Morning Five: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2011

  1. Indiana’s Christian Watford broke his hand over the weekend against Michigan State and had surgery on it yesterday; he will be out indefinitely.  This is just another gut-punch to the stomachs of Indiana fans everywhere, as Watford, IU’s leading scorer, represents the third Hoosier starter to miss significant time (Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones III are the others).  This comes on the heels of what was the most promising week for Indiana basketball in quite some time — a win over Illinois and an overtime loss to Michigan State.  Say what you want about Tom Crean as a head coach (and we’ve said a lot), but it’s especially difficult to get wins in the Big Ten when you don’t have your full hand to play with.
  2. A couple of other significant players suffered injuries recently.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson sprained his ankle at practice on Tuesday and is considered uncertain for Thursday night’s game at Auburn.  According to this story, it was bad enough that he had a protective boot on and he left the arena after practice in crutches.  UT has won its last four games and part of the reason for their improved play has been Hopson, so if he isn’t at 100%, even a trip to Auburn could be troublesome.  Meanwhile, St. John’s announced that forward Justin Brownlee had suffered a fracture of his left thumb during Sunday’s huge Red Storm win over Duke, a game in which he had 20/9/6 assts.  He will wear a splint on the thumb, though, and is not expected to miss any time from practice nor games.
  3. Mike DeCourcy writes that Auburn’s Tony Barbee believes that the NBA will go back to the preps-to-pros route as a result of next summer’s collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players Association and the owners.  He says that he’s been talking to “people” who seem to be in the know, but we question if those people are tied into the owners, management and David Stern — the group that will ultimately drive this decision.  We’re on record stating that both the preps-to-pros and the so-called “baseball rule” are bad for the game of college basketball, but the NBA’s self-interest will rule the day and ensure that names like John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger have value and cachet behind them prior to entering the league as rookies.
  4. We thought this was an interesting article from the Cleveland State Cauldron lamenting that CSU basketball is a consistent winner in a town that traditionally has not had many of those, yet it still has significant trouble getting any kind of attention from anyone in the community at-large.  The Vikings are currently 20-3 overall and 9-2 in the Horizon League with second-place Valpo and traditional power Butler coming to town this weekend.  We agree, Cleveland… get out there and support this team.  They just might end up being one of the best mid-major stories of the year in all of college basketball again.
  5. In the inaugural year of this blog, we took SI writer Grant Wahl (who has since moved on to cover soccer) to task over his Magic Eight selections for leaving UNC off his list of teams that would win the title.   That season was 2007-08 and, if you recall, he was right.  Both Kansas and Memphis were on his list, but the Jayhawk obliteration of North Carolina in the national semifinals validated his concerns.  Consider our crow eaten.  After what sounds to be significant negotiations, Luke Winn has revitalized the Magic Eight this season, and his choices are a combination of obvious and bold, as such:  BYU, Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky, Ohio State, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.  As he acknowledges, leaving Kansas, Pittsburgh, UConn and SDSU out are rather huge gambles, but we’ll see how he does as things develop over the next month.
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Morning Five: 11.24.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

morning5

  1. South Carolina’s Dominique Archie is out indefinitely after spraining his right knee coming down from a dunk in Sunday night’s game against Miami (FL).  Archie was averaging 14/6 for the Gamecocks, who will definitely miss the athletic forward’s presence in the lineup.  Tough games against Western Kentucky, Clemson and Richmond loom in the next two weeks for South Carolina, and with the loaded SEC East waiting in the new year, the Cocks can’t afford to have Archie out of the lineup for very long.
  2. Pac-10 Pile On.  Normally, we’d be inclined to take a contrarian stance when all of the media is ready to pile on someone or something (assuming such a stance is defensible), but there’s really no possible way to defend what the Pac-10 has done to itself so far this season.  Sacramento State, Loyola Marymount and now Montana – really?  Goodman and Decourcy weigh in on what is after two weeks shaping up to be a historically bad conference.
  3. Pitino/Calipari.  We read this on the plane home this weekend and it’s now available on CNNSI as well as the print form that we’re forced to read while traveling in a wifi-less aluminum tube at 600 mph.  Grant Wahl breaks down the complex relationship between the two major head coaches in the state of Kentucky, ultimately concluding that for all their differences, they’re actually very much the same.
  4. Bob Huggins continues to play the Dick Cheney card when questioned about whether his star Devin Ebanks will be playing anytime soon for West Virginia.  The Mountaineer forward did not play in WVU’s first game last week and Huggins says he does not know if Ebanks will play this week in their game against The Citadel on Tuesday or in the 76 Classic over the weekend.
  5. Andy Katz had a long blog post yesterday on the latest in the Renardo Sidney situation at Mississippi State, in addition to a somewhat reasonable defense of the Gazelle Group’s rigged “tournaments.”  The skinny: the NCAA is no hurry to move the Sidney thing along and the MSU people believe that they’re fishing for a violation to hang their hat on; and Katz actually agrees with the idea that GG is using to set up big matchups in key venues (such as Cal vs. Syracuse and UNC vs. Ohio State last week in the CvC).  Sorry, but we cannot go along with this.  Win the games and you get to advance.  Period.  You can manipulate the brackets to get good matchups all you want, but once the games begin, we need to let the teams decide.
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Morning Five: 11.19.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

