PSA: CBS College Sports Replaying 2009 NCAA Tournament

Posted by rtmsf on July 21st, 2009

Here’s a friendly public service announcement from your friends at RTC…

cbs college sports logo

If you’re jonesing for some college hoops during the long, hot, humid days of summer, CBS College Sports channel (CSTV on your channel guide) has your prescription.  Games started yesterday, but the channel has plans to show the entirety of the 2009 NCAA Tournament over the next two weeks.  A complete schedule of games is here, but here are the date/times for the best few.  Set your Tivos now…

  • UCLA v. VCU – Wednesday, July 22 @ 4pm (encore showings: Thurs. July 23 @ 10am and Fri. July 31 @ 6pm) – Eric Maynor does his best to knock off the mighty Bruins but comes up just short.
  • Tennessee v. Oklahoma St.Wednesday, July 22 @ 10pm (Thurs. July 23 @ 4am and Sat. Aug. 1 @ 4pm) - Byron Eaton with a clear path to the basket…
  • Siena v. Ohio St. - Friday, July 24 @ 10pm (Sat. July 25 @ 3:30am and Sat. Aug. 1 @ 10pm) – re-live the plucky Saints hitting clutch shot after clutch shot to defeat OSU in double-overtime.
  • Gonzaga v. W. Kentucky - Sunday, July 26 @ 4pm (Sat. Aug. 1 @ 8pm) – Demetri Goodson with his best Tyus Edney impersonation…
  • Missouri v. MarquetteTuesday, July 28 @ 12pm (Wed. July 29 @ 6am and Sat. Aug. 1 @ 2pm) – the best game of the second round featured end-to-end action throughout. 
  • Pittsburgh v. Villanova - Wednesday, July 29 @ 10pm (Thurs. July 30 @ 4am) – fantastic finish to get to the F4 and the best game of the 2009 Dance. 
  • Michigan St. v. UConnThursday, July 30 @ 6pm (Fri. July 31 @ 12am and Sun. Aug. 2 at 12pm) - not the greatest game ever, but it was fun watching the upstart Spartans take on the much more highly-favored Huskies in this one.
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One Shining Moment: 2009 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

We wouldn’t blame you if you went to bed somewhere around the 15:54 mark of the first half tonight, so in case you missed it

Tipoff of 2009-10 is roughly about 216 days from now… set your alarms.

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Ty Lawson Would Like to Put $25 on the Five, Mr. Croupier…

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2009

Somebody call MJ.  We may have found him a gambling buddy.

craps-table

Tar Heel point guard Ty Lawson’s Big Toe may have arrived in Detroit Wednesday, but within hours of arrival, he’d already made his way down to the Greektown Casino and won himself $250 at the craps tables. From the AP report:

“We got in last night, and Coach (Roy Williams) gave us a curfew of 1:30,” Lawson said when asked if he had visited any casinos. “I went over to Greektown and won about $250. So I already had my time there. It’s probably the last time I go there before the games start.”  Lawson said he played only craps and earned his winnings in about an hour.  “The only time I lost was in Reno; that’s when everybody on the team lost,” he said. “It’s the only place I lost. The other five or six times I did gamble, I won at least $500.”  Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said the 21-year-old is legally of age to visit a casino.

Far be it from us to disparage a guy who clearly has this gambling thing figured out already.  The important part is that he’s a winner, and a winner always wins, no matter how far down you get.  Right, Mr. Mahowny Lawson?

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Predicting Half of the Finals: Villanova vs. UNC

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2009

Ben from Dear Old UVa is once again back to statistically analyze the NCAA Tournament for us. 

Let first begin by saying: I am a nerd.  I am a complete and total nerd.

Now that my admission is out of the way, I can share with you a model I once built.  In 2007, when I was in graduate school, I took a computational economics course.  While learning about all the interesting mathematical techniques used to study economic systems, I decided that I would build an artificial neural network (ANN) to predict the point spread in Virginia basketball games.

nerd-club

Basically, an ANN is a statistical model that finds complex and often non-linear relationships between the inputs and the outputs.  In this case, most of the inputs are culled from that outstanding website, kenpom.com and the outputs are the point spread. 

I set up the point spread as a function of the opponents’ characteristics.  When UConn beat Gonzaga by five on December 12th, the model estimates the spread as a function of Gonzaga’s season-ending characteristics of pace, defensive efficiency, turnover percentage and so on. This is known as “training the model.”   The estimates are then applied to their future opponents’ characteristics to give some sense of how they’ll play against the competition. 

