Trick or Treat: Big Ten Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween microsite readers! For those of you in college or otherwise young enough to still enjoy this holiday, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into your costume and are on your way to some great costume party. For the slightly more aged, we have a more ornery disposition and our Halloween plans likely include dimming the lights and hiding from the trick-or-treaters. To those of my ilk, I sympathize with your reclusive ways. My gift to you is this post to read while you’re in the corner trying to shield the light from your tablet. For your enjoyment, I’ll throw out several random thoughts about the conference and declare whether they’ll end up being a trick or treat for Big Ten fans. Let’s begin.

Thank you, Maryland fans.

Thank you Maryland fans, forever.

The Big Ten will be the best conference in the country. TRICK. Sorry folks. I’m confident that the league will be in the discussion, but I’m not sure the bottom rung will be successful enough in the non-conference slate to avoid a drag on its overall RPI. Some of the middling teams – Illinois, Indiana and Maryland – have enough uncertainty around their lineups that it’s possible they could slide quickly in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, every team in the Big 12 looks strong, with the notable exception of atrocities like Texas Tech and TCU, and each has a reasonable shot at making the NCAA Tournament. I hope I’m wrong, but if it’s any consolation, I think the Big Ten will best the ACC and their stuffy buttoned-up fans once again. Honestly, who goes to football games dressed like this.

Maryland is joining the league. TREAT. The Terps may not be on the cusp of challenging for Final Fours and National Championships right now, but it’s a storied basketball program with a passionate fan base that should fit into the Big Ten nicely. Program highlights include a more recent National Championship than any other Big Ten school (2002) and well-known alums like Len Elmore, Joe Smith, Steve Francis, Juan Dixon and Steve Blake. Additionally, I’ve been to enough games at the “Comcastle” to know that the Terps will add another great home court experience to the league thanks to their riled up student section. Terrapin fans are also a creative bunch: The world will, for example, always be indebted to them for introducing us to “Scheyerface”. And Maryland fans, if you’re feeling a little anxious about the move to the new conference, like a mid-year transfer student on his first day at a new school, don’t be. Your program is attractive enough where fitting in won’t be a problem, even if you do have a funny accent (it’s “water”, not “wooder”, jeez).

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Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2012

  1. Today is the last day of the 10th month of the year, so that means it’s time to dust off your Mike Krzyzewski wig, grab your Jim Boeheim spectacles, and throw on your Bob Huggins track suit to head out into the sinister world of All Hallows’ Eve for tricks and treats. It also means, quite obviously, that tomorrow — the , not nearly as fun All Saint’s Day — is the first day of November, and that month is when we finally stop messing around and get down to the business of for-real college basketball again. Exhibition games and secret scrimmages are coming fast and furious right now, with Opening Night (live from Germany?) only nine days away now.
  2. Here’s a treat for your Halloween morn. For anyone who considers himself a student of the game-behind-the-game world of advanced metrics, Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday released his preseason rankings of all 347 Division I basketball teams. Much like Dan Hanner’s efficiency-driven rankings that we discussed in this space yesterday, Pomeroy throws some combination of returning talent plus incoming talent into the sausage maker to determine what comes out the other end (he explains his methodology here). He quite clearly states that he recognizes the weaknesses in his system at this point of the year, so he also wrote an article explaining the various outliers — teams that might appear too high (Kentucky, Ohio State, Wisconsin, etc.) or too low (NC State, Maryland, etc.) — in his initial rankings. Perhaps the biggest outlier left unexplained in the piece is Lousville — #8 in Pomeroy but #1 or #2 in most other human polls — it’s clear that his model isn’t ready to entrust the Cardinal offense with such rarefied status just yet (he ranks it #34 nationally in offensive efficiency).
  3. While on the subject of the Cards, how about some news about college basketball’s ultimate coaching trickster, Rick Pitino? The Louisville head coach has hinted at retirement for a number of years before backing off of that sentiment recently, but news Tuesday revealed that Pitino has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will ostensibly keep him on the sidelines of the school through the 2021-22 season. Can you imagine that the wandering-eye coach whom none other than Sports Illustrated once called ‘itinerant’ because of his frequent career moves is not only entering his 11th full season in the River City, but could potentially stay there for another nine years after that? In our mind’s eye, we’ll always associate Pitino as the Boy Wonder who resurrected Kentucky from the depths of probation, but he was only in Lexington for eight seasons before alighting to the riches of the NBA. It says here that Pitino will not rest until he gets another national title so that he can permanently disassociate from his rivals down the road in Lexington — this extension gives him at least 10 more shots at it.
  4. Here’s a treat to fans everywhere tired of the seemingly endless cat-and-mouse game between coaches performing illicit activities and the NCAA’s attempts to catch them. On Tuesday, despite hell or high water, one of Mark Emmert’s key initiatives was unanimously passed by the NCAA Board of Directors — the sweeping changes to the NCAA’s enforcement and punishment structure that will go into effect on August 1, 2013, are designed to hit programs and coaches directly where it hurts — by hurting their prestige and their bank accounts. Details are too numerous to list here, but the essential premise to the changes mimics a captain-of-the-ship liability theory. A head coach will be presumed to know (or should know) what’s going on in his program, and simply sticking his head in the sand and only popping up for practices and media appearances will not be enough to protect his skin or that of his program if illicit activity (boosters, impermissible benefits, academic fraud, etc.) is happening. On paper, this sounds great — but coaches will find the gray areas and the loopholes in short order, so strong enforcement techniques are absolutely essential to this initiative’s long-term success.
  5. Finally, let’s end the month with everyone’s favorite college basketball bogeyman. We mentioned a while back that Duke has implemented iPads into its practice and training protocols by loading up playbooks, scouting report information, video footage, and a number of other relevant items on each player’s device. The school on Tuesday announced that it had taken the next step in its data automation by contracting with a company that will provide each player with his individual PER (player efficiency rating) score immediately after each practice and game. Why does this matter? Well, one of the basic tenets of active learning is to provide immediate and direct feedback in real-time — while coaches can see a lot of things, they’re going to still miss quite a bit as 10 active bodies fly around the court. This mechanism, if it works as anticipated, will allow players to know precisely the areas where they did or did not excel immediately after leaving the court. Over time, the argument goes, their efficiency should improve, which begs the question for Pomeroy and Hanner, is there a bias for schools trying to teach for the so-called test? Good grief, Charlie Brown. Happy Halloween, everyone.
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