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. . .

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One last shining moment for this season. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2008

After Saturday night’s blowouts, we can only hope that tonight’s title bout will give us a great game to finish off the season. I think both teams have too much talent to get blown out, but I never would have expected UNC to fall behind 40-12 before nearly making Billy Packer look like an ass (again).

I’ll offer my take and hopefully rtmsf will add his too later (see below).

Aside from a shaky performance at the free throw line against Mississippi State that made their 2nd round game much closer than it should have been, Memphis has totally dominated the opposition on its way to Monday night. I don’t think I am going too far into the realm of hyperbole when I say that their performance in the last 3 games has been as dominant as any team I can remember from the Sweet 16 to the National Semifinals. The even more amazing thing is that a lot of people were picking the Tigers to lose each of those games. The Tigers gave us all an indication of how far off we were in the first game of that stretch when they destroyed Michigan State in their Sweet 16 game as they led 50-20 at half. After easily beating Texas in Houston to advance to the Final 4, the Tigers had a little tougher time with the Bruins who hung tough for a half. Despite the close score for most of the game, I never got the sense that Memphis might lose the game. Of course, the poor FT shooting was at the back of my mind. As I noted in my post immediately after the game, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose completely dominated the game with Rose controlling the game from end-to-end and CDR controlling it inside the 3-pt line. Joey Dorsey also submitted what may be the greatest 0-point performance in a Final 4 by a non-PG (I can’t think of a great 0-pt performance by a PG, but just trying to be safe). Memphis also got a solid performance out of Shawn Taggert. One thing that has gone largely overlooked in the CDR-Rose lovefest was how good the Tigers played defense, which is something they have been doing all year. Perhaps it is because they are so captivating on offense or the fact that they rely on length and instincts rather than the Shane Battier step-in-front-for-the-charge style that the ESPN analysts seem to love so much. In any case, the Tigers’ defense is what really gets things going for them. Perhaps, if their key guys stuck around for another year or two or Rose came in a few years earlier (and they learned how to shoot FTs), we would be talking about this Memphis team along the lines of a 21st century Runnin’ Rebs team.

As for Kansas, like I said on Saturday night I’m not really sure what to say. They had one of the easiest paths to the Final 4 (based on opponents’ seed) that I can remember and the cruised all the way to San Antonio with the exception of the Davidson game where they looked tight. However, they made up for it on Saturday night against #1 overall seed UNC. Their performance in the first 15 minutes of the game was among the best I have ever seen at the college level. They were all over the court hounding UNC into countless turnovers as they jumped out to a 40-12 lead. The image of the game for me was little-used, but much-hyped freshman Cole Aldrich ripping the ball away from everybody’s national POY Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough. After Billy Packer declared the game was over with 7:32 left in the 1st half, Kansas fell apart and appeared to be headed towards an epic collapse when UNC brought the game to 54-50 with 11:16 left in the game. The Jayhawks survived with a late run of their own (possibly due to UNC running out of gas too). If you watched the first half of the game, you are aware of the tremendous pressure that the Kansas guards can exert. That pressure will certainly be put to a challenge against the Tigers’ talented backcourt.

A couple key things to watch tonight:
1) What tempo does Kansas want to play at? Kansas showed us on Saturday night that it can thrive on a fast pace against a very talented team. However, as you have probably read Kansas has the ability to play at both a quick (talented guards & inside guys who can run) and slow pace (guards who can penetrate & multiple inside guys with developed post games). Normally I would recommend that Bill Self flip a coin and use that to decide which way to play because Kansas can win either way, but against Memphis that is a different story. While the Tigers have talented, athletic guys at every position, they are much better when the game is up-tempo and they can use their athleticism. The Tigers lack a traditional inside game and don’t have many great outside shooters. Thus, Self should really thing about trying to slow the game down. It sounds crazy given how good Kansas looked against UNC (and it’s easier said than done), but doing so would give the Jayhawks their best shot at winning their first title since Danny Manning and Larry Brown led them to the promised land in 1988.