It sounds goofy, but when I originally set the ANN up, I correctly predicted, within two points, the scores of two consecutive Virginia basketball games.  It predicted that Virginia would beat Longwood by 43 points (they won by 41) and that they’d beat FSU by 5 (won by 3).  I haven’t broken out the model much since then, but I did for this year’s final four.

The model is somewhat peculiar in that it does not predict spreads symmetrically: it predicts a different spread for the UNC-Villanova game when “trained” on Villanova than when it was trained on UNC.

Speaking of which – let’s see how the model does for the favorite: UNC.

unc-ann-model

The model actually does a decent job predicting for UNC.  However, you might notice that the model does not predict any losses for the Tar Heels.  Maybe all that talk about an undefeated season wasn’t just a bunch of hooey. 

You can see how out of character those losses to BC and Wake in early January were for this team.  While the world was predicting a cataclysm in Chapel Hill, all the Heels had to do was put their shoes on and go to work.

The other salient feature of the model is that it predicts a complete blowout win versus the Wildcats.  In fact, it predicts a 32 point win!  Whoa!

Let’s look at it from the Wildcats’ perspective:

villanova-ann-model

As you can see, the model does a worse job with Villanova.  It missed badly on the big loss to West Virginia in mid-February and it has predicted especially poorly in the tournament.  The margins in wins versus UCLA and Duke were totally unexpected by the model.

Interestingly, the model picks the Wildcats to beat the Tar Heels by two.  But how can this be?  Both teams can’t win!

Ahhhh…. but therein lies the interpretation.  The Heels model fit better and predicted a big win.  The Wildcats one predicted poorer and a tight victory for the Cats.

I’d have to say “Heels in a walk.”  My hunch is that this game will be a 20 point snoozer.   I hope I’m wrong.  I’ll do the other two teams tomorrow.

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Villanova and Pittsburgh put the madness back in March Madness

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2009

After nearly 10 days of college basketball critics bemoaning the lack of excitement in this year’s edition of March Madness, two of the Big East’s best teams answered all of those critics by submitting an all-time classic. After one of the strangest 10 seconds you will ever see, Scottie Reynolds made an end-to-end run that might replace the Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney versions on NCAA Tournament highlight reels from now on as this was on a much bigger stage with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Even with Reynolds miracle, Pittsburgh still had its shot, but a 75-foot desperation heave by Levance Fields was off-target and the Villanova fans which filled TD BankNorth had their biggest moment since 1985 when Rollie Massimino, who attended the games in Boston, guided the Wildcats to their only national championship.

It was a game that showed off everything that the Big East was this year: tough, physical, surprisingly high-scoring, and always entertaining. The Wildcats came out of the gates strong and held a 22-12 lead with 9:27 left before the #1 seeded Panthers joined the fight. Relying on its three stars (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Fields), Jamie Dixon‘s squad cut the lead to 2 with an 8-0 spurt in 1:09. From that point forward, the two team traded punches like world-class heavyweights (back when being a heavyweight actually meant something) as neither team was able to stretch their lead beyond 5 points. Villanova relied on a balanced attack (Dwayne Anderson with 17 points, Reynolds with 15 points, Dante Cunningham with 14 points, and Shane Clark with 11 points) while Pittsburgh relied heavily on its two 1st team All-Big East performers (Young with 28 points and 7 rebounds and Blair with 20 points ant 10 rebounds) to keep it in the game.

A tight game throughout. . .

A tight game throughout. . .

After trading haymakers for nearly 37 minutes without either team achieving any separation, Pittsburgh appeared to have a chance to do so coming out of a Villanova timeout with a 4-point lead and the ball out of bounds with 3:05 left.  Instead, that’s just when the madness started. Jermaine Dixon, who had hit a tough jumper just moments earlier  (with a shot that was reminiscent of one that his brother Maryland star Juan Dixon used to hit not too many years ago) to give the Panthers the lead, had the ball stolen from him and in an attempt to recover fouled Dwyane Anderson for the conventional 3-point play. A Sam Young turnover and a Corey Fisher lay-up later, the Wildcats had the lead with 2:16 left, but Fields hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead back. The Wildcats showed their mettle by scoring the next 5 points to take a 4-point lead with 47 seconds left. As he has done all night long, Young provided the answer for the Panthers with a clutch 3-pointer (“Onions!” as Bill Raftery would say) with 40 seconds left to cut the lead back to 1. A pair of Fisher free throws and a Reggie Redding free throw allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead back to 4 with 20 seconds left.

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Stay Classy, Nolan Smith…

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2009

The most interesting play of the Duke-Villanova game tonight occurred with mere seconds remaining.  Duke’s Nolan Smith must have thought the second-half o/u wasn’t covered yet, because a Duke player would never do something so classless without a reason, right?

