Morning Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
  2. Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
  3. It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
  4. Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
Share this story

ATB: Weekend Edition — A. Davis, Boeheim, Tu, Big East/SEC & Dunkdafied…

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. Every Week a Playoff… Until It Isn’t. No matter your opinion on whether Oklahoma State or Alabama should have the right to play LSU for the BCS national championship next month, can we at least come to an agreement that college football’s tired meme of “every week a playoff” has once again been blown out of the water as farcical? Look, we all know that the NCAA Tournament system is far from perfect in terms of anointing the best team as the champion, but like every other major American sport, at least every team that has a reasonable claim to the crown gets a chance to prove its worth on the hardwood. The old saying goes, “in order to be the best, you have to beat the best,” but as this comical CFB playoff scenario shows, at least one deserving school will get no such chance to do that. On to basketball…

Your Watercooler Moment. Anthony Davis’ Game-Saving Block.

Kentucky vs. North Carolina. North Carolina vs. Kentucky. What else could it be? Saturday afternoon’s tilt in Lexington was one of those rare fulfilling games where the action on the floor not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it. And the hype for this game was extraordinary, especially considering that it took place on the first Saturday in December rather than sometime deep in March. Our post-game takes on what we’d seen in the one-point Kentucky win are located here, but the long and short of it is this: Carolina should feel as if they were only a play away from winning a difficult road game that didn’t cater to its strengths (61% on threes, but only 33% on twos), while Kentucky should feel that its extremely young but talented team stood toe-to-toe with the other most talented team in America and didn’t blink. Both UNC and UK should be playing in New Orleans next Spring, and if we’re lucky they’ll tip off for the fourth time in just over 16 months with nothing less than the national championship on the line.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  1. Big East Dominates SEC in Challenge. Coming into Friday, the SEC was tied with the Big East at 2-2 in this year’s Challenge. The Big East then won the next six games before dropping the final two Saturday evening to finish at 8-4. The most impressive wins over the weekend were Pittsburgh and Cincinnati’s road wins at Tennessee and Georgia, respectively(the Big East had four roadies), and as we noted in our commentary on Saturday, the Big East appears to be an eight- or nine-team NCAA Tournament conference, whereas the SEC seems to deserve roughly half that. Nothing too surprising here, just further confirmation that the Big East, along with the Big Ten, are the top two conferences in college basketball this season. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Understanding Why College Football Drives the Bus (and How Hoops May Influence Future Decisions)…

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2011

A report yesterday from Deadspin brought to our attention that the NCAA makes a lot of money. Not that we didn’t already know that, and not that it wasn’t already publicly available (apparently Will Leitch’s progeny whiffed on that one), but to see the NCAA’s financial statements for 2008 provides an additional layer of context to the invisible hand driving the shifting landscape of college athletics.

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times already — college football drives the bus in conference realignment and executive decision-making, with college basketball sitting in the back with the other ne’er-do-wells. But why is that so? Nearly every metric shows that our sport is not only popular, but thriving. March Madness could be America’s most beloved sporting event. Attendance figures are still on the uptick. The recent Carrier Classic set a ratings record for a November college basketball game (on a Friday night, no less). The NCAA just over a year ago signed a $10.8 billion (that’s a “B”) contract with CBS/Turner Sports to broadcast NCAA Tournament games until 2024 — that’s $771 million annually, in case you were wondering. These are not characteristics of a sport without fans.

The sport will never be as popular as the three major professional sports or even college football, but it’s not a second-class citizen on the landscape either. It produces real dollars that in a rational environment should extensively contribute to long-term decision-making. And yet we’re told again and again that it doesn’t matter. So the question we have is… why? And the answer here is the same answer found in most every other decision we make as a species: the rational pursuit of self-interest.

Take a look at these numbers. In 2008, the NCAA brought in $550 million in television revenue for the NCAA Tournament and another $70 million for its various championships. Keep in mind that the NCAA sees nothing from major college football with its archaic but separate bowl system. By removing all the non-revenue sports and for the sake of expediency, let’s call it a round $600 million that the NCAA made from college basketball that year. That money is then filtered through the belly of the NCAA where it is parsed to pay for everything else — administration of all its championships ($119 million), assorted NCAA programs ($109 million), management ($26 million), and so on. Before long that $600M is cut nearly in half to $360 million, which is then parsed out to 31 D-I conferences using a complicated ‘share’ system based on five years worth of NCAA Tournament performances.  Here’s how that system paid out in 2008:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: When Do TCU and Auburn Play?

