three conferences above – the ACC, Pac-10 and SEC. They look roughly equivalent when comparing them by number of key contributors (17/15/15), but when you consider them by starters (13/3/8), you see a rift develop. It appears that all three leagues produce a lot of NBA talent (47 players), but the ACC appears the best in producing playoff-caliber starting talent. The SEC is solid at doing so, but the Pac-10 appears to excel in producing backups for good teams. By the same token, the Big East may not have as much NBA talent on good teams this year (only 11), but they tend to be starters (8).
  • The mid-major and low-major D1 conferences account for 29% of key contributors and 27% of starters this year, somewhat above last year’s totals (24%/13%). Speaking of mid-majors, take a look at the Atlantic 10 again – with 8 key contributors and 5 starters, this league arguably outdoes a certain midwestern conference with eleven members. Other than the A10, only the MAC and the Sun Belt are mid-majors with multiple starters in the playoffs this year.
  • Devean George (Augsburg College), Ben Wallace (Virginia Union) and Jamario Moon (Meridian (MS) Community College) represent the three non-D1 players who contribute for playoff teams.

Well, that’s all that jumped out at us in reviewing the key contributor and starter lists. If you see something else we missed, just put it in the comments. And if there’s a calculation you’d like to see, let us know and we can try to figure that out as well.

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NBA Playoffs – JV Conference Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2008

It seems like the general consensus among NBA analysts is that this will be Boston vs. Detroit in the conference finals unless Lebron goes off for an entire series. I’m hoping to provide a little more insight than that with a preview of each opening round series and brief predictions of what I think will happen for the rest of the conference playoffs. I won’t expound upon the later rounds in great detail as I’ll probably mess up my first round picks making the subsequent previews meaningless.

First Round
#1 Boston vs. #8 Atlanta: This series looks like the biggest mismatch in the 1st round. Boston won all 3 games this year including the last when they sat the starters for the 4th quarter and still managed to win handily despite the fact that Atlanta actually needed the game to help get them into the playoffs. I don’t think there is any question that Boston will win the series easily. The only question I have seen by any analysts will be whether the Hawks will manage to win a game (most analysts don’t think they will). The more interesting thing is the individual match-ups:

PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby: This will be our first good look at Rondo against a quality PG in a playoff series. While Bibby isn’t the same player he was back around 2000 when he was the only Sacramento King who would take (and hit) big shots against the Lakers. It seemed like Bibby was ready to become a star at that point, but he never did. Rondo should have his hands full in this match-up individually, but the Celtics overall advantage is so great that it should actually serve as a great introduction to the playoffs for Rondo. If he struggles, the Celtics should be able to overcome it that night and if necessary they can always rely on Sam Cassell for short periods of time.

SG: Ray Allen vs. Joe Johnson: This match-upprobably has the most star power with 2 All-Stars battling. Johnson, who started his career in Boston before being traded during his rookie season, could give Allen a hard time throughout this series. If Atlanta is going to win a game, Johnson will have to dominate Allen for a night (along with Bibby winning his match-up against Rondo/Cassell).

SF: Paul Pierce vs. Josh Smith: Pierce is certainly the better player in this match-up (he deserves consideration for one of the All-NBA teams), but Smith’s length and athleticism make this an interesting match-up. Smith may also have to help on KG, who will be killing Marvin Williams.

PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Marvin Williams: To be honest, I haven’t seen Williams play much since his days at UNC. He seems to be putting up decent numbers, but this is a really bad match-up for him against Garnett, a MVP candidate. KG’s team playoff troubles and inability to hit the big shot has been well-documented, but that won’t come into play this series.

C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Al Horford: This is probably the only match-up that Atlanta has a decided advantage in with Horford, who will likely finish 2nd to Kevin Durant in ROY voting. Even though he is still the weak link in the starting line-up, Perkins has evolved into a decent NBA center, which might say more about the level of NBA centers in the league than it does about Kendrick’s game. I’m interested to see how Horford’s game has changed since he left Gainesville.

-Prediction: Celtics in 4. None of the games will be close.

#2 Detroit vs. #7 Philadelphia: The veteran Pistons team should win this series pretty easily in 4 or 5 games. The Pistons match-up well against the Sixers 2 best players (Andre Miller versus Chauncey Billups and Andre Igoudala versus Tayshaun Prince). The only real question is how intense the Pistons will be as they have a tendency to take games off even in the playoffs.

