It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 2nd, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Mach Five speed. There reached a point in Sunday’s regional final between Louisville and Duke where lateral movement ceased to exist. There was Peyton Siva, there was Russ Smith, and there was 94 feet of court from end to end. It didn’t matter where and when they got the ball – they were heading straight to the hole, and you could try to keep up if you wanted. Those two bring a dimension that no other team in the country has, and they made some decent Duke guards look downright tortoise-like on both offense and defense throughout the second half rout. They ran ‘em straight out of the gym.

I LOVED…. Wichita State “shocking” (sorry, too easy) the world and making it out of the West Region, and more importantly striking another solid blow for mid-majors with its convincing win over a very good Ohio State team. While Gonzaga making it just two games as a #1 seed was rough, this WSU run helps erase some of that damage for quality schools in small conferences going forward.

I LOVED…. Trey Burke deciding to become The Man. For nine minutes against Kansas, literally everyone in the building knew exactly who the ball was going to and what he was trying to do. Didn’t matter. Ping, ping, ping, ping – the jumpers just kept raining in as he willed his Wolverines into overtime and on to victory. Any Player of the Year questions should have been answered right there.

Trey Burke Took Over, and Michigan Advanced…

I LOVED…. just how dumb the NCAA Tournament selection committee looked by putting Oregon as a #12 seed. I honestly believe it was one of the worst hack jobs in selection history, and the Ducks, who were possibly underseeded by about five slots or so, powered their way to the Sweet Sixteen and hung with a star-studded Louisville team for the full 40 minutes. Someone needs to take a long hard look at what went wrong there, and make sure we don’t ever, ever see it again.

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Appraising the 75th Anniversary NCAA Tournament Lists From a Big East Perspective

Posted by Will Tucker on January 17th, 2013

We’ve been meaning to devote the proper attention to the lists of top players, teams and moments in NCAA Tournament history released by the NCAA last month to commemorate 75 years of March Madness. Reader Sean Revell sent us a very compelling infographic of his creation (pictured below), which distills the unceremoniously dry, sterile data tables of the NCAA press release into an engaging visual timeline.

The NCAA's lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The NCAA’s lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The image serves as a good springboard for some analysis of the lists from a Big East perspective. The league’s current members acquitted themselves well in the list of individual performances, accounting for more players (14) in the Top 75 than any other league save the ACC, which placed 16 former stars on the list. But only three Big East teams were deemed worthy of the list of Top 25 tournament teams, placing the league in the middle of the pack below the Pac-12 and ACC, with six teams apiece. Obviously, it’s impossible to please everyone with a list like this, and revisionism and presentism are unavoidable in an era where March Madness is more culturally visible and digitally accessible than ever before. But it’s worth some attempt at measured scrutiny, so here are a few thoughts on which Big East players and teams should have made the cut:

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Coach K to Coach Team USA in the 2012 Olympics

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2009

We have already laid out our thoughts on the possibility of this occurring earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again because USA Basketball made it official today that Mike Krzyzewski was returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. For as much hate as he gets as the coach of Duke, we have to say that he has done a great job of rebuilding USA Basketball with Jerry Colangelo although that it can be argued that his best attribute was that he didn’t bench his best player (see George Karl in 2002) or select a squad that was horribly put together/too young and act like an insufferable jerk while coach that team (see Larry Brown in 2004). Perhaps the biggest impact Coach K’s return will have is convincing the team’s stars (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade) to return for another run at the gold medal. Team USA version 2012 could potentially field a team that is legitimately as dominant as The Dream Team (none of this ridiculous “Redeem Team” junk from this year) as the  2008 team’s core players will be entering their primes with the exception of Kobe. Here’s a quick look at a potential roster for London:

PG = Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose

SG =  Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Brandon Roy

SF = LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant

PF/C = Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, and Chris Bosh

Obviously that’s more people than could suit up, but they would probably lose at least one guy to age/injuries (candidates: Kobe, Wade, and Jefferson) or might drop one of the potential PGs (likely Rondo or Williams). Griffin is also the other wild-card here since we’re forecasting his success in the NBA, but Team USA’s weakness is inside and it seems like he would be perfect in the international setting with the up-tempo pace that Team USA would likely employ even if Malcolm Gladwell thinks that style of play is a recipe for an upset. In any case, this team would be enormous favorites in London and would highlight a talent–recruiting–that was once considered Coach K’s greatest asset back when he used to simply coach Duke.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2009

dynamiteWelcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.