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2011

The Lede.  Yes, we’re guilty of making the same, tired, cliched reference to not a real championship every year, but we’re also tired of the hypocrisy and lies that we’re spoon-fed as justification for it.  Tonight NCAA football once again crowned a champion using a system that fails to allow for every team to have a legitimate chance to win it all.  This would actually be fine with us if the powers-that-be were honest with the public about their blind pursuit of enormous dollars and said so; but instead they hide behind patently absurd arguments about the sanctity of student-athletes, tradition and preserving the importance of the regular season.  The same regular season where a team can go undefeated but not be invited onto the grand stage; the same plantation-style economic tradition that, as Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post nails, ensures it; and the same mantras about student-athletes and academics that allows schools to play games on nearly any night of the week and has bastardized the postseason to the point where nobody cares much beyond the singular final game.  It’s utterly shameful, and college football fans who defend it are a little like those poor souls who are fooled by big business into actually believing that the only pathway to a fulfilling life is through taking on mountains of debt.  If they’d take a step back and remove heart and emotion from the equation, they’d actually see that they’re the ones getting played.  And why is this diatribe on a college basketball site?  Because the BCS machine drives college athletics to an absurd point where nobody programs such as Texas Tech have more sway in the collegiate landscape than historic basketball programs like Kansas, who are nearly thrown by the wayside in pursuit of the football dollar.  Out of courtesy to the BCS national championship game, it was a light night… but on to hoops…

Your Watercooler Moment71% From Three.  A team isn’t going to lose many games when it shoots over 70% from behind the arc, and tonight’s performance by Marquette against Notre Dame was no exception.  The Golden Eagles went 12-17 from deep compared to the 3-16 that the Irish threw up, and the game was really never close in the second half as a result.  Like seemingly every year since Buzz Williams took over at Marquette, new players have stepped up to replace others, and this year’s duo to pick up for the loss of Lazar Hayward has been Dwight Buycks and Jae Crowder.  Buycks (21/4 tonight) has increased his scoring output by nearly four points per night over last season and Crowder has come in from the JuCo ranks to contribute 13/7 per game.  With four players (including Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler) capable of going for 20+ on a given night (Vander Blue is a fifth if you want to get crazy), Marquette has as much offensive firepower as nearly any team in the country (and certainly in the Big East).  Their only problem is defensively where they struggle to make stops, but on nights like tonight when things are dropping through the net with regularity, the Golden Eagles are very tough to beat.  Considering that all of MU’s losses this year were to good teams in close games — Duke, Pitt, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga — if Williams’ team can find a way to make a few more defensive stands down the stretch, they could be dynamite by March.

Tweet of the Night.  Wow, this is brilliant.

Share this story

ATB: Thank God We’re Not the BCS Weekend Recap

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2010

The LedeThankfully We Decide Our Champions on the Court.  And we don’t use awful naming conventions when doing it.  Imagine if the First Four was actually called the Toys “R” Us First Four, or the Final Four became the Batesville Casket Company Final Four?  That’s essentially what we’re looking at with some of these absurd bowl names — our favorites: the Beef “O” Brady Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  Maybe the two bowls should morph together and then they’d have the whole eating thing figured out.  On to more serious issues, though.  For seemingly the fourteenth consecutive year, the BCS national title game featuring Auburn and Oregon is not without controversy, as there are three unbeaten teams left standing with only two spots available.  Perhaps you’re of the opinion that a school like TCU (12-0), with its weak schedule and lack of gridiron pedigree, is not worthy of playing in that sports’ marquee event.  To this we say: neither was Butler.  Yet somehow the small college from the north side of Indianapolis that didn’t belong there found itself capable of beating two of basketball’s best coaches (Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo) and come within a hair of beating its best (Mike Krzyzewski).  It’s an absurd system that if used in basketball would guarantee that Duke would have won at least ten “mythical” national titles in the last twenty years, while robbing us of the magic of schools like George Mason and Butler along the way.  Critics of the system correctly point out that FBS college football is the only NCAA sport that does not have a playoff system to determine its champion, but it’s also the only American sport that becomes less interesting as the season progresses.  The single most exciting time is kickoff weekend, when anything seems possible.  Enjoy your BBVA Compass Bowl featuring a 2-6 SEC team, folks — we’ll be over here watching games that actually build up to something.

This Weekend’s Marquee Games.  For additional analysis on the major games from Saturday check out our Instant Analyses from Saturday (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Zeller Was Great Against UK on Saturday (AP/G. Broome)