-Prediction: Detroit in 5. Philadelphia has a surprisingly tough team, but Detroit is too good to blow this series especially since the Sixers don’t have a Lebron-type player to win the series by himself.

#3 Orlando vs. #6 Toronto: Although the NBA experts have been ripping the Eastern Conference first round match-ups, I have to say that this series and the Cleveland-Washington series could be very interesting. Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh are obviously the marquee stars here, but both teams have good players at the other positions. It will be interesting to see which of the other players (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon, and Rasho Nesterovic) in this series step up and make themselves household names (outside of basketball junkie circles).

-Prediction: Toronto in 6. In such a close series, I’m tempted to go with the home-court. However, in this case I’m going with the relative experience of the Raptors to win a couple of the close games and close out the series in Toronto.

#4 Cleveland vs. #5 Washington: It appears like this is the only first round series in the Eastern Conference that the mainstream media cares about. It seems like the media is focusing on the Wizards (DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas) calling out Lebron. However, there are a bunch of other interesting things about this series: (1) Can Washington finally beat Cleveland having lost to them the last 2 years in first round? (2) Can Agent Zero control his ego enough to play a supporting role? (3) Can Lebron win another series with a horrible supporting cast? Our answers: No. No. Yes.

Prediction: Cleveland in 7. I think that Washington is the better team, but Cleveland has Lebron. Ever since the Detroit series it appears that Lebron has decided to start taking over games (not counting the Finals last year that nobody watched). In the end, it will be Lebron (and David Stern’s refs) pushing the Cavs into the 2nd round.

I’ll make longer posts for the later rounds when the match-ups are set. For now, I’ll just stick with predictions.

Second Round
#1 Boston vs. #4 Cleveland: Celtics in 5.
#2 Detroit vs. #6 Toronto: Detroit in 6.

Conference Finals
#1 Boston vs. #2 Detroit: Celtics in 7.

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NBA Playoffs – Varsity Conference Preview

Posted by rtmsf on April 18th, 2008

What a crazy season out west this year. Much has already been written about it, but the mere fact that we came into the last two games of the year with six teams having a shot at the #1 seed is remarkable. And every Varsity Conference playoff team won fifty games for the first time since the playoffs expanded to eight teams from each conference. Think about that. The Golden State Warriors won 48 games (good enough for 4th in the east), and they finished two games OUT of the playoffs this year. Insane.

Since this year’s Varsity Conference playoff matchups are so juicy, delicious, wonderful and otherwise enchanting, we asked our buddy MO-Sack to draft a couple of these previews. Since he’s usually spot on with his picks and can sniff out a lock from a light year away, (“it’s a LOCK“), pay particular attention to his drops of wisdom.

#1 LA Lakers vs. #8 Denver (h/t MO-Sack)

Is Denver this year’s Golden State Warriors? The photo-finish for the eighth and final seed in the West represents all that is right about the Varsity Conference and all that is wrong about the JV. Both Denver and Golden State are playoff-caliber teams, or were until geography intervened against Golden State. But we give Denver a lot of credit for entering hostile Oracle arena on April 10 and dominating the home team throughout the entirety of the game. Denver earned it, and Baron Davis could learn much from AI’s ability to carouse late into the night and still perform at the highest level the following evening. In this respect, Baron’s no AI.

Overcoming Golden State was the first challenge, but what approaches is an almost impossible task. The Lakers are the best team in the Western Conference and have proved it all year, especially after stealing Pau Gasol from Memphis. Don’t believe the orgy of pejorative anti-Lakers blather currently spewing forth from ESPN; in our view, only San Antonio and Boston have a realistic chance of beating the Lakers.

Denver does not. The more difficult question is: how many games in the series will the Nuggets win? One? Two? Zero? Let’s just say that if the o/u on Denver wins against the Lakers in this series was 0.5, we’d take the under. This has nothing to do with Carmelo’s intoxication; he and Iverson will put up big numbers in this series, and AI could do so even with a hangover and one hand tied behind his back. Our reasoning focuses on the rest of the team: Denver lacks size underneath, Kenyon Martin is over-rated, Anthony Carter is Denver’s starting point-guard, and Marcus Camby takes as long to shoot the ball as it takes NASA to launch a shuttle into space. Initiate countdown now… in seven, six, five, four… Houston, we have lift-off into the next round. Lakers in 4.

Disclaimer: LA is a cesspool of narcissism, so please don’t confuse us with Lakers fans.

