Saturday, February 28, 2015

Early Saturday Bubble Update

The big winners so far are St. John's and Georgia who were pretty safe to begin with.  Rhode Island also hangs on to their slim hopes with a road win over LaSalle.
The only loser so far is North Carolina State who lost at Boston College.   Not sure if it's enough to drop them out but it's a bad loss nonetheless.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Forgotten Year: 1995, A Look Back at A Wild Opening Weekend

The 1995 Tournament was an odd tournament for myself. It was the first tournament I watched away from the guys I grew up with watching the tournament and falling in love with March Madness. It would also be the last where I was unemployed and unencumbered from sneaking peaks and doing what I could to get updates.

It was also the first and only tournament of my March Madness life that didn't include Duke. Duke had amazingly made every Final Four from 1986-1994 except in 1987 & 1993. They had also played in 5 National title games, a run unmatched since. It was...A BRAVE NEW WORLD.

East Region, Thursday

8. St. Louis vs. 9. Minnesota- I can't recall if this was on of the openers or one of the later day games but I had a vested interest in cheering against everything Minnesota because I'm petty and hated others joy. Things started off well enough as the Billikens jumped out early on the Gophers, leading 31-14. Minnesota chipped away and tied the game after Townsend Orr stole a pass and fired a pass to the infamous Chad Kolander to tie the game and send it into overtime. St. Louis held a 64-61 lead with 13 seconds left and the Gophers had the ball. They managed to get of 4 3 attempts, missing all 4. Townsend Orr took 3 of them and Voshon Lenard missed the other. It'd be a precursor for a miserable showing by the Big Ten.

5. Alabama vs. 12. Penn- Alabama survived in overtime against Penn. I note this game because it went to overtime and Alabama scored 24 points in 5 minutes. Or a Virginia half in today's game of "great basketball".

3. Villanova vs. 14. Old Dominion- This was a night game that would end up being one of the best tournament games ever. ODU played the game without Odell Hodge, their best player. Petey Sessoms would step up and make big play after big play. The Monachs lead most of the game, jumping all over the Wildcats. They lead 49-40 before Villanova went on a 16-3 run looking to avoid the upset. Up 58-55 with the ball and less than a minute left, Villanova star Kerry Kittles was called for a charge. Petey Sessoms attempted a 3 with 19 seconds left and was fouled b Jason Lawson. Sessoms hit all 3 and Lon would miss a shot, sending the game into overtime. Sessoms would make 2 more free throws in overtime to tie the game with 25 seconds left and ODU would tie up Alvin Williams before he could get a potential game winner off. ODU would calmly hit another pair of free throws before Villanova's last possession of double overtime to send it to a 3rd. ODU would ice the game after a Sessoms block and making a layup and getting fouled on the ensuing breakout. ODU would win 89-81.

The eventual winner out of the East would be Oklahoma State, the 4-seed. Big Country Bryant Reeves would go through Wake Forest and Tim Duncan and UMass and Marcus Camby.

Southeast Region

4. Oklahoma vs. 13. Manhattan- Most people won't remember this, but Manhattan and Coach Fran Fraschilla were an at-large bid out of the MAAC that year. It was pretty controversial at the time, beating out teams such as Iowa and Georgia Tech. The Jaspers would justify their selection by handling the Sooners.

3. Michigan State vs. 14. Weber State- This game was played on Friday while the previous game was played on Thursday. This game sticks with me for a few reasons. I filled out two brackets this year. One had an All-Big East Final 4 which was engulfed in flames after the Villanova fiasco and in another, I had Michigan State winning it all. I called it the McGuire/Manning Corollary, thinking Michigan State would make a run for the retiring Jud Heathcote while ridingthe Senior play of Shawn Respert. Shockingly, I was wrong. Weber State would outscore Sparty by 16 in the 2nd half lead by Ruben Nemhard's 27. Respert would have 28 but it wasn't enough and like that, the Izzo era was upon an unsuspecting nation. Looking back, the Big East scenario was so far fetched I was obviously really drunk picking that one.