6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.

7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.

8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:

Early Games

  • UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
  • Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title

Afternoon Games

  • Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • #6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
  • #1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • #25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals

Evening Games

  • #23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
  • Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
  • Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title

Late Night Games

  • San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
  • Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
  • #5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
  • Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
  • Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)

10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.01.09 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2009

dynamiteWell it’s finally here. The month of March is upon us. Here at RTC, we’ll be coming up with a ridiculous number of posts (I’m not sure how we will be able to do it with our other “lives”) so be sure to check back throughout the month as we will have posts for conference recaps, our unique bubble watch, frequent bracket updates by our resident bracketologist Zach, our favorite NCAA tournament memories, and the most comprehensive NCAA tournament preview anywhere. Ever.

11:00 AM: Just to set the table for today (and before I run out to grab some lunch before the games start), we’ll be following all three of the major games today, which will all be on CBS. At noon, Dominic James-less #10 Marquette will travel to #6 Louisville. Then at 2 PM, #8 Missouri will travel to Lawrence to take on the defending national champs, #15 Kansas. (CBS will also be airing the Tennessee-Florida game at 2. We will be very unhappy if we end up with that game instead.) The last time these teams met, Missouri shocked the Jayhawks with a Zaire Taylor 10-footer to hand Kansas its only loss in their last 13 games. A win here for Kansas would essentially seal the Big 12 regular season title for Kansas since they own the tie-breaker over Oklahoma (thanks to Blake Griffin‘s absence). Finally at 4 PM, #9 Michigan State will go to #20 Illinois. Like the preceding game, a win here would essentially clinch the Big 10 regular season title for the Spartans. In addition, we will be following the aforementioned UT-UF game (hopefully online instead of on our TVs) as well as a handful of bubble match-ups (Providence at Rutgers, Cincinnati at Syracuse, Michigan at Wisconsin, and West Virginia at South Florida).

11:50 AM: If any of you are wondering if I might decide to ditch this and go outside to enjoy the beautiful March weather, here’s your answer. On a side note, I just saw myself on ESPN for the second time this season (thanks to the miracle of HD).

11:55 AM: Wow. I just saw the Blake Griffin play from yesterday where we went over the scorer’s table. Pretty impressive after his concussion against Texas.

Noon: CBS just announced they will be have an interview with Jamie Dixon at halftime. So the Pittsburgh fans might want to tune in for that if a top 10 match-up in their own conference wasn’t enough.

12:05 PM: Rick Pitino is wearing his Colonel Sanders suit for the white out. As the CBS guys mentioned, last year he had to switch at halftime. Let’s see if it is more effective this year.

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Breaking Down ESPN’s Prestige Rankings

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2008

Ed. Note:  Don’t like ESPN’s Prestige Rankings?  Provide your comment on how to improve them here.  We’re going to take this information and create a new set of rankings based on additional factors (and getting rid of the moronic NIT appearance = NCAA appearance (1 point) criterion). 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that ESPN was trying to fill the dead space between the NBA Finals and the Olympics with yet another list. Normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at it because ESPN’s lists have been getting progressively more ludicrous (hitting its peak–or nadir–when John Hollinger put Dwayne Wade’s 2006 “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” performance above every single one of Michael Jordan’s masterpieces). However, when I noticed that ESPN was trying to rank the most prestigious programs for college basketball in the 64-/65-team era, I was intrigued and figured it was worth some analysis.

Your #1 team of the era
Your #1 team of the era

The first thing I always do when looking at any list is to see the scoring system used and ESPN sure picked an interesting system. I’ll break it into segments with some analysis:

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10

- All four of these things seems pretty reasonable. I think that most fans would value the post-season performances in a way that is pretty close to the points awarded although it seems like a Final 4 berth is considered a great accomplishment for any program (even for the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the college basketball world). I probably would have bumped up the national title, title game loss, and national semifinal loss by 5 points to give a 10 point spread between an Elite 8 loss and a national semifinal loss.

• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5

- This is where the scoring starts to get questionable. I’m assuming the “Best W-L record in conference’s regular season” is lawyerspeak for regular season conference champion. I’m glad that ESPN has decided that the America East regular season champion deserves more points for their in-conference performance than the regular season runner-ups in the ACC, Big East, and SEC. The 5 points for the 30-plus win season may seem like a lot, but in fact they are very rare (Duke leads with 9 such seasons and I could only count/remember 16 programs with any 30-win seasons since the start of the 1984-85 season) so that seems reasonable (as does the 5 points for a Sweet 16 loss although 16 programs achieve are awarded this each season while approximately the same number have achieved it for a 30-win season during the entire era). My main question with the 5-point awards is if they really consider all regular season conference titles the same as it is easier to win certain titles than others. One interesting note about this methodology is that Princeton with 10 regular season Ivy League titles is awarded 50 points with this methodology while Duke with 9 30-plus win seasons is only awarded 45 points for that feat (ignoring the fact that Duke probably won the regular season conference title most of those years).

• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3

- I’m assuming that the Ivy League regular season champ automatically gets the 3 points for winning the conference tournament title since they don’t have a post-season tournament. This only further skews the points Princeton and UPenn get in this system as they receive 80 points and 96 points respectively for their Ivy League titles not to mention the 20-win seasons they racked up beating up on Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown. I’m perfectly fine with the AP 1st-team AA points as at most 5 teams a year will have a player earn that distinction. Perhaps they should have thrown in a National POY bonus as that player is the one who usually defines the season (Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, etc.). Likewise, I’m in agreement with the 3 points for the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss.

• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2

- This is where it starts to get really weird. Let’s get the reasonable things out of the way first. Top 10 pick worth 2 points? Ok. That seems fine even if the draft was dominated by high schoolers and Euros for a few years. In the future, the one-and-done rule might make this benefit the schools that are willing to take the one-and-done guys even if it does hurt their APR. That is unless those guys start going to Europe. Cinderella getting 2 points for a 1st-round upset? Fine with this too even if we will all remember the Hampton upset of Iowa State more than we will remember the annual 5-12 upsets. AP second-team AA worth 2 points? Ok with this one too even if I think once you start getting to the 2nd team the players selected start getting more dependent on the voters. I’m too lazy to check this out (perhaps rtmsf can do it), but I’d be willing to venture there is a lot more variation in the guys selected to the 2nd team by various publications/groups than there is with the 1st team. Now for the crazy one. . .Awarding 2 points for a NIT title? Maybe in the 1950s, but today winning the NIT only makes you the butt-end of every more successful team in your conference. How many message board threads have trolls made mocking the 65th (now 66th) best team in country? I’ll admit that the NIT champs would probably beat the 13-16 seeds most of the time, but is there really any pride in being the small fish (mediocre team) in the big ponds (power conference) that can beat up on the plankton (13-16 seeds)? I’d give the NIT champ 1 point overall, which leads into the next big problem. . .

• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1

- Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. No problems here with the 20-29 wins or AP 3rd team AA getting 1 point. I would probably differentiate between 20-24 wins, which is usually a solid season, and 25-29 wins, which usually will put you into consideration for a top 4 seed if you’re from a power conference. Like I said before the further down the AA list you go, the more variation you will have by publication/group, but it’s not really worth arguing about for 1 point. The thing worth arguing about is giving the same number of points for a NCAA tournament berth and a postseason NIT berth. To borrow an over-used phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” While I recognize that in this system the NIT team can only receive 2 points from the tournament (if they win), it is ridiculous to even consider invitations to the 2 tournament similar when the entire selection special is based on camera crews camping out in rooms with bubble teams to see if they got into the NCAA tournament. Maybe the ESPN stat whizzes have access to different camera feeds than I do, but it seems like the players, coaches, and families are happier when they get into the NCAA tournament than when they find out they are going to the NIT (even if Madison Square Garden is a slight upgrade from Boise, Idaho–unless we’re talking NBA). That’s just one man’s interpretation of the reactions I see although I could probably point out that a few years ago Georgetown declined an invitation to the NIT because they wanted to give their players more time to study for exams. . .in March. I wonder why Georgetown didn’t turn down its #2 seed this year. Do John Thompson III and the Georgetown AD not care about those same exams any more?

• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3

- No problem with the first two although I wonder if a losing season is counted against you if you have it expunged from your record and throw your long-time assistant coach under the bus? Also, I’d consider a 15-16 season a disappointment while I would consider 8-20 a complete embarrassment, so I’d probably make the less than 10-win season a significantly bigger penalty. I think the NCAA tournament ban should be a much larger penalty in this scoring system as the public (and press) reaction tends to be pretty bad (see below).

This is only a 3 point deduction per year?
This is only a 3 point deduction per year?

>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season

- After all the issues with the scoring system, I’m not going to complain about these minor qualifiers and tiebreakers. Both of them seem reasonable and none of the top 50 teams were tied.

Now that we’ve looked the methodology it’s time to pick apart the rankings to see what ESPN got right and what they screwed up. Duke is the run-away winner as even the most ardent Duke-hater (feel free to chime in here rtmsf) would agree that Coach K’s Blue Devils have been the most dominant program of the era even if their results have been underwhelming the past few years. The Blue Devils are followed by the Jayhawks in 2nd and the Tar Heels in 3rd. I’m not going to argue much with this although I would have UNC in 2nd just because I consider Kansas a team that historically underperforms in the tournament (Mario Chalmers’ shot and Danny and the Miracles not withstanding). Now onto the rankings I am utterly confused by.

Overated:
UNLV: 8th?!? I loved Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebs, who may have been one of the best college teams ever even if they lost/threw the 1991 national semifinal against Duke, but there is no way this has been the 8th most prestigious program in the country over the past 20+ years just like Memphis isn’t in that category. ESPN provides a pretty clear summary of why UNLV shouldn’t be in the top 10: “2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007″. I’d keep UNLV in the top 20, but they definitely don’t belong in the top 10 with that track record.
Xavier: The Muskeeters (at #17) have a nice Atlantic-10 program, but the fact that they have never made a Final 4 should automatically keep them out of the top 25. The Musketeers are buoyed by 21 combined conference titles, but have not really been a threat in the NCAA tournament having only racked up 15 NCAA tournament wins. Interestingly, Xavier came in 2 spots ahead of Cincinnati even though Xavier is widely considered the red-headed stepchild in the city.
Temple: I don’t mean to sound like Billy Packer ripping on the mid-majors (sorry, if you’re not a BCS conference, you’re a mid-major in my eyes), but the Owls never made the Final 4 despite five trips there under John Chaney. I think they’re a very good program, but like Xavier, Temple shouldn’t be in the Top 25 without a Final 4 appearance.
Murray State: Now this is the point where I rip the little guy. I was absolutely stunned when I saw this one. The Racers always seem to be one of those teams you see at the bottom of the bracket and maybe every once in a while you decide to take a chance on them to pull off the huge upset. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, you’ve only been rewarded once (1988 against 3rd-seeded NC State). The Racers piled up the points by dominating the Ohio Valley Conference racking up 22 (or 24 depending on your addition skills) conference titles and twelve 20+ win seasons (thanks to an easy conference schedule). Somehow this manages to put them above Villanova, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Underrated:
Maryland: The Terps (28th) are killed by the fact that they play in the ACC and have lost out on a ton of points thanks to playing in the same conference as Duke and UNC. Although Gary Williams hasn’t had good teams the past few years, the Terps run especially in the Juan Dixon era should have been enough to propel them into the top 20. How does this program only rank 2 spots ahead of Murray State?
Utah: I don’t think the Utes would be able to move up much higher, but it would be interesting to see how high they would be on this list if they didn’t have the misfortune of playing Kentucky so many times in the 1990s. While the Utes benefited playing in a softer conference than some of their peers on the list (SEC and ACC), the Mountain West has been a fairly strong conference in recent years.
Florida: I’m not sure how much higher the Gators could move up because of their relative lack of success (not counting Lon Kruger’s 1994 Final 4 run) before Joakim Noah and company ran off back-to-back titles, but it seems like that alone should be enough to crack the top 20 especially when programs like Xavier and Temple are ranked ahead of them despite not making a single Final 4 appearance. The Gators probably belong in the top 15 although that may be more of a recency effect, but it just seems that there recent run puts them at a level that isn’t that much different than UNLV with its run with Larry Johnson.