#2 New Orleans vs. #7 Dallas

Old vs. New. One of the better stories of the year has been the transcendent play of Chris Paul for the Hornets, who statistically had one of the best seasons by a point guard in the history of the league, leading NO to the third-best record (56-26) merely one year after finishing 39-43. This will be CP3’s first year of playoff basketball, however, and there are serious questions as to how the Hornets will handle their first taste in his regime, especially when playing as the favorites.

A story that hasn’t been discussed nearly as much this year has been the confounding drop of the Mavs from last year’s 67-15 record to monumental first-round losers and a subsequent 51-31 year. It’s apparent to us that the Mavs never really recovered from the embarrassing smackdown that the Warriors laid on them in last season’s playoffs, but this is still a very good team. Dirk Nowitzki has been playing lately like he did in his MVP year, and there is a surplus of playoff experience on this squad between J-Ho, Jason Terry, Stack and Kidd.

We think this will be a very competitive series, but Dallas tends to play better when the bullseye isn’t on their backs. We have no idea how New Orleans will respond to playoff intensity, although we’re certain that Paul will be superb. Still, the NBA playoffs come down to the equation talent+experience, and we actually believe that Dallas has New Orleans on both counts here, although their window is closing fast. Mavs in 6.

#3 San Antonio vs. #6 Phoenix

Champs Slipping? Believe it or not, but the Spurs were the #3 seed as well last year, when they pretty much steamrolled through the playoffs (with a little help from Stern’s suspensions) en route to their 4th title in the last 9 years. Still, we have a sense that people are sleeping on them a little bit this year (perhaps it has something to do with five of the six ESPN experts picking Phoenix). This first-round matchup doesn’t help. In fact, it’s probably the worst matchup that SA could face in the entire bracket of the Varsity Conference. Not only did Phoenix enjoy a 3-1 advantage in the season series, but the last two games (w/ Shaq in the lineup) were Suns blowouts. Then there’s that whole residual resentment that the Suns are surely feeling based on last year’s debacle with Nash’s bloody nose and the bench suspensions. So Phoenix is the obvoius pick, right?

Not necessarily. Like the Pats in the NFL, the Spurs are the boring team that people are sick of seeing win, but veterans like Duncan, Ginobili (Mr. Clutch) and Parker know that the regular season is just for staying healthy and treading water. When serious, there still is no more efficient team in the league (witness the thrashing Utah took on Wed. night when the Spurs could have lost home court in the first round). It’s true that the team is getting older and the role players (Horry, Barry, Vaughn) especially are showing their age, but they still have one weapon nobody else has, and he’s historically been pretty darn effective in April through June.

Tim Duncan has never lost in the first round of the playoffs – it won’t start this year. Spurs in 7.

#4 Utah vs. #5 Houston (h/t MO-Sack)

Sweet Jazz Tune or a Rocket Blast? Whatever happens in this series will not detract from the story of the year in the Association: the Rockets’ 22-game win streak during all of February and most of March. And remember, these were Varsity Conference teams that the Rockets were defeating, not their inferior JV counterparts.

But this is the playoffs. And in recent history, the playoffs have not been kind to Houston. At least this time they have home court advantage, and the best player on the court at any time in Tracy McGrady. And they would have had the two best players were it not for the loss of the big fella, Yao Ming. When the Rockets fall in this series, it won’t be because of McGrady. We expect great things from T-Mac – his superstar status is unquestionable – but his surrounding cast leaves us with some doubts. Can Shane “Mr. Ruffles” Battier continue to shine in the playoff spotlight? Is Skip 2 My Lou for real? Luis Scola is less consistent, but can Mutumbo shoulder the playoff load?

In the end it will be difficult for the Rockets to overcome that sweet Jazz tune. It’s hard enough beating those guys at sea level, but forget it at 4000 feet. Although Utah lacks home court advantage, they can and probably will beat Houston on the road. But Houston won’t beat Utah at home – their diminished lung capacity won’t allow it. Utah advances for the same reason that high-altitude Kenyan athletes dominate marathons, and because they have Jerry Sloan, one of the best coaches in the business. Jazz in 6.