  • Over 4,000 Wins in Chapel Hill. But it was the embattled Tar Heels of North Carolina who added win #2009 on this day, as Tyler Zeller reminded us how good he can be when he asserts himself (27/11/5 blks).  In a wrinkle we’ve never seen before, Zeller fouled out the entire Kentucky frontline with his play inside; his length (along with teammate John Henson’s) frustrated UK star forward Terrence Jones for the first time all season (3-17 FG for nine points).  The Carolina guard play still left something to be desired, shooting 6-24 from the field and totaling 21 points, but this is a known commodity — Carolina’s rise and fall this season will generally rest on how well their big men play each night out.  We came away from this game thinking that we were viewing two flawed teams — Kentucky on the inside, and UNC on the perimeter — but that Kentucky, despite losing the game, has the greater upside.
  • National Title Rematch. Butler proved for more than a half that it wasn’t going to quietly skulk away into the night after its run to the national championship game and a shaky start to this season.  As our correspondent Matt Patton wrote from the game: “First off, Butler can play: people have been down on the Bulldogs after they were blown out by Louisville and upset by Evansville, but they showed that they still have some star power and one of the smartest coaches in the game in Brad Stevens.  I thought Stevens really kept Duke on their heels the first half, giving the Blue Devils fits with a triangle and two zone and expertly controlling the tempo during the first half.  Butler also showcased some impressive depth, outscoring Duke’s talented bench 33-13 (a large amount of that credit goes to Shawn Vanzant, who had a spectacular second half).  If the Bulldogs take care of the ball like they did today and keep their stars on the court (i.e. minimize fouls and injuries), they can still surprise some people come March.”  We don’t disagree at all.  Butler isn’t a top ten team, but they will always play legitimate defense, and once they get their sea legs under them, nobody will want to face the Bulldogs (again) next Spring.
  • Battle of Seattle.  We haven’t been as high as many others have been on Gonzaga this year, and any injury to Elias Harris notwithstanding, the reason was fully on display Saturday in the Battle of Seattle game against Illinois: the Zags don’t defend.  Illinois has never traditionally been a high-octane offense under Bruce Weber, but against a Gonzaga defense that would rather reach than move, Illinois repeatedly picked Mark Few’s team apart for wide-open threes (12-23) and dunks.  Giving up twelve treys is a problem against any team, and this is the second time this season that the Zags have done so in a loss (Kansas State was the other).  This definitely appears to be Weber’s best Illini squad since the 2005 national runner-up, and it helps in that Illinois has six players capable of putting up double figures any given night.  The maturation of Brandon Paul in particular from a gunner incapable of taking a good shot in the flow of the offense (33% last year) to a disciplined shooter (52% this year) has been a pleasure to watch.  This Illinois team is capable of big things this year.

SoCal Upsets. The most surprising upsets of the weekend came at the very end of it, as the two biggest Los Angeles programs made news in one way or another.  First, UCLA, coming off a loss against top-five Kansas on Thursday night that universally slammed the officials for bailing the Jayhawks out, must have still been feeling the effects.  They allowed Montana (without Anthony Johnson, mind you) to come into Pauley Pavilion and shoot 52% in a 66-57 victory that must have UCLA fans scratching their heads perplexed.  The two stars of the Kansas game, Tyler Honeycutt and Joshua Smith, combined for 4-20 shooting and 15 total points.  Meanwhile, on the other side of town, USC, a team who had already racked up bad losses against Rider, Bradley, TCU and Nebraska, managed to completely flummox the young Texas Longhorns for an easy 73-56 victory.  If you saw either one of these results coming, then you’re well beyond the scope of this site.  Unbelievable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Basketball 2010: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2010

With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.

Here are the basic ground rules:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

Here are the results:

We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Another Faux-National Title

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

So When Do Boise and Alabama Play? The interminable bowl season finally came to an end with the only game that mattered, as Texas’ Colt McCoy got knocked out of the BCS National faux-Championship Game and Alabama’s Nick Saban earned his second title as a member of a rival SEC school.  So we’re once again left with more than one unbeaten team in the college football season and we have no legitimate way of separating those teams other than using statistics and computer printouts, a tenuous proposition at best.  After all, Cal was a ten-point favorite versus UCLA last night.  That’s what all of the computer algorithms told us.  So they’re clearly the better team, right?  No reason to even play the game, right?  Let’s just declare Cal the winner based on their strength of schedule and power rating…  Get outta here with that nonsense.  Seriously.  Thankfully we’re moving on to basketball, where our championships are earned on the court.  (ed. note: we’re going to publish this picture every time it’s appropriate, which, given the BCS’s foibles year after year, will be annually).

Other Games of National Interest.  Well, sorta.  Slow night.  There was only one game involving any of the BCS conference teams, and they were both from the Big Ten.  Guess they knew that league wouldn’t be playing on the gridiron tonight.

  • Michigan 64, Penn State 55.  The Wolverines got off to a horrid start in State College, shooting 0-12 from three and finding themselves down 31-16 at the half.  But they kept their poise and made a huge second-half run of 38-13 to close out the game and put John Beilein’s team at 2-1 in the Big Ten.  DeShawn Sims was huge, scoring 25 points and pulling six boards, but it was really Laval Lucas-Perry’s four second-half treys that helped spur the run.  With games against Northwestern and Indiana coming up at home, UM has a good shot to go to 4-1 before trips to Madison and West Lafayette later this month.
  • Western Kentucky 67, South Alabama 64 (OT).  This was a key early-season game in the Sun Belt, and WKU got the leg up by taking this one in overtime tonight.  Steffphon Pettigrew (16/5) hit a layup with five seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to the extra period.  In the OT, which  only saw a total of seven points between the two teams, AJ Slaughter (18/5) hit the go-ahead three and WKU hung on.  USA will get another chance at the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green on February 18.
  • Xavier 68, La Salle 62.  XU got a win in its A10 opener after nearly blowing a 20-point second half lead on the road tonight in Philadelphia.  Jordan Crawford had 22/6/4 assts to improve upon his 19 PPG average coming into the contest.  Of course, he’s also thirteenth in the nation in shot% at 35.4, which means he’s our candidate for Human Cannon Midwest.
  • Oakland 67, Oral Roberts 64.  Oakland picked up a key Summit League win tonight on the road against its likely toughest competition in Tulsa behind Keith Benson’s 13/8/5 blks and Johnathan Jones’ 16/4 assts/3 stls.  Interesting that Jones was the nation’s leading assist man last season at 8.1 per game, but he’s only dropping 5.6 dimes so far this year.
Share this story