6. Georgetown vs. 14. Weber State- I probably picked an All-Big East Final 4 expecting some great play from Allen Iverson, the Hoyas super frosh. In this game, he was an Iverson-esque, 6-20 from the field, but would play a pivotal part in the outcome. Georgetown jumped out to an early lead in this game only to see the Smokey Joe's tie it up at 51 with less than 10 seconds left and Ruben Nemhard going to the line to give them the lead. Nemhard, a 77% FT-shooter missed the front end and the Hoyas junkyard dog forward, Jerome Williams snagged the rebound and passed to Iverson who raced up the court and took an off-balance shot that missed everything. Trailing the play and getting in position to rebound was Hoyas Sr. and captain, Don Reid who in one move, caught the air ball and layed in the winner over his shoulder as time expired and give Georgetown the win. We nicknamed Weber State the Smokey Joe's that week and they'll always be the Smokey Joe's to me.

North Carolina eventually worked their way to the Final 4 out of the Southeast as the 2-seed.

Midwest Region

5. Arizona vs. 12. Miami (OH)- One year earlier, Arizona had done the unthinkable. They avoided a catastrophic 1st Round upset and made the Final 4. Well, they remembered who they were on this day as Miami (OH) and Head Coach Herb Sendek upset the Wildcats, 71-62 lead by Devin Davis' 24 points.

8. Michigan vs. 9. Western Kentucky- This marked the end of an era at Michigan. Ray Jackson and Jimmy King would be playing their last game as Wolverines. That meant no members of the Fab 5 would be left at Ann Arbor, having declared early or exhausted their eligibility. For most of the game, it looked like the Fab 5 would live on but Michigan would squander a 49-34 lead in the final 8 minutes of the game. With 9 seconds left, Western Kentucky's Michael Fraliex drilled a 3 to send the game into overtime. The Hilltopppers scored the first 10 points of overtime and the Fab 5 ceased to exist.

3. Purdue vs. 14. UWGB- In a defensive slug fest, Purdue outlasted the Phoenix, 49-48. After 2 3-seeds had been eliminated, it was clear Purdue wouldn't have a cakewalk over the Phoenix. UWGB had beaten Jason Kidd and Cal a year earlier and were coached by legendary basketball hater, Dick Bennett. Late in the game, Cuonzo Martin of Purdue took a charge from the Phoenix Gary Grzesk and made both free throws to give the Boilermakers the lead. UWGB's Eric Jackson missed a shot at the buzzer and the Boilers became the only team from the Big Ten to escape the 1st Round. This was Bennett's last game at UWGB. He left to invent the modern game of basketball at Wisconsin.

2. Arkansas vs. 15. Texas Southern- One year earlier, on their way to winning a National Title, the Razorbacks pummeled Texas Southern by 66. 66 points! In this game, Arkansas hung on by the skin of their teeth as Texas Southern missed a FT with 6 seconds left that would have tied the game. The final score was 79-78.

4. Virginia vs. 12. Miami (OH)- Riding the momentum of the upset win over Arizona, Miami jumped out to a halftime lead over the Cavaliers. The game would eventually go to overtime where Virginia pulled away for a 60-54 victory. The run by Miami propelled Herb Sendek to NC State where he lived a life on the bubble before bolting for Arizona State. Junior Burroughs scored 28 for the Cavaliers. Those Virginia teams were damn good.

6. Memphis vs. 3. Purdue- Purdue carried the burden of the last remaining Big Ten team in the tournament. They were not up to the task as they lost late to Memphis. David Vaughn of Memphis would make a tip-in in the final seconds and would steal the Boilermaker in-bounds pass, thwarting any potential miracle, icing the Memphis 75-73 win. No Big Ten team made it to the second weekend.

2. Arkansas vs. 7. Syracuse- I have to admit a lot of what happened in this region is sketchy in my memory, this game being a big one. I suspect it's because this was before multiple channel options. We were pretty much stuck to whatever game they gave us and I vaguely recall this one being up in the corner of the screen as we watched another game. For the life of me, I can't recall what was on against it. Anyway, Syracuse had this game won when Lawrence Moten called a TO they didn't have. Scotty Thurman hit the FT sending the game to overtime. Arkansas eventually prevailed, 96-94 in a thriller.