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04.16.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2008

In case you missed it…

  • Presumptive top two pick Derrick Rose is declaring for the NBA draft.  No word on whether he’ll have to shoot free throws under pressure in workouts. 
  • Rose’s coach, John Calipari, has agreed in principle to a hefty extension at Memphis. 
  • And it won’t be difficult for Coach Cal to stay near the top of the polls with players like Tyreke Evans (the nation’s top unsigned player and McD’s Game MVP) coming on board next season.  Maybe he can make free throws? 
  • K-Love and Special Sauce is going league as well – he will announce on Thursday.  Still no word on his backcourt buddies Darren Collison or Russell Westbrook. 
  • Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo will take his high-wire act to the draft camps (where they will tell him he cannot shoot and to come back next year with a jumper).
  • UMass head coach Travis Ford will take the Oklahoma St. job, one week after telling UMass that he’s their guy for “years to come.”   Boone Pickens has his new houseboy! 
  • AP National COY Keno Davis is also leaving Drake for Providence, where the Friars need help (2 NCAAs in the last ten years).


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Best. Freshman. Ever.

Posted by rtmsf on April 15th, 2008

In the most surprising and disorienting news of the month, Kansas State’s freshman all-american and shoulda-been Player of the Year Michael Beasley has decided to further his game at the appropriate professional level, considering he singlehandedly kicked the living crap out of everyone in college-world for a few months. 

How good was this guy?  In 33 games, he had 28 double-doubles.  He had thirteen 30+ point games, seven 15+ rebound games, and four 30/15 games including a monster 40/17 outing against Missouri.  He led the nation in average efficiency at 29.7,  a key statistic where only 34 players were 20+ this season.  Put simply, he was unstoppable this year, and he’d be wasting his time competing against college players any longer.

Looking at BEASTley’s numbers (26/12), it got us to thinking – where does his year rank among the all-time greatest freshmen in college basketball?  Freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity until the mid-70s, so we started with Magic Johnson and ended up with thirteen (+ Beasley) names of superb freshmen from the last thirty years so we could do a quick comparison.  We’re quite sure we forgot a couple, so don’t get your thong in a wad – just leave it in the comments section. 

Wow, is there any question that the new NBA age-limit rule has had a major effect on college basketball?  Four of the best individual freshman seasons of the last three decades were in the last two years (and we didn’t even include Derrick Rose or OJ Mayo!). 

The next thought we have is that, yeah, Beasley’s individual numbers outrank everyone else on the list with the closest competitors being his Big 12 predecessors, Kevin Durant and Wayman Tisdale (last spotted on Jazz Cafe).  LSU’s Chris Jackson (aka the American patriot Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) has him on scoring, but Beasley tears him up on everything else, and neither made it very far in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick aside:  the only team on this list with two of these guys was that 1989-90 LSU team (oh, and Stanley Roberts was also on that team), and they couldn’t even get to the Sweet 16?  Seriously, how is that possible??  Dale Brown only explains the incompetent game management and lack of motivation part, but it doesn’t diminish the talent there.  Sheesh.

Getting back to Beasley, where does the Big 12 find these long, rangy guys who walk right into college and put up double-double averages?  For what it’s worth, they don’t go very far in the Tourney, although we’re sure that the long-term residual effects of having a Tisdale, Durant or Beasley in your program can mitigate that one year (after all, Texas went to the Elite Eight this year, two rounds further than they did with Durant last year).


Best of luck as the #1 or #2 pick in draft, Michael.  We’re sure that South Beach or OKC will suit you even better than Manhattan (KS) did.   

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When is a Game Out of Reach?

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2008

If you’ll allow us the liberty of jumping back two weekends ago to the Final Four, specifically the Kansas-UNC game, we’ll present you with the following call by the venerable Mr. Cash himself, Billy Packer:

Of course, Packer was swiftly excoriated for this comment by the public and blogosphere at large for being a crotchety old bastard who hates everyone and wants you to die  national commentator whose arrogant, smug disposition is unsurpassed (third try – this is hard) knowledgable yet polarizing media figure who sometimes takes indefensible :-) positions as a product of his stubbornness.

The question we had at the time, and the question we still want to consider is this – is calling a game over when one team is leading by 26 points with 27:30 remaining in the game defensible?  Packer’s statement sure looked stupid when UNC got the margin down to 54-50 with approximately ten minutes to go in the game.  But UNC didn’t complete the comeback (losing by eighteen) and it’s quite difficult to find examples in the college game of really good teams (such as Kansas) blowing immense leads and still losing the game.  The only one we can think of in recent history was Maryland’s blown 22-point lead in the first half over Duke at the 2001 Final Four (Duke won 95-84), and that Terp team absolutely could not get the Devils out of their heads (recall the Miracle Minute at College Park that season).