Why Tourney Expansion to 96 Teams is a Terrible Idea…

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2009

Sunday you were probably there with every other college sports fan glued to your television at 8 pm as the bowl pairings were announced, right?  Orrrr… not, as it came in dead last in its time slot on Fox.  So why weren’t you there with your pencil and brackets bowl matchup worksheets in hand?  Because you knew that there is only one more college football game that matters this season, and you already knew who was playing for it (i.e., traditional powers Alabama and Texas).  Other than to the fans of the individual schools who can take a holiday-season vacation to (hopefully) a warmer clime, the other 477 bowls are utterly meaningless to the crowning of a national champion, a jury-rigged travesty that continues to barf on itself seemingly every year as teams who win every single one of their games are considered unworthy for a shot at the ultimate prize (particular hilarity reserved for when a non-trad BCS team such as Cincinnati is left out).

Why Mess With Perfection?

Why Mess With Perfection?

We Can Actually Learn Something From NCAA Football… Well, Sorta

The best argument that the BCS apologists make every year is that their system values the regular season, and this is true to a certain extent.  The problem is that it overvalues the regular season at the expense of the postseason.  It values the regular season so much that it excludes worthy teams from its national championship picture based on ambiguous metrics that include computer rankings and vaguely-tuned in coaches and sportswriters who have been shown to not put equitable and informed efforts into their ballots.  Consider that last year’s basketball computer rankings — both Sagarin and KenPom — could have placed Memphis against UNC in the “BCS title game” at the end of the regular season.  Given their personnel losses, did anyone actually believe Memphis was a Final Four team last year, much less a title contender?  Of course not.  Thank goodness for small favors… and the NCAA Tournament.

This is why, when those of us who favor a college football playoff argue in favor of it, we push for an 8-team or 16-team playoff.  Like the current format of the NCAA Tournament, such an entity would allow for every realistic potential NCAA football champion to have a shot at glory.  Cincy, Boise and TCU this year – check.  Utah last year – check.  Boise again in 2006 – check.  And so on back through the running comedy that has been the BCS over the last twelve years.  The reason that we support this system (over a 32-team playoff, for example) is that it allows for college football to crown a tested and worthy champion while also respecting the integrity of a national championship by only including deserving and excellent teams.

70% of BCS Teams Do Not Belong in the NCAA Tournament

When we read today that the NCAA is considering expansion of March Madness to 96 teams from its current 65, effectively folding the NIT into the Big Dance and adding another week to the Tournament, we really cannot get on board with this idea.  Why not?  Because put simply, the additional teams that will be invited are not worthy.  Every year there are certainly a few bubble teams that have a great case for inclusion in the field of 65; but there aren’t 32 of them, and if we add another layer of middling BCS teams, we only serve to cheapen what is right now the greatest spectacle for excitement in all of sports while simultaneously further minimizing the importance of the regular season.  Seriously, why even have a 16-game ACC schedule if you’ll get a bid by winning six or seven games?

Only a Handful of Bubble Teams Deserve Entry

Only a Handful of Bubble Teams Deserve Entry

Let’s look at this from a numbers perspective.  Consider last year’s NIT field (presumably the #66-#97-ranked teams, discounting for the regular season champion clause).  We’ll focus exclusively on BCS teams here because they are the most likely beneficiaries of the new setup.  By our calculation, if the 2009 NCAA Tournament had included the NIT field, almost half (15) of the additional teams would have come from the BCS conferences, which would mean that FIFTY-ONE of the SEVENTY-THREE (70%) BCS conference teams would have been invited to the NCAA Tournament.  So what’s the profile threshold that would have gotten you a bid last year using this format?

  • Bubble Team (19-12, 9-10) – the typical team in this group lost to nearly everyone they were supposed to, beat very few elite teams, and mostly built up the majority of their wins in a soft nonconference schedule.  They finished anywhere between 7th-10th in their conference and, on average, won one game in the conference tournament.  There was nothing particularly interesting or compelling about any of these teams, and the odds of any of them making a run to the Round of 32, much less the Sweet Sixteen, would have been minimal.  See below breakdown for a detailed look at the fifteen BCS teams that would have been invited last season.

So why add them?  The answer that the coaches want to expand the NCAA Tournament is not satisfactory (of course they do!).  The answer that media executives also want to expand it also falls on deaf ears (they are selling a product and can’t be relied upon to act in the best interests of the game).  Whoever is seriously listening to this idea really needs to be removed from his or her post.  Why would you mess with something that already works so damn well?  As Mike DeCourcy so succinctly put it in today’s article, this is a “horrible idea” and would end up being a “disaster.”  Couldn’t agree more, Mike.