Other points of interest:
– Coach K’s current program (Duke) ranks #1. The program he left (Army) comes in tied for 298th, or as it is more commonly referred to “DFL”. Hopefully the Duke athletic department program has a better succession plan in place than Army did when Coach K decides to leave the sidelines.
– I found this rather amusing from personal experience. Boston University comes in at 108th ahead of programs such as Clemson, Providence (with a Final 4 appearance), Washington, and USC.
– In the current SportsNation voting, Kentucky is in the lead (good work out of the Sea of Blue crowd) with Duke in 4th even though they have the most #1 votes (something tells me they were left off a lot of ballots or voted 25th). The three teams I singled out as being overrated in the top 25 were moved down quite a bit. Note: I thought they were overrated even before I saw the online voting.

No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
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6.11.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2008

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.1

Posted by nvr1983 on May 20th, 2008

As previously mentioned on RTC (and every other decent site that covers basketball), the NBA held its draft lottery last night. Among the luminaries in attendance were the Basketball Jesus himself Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade of “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” fame, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Mitch Richmond, Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg, and some lady who has Sacramento Kings season tickets.

As most of you know by now, the Chicago Bulls defied their 1.7% odds to steal the #1 pick. Rounding out the top 3 were the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. The losers of the draft were the Seattle Oklahoma City Supersonics who fell from the #2 spot to #4, which I think they deserved after last year (still bitter despite a NBA record 42-win turnaround and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals).

The top 2 are essentially set in stone although the Bulls lack of an interior scoring presence (not you Joakim) and lack of an elite point guard (sorry, Kirk) means they could go either direction. The Heat will get the “leftovers”. I’m guessing that Pat Riley (still the GM, right?) is hoping that the coachless Bulls take Michael Beasley because it seems like Beasley and Shawn Marion would clash in terms of their inside-outside styles and type of play so he would prefer Derrick Rose, who could be absolutely ridiculous paired with Wade and Marion.

We’ll be putting up draft previews over the next couple of days, but until then we’ll just offer a few thoughts:

(1) If I was the Bulls GM (if Reinsdorf or any one in the organization is reading this, please contact me), I would go with Rose. Even though they lack a great inside scoring threat, I think it’s a lot easier to find a serviceable PF than PG. I also think the impact of a great PG is bigger as Chris Paul and the other great recent vintage PGs have shown everyone the past few years. The Bulls have a lot of talented NBA-quality young guards (Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefolosha) along with a couple talented unproven youngsters (JamesOn Curry and Shannon Brown). While some analysts may argue that this is a reason to get a big man, I would argue they should take Rose (better than any of the current guards) and make a big package of these young guys to try to get another inside presence to compliment Andre Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Drew Gooden, and Tyrus Thomas along with the team’s only “star” Luol Deng. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post. . .

(2) I wonder if Mike D’Antoni is starting to think he should have asked the Knicks for more money. He could have had almost the perfect team for his offense if he went to Chicago even before they had the chance to select Rose. I also wonder how D’Antoni is going to handle being on a team that uses its draft pick to select a player instead of selling it for money.

(3) Hoiberg looked like he was going to throw the cancer patient’s teddy bear when the Timberwolves ended up with the #3 pick (falling outside of the Beasley-Rose jackpot). That would have made an even better YouTube moment than it already was (around the 2:20 mark of the clip below).

A couple quick, early links on the NBA Draft:

(1) As always, Chad Ford has a mock draft up with a brief analysis. I swear he must have enough spare time during the year to come up with mock drafts for every possible team draft order combination.

(2) Meanwhile, Jack McCallum chimes in with his own thoughts. Mostly just rambling about what D’Antoni must be thinking along with a brief breakdown of what the top teams in the draft might do.