2) Who will guard Derrick Rose? Kansas has 2 exceptional defensive guards in Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who both did a great job harassing UNC in the first half. As you may have heard, Rose is a completely different beast. As good as the Jayhawk defenders are, I don’t think they can stay with Rose if it is an uptempo game. However, if Bill Self listens to me and slows the pace of the game down, Kansas can use both in addition to Brandon Rush to try to contain Rose. I am assuming Rush will draw CDR, which is a tough assignment in itself, but he will need to help off CDR if and when Rose gets by his man.

3) Will Dorsey stay out of foul trouble? Shawn Taggert is a nice player, but he isn’t really built to battle the big guys from Kansas. If Memphis is going to win the title, they will need Dorsey on the court as he is the only one with the strength to give the Tigers an edge in this match-up. Dorsey will have to win the battle (or at least limit the Jayhawks’ advantage) against Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun, & Co. if Memphis wants to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

Who will take home the trophy?

Opening Line: Pick ‘em.
Prediction: It looks like the money in Vegas is going towards Memphis winning as the line has shifted to Memphis -2, which is a pretty big shift for a game that was originally a pick ‘em less than 24 hours ago. I could see this game going either way, but in the end I think the brilliance of Rose (assuming he lays off the Gummy Bears) and solid all-around play of CDR will carry the day. Plus, as I’ve learned decision markets are usually pretty reliable indicators of what will happen so I’m going with the Tigers in a hard-fought battle.

rtmsf take:

We’re still in considerable shock at just how dominant Kansas looked vs. North Carolina Saturday night. For the first ten minutes of that game, it appeared as if KU was playing Colorado in the Phog; NOT the de facto tournament favorite led by everybody’s favorite superhero, Tyler Hansbrough. Kansas was bigger, quicker, faster, and simply wanted it more. One thing we believe was a major factor but has been left unsaid in much of the MSM was that the KU players spent the entire week hearing Roy this and Roy that and they wanted to stick it to him for leaving the program in the manner that he did (even though his departure predates all of their arrivals at KU). Of course, all of the players and certainly Bill Self will deny this forever more, but KU played that first half as if something had been stolen from them. Carolina didn’t play with the same fire and intensity, and it showed (40-12). We’ll leave it to the KU fans to provide this info, but we can’t remember the last time a Roy Williams coached team was so thoroughly and completely dominated as they were last night. If it has happened at all, we’re guessing it would have been in the 90s.

As for the other semifinal, UCLA’s tendency to endure prolonged scoring droughts ultimately proved ineffective when facing a team with the caliber of Memphis’ talent. We were surprised with just how thoroughly dominated Darren Collison was by Derrick Rose as well as UCLA’s maddening inability to get the ball to Kevin Love in the post. Part of that was the Tiger defense making it very difficult for Love to find his preferred spots, but part of it is also attributable to poor decision-making by Mbah a Moute, Collison and others. It wouldn’t ultimately have mattered, because the Bruins were an offensively flawed team and they were never going to score enough points to threaten Memphis, but it still surprised us.

So we’re now left with the two least flawed teams in the tournament. It’s been well documented that Memphis struggles with FTs, and it showed in their one semi-scare against Mississippi St. in the second round; it’s also been commonly discussed that Bill Self teams have a tendency to choke under pressure, and KU certainly had a scare against Davidson and looked shaky at times yesterday after leading by 28 points. But these are ultimately nitpicks because both of these teams are beyond excellent and filled with NBA talent all over the floor. So which of these two squads is better and will win Monday night?

The thing that really stood out to us when we were watching the Carolina massacre was just how big and athletic Kansas looked compared to UNC (a team that itself has a reputation for size and athleticism). We think that this is the one area where Memphis can be exploited. UCLA was unable to capitalize on this advantage because only Love was a capable scorer on the blocks. Kansas can get offense underneath from not only Arthur, Jackson and Kaun off the bench, but also apparently from Cole Aldrich (who looked fantastic (8/7) in his 16 minutes yesterday). We think this is the mismatch that will have Bill Self salivating for the next 20 hours or so.