morning5

  1. The holidays are approaching and lucky for us, Karen Sypher truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Ms. Sypher was charged today by a Louisville grand jury with the federal crime of retaliation against a witness for accusing Rick Pitino of raping her.  In plain english, this means that the grand jury found no reason to believe her claim that Pitino raped her (same as the police).  Yep, just tack that one onto all the others — extortion, perjury, etc. — if she keeps it up, she might just end up doing some serious time over all this nonsense.
  2. The SI guys (Seth Davis, Grant Wahl and Luke Winn) give us their preseason selections for various categories in bite-sized form, but isn’t it a week late for this, fellas?  (ed. note – ok, got it — it was for the magazine)
  3. This is a nice piece by Alexander Wolff on the precocious career of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Gary Parrish also has something to say about this year’s scrappy Memphis team.  We’re a little late to Pastner’s bandwagon, but after what we saw last night in terms of strategy, energy and fight, this guy is going to be around for a very long time.
  4. This was an interesting study done by professors at Indiana (where else?) that looks at the incidence of fouls called on college basketball teams over the course of a season.  The findings were compelling, but commonsensical: a) aggressive teams are rewarded by physical play by officials’ (unconscious?) tendencies to “keep it even” in terms of foul calls over the course of a game; b) home court advantage is a clear predictor of foul differential (+7%); and c) the greater the foul differential, the more likely it is that the next foul will be called on the team with fewer fouls.  We haven’t vetted the data or methodology but most everything sounds reasonable at first blush.  The smart coaches have known this for years, and even the not-so-bright ones know that teams that clutch, hold and grab on every possession can’t get called for everything.  The only possibly confounding factor not accounted for would be if the teams that are behind in the game get more aggressive through the course of play, which explains why there’s a greater likelihood of the team with fewer fouls getting whistled more often in this situations.  Interesting study.
  5. Former FIU star and RTC Impact Player Freddy Asprilla has committed to Kansas State as a juco — another great get for Frank Martin, who is putting together a nice program there in the Little Apple.
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01.29.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2009

Lot of good links today with many of them follow-ups of stories we have reported on in the past.

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Perspectives on an Epic Title Game

Posted by nvr1983 on April 8th, 2008

I provided my instant (revised) analysis very early this morning and rtmsf will be providing his a little later today. I thought I would provide you with some of the thoughts of various other sportswriters.

-At the Alamo, this was one to remember: Bob Ryan, who most of you may know from his frequent appearances on ESPN, offers his thoughts on the game and the Kansas team, which may get lost in all the talk about missed FTs and Chalmers huge shot.

-It takes more than talent: Stewart Mandel on one of the biggest title game collapses ever.

-The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: RTC’s most well-known fan (and SI writer/CBS college basketball studio analyst) Seth Davis provides a short Q&A in between the game and his early-morning wakeup call to be on Mike & Mike.

-Chalmers, Kansas get One Shining Moment: Pat Forde on the defining moment of the tournament (with apologies to the Davidson fans).

-Calipari: We let national title ‘slip out of our hands’: Andy Katz with one of the million columns on how Memphis let the title slip away.

-Chalmers’s Effort on Both Ends Keys Jayhawks’ Win: Camille Powell credits Mario Chalmers’s play on both ends for the title, which most writers missed because everybody has focused so much on his 3 with 2.1 secs left.

-Plenty of Twists, One Final Turn: John Feinstein, author of the famous “Season on the Brink”, offers his perspective on the title game.

-Without Collins, there are no Chalmers heroics: Dana O’Neil credits Sherron Collins with keying the Jayhawks’ win on Monday night.

-Self should ignore the dollars and stay at Kansas: Gene Wojciechowski implores Bill Self not to leave Kansas for Oklahoma State and Boone Pickens’s money.

-Sharp Defense Gives Jayhawks Edge in Matchup of Top Guards: Joe LaPointe argues that it was defense that led Kansas to victory. We agree although the missed Memphis FTs didn’t hurt. . .

-A Dominant Half by Rose Falls Short by One Shot: Thayer Evans breaks down Derrick Rose’s performance that was one shot (either Chalmers’s 3 or a made FT by either Rose or Chris Douglas-Roberts) away from being named MOP.

- Mario’s Miracle: Kansas Is The Champ: Luke Winn breaks down the Jayhawks’ comeback/Tigers’ collapse and Chalmers’s huge shot.

- Rock Chalk, Champions: Grant Wahl offers his extensive analysis of the Jayhawks victory. This is probably the most thorough piece we have seen on the championship game so far.

- What is the Best Shot in NCAA Tournament History?: SI’s Andy Gray offers his take on the top 5 shots in NCAA tournament history. We’d be interested to hear where you think Chalmers’s shot ranks.

- NCAA Championship Grades: It seems fitting to end our link post with title game grades (courtesy of Bill Trocchi) for the student-athletes.

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The Magic Eight Deconstructed

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2008

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

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

Magic 8 Ball

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

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

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

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

Grant Wahl

Grant, what are you thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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