Oh, right, play hard to the buzzer.  Even when the other team is dribbling out the clock.  Got it.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

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RTC Mascot Death Match: Sweet Sixteen Matches

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Ok, we’re ready for the Sweet Sixteen of Mascot Death Match.  Things are starting to heat up.  Who is your favorite?  Voting will be open the next couple of days.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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Sweet Sixteen: Midwest Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Looking back at the Midwest Region 1st/2d Rounds…

Best Game:  undoubtedly the game of the Tourney thus far, the Ohio St.-Siena game had not one, but two, game-changing threes by the underdog Saints to keep their hopes alive. 

Shocker:  Wake Forest’s complete and utter failure to show up for its game against Cleveland St. last Friday night.  With three first-rounders on the team, there is no excuse for a team to be this mentally out of it (which they were much of the last six weeks of the season). 

Cinderella That’s Not Really One:  Arizona was one of the last teams invited to the Dance, but we all knew that their talent was better than most #12 seeds if they could just put it together.  They received a favorable draw in the first two rounds, playing an overrated #5 Utah team and a true Cinderella #13 Cleveland St., but if they really want to impress us, beat Louisville tomorrow night. 

Region MVP (so far):  Cole Aldrich, Kansas.  A player who gets a trip-dub automatically wins the MVP from us.  Aldrich terrorized Dayton for 13/20/10 blks on Sunday. 

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Rating the Sweet Sixteen Announcers

Posted by jstevrtc on March 26th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

It looks like CBS has made its selections and placements for the Sweet 16 announcing crews.  I think this is important for a couple of reasons; first, because we got us some heavyweights going at it this weekend and these matchups deserve top-drawer announcers; and second, because when you consider some of the tournament’s great moments, the announcing calls are just as much a part of the history as the actual visual images.  It’s good to have the big boys behind the mics in case a legendary event happens.  That said, let’s take a look at, and rate, the pairings.

The New #1 Crew
The New #1 Crew (image credit: daylife.com)

SOUTHJim Nantz (pbp) and Clark Kellogg (color)
Games:  North Carolina v. Gonzaga and Syracuse v. Oklahoma (Friday)
Grade:  C+

This is the premiere crew, as CBS would have you believe.  I give this pairing a C+ because I think these two gentlemen are still working on their rhythm with Kellogg having taken over the seat previously occupied by Billy Packer.  Jim Nantz, despite being one of the consensus nice guys in television and a man who has more than put in his time as far as being a basketball announcer, has just never done it for me as a play-by-play man.  He’s always struck me as a big-picture, in-the-studio guy, the captain of the whole ship.  I have nothing against Kellogg or Nantz as individuals, but because they’re still feeling each other out this late in the year, I don’t think it’s the “premiere,” automatic, Final Four crew any more.  Plus, Syracuse v. Oklahoma is going to be an absolute war, and I think it’s a game that’s just tailor-made for Gus Johnson at the play-by-play mic, or Raftery doing color, or — God help us all — both.

Lundquist and Raf. (image credit: ning.com)

EAST Verne Lundquist (pbp) and Bill Raftery (color)
Games:  Pittsburgh v. Xavier and Villanova v. Duke (Thursday)
Grade:  B

I’ll admit, there’s really no reason to give this pairing anything other than an ‘A’ except for my own sour grapes.  I always loved the pairing of Lundquist with Len Elmore.  Plus, if CBS reunited them, it could slide Raftery over to the seat next to Gus Johnson and blow the speakers out of your television.  Both Lundquist and Raftery still give me the impression that they’re still amazed to be getting paid for doing this for a living, and when that comes through, it always enhances my enjoyment of a game they’re calling.  Especially Raf.  Those tag-lines that we all know — “The Kiss!” or “A little lingerie, Mr. Lundquist!” or “Onions!!” — just never get old to me.  Also, if a legendary moment presents itself, you know neither of these guys is going to drop the ball.

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Sweet 16 Chat

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

If you’re looking for a chat about planning your Super Sweet 16th birthday party, you have come to the wrong place. If you want to discuss this weekend’s college basketball action at the #1 source* for college basketball news and insight, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be taking all of your questions and offering our unique brand of insights so come with all questions and bring along some friends. I’m planning on going from 1 PM to 3 PM ET so come back then.

*The NCAA might not agree with this claim.

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Notes from the East Region Open Practice

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at rushthecourt@gmail.com and I might be able to take them off your hands.

The guys who don't want me covering the game

The guys who don't want me covering the game

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.

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