Memphis will counter with the silky smooth Derrick Rose (25/9/4 assts) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28/4), but with the perimeter defense that we expect from the KU guards (who held the UNC perimeter players to 16-47 shooting), we think that Memphis is going to have trouble finding enough offense to match the Jayhawks. Put simply, there’s absolutely no way we see that the KU defense allows 83% of Memphis’ points to come from the backcourt as UCLA did, and who among the Memphis bigs will pick up the scoring slack? Dorsey? Taggart? Dozier? If that group collectively scores over 15 pts, we’ll be shocked.

So despite what the decision markets and our compadre on this blog suggest, we’re going with the Jayhawks to cut down the nets tomorrow night. Bill Self gets his first title, and John Calipari starts to hear the ignoble distinction of being the best active coach to not win a championship.

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Thoughts on Memphis-UCLA

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2008

We’ll provide you with a more in-depth analysis later, but we figured we would offer some of our early thoughts.

1) Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts totally dominated this game. UCLA didn’t have an answer for either one of them. It looked like Rose wasn’t attacking as much when UCLA put Russell Westbrook on him, but for some reason Ben Howland decided to keep Darren Collison on Rose for most of the game until Collison fouled out with 2:53 left. As much as we hate to say it, Billy Packer was right when he kept on saying that Westbrook should guard Rose and Josh Shipp should guard CDR, who probably would have abused Shipp, but at least one of Memphis’s studs would have been contained a little better. Rose is definitely ready to go to the NBA and CDR should be a nice addition to a team if a coach can find a way to incorporate his unique game into the offense. Both guys also did a great job knocking down FTs at the end making the last minute a mere formality rather than a tension-filled FT contest that many people were expecting if Memphis was in a close game. CDR also provided the game’s defining play with his baseline dunk on Kevin Love. It reminded us of Kobe’s “Who’s the MVP?!?” dunk on Nash a couple years ago.

CDR asserting his dominance

Look familiar?

2) Memphis got to play at the pace they wanted. It was evident early on that the game was going to be fast-paced. UCLA was able to hang close for the first half, but eventually the pace wore them down. This was particularly evident with Kevin Love who barely touched the ball in the 2nd half and looked sluggish moving up and down the court. In the end, Memphis’s ability to run and its deep-bench full of guys who can all run (except Pierre Niles) proved to be the deciding factor as they opened up a big gap late in the 2nd half and cruised from there.

3) Despite early foul trouble, Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggert did a great job battling Kevin Love all game. Love won the battle in the first half, but the rotation of big bodies and the fast pace of the game wore out Love. We hope that Love stays in school at least one more year because he still needs some more work before he goes to the NBA. Tonight should have shown him as much. While the Memphis inside guys aren’t NBA-quality players, they have NBA-level athleticism and strength. Love has the requisite strength, but he isn’t athletic enough to go to the league right now. He will never be a Dwight Howard, but some more running over the summer will help cover up some of his athletic deficiencies. He has been able to get away with it all year because they pace has been slow and he has been the strongest guy on the inside, but today was a preview of what the NBA will hold and hopefully Love will consider that before declaring for the draft.

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Final 4 Preview: UCLA-Memphis & UNC-Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis (6:07 PM): Coming into the tournament UCLA was picked by most analysts to win the championship, but after close games in the 2nd round and Sweet 16 several pundits (including your favorite college basketball blogger) wrote them off. The Bruins responded with what may have been their best performance of the year, a 76-57 beatdown of #3 seed Xavier. While super-frosh Kevin Love has given them consistent performances throughout the tournament (hence the West Regional MOP designation), the rest of the team has been up-and-down. The one thing that has carried this team has been that they play great D the entire 40 minutes. However, if the Bruins want to cut down the nets on Monday in San Antonio Ben Howland’s crew will need solid performances out of Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp, who has played poorly in 6 of his last 7 games.