2009 NIT BCS Team Breakdown

*note – all records and stats are prior to the 2009 NIT (conf reg season finish)

ACC – 7 NCAA teams, 2 NIT teams

  • Virginia Tech (18-14, 8-10) – lost 7 of their last 9 games (t-7).
  • Miami (FL)  (18-12, 7-10) – lost 8 of their last 12 games (t-7).

Big East – 7 NCAA teams, 3 NIT teams

  • Georgetown (16-14, 7-12) – is this a joke?  Georgetown couldn’t beat anyone in the Big East; finished 4-11 in their last fifteen games. (t-11)
  • Notre Dame (18-14, 9-11) – ND at one point lost seven Big East games in a row; five of their final six wins were against teams rated #80 or below. (t-9)
  • Providence (19-13, 11-9) – at least PC had a winning Big East record, right? (t-7)

Big Ten – 7 NCAA teams, 2 NIT teams

  • Penn State (22-11, 11-9) – PSU had a reasonable argument for inclusion last year with their resume, and they showed it by winning the NIT. (t-4)
  • Northwestern (17-13, 8-11) - NW did not and their resume was in no way supportive of an NCAA berth last year. (9)

Big 12 – 6 NCAA teams, 3 NIT teams

  • Kansas State (21-11, 9-8) – K-State is another bubble team that could have arguably received a bid to the Big Dance last year (t-4).
  • Baylor (20-14, 8-12) - Baylor, on the other hand, went 2-10 in their last twelve regular season games prior to making a Big 12 Tourney run (10).
  • Nebraska (18-12, 8-9) – lost five of their last eight and was sorely lacking in quality wins over the course of the season (9).

Pac-10 – 6 NCAA teams, 1 NIT team

  • Washington State (17-15, 9-11) – a mediocre Pac-10 team who lost to nearly every good team it played last season. (7)

SEC – 3 NCAA teams, 4 NIT teams

  • South Carolina (21-9, 10-7) – best wins of the year were against who?  Kentucky and Florida? (t-1 East)
  • Auburn (22-11, 11-7) – at least the Tigers finished strong, winning 9 of their last 11 games. (2 West)
  • Florida (23-10, 10-8) – again, the Gators beat and lost to a bunch of other mediocre SEC teams – how is that NCAA-worthy? (3 East)
  • Kentucky (20-13, 9-9) – losing 8 of their final 11 regular season games does not an NCAA team make. (t-4 East)

Out of the above group, there are maybe 3-4 teams that had a reasonable argument to be included in the field of 65 teams.  Other than that, do we really want teams like the 2009 versions of Georgetown, Kentucky, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Baylor getting bids to the Big Dance?  Let those teams stay in the NIT where they belong.  Please.

Share this story

Beware Bracket Advice! (Note: Bracket Advice Enclosed)

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

We love brackets of all types!  (photo credit: alibaba.com)
We love brackets of all types! (photo credit: alibaba.com)

For the next 72 hours you’re going to be bombarded with advice on how to fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.  It’ll be a steady diet of punchy one-liners like “Always pick 12s against 5s!” and “Ones always beat sixteens!”  Sure, there’s some good advice out there.  Some of it’s pretty obvious.  And some of it just blows.  I’m not saying I’ve got the market cornered on how to pick a perfect bracket, and you should beware anyone who makes that claim.  But I think it’s good to take a quick look at some of what these so-called experts are telling you.

First, there are two things we can accept as axiomatic and move on:

1) One-seeds always beat 16s.
2) All four one-seeds almost never get to the Final Four (we know last year is the exception).

Right.  We get it.  Anyone who uses one of those as a selling point in their analysis is someone you should ignore.  If you’re reading a piece on NCAA tournament bracket-filling advice, it’s certain that you already have those pieces of information.  It isn’t news to you.  So let’s move on…

ALWAYS TAKE 12-SEEDS

Wrong.  This is my favorite piece of bracket-building advice.  It’s a fad statement because of how, in the past several years, 12-seeds have almost always scored at least one victory against 5-seeds in a given tournament.  Most people take this too far and choose three or even all four 12s to move on in their brackets.  But according to BBState.com (a hoops stat nerd’s wet dream — this means you, rtmsf), the all-time record for 12s against 5s is a discouraging 34-83, or about 29%.  This means that you’re completely justified picking a single 12-seed that you’ve got a hunch about to score a win over a 5, but leaving the rest alone.  If you choose right, great!  You showed those punk opponents of yours how it’s done.  Worst-case scenario if youre wrong is you drop a couple of points if another 12 that you didn’t select pulls off the upset.  Chances are, one 12 will pick up a win.  So I wouldn’t leave it alone and take all the 5s.  But choose a SINGLE 12-seed, and don’t sweat it if you’re wrong.