Arkansas came out of this region as the 2-seed, beating Memphis in overtime in the Sweet 16 and outlasting Virginia who defeated the 1-seed Kansas.

West Region

1. UCLA vs. 8. Missouri- The West would largely play out to script but still gave us a remarkable game, one of the best in tournament history. The Bruins entered the tournament the favorite. After years of flame outs, this was the team to get Jim Harrick over the hump. Failure was not an option. Then came Missouri. The Tigers jumped all over UCLA, leading 42-34 heading into overtime. It was the largest deficit UCLA had faced all year. UCLA battled back, taking the lead after eventual Tourney MOP, Ed O'Bannon made 4 consecutive free throws. Missouri steeled itself and took the lead with 4.8 seconds left on a shot by Julian Winfield. Years earlier, Danny Ainge of BYU had gone coast-to-coast to give BYU a win over Notre Dame. Harrick instructed Sr. PG Tyus Edney to do the same. He did just that. Edney streaked up the court, banking the winner in as the buzzer sounded. UCLA largely coasted to their first title in 20 years. 20 years later, that is their last.

The '95 Tournament was what makes March great. It had upsets, buzzer beaters and moments that last a lifetime. The Final 4 wasn't overly memorable. The Bruins handled Arkansas in the final after beating Oklahoma State. The Razorbacks gave themselves a chance at a repeat after downing UNC. All-in-all, the 1995 Tournament holds its own as one of the best.

Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs St-FranNY(NEC)/TexSo(SWAC)
Virginia (ACC) vs Albany(Aeast)/Bucknell(Pat)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs NC-Central (MEAC)
Duke vs La-Monroe(Sbelt)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Wisconsin (B1G) vs New Mexico St(WAC)
Villanova (Beast) vs FGCU (Asun)
Arizona (P12) vs S.Dakota St(Summit)
Kansas (B12) vs High Point (Bsouth)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Maryland vs William&Mary(Col)
Oklahoma vs UC-Davis (Bwest)
Baylor vs Murray State (OVC)
Iowa State vs E.Washington (Bsky)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Northern Iowa vs Louisiana Tech(Cusa)
Utah vs SFA (Sland)
Wichita St (Valley) vs Valparasio(Horizon)
Notre Dame vs C.Michigan (MAC)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Louisville vs Wofford (SoCon)
Arkansas vs Harvard (Ivy)
North Carolina vs Iona (MAAC)
West Virginia vs Boise State/UCLA
6 seed vs 11 seed
Butler vs Texas/Temple
Georgetown vs Purdue
SMU (AAC) vs Texas A&M
VCU (A10) vs Oregon
7 seed vs 10 seed
Providence vs St.John's
Xavier vs NC State
SD St(Mwest) vs Colorado State
Indiana vs LSU
8 seed vs 9 seed
Ohio State vs Cincinnati
Iowa vs Oklahoma State
Mississippi vs Georgia
Michigan St vs Dayton
First Four Out
Davidson
Stanford
Tulsa
Illinois
Next Four Out
Miami
BYU
Pittsburgh
Old Dominion
Also Considered
Rhode Island

Team Comparisons

The newest bracket will come out later today but for now I wanted to compare two teams to show you how out of wack bracketology can be. 

Team A has a 22-6 record and is listed between a 3-4 seed; Team B has a 18-11 record and is listed somewhere in the 8-10 seed list.  Let’s delve deeper into the numbers.

Team A has a 1-4 record against the top 25 rpi teams and 9-6 overall against the top 100. They also have a Non-Conference Strength of Schedule of 239 and a KenPom rank of 18
Team B has a 4-3 record against the top 25 rpi teams and 9-7 overall against the top 100. They also have a Non-Conference Strength of Schedule of 101 and a KenPom rank of 25.