(3) If you want to hate John Hollinger and his ridiculous unproven stats, check out his Pro Potential analysis (ESPN Insider access required). For those of you without access here are a couple of gems:
– Michael Beasley at #1 followed by. . .Blake Griffin at #2 and Danny Green at #4.
– 11 of the top 25 are freshman, which isn’t surprising, but that does not include several notable freshman who didn’t make the list: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, DeAndre Jordan, Donte Green, and Eric Gordon.
– The list of freshman that Hollinger considers to have more pro potential than those five heralded freshman: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Dar Tucker (DePaul), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), and Matt Howard (Butler). The fact that I decided to list the schools these guys play at should tell you how far off the radar most of these guys are as NBA prospects. Hollinger offers an impassioned defense of his system, but I don’t buy it.

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Introducing the Hoosiers new coach. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2008

According to reports on ESPN, Indiana is on the verge of signing Tom Crean as their new head coach. I think this is about as good as Indiana can expect since they are losing D.J. White (and most likely Eric Gordon), kicked 2 other starters off the team today (Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis), and face potential NCAA sanctions for the Kelvin Sampson fiasco.

Crean has done an excellent job after taking his first job as head coach at Marquette (previously was an assistant at Michigan State, Western Kentucky, and Pittsburgh). After struggling to stay above .500 his first 2 seasons, Marquette quickly became a national power during the 2001-2002 season going 26-7. Crean’s career at Marquette reached its apex in 2003 when he took his team to the Final 4 (Dwayne Wade may have had a little to do with that too). After that season, Crean’s teams spent 2 years in the NIT before getting back to the NCAA tournament.

Can Crean lead Indiana back to glory?

It appears that Crean will leave Marquette in good shape as they finished 5th in the loaded Big East this year. The Golden Eagles ended their season in the second round with an 82-81 OT loss to Stanford on a Brook Lopez leaner with 1.8 secs left.

I think Crean will be an excellent hire for Indiana. The big question now is what kind of damage control he can do. His first order of business will be to get his new program on the same page. I’m not sure what kind of process he will have to go through with Bassett and Ellis, but I don’t think he can afford to lose them and stay competitive. Keeping Eric Gordon will be a stretch, but Gordon probably dropped at least 5 spots with his awful performance in the last month or two of the season. After that, he will be at the mercy of the NCAA as they decide the programs fate for the next few years.

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South Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

This is our final regional analysis and we’re running short on time to get them in before your brackets are due. Consequently, our analysis of the lower seeds will be very brief.

Teams
#1 Memphis:We can’t remember a #1 seed that has gotten less hype as a potential nation champ or more criticism. We know the Tigers aren’t going to remind anybody of a J.J. Redick shooting video. We know that they play in a relatively weak conference. We also know that they are 33-1 and were a short jumper away from being undefeated. We also know they may be the most talented team in the country. What does this all mean? We have no idea if the Tigers will win the title, but we do know that nobody wants to face Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They have an easy path to the Sweet 16 where they could face a very difficult challenge in Pitt. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Texas:In their first year AD (After Durant), Rick Barnes brings the Longhorns back to the tournament with a much better team even if certain LA residents who like to claim allegiance to Boston sports teams without suffering through the winter don’t care about them (or college basketball) any more. These Longhorns are led by All-American candidate D.J. Augustin (19.8 PPG and 5.7 APG) who brings a strong supporting cast with him to the NCAA tournament. Although they are the #2 seed, some might argue they are the favorites in the region thanks to the committee’s ridiculous decision to give them homecourt in the regional finals. That and the fact that they already have been UCLA and Tennessee this season. If they meet Memphis in Houston, the NBA scouts will definitely be watching for the great PG matchup (Rose vs. Augustin). Schedule/Roster

#3 Stanford: We actually have quite seen quite a few Cardinal games this year thanks to FSN. With Brook Lopez clearing that little issue of going to class, Stanford has become a very good team. Despite playing West #1 seed UCLA close two times in the past 2 weeks, we don’t think Lopez has the support to get Stanford by either the Longhorns (in Houston) or Memphis (anywhere other than Palo Alto) to make it to the Final 4. Schedule/Roster