Even Carolina Fans Hate Packer

Therefore from a qualitative standpoint, Packer was probably right.  The energy that a team like UNC would have had to expend to not only erase the 26-point deficit but also take the lead and win the game down the stretch would have been mindboggling.  While good teams come back from 20-point deficits to win games a fair amount of the time, it rarely happens against other good teams.  If you hadn’t noticed, Kansas was a pretty good team this year.  UNC, as good as they were, was not going to come back and win that game.  They just weren’t

What about from a quantitative perspective?  In a piece published at the week prior to the 2008 Tourney, Bill James (the original sabre-metrician) noted that he has a trusty heuristic that he uses for college hoops games to make a determination on whether the lead is large enough to “call it.”  Too bad Packer didn’t talk to this guy beforehand.  Here’s his formula:

  • Take the number of points one team is ahead.
  • Subtract three.
  • Add a half-point if the team that is ahead has the ball, and subtract a half-point if the other team has the ball. (Numbers less than zero become zero.)
  • Square that.
  • If the result is greater than the number of seconds left in the game, the lead is safe.

Plugging the UNC-Kansas lead when Packer made his statement into James’ handy little calculator, we find that a 26-point lead with 27:32 remaining in the game is only 33% safe, which effectively means that the lead is absolutely and completely safe for the next 11.7 minutes of the game.  To be clear, it doesn’t mean that Kansas had a one-third chance of winning – it means that KU was one-third of the way (statistically speaking) from holding an insurmountable lead at that point in the game.


Sorry Billy, You Jumped the Gun 

So what would have been a truly insurmountable lead at that juncture, thereby making Packer look utterly brilliant (ok, difficult, we know)?  According to James, it would have taken a 44-point lead to justify Packer (or anyone) calling the game over with that much time left.  This seems rather high, considering that we only remember one thirty-point comeback in our lifetime (Mardi Gras Miracle),  but them’s the numbers.  As for us, we stand by the hard-and-fast rule of thirty points at any moment in the game.  We’ll give odds on that number the rest of our lives and become a rich man doing it.       

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Urban Meyer = Marketing Genius

Posted by nvr1983 on April 13th, 2008

Here at Rush The Court we have often been critical of Billy Donovan (surprising since he has won 2 of the last 3 national championships) and I have to admit I am programmed to hate all things UF (no, I’m not a Seminoles fan), but I have to tip my hat to Gators head football coach Urban Meyer for his latest gem. Meyer, who has his own national title along with several highly rated recruiting classes that are going to be frightening over the next few years, recently held a contest where he offered a full-ride to any non-football player on the UF campus who could beat Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson in a 40-yard dash. While nobody was able to beat the football players and win a scholarship, it generated a lot of excitement on and off campus for the Gators football program. Jemele Hill has a pretty good piece on the event and the surrounding hype.

It seems kind of like the circus event that would be featured on a tv show or a movie, but I kind of like it. It generated a good deal of hype getting out Meyer’s message about having “the fastest team in America” out to anybody who was watching including a bunch of 5-star recruits, and it energized a bunch of former HS athletes on campus while having very little expected cost. I mean seriously if you can beat a 4.27 guy over 40 yards, you can get a full-ride somewhere even if you don’t have any hands.

Meyer has been reading some marketing books too. . .

I haven’t heard of many other school pulling this kind of stuff although I could see it happening. If any of you have heard of it, let us know. I’m also wondering what the basketball equivalent would be. It would need to be something that was objective (no dunk contests) and wasn’t really a risk in terms of having to fork over a full-ride (no half court shot contests), but still realistic enough that people would convince themselves that they had a chance to get the excitement level high enough.

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Jay Bilas doesn’t like talking about racism

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2008

Having spent many years in Durham, NC (basketball player/student-athlete, assistant coach, a law student, and lawyer), a community divided by race and wealth (see Duke lacrosse scandal), I can understand why Jay Bilas would be a little sensitive about racial issues. However, I never expected the mild-mannered Biilas would go off like he did today on the Dan LeBatard show when questioned about how race and nationality come into play when NBA GMs evaluate pro prospects.