2008 Version of WKU. Are they a 12 over a 5 this year? (photo credit: cbc.ca)

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT IS ABOUT UPSETS

That isn’t necessarily an untrue statement, since we all love a good tournament upset unless it’s our alma.  Those stories are often what make the event so special and add to its legend.  But it does not apply to bracket-building.  Notice how most brackets have increasing point values as the rounds progress, i.e. you get a single point for correctly picking a first-round winner, two points for a second-round winner, etc.  So if you have a bunch of upset-picks advancing to later rounds, since higher-seeded teams usually end up rising to the top, all you’ve done is penalize yourself in the big-reward games.  Some bracket competitions assign even higher point values than I’ve mentioned above (8 points for a correct Final Four pick, 15 for a national champion, and so on) so it’s more important in those systems.  The payoff, then — keep the upsets limited to the first round and maybe the second where you can’t get hurt much if you choose wrong.  Now, I’m not telling you pick a totally worthless and boring bracket where the “better” seed always wins.  That’s the height of douchebaggery.  This is indeed about having fun, and it’s fun to pick a couple of mid-major upstarts to stick it to one or two BCS goons for a round or two.  It adds meaning to games you might not even watch or care about under any other circumstance.  If you’re wrong, and your favorite 10-seed doesn’t make it to the Sweet 16 and that 14 doesn’t score that first-round victory you predicted, big deal.  It’s your bracket and you took the chance.  But if you care about winning, keep that stuff in the early round games, and fill in your later rounds with more established programs.

CHOOSE A CHAMPION WITH GOOD GUARDS

A generic piece of advice.  Otherwise stated as “You have to have good guard play to win the title.”  What are you going to do, choose a team with bad guards?  Even if the person espousing this really means that you should choose a championship team and/or Final Four teams that are “led” by guards, be careful.  Look at every champion crowned in the 2000s.  Every one of them has forwards and/or centers who meant just as much or even more to the team than any of their guards.  This is why these coaches are out there busting their tails on the recruiting trail.  It’s talent at EVERY position that determines success at a program and in the Big Dance.  You can’t just have good guards, you need good players.  The statement that you have to have “good guard play” as a necessary component for tournament success is a bit of advice that sounds insightful and has therefore spun out of control in recent years as some sage bit of wisdom.  Don’t even consider this piece of pseudo-advice when you’re filling in your bracket.

Carmelo Athony.  Not exactly a typical guard.
Carmelo Athony. Not exactly a typical guard. (photo credit: enquirer.com)

The best piece of advice you can possibly keep at the front of your mind when building your bracket is to have fun with it.  Even if you fill out an all-upset or an all-chalk bracket (bag… of… douche!), it’s your bracket and you should do whatever adds to your enjoyment of the tournament.  It’s kind of like playing hardways or snake-eyes at a casino in Las Vegas.  True, the insiders and experts might roll their eyes and snicker at you as you reduce your chances of making money with those plays.  But, I figure, I don’t get to Vegas too often, so while I’m there I might as well have fun and do what I want.  And of course it’s great if it hits!  Yeah, it might not be the smartest play, but when I go home and someone asks me “Did you have fun?” I don’t want to say, “No, but at least the experts don’t think I’m an idiot.  I think I may have impressed those guys.”  Same thing with filling in tournament brackets, as far as I’m concerned.  But I think if, as I’ve outlined above, you can put a critical eye on those oft-repeated bits of advice, you’ll be able to maximize both how much fun you’ll have with this and your chances of winning.

Share this story

NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

bcs-fail

With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:

bcs-2009

If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: New Years Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2009

afterbuzzer

Since the ATB writers have been in a self-induced coma as a result of last week’s NYE festivities (hey, it’s hard living in your mom’s basement), rather than rehashing a bunch of stale games from Wed-Sun, we thought it’d make more sense to just hit some highlights and trends of things we’re watching as the haze continues to wear off from our vision and the strange burning sensations subside.

Some News & Notes.

  • Is Tubby Smith on the short list of coaches looking at Arizona?  Maybe the Tubbster realized that, yes, those icicles on your c#&k really do stay there for six months of the year, and as such, Tucson is looking pretty tasty.
  • Former Hoosier and UAB carpetbagger Armon Bassett ended up transferring to Ohio U.  He will be eligible after next fall’s quarter.
  • Kyle Whelliston is awesome.  Seriously.  The Mid-Majority founder and resident subversive in the college hoops world discovered a clear trend showing that the BCS teams are playing each other more often during the out-of-conference slate, and the mid-majors less.  He thinks this is good for the mids, but we’re not so sure.  The mids really need those opportunities to shine that beating S. Florida and Oregon St. UCLA and Duke provide.
  • The Dagger had a great year-in-review wrapup article over at Yahoo Sports, as well as a look at what college hoops might look like if the BCS was running things over here.