How is it possible that there are a total of 6-7 seed lines between these teams?  The answer, Name recognition.  Team A is Louisville and Team B is Xavier.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maryland

Last night, Maryland beat Wisconsin in a thrilling 55-possession game to improve to 23-5. Maryland, in its first season since running from the ACC with their tails between their legs, is a lock to make the tourney.

They're 34th in KenPom, 55th in AdjustedO and 46th in AdjustedD. They generate 25% of their scoring at the FT line. They have a FTA/FGA rate of 45.3%, 23rd in the land. On top of that, they shoot 75% from the line. That's 18th best. They shoot 37.4% from 3, 54th best in the land. They're weak on the offensive glass, only getting 28% of their misses, 276th overall.

On defense, like offense, they own the free throw line. Teams have a FTA/FGA rate of 26.7%, 9th best. They don't force many turnovers. They're 280th in defensive turnover %. Teams have an effective fg% of 46.4%. They do a decent job preventing 3's. Teams only shoot 32% from deep.

Xavier transfer Dez Wells is their most efficient player. Their best player is probably Fr. Melo Trimble. Trimble leads them in scoring and has been fantastic all year. Jake Layman gives them 13 & 6 and has an effective fg% of 55.7%. He's a very good player.

Maryland has good wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State out of conference and lost to Virginia. They've navigated the B1G and will likely finish 2nd or 3rd. Given the nature of their ever changing roster, coach Mark Turgeon has done a great job this year.

The numbers show Maryland with a Sweet 16 ceiling. That would be a very good season for a team who has missed the tourney the last few years. I think they've earned a higher seed than how good they really are, so an upset on the opening weekend shouldn't surprise anyone either.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Davidson

Davidson has piqued my interest since before the season. After years of success in the SoCon, they moved into the A-10 as part of never ending realignment. Expectations had them pegged for last, instead, they're on the bubble and have been one of the more offensive minded teams in the land.

They're 37th in KenPom with the 9th best offense and 200th in defense. Like I said, offensive minded. They have an effective fg% of 55.9%(9th best) and 3rd lowest turnover%. They shoot 39% from 3 and generate 40% of their scoring from 3, the 6th highest overall. They do not get to the foul line at all. They're 342nd in FTA/FGA.

They don't do much great on defense as you might expect. Teams only shoot 28.7% from 3 but opponents shoot 51.7% from 2. It's about the offense.

As Brian noted, star So. Jack Gibbs missed a stretch earlier in conference play. Gibbs is 15th in ORtg., so he's kind of important. He shoots 42% from 3 and shoots a lot of them. While getting nearly 16 a game, he also adds 4.7apg and 4.1 boards per game. If you get the chance, he's worth a watch.

They have 3 other players that have attempted over 100 3's in Sr. Taylor Kalinski (41%), Jr. Brian Sullivan (35%) & Fr. Peyton Aldridge (42%). Kalinski scores 16.2ppg and adds 4.1apg and 5.9 boards per.

For what it's worth, they scored more points against Virginia than any other team in regulation, getting 72. Of course, they gave up 83 against Virginia but like I said, it's about the offense.

Fun team that has exceeded expectations. Would be a fun watch in March. Hoping they get a game or two.

Weekend updates

Only one team in the top 4 seeds lost but that game had an effect from the top to the bottom of the bracket.  Utah lost to Oregon and it's not only going to drop the Utes to a four seed but it will also be enough to get Oregon into the bracket.  Also entering the bracket will be Boise state due to their sneaky high RPI.

With those two coming in, who drops out you ask.  Miami and UCLA both had chances that we touched on but couldn't come through.  They weren't bad losses but missed opportunities.  They have a chance to right their ship by the end of the regular season.

In other notes temple continues their late season free fall.   Tulsa picked them apart and is starting to look like a serious at large candidate.  I wasn't big on them like others but I'm starting to pay attention.   They are one of the last teams out.  Joining that group is Davidson, who is in a curious situation.  They had a mid season losing strak to a couple bad teams but that was without one of their best players.  If they win two of those three games they are a no doubt at-large team.  I wonder if the committee will take that into consideration.