To be honest, I agree with the argument Bilas puts forward, but I would expect a lawyer and television personality to put forth a more measured argument. Normally I attribute this to being around LeBatard (even if only on the airwaves), but Bilas has gone off on other media members for bringing up race. I would chalk this up to Bilas’s mancrush on Tyler Hansbrough, but it’s kind of hard to prove that since Hansbrough is the only great Caucasian white college basketball player right now (with the possible exception of Luke Harangody). That said my favorite part of the video is when LeBatard deconstructs one of Bilas’s sentences since that’s something a lawyer would usually try to do to win an argument. BAM!

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OJ Mayo’s End of an Era

Posted by rtmsf on April 10th, 2008

Not surprisingly, OJ Mayo today declared that he will be leaving USC after one year, hiring an agent, and entering the NBA Draft.  He is projected to be among the top few selections chosen.  After what seems like an endless biding of time with his ultimate destiny of the NBA, this ends the amateur career of one of the most ballyhooed schoolboy players of the last decade.


Mayo in HS at Rose Hill Christian Academy

How long have we been talking about OJ Mayo?  A simple google search reveals that news reports were already discussing the seventh-grade phenom in the winter of 2001.  On a personal tip, we watched him play live as an eighth grader and started out more impressed with Bill Walker than Mayo at the time (until the 4th quarter, that is, when Mayo took over the game, erasing a 14 point deficit by himself to win against a superb opponent).  We followed his every move, from tiny Rose Hill Christian Academy in Ashland, KY, to North Indian Hills HS in Cincinnati, and back to his hometown of Huntington, WV, again.  We read the countless articles in SLAM magazine telling us that he was the Next Lebron, sifted through the message board character assassinations, and often wondered aloud if his buddy Bill Walker’s tribulations and lack of a true father figure would somehow end up destroying Mayo before he ever made it out of high school.

Turns out he did just fine.  He made it through HS without much of a hiccup (there was that simple possession charge during his senior year), and although the recruitment of Mayo was effectively a non-starter because of his pre-emptive strategy to call Tim Floyd out of the blue and commit to USC, there were lingering questions about his ability to be a good teammate and handle authority.  

We’ve Been Reading About Mayo For Years

Mayo’s only season at USC was marked with some basketball ups and downs, but there was nary a peep about his being a bad teammate or issues relating to his character.  He averaged 21/5/3 assts in just under 37 mpg, which are eye-popping numbers for any player regardless of class.  One of the initial concerns was whether Mayo would turn out to be a human cannon, chucking shots at every opportunity without consideration for the team concept.  While his assist numbers weren’t great, Mayo shot good percentages from the field (44% FG, 41% 3FG, 80% FT) and we watched at least a dozen USC games this year and never once thought he was trying to do too much. 

The ups and downs derive from USC’s team success.  In a normal year for a program like USC, 21-12 overall, 11-7 in the hypercompetitive Pac-10, a win over UCLA, close losses to both Kansas and Memphis, and an NCAA bid amount to a great season.  But in a year when USC brought in one of the top five freshmen in America (and easily the most hyped freshman), you have to wonder if Tim Floyd privately thought he could get more from this team.  As an example of what the public thought, USC was a trendy pick to move several rounds through the Tournament prior to the first day’s games, but they crashed and burned 80-67 to Kansas St. and another super frosh, Michael Beasley (Mayo was 6-16, scoring 20/5/2 assts) in the first round.  Should USC have done more that that with an exceptional talent like OJ Mayo running the show?  

Mayo is by no means alone among his fellow freshmen in this regard.  Eric Gordon’s Indiana team collapsed with the removal of Kelvin Sampson and were easily dismissed in the first round by Arkansas.  The aforementioned Michael Beasley at K-State and Kyle Singler at Duke were both defeated convincingly in the second round.  Only Kevin Love at UCLA and Derrick Rose at Memphis, both of whom were surrounded by oodles of talent, were able to take their teams deep into March Madness as freshman leaders.

It’s a Tough Call Whether Mayo Helped USC or Vice Versa

So now it’s on to the NBA for Mayo, where his size, strength and transcendant hooping abilities should provide a natural fit at the point guard slot for an LA Clippers or Seattle (er, Oklahoma City) over the next ten years.  He’s not the next Lebron (and he was never going to be), but his game is reminiscent of a Jason (Jay) Williams before his injury – perhaps not quite as speedy, but a little longer and equally as effortless in his motions.  Given the rocky life and media crush that Mayo has experienced throughout his amateur career, we truly wish him the best as he moves on to the professional ranks.       

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