Offensive Basketball: The Key to the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on March 24th, 2016

This year’s Sweet Sixteen is an odd group. The NCAA Tournament seems to have proven especially hard to predict this year, with lower seeded teams completely outplaying higher seeds, blowouts in games that should have been close, and all kinds of crazy endings. As we embark into the second weekend, what is left to hold on to as data analysts? How about offense? More than ever, the fickle filters of the Tournament have eliminated all but the very best offensive teams.

Iowa State's Offense, Led by Georges Niang, Ran into the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Iowa State’s Offense, Led by Georges Niang, Ran into the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Look at KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings and you’ll notice that just about every elite offensive team is still around. Kentucky (third in offensive efficiency) lost to Indiana (eighth), leaving top-ranked Michigan State as the only elite offensive team to get prematurely eliminated — we’ve since come to accept that loss for what it was and stopped trying to rationalize it. Even Syracuse, languishing behind the pack with the 52nd-best offense, has been playing extremely well on that end of the floor, rising 23 spots in the offensive rankings in just two games. This leaves buzzer-beating Wisconsin as the only other true outlier among the remaining teams, ranking 88th in offensive efficiency. What this tells us is that you need a great offense to survive the opening weekend, but is that anything new? Let’s look at the last five years to find out.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Anthony Davis

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for tonight in New Jersey. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Anthony Davis

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11” / 220 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: #1 Overall Pick

Anthony Davis will hear his name first during Thursday’s NBA Draft (AP Photo)

Overview: Believe it or not, Anthony Davis was not even on the radar as an elite prospect in his high school class three years ago. But that was before he grew eight inches in one summer, retained some of his guard skills, and developed elite shot-blocking fundamentals. The rest is history, as we all know his story as the #1 recruit in his class who produced immediately in college. In his one season at Kentucky, Davis led his team to a National Championship as Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament while winning the AP, Naismith, and Wooden National Player of the Year awards. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and an NCAA-best 4.7 blocks per game on 62.3% shooting as an 18-year-old freshman. While considered a defense-first asset, Davis also led the SEC in field goal percentage, offensive rating, and free throws made. At nearly 6’11” in shoes with a 7’5.5″ wingspan, great agility, incredible discipline, and a high basketball IQ, Davis is one of the best shot-blocking prospects the NBA has ever seen. He’s very wiry and must add strength to avoid getting pushed around in the paint at the next level, but he’s such a good athlete that he makes up for any lost ground by swatting away everything near the basket. On offense he can face up and shows a decent jump shot with range or drives by defenders to the cup. He can also play with his back to the basket where he’s an efficient scorer, rarely turning the ball over and drawing fouls at a high rate. But he’s best at cutting to the paint for open looks and lobs at the rim, where he finishes alley-oops with perfect timing and explosion. He’s also a beast in transition with his speed and versatile skills for his size. He shoots over 70% from the free throw line, shows great work ethic, and is an intense leader. What can’t Davis do? He’s still a young kid who’s very raw offensively and needs to add strength. But it’s doubtful he becomes anything but a game-changing NBA force that a franchise can build around.

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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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