The Big East is insane this year. In just the last three weeks, we’ve seen UConn look like the most likely hurdle for North Carolina through its clutch win in Seattle vs. Gonzaga.  Then we jumped on the Georgetown bandwagon after the Hoyas proceeded to go up to Storrs and thump those Huskies behind a balanced offensive attack and its standard sticky defense.  Only for our mis/pre-conceptions to be challenged again when Pittsburgh chose to use this weekend’s matchup in DC at Georgetown to manhandle (manhandle?  try superman-handle…  the Panthers had more o-rebs – 18 – than the Hoyas had total – 17) the same team that looked so fantastic against UConn five days prior.  We really don’t know what to make of this league with these performances.  Given the way things have gone so far, Pitt should now be in position to get its bell rung by UConn in Western Pa.  We just don’t know.  One thing we think we can say without too much hedging is that UConn, Georgetown, Pitt, and possibly Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville (if those three ever get it completely going), are the best top six to a conference we’ve ever seen.  It’s likely that all six of those teams would win the SEC and compete with UCLA for the Pac-10 crown.  In 1995, the ACC had a really strong top four, but nothing like this group.  As for Georgetown,  we noted after the UConn game that their lack of strong bench production could end up biting them in the arse down the stretch, and it was absolutely exhibited here (2 pts).  This will ultimately be the Hoyas’ downfall, as their 29-game homecourt winning streak was snapped when Pitt went on a 17-4 run to blow open a 40-40 tie game.  As much as we love Greg Monroe, he was schooled by the savvier Dejuan Blair, who dropped 20/17 on the bigger player.

Monday update:  Notre Dame 73, Georgetown 67. Notre Dame defeated Georgetown at home tonight, keeping their 44-game homecourt (and 19-game conference) winning streak alive.  This occurred a mere two days after the Irish laid a leprechaun egg against St. John’s in NYC.  Just like that, Georgetown is now 1-2 in the conference, when one week ago tonight they looked like the team to beat.  Wow.

Is the SEC surging? It’s probably too little, too late, for the SEC to save its sinking sunk RPI in time to matter much come Selection Sunday, but the last few days of games showed that the league may have some fight left in it, following up on Arkansas’ upset of Oklahoma and pulling off a few key wins in games that its teams would have lost in November or early December.  Consider the following scores:

  • South Carolina 85, Baylor 84. SC is one of the definite surprise teams of this season, proving once again that Dave Odom has been the luckiest man alive to have bilked multiple schools of millions of dollars by passing himself off as a legitimate head coach.  Getting a win over a ranked team in a true road game is something the SEC hadn’t done all year.  Until Friday night.  Shooting 54% and putting all five starters in double-figures helps.
  • Florida 68, NC State 66. We probably shouldn’t be giving too much love to a team that allowed its marginal ACC opponent to shoot 59% on its home floor, but hey, an intersectional win is a win!  Nick Calathes saved the day with 24 of his 34, including the go-ahead jumper with 11 seconds left, coming in the second half.
  • Alabama 88, Georgia Tech 77. Bama will be as good as Ronald Steele is and he was excellent on this night (23/10), echoing memories of his healthy first two years in Tuscaloosa.  Ga Tech appears to once again be going nowhere fast.
  • Mississippi St. 82, Houston 65. MSU simply took control of this game, holding an 8-2 Houston team to 28% shooting in the process.
  • Vanderbilt 78, Massachusetts 48. Wow, a complete obliteration of UMass in Amherst by a team that had really shown next-to-nothing so far this year.  Derek Kellogg has lost that team.
  • Louisville 74, Kentucky 71. Yeah, it’s an L for the SEC, but Kentucky has been playing better ball lately and took Louisville to the brink before Pitino whipping boy Edgar Sosa dropped a 25-foot three to win the game with 2.6 seconds remaining.  There may not be a better inside/outside duo than UK’s Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson (50/18 in this game).

Most Impressive Win of the Weekend. Wake Forest 94, BYU 87. It was televised to all of six people in America on The Mountain network, but Wake going into the viper’s pit known as the Marriott Center in Provo where the Cougars had won their last 53 games against all comers was very impressive.  This was especially so given that Wake was teetering in the mid-second half before their assassin Jeff Teague (30/4/4) and muscle man James Johnson (22/15) took over the game, as the tired BYU players starting coming up short on their shots.  What’s the difference between this Wake team and some others (most notably, the Chris Paul teams) in the recent past?  This Deacon squad plays defense.  Whether it’s by design or simply the absurd athleticism that three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup (Teague/Johnson/Aminu) provide, their length and size bothers teams, and as a result, the Deacs are currently the fifth most efficient defensive team in America.   The UNC-Wake game next Sunday in Winston-Salem looms large to see just how good this Deacon team can be.

What Has Happened to the Zags? Utah 66, Gonzaga 65. It’s almost as if that loss to UConn two weeks ago took all the wind out of the sails of the Zags.  Since that game, they’ve lost at home to Portland St. and now away at Utah in a game they had multiple chances to win.  Next they’re at Tennessee on Wednesday before WCC play starts.  Meanwhile, conference foe St. Mary’s is cruising along at 14-1, although against admittedly lesser competition.  As for the Zags, there is top ten talent on this team, and they need to stop feeling sorry for themselves because they lost a heartbreaking game.  Jeremy Pargo in particular needs to get his team’s attention and back on the right track, and Austin Daye needs to improve his shot selection (a 6’11 guy shouldn’t be shooting 44% from the field); otherwise, America’s favorite “underdog” from the Pacific Northwest will once again disappoint in March.

