Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top Ten Again

10. Wisconsin - Lost last week at Purdue who was too physical for them. That's how they'll lose in March. Still, they'll win the mediocre Big 14.