#4 Pittsburgh:Jamie Dixon’s Panthers have done a great job overcoming injuries since their early-season win over Duke in Madison Square Garden. The Panthers tend to dominate inside with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, but are yet another good team that struggles at the FT lines (22/44 in the Big East final). While we normally would look at their Big East title as a sign they are ready to make a deep run in the tournament, Pitt has a history of doing well in their conference tourney and failing to reach the Final 4. When we combine that with the fact that their physical style is subject to the tight NCAA tournament officiating (h/t to Jay Bilas), we are unsure about their chances to make it to San Antonio. However, we look forward to seeing Levance Fields against Derrick Rose (and possibly D.J. Augustin) in Houston. Schedule/Roster

#5 Michigan State:It seems like Drew Neitzel has been a Spartan forever. He has grown from a talented if inconsistent player into Tom Izzo’s go-to guy. While he will have difficulty creating against more physical guards, Neitzel finds a way to get it done. If MSU can get there, it should be a very interesting matchup with Pitt in the Sweet 16. If they are to get past the Sweet 16, Neitzel will need a lot of help from Raymar Morgan. Schedule/Roster

#6 Marquette:The Golden Eagles are led by Jerel McNeal, who has overtaken his more hyped teammate Dominic James as the team’s most vital player. While Marquette is not as good as advertised early in the season, but they should be good enough to get by Kentucky, which is a rematch of the 2003 Elite 8 matchup where Dwayne Wade’s triple-double knocked out the last great Wildcat team. Schedule/Roster

#7 Miami (FL): After a torrid 12-0 start (helped by a cupcake schedule), the Hurricanes cooled off in the middle of the season before getting into the Big Dance with some big late season wins most notably over Duke. Miami will be challenged right off the bat by St. Mary’s. To be honest, their potential 2nd round matchup may be easier than playing St. Mary’s despite what the seeds say. Schedule/Roster

#8 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were able to survive the falling Georgia Dome, but they were unable to withstand their buzzsaw namesakes from Athens, Georgia. MSU is led offensively by Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes and defensively by the human eraser known as Jarvis Varnado. We think they should be able to get by Oregon before meeting a tougher challenge in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster

#9 Oregon: Perhaps no team has received more criticism for their seed than the Ducks. They made the tournament by winning their last 3 regular season conference games, but we question their ability to make a serious run as they lost every game down the stretch to the top Pac-10 teams including the ones at the vaunted McArthur Court. Schedule/Roster

#10 Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, led by Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson, are a quick, athletic team that sports wins over Oregon and Gonzaga. However, they struggle with more physical teams that slow the tempo down. This may not matter as they probably won’t play a slow-paced team before they are knocked out. Schedule/Roster

#11 Kentucky: Billy Gillispie has done an outstanding job salvaging this season, which started out so poorly with a loss at home to Gardner-Webb in the 2nd game of the Wildcat season. This is a pretty mediocre Kentucky team especially with the loss of their best player Patrick Paterson to injury. However, Gillispie has molded the team’s style (slow the game down and limit possessions) to maximize what he has. Kentucky isn’t nearly good enough to make a run in the tournament, but they might be able to pull of an upset or two. Schedule/Roster

#12 Temple: The Owls come in having won the Atlantic 10 tournament title, which sends a pretty strong signal that they are playing well late in the season. When you watch, Temple you will realize these aren’t Don Chaney’s Owls. Instead of relying on their physicality, these Owls are very explosive led by Dionte Christmas (20.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG) and Mark Tyndale (15.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.3 APG). They should provide the Spartans with a stiff challenge in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#13 Oral Roberts: While Oral Roberts is led by 5’9″ guard Robert Jarvis, their hallmark is their relentless defense. Unfortunately for them, they will be facing what is potentially the most physical team in the tournament in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#14 Cornell: The Ivy League champs usually can at least taunt opposing fans that they will usually be the boss of the fans of the team that is kicking their ass. Unforunately for Cornell and their fans, they play Stanford so they don’t even have that to hang their hat on this year. Schedule/Roster

#15 Austin Peay: They have absolutely no shot against a talented and tough Longhorn team. Schedule/Roster

#16 Texas-Arlington: We give them 5 minutes before their game against Memphis gets out of hand. Just way too much athleticism on Memphis’s side. Texans may get some form of revenge in the regional finals. Schedule/Roster

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