On the other side, Memphis was getting ripped apart by every analyst the entire season for their poor free throw shooting heading into the Sweet 16. It’s true that nobody will confuse the Tigers for a bunch of J.J. Redicks at the free throw line, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re up 50-20 at half (on Michigan State). The Tigers followed up that massacre with a demolition of #2 seed Texas, who was playing a virtual home game in Houston. In that game, Derrick Rose established himself as the premier point guard in college as he totally dominated 1st team All-American D.J. Augustin. Despite all the athleticism this team has, Rose is really the catalyst for everything and that’s certainly saying something on a team that features C-USA POY and 1st team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts. However, the key for Memphis may be Joey Dorsey who has a penchant for picking up quick fouls (note: Final 4 games tend to be officiated closely; see last year’s semi where Oden and Hibbert barely played in the first half). If Dorsey can avoid foul trouble, he will be a force inside. If he gets in foul trouble, the Tigers will have to rely on Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert. (Fortunately for Dorsey, there is nobody left in the tournament who can dominate Dorsey on the inside if he decides to run his mouth like he did last year before playing Greg Oden.)

This is the part where I normally would feature the key matchup, but in this case there are just so many interesting matchups: Derrick Rose vs. Darren Collison; Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Russell Westbrook/Josh Shipp; and Joey Dorsey vs. Kevin Love.

- Rose vs. Collison: Collison is an outstanding college PG, but he’s out of his league here. We all saw what Rose did to Augustin and Texas. He’s just at a different level than any of the PGs in college. While he can get a little out of control at times, his physical skills (size, speed, and strength) would put him near the top of NBA PGs in those categories, which means he’s a nightmare match-up for almost any PG. In addition to this, Rose has shown that he can hit the outside shot and create havoc defensively because of his physical skills. Rose will have to watch out for Collison’s outside shot because he shoots a high percentage even if he doesn’t pull the trigger that often. If Rose is making his jump shot, he’s basically unguardable and could dominate this game. If he does, Ben Howland may have to switch things up and put Westbrook on him. I don’t think it will matter. Advantage: Rose.

- Douglas-Roberts vs. Westbrook/Shipp: This will be an interesting match-up as it features several really athletic players. Douglas-Roberts usuallly has a big edge in almost any match-up, but I think that the UCLA guards have the length and athleticism to bother him. I think Shipp will spend most of the night against CDR, but UCLA might use Westbrook on him occassionally. Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the country, but CDR’s 4″ height advantage and long arms might be too much for Westbrook to overcome. The key to this match-up is whether Shipp can score. If he does, this match-up might shift more towards a neutral decision, but he hasn’t done it lately and that’s what we’re going with. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts.

- Dorsey vs. Love: This will be a battle of contrasting styles as Dorsey is more of a bruiser in the paint while Love has an excellent all-around game. There is no question as to who will “win” this match-up in terms of the box score and individual match-up. The big question is whether Love will get Dorsey in foul trouble early taking him out of the paint to open up the basket to UCLA’s perimeter players’ drives. Advantage: Love.

The real key to this game is the pace. If Memphis can turn this into a running game in the 70s or 80s, they should win. If UCLA can keep it in the 50s, it will probably come down to free throws and. . .well you’ve heard it a million times in the past month.

Opening Line: Memphis -1.
Prediction: As we said, this game will likely decided by the pace of the game. Everyone likes to talk about the Bruins’ defense, but the key may be the Tigers’ defense. While they are more known for their athleticism and dribble-drive motion offense, the Tigers can play phenomenal defense. If you need evidence, ask Tom Izzo about the first half of their Sweet 16 game when the Spartans looked terrified to bring the ball up the court. The Tigers use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on the dribbler and fill passing lanes. Collison and Westbrook will be pressured all night, but should provide more resistance than Michigan State or Texas provided. It will be interesting to see how UCLA utilizes Love and his ability to throw the outlet pass to try and avoid this pressure. In the end, I just think Memphis is playing on a different level than the Bruins right now. This all depends on whether the Tigers can carry over their momentum from Houston to San Antonio. I’m going with Memphis pulling away midway through the 2nd half to win by 5 as they hit enough free throws at the end to advance to the championship game to face the winner of. . .