USC is the Most Confounding Team in America. USC 83, Oregon 62 & Oregon St. 62, USC 58 (OT).  USC once again has several future NBA Draft picks on its roster, but as has been a trend in recent years for the Trojans, they are just as likely to shock you with an efficient evisceration of an opponent as they are to simply not show up for the engagement at all.  Case in point was the Oregon two-fer last weekend.  On Friday night, the Trojans went into Oregon’s Macarthur Court (one of the tougher venues in the Pac-10, even in a year when Oregon is clearly down) and completely humiliated the Ducks with a +21-pt second half (probably its best half of the year).  Then, riding that wave of success, USC visited Oregon St. on Sunday – remember, the Beavers went 0-18 in the Pac-10 last season – and managed to hand OSU its first conference victory in 683 days.   If anyone can explain this team, let us know.

Some Other Scores That Caught Our Eye.

  • UNLV 56, Louisville 55. Of course, this was prior to the victory over their nemesis on Sunday, but the Louisville bugaboo of poor shooting (29.6%), weak guard play and a seeming lack of focus allowed UNLV (w/o Wink Adams) to come east and steal a victory.  After this game, Edgar Sosa reportedly was asked to transfer by Coach Pitino – he responded with his best game in two years against Kentucky (18 pts).
  • Marquette 79, Villanova 72. Someone send us an email when you can figure out just how good either of these teams actually are.  Both are two-loss guard-oriented teams that have similar RPI profiles (#29 and #30), capable of a major upset at any time, but not quite strong enough to reach the top tier of the Big East.
  • Arizona St. 90, Stanford 60. Has a BCS team ever defeated another BCS team by 45 points at home, only to lose by 30 points in the next week to another BCS team at home?  That’s a 75-pt difference for you mathemagicians out there.  Stanford followed up this blasting with another home win against Arizona on Sunday, so maybe the Cardinal just had a bad game against Herb Sendek’s team.
  • Xavier 84, Virginia 70. XU really needed to win this road game against an ACC team (even a likely bottom-dweller) to convince folks that their rough two game stretch against Duke and Butler last month is behind them.
  • Illinois St. 86, Creighton 64. ISU stamped itself as the team to beat in the MVC with this big home win on Saturday.  Now 14-0, the Redbirds used a huge second half to blow the game open led by Osiris Eldridge’s 20/9.
  • Michigan 74, Illinois 64. This was a big win for John Beilein’s UM squad, because the Illini have been playing extremely well of late.  Amazingly, after only two games, only Wisconsin and Michigan St. are unbeaten (2-0) in the Big Ten race.
  • Duke 69, Virginia Tech 44. A 13-point second half will not get it done in Cameron.  Although Duke is #2 now, we still don’t believe in them in the long term.  Only five points came off of their bench in this game.
  • California 81, Arizona St. 71. If this keeps up, Mike Montgomery will have to be in the conversation for NCOY.  Two days after demolishing Stanford, Arizona St. got outhustled and outplayed in the second half (Cal shot 68% behind Jerome Randle’s 26/10 assts).  This was two nights after putting away Arizona, 69-55.  Monty has this program competing way ahead of schedule.

On Tap Tuesday. check our now-daily Set Your Tivos feature for the games to watch tomorrow.

Share this story

Is Stephen Curry Overrated?

Posted by nvr1983 on January 4th, 2009

Since his 40 point explosion in Davidson’s first round victory over Gonzaga last March, college basketball fans have been bombarded with the Stephen Curry lovefest that has been spearheaded by Dick Vitale and ESPN. The WWL and other hoops aficionados loves to point out that Curry was ignored by every major school including Virginia Tech, the alma mater of his father NBA All-Star Dell Curry. Like every other basketball fan we love the way Stephen plays and his sweet stroke from the perimeter that has been augmented by a surprising ability to get to the hoop and finish. Since last March, it has been hard to find anybody that would be critical of the baby-faced assassin from Davidson, but here at Rush the Court we like to let our minds not our hearts analyze the situation.

www.zimbio.com

Credit: www.zimbio.com

Like many NBA scouts, I have had my reservations about anointing Stephen the next great NBA player much to the chagrin of some Davidson fans. However, I continued to marvel (see my post minutes after Davidson knocked Gonzaga out of the NCAA tournament in the first round last year) at his ability to put up numbers despite the best efforts of the opposition (with the exception of the antics of Jimmy Patsos). After watching his performance against Purdue (5/26 FG), his third sub-par game this year against quality (BCS-level) competition, I started to wonder if all those BCS conference coaches and NBA scouts may have been on to something. So I started to crunch the numbers, which led to some very surprising results.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story