Kansas vs. North Carolina (8:47 PM): The juicy and delicious backstory to this game is ol’ dadgummit Roy coaching UNC for the first time against his former employer Kansas. Although Roy didn’t recruit or coach any of the current players on the KU roster, there are still numerous friends and acquaintances associated with the program who remain stung by Huckleberry Hound’s quick 180 from not giving a sheit about Carolina to taking the job one week later. Naturally, we tend to side with the KU boosters when they rail on Roy because it’s true – he can’t have it both ways. Like Pitino when he took the job at Louisville, you dance with the devil you came with, and both of these gentlemen made professional decisions that they undoubtedly knew would lead to their sanctified statuses at KU and UK being called into question.

So what does this mean for tomorrow’s game between a bunch of players who were all in high school when Roy Williams alighted for Tarheel blue? Not much. We expect that the Kansas players know how much this game means to its fans, and they might come out a little stronger than they otherwise would have, but in terms of the effects on the game over forty minutes, we don’t see it mattering all that much. As always, it comes down to the matchups.

In looking at the numbers and the talent on the floor at positions 1-5, it’s difficult not to like Kansas. Their offensive and defensive efficiency are both in the top five in the nation. Their scoring balance creates a conundrum (whom to stop?) for a defensively-challenged UNC team, as four starters average between 12.7 and 13.1 ppg. And their experience (2 srs, 2 jrs, 1 soph in the starting five) also trumps the younger Heels (2 jrs, 3 sophs).

The player by player matchups tell a slightly different story, though. On the perimeter, we love the way that Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and forward Brandon Rush have been playing, but nobody in college basketball has the quickness and wherewithal to stay with UNC’s Ty Lawson when he ignites the engine on fast breaks. The x-factor we see in the backcourt is Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He has a tendency to run hot/cold, but when he’s hitting his outside jumper the Heels are damn near unbeatable. In their only two losses of the year Ellington went 9-30, and KU’s guards must make sure to rotate out on him to eliminate his open looks.

In the post, nothing more needs to be said about Tyler Hansbrough. The way he’s playing right now we’re going to just pencil him in for 25/12 and wonder how Kansas plans to counteract him. The trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Robinson and Sasha Kaun collective are talented enough to challenge Hansbrough, but once again, the x-factor will be whether UNC forward Deon Thompson can hit his open looks that will come as a result of triple teams on Hansbrough. Whether x-factors Thompson and Ellington will knock these shots down will go a long way to determining who will ultimately win this game.

Opening Line: UNC -3
Prediction: In our view, this game will be a test of just how good Kansas’ defense actually is. Assuming they let Hansbrough get his numbers, will KU then be able to put the clamps down on everyone else, especially the two x-factors mentioned above – Ellington and Thompson? Should Kansas limit those players to poor shooting nights while also corralling Lawson’s fast break opportunities, then the Jayhawks will have a very good chance and probably should win the game. But this is a weighty task, and we have a feeling that there are too many things that need to happen for Kansas to win this game. Therefore, our prediction is that either Ellington or Thompson will have a good game, Lawson will break free enough times to get some easy points, and the Heels will run away with the game early in the second half, winning by 10+ points. Part of the reason for our assessment here is that we simply think UNC is purring too well right now to be denied, but what most worries us about Kansas is what they exhibited last week against Davidson, the same thing we’ve seen throughout the Bill Self era. KU played tighter than a Promise Keeper’s new wife on their wedding night, and it’s that tendency that is pushing us to lean toward the Heels.

FYI – Vegas Watch has its breakdown of the odds for the F4 games here. Pretty interesting reading, and we’re not a “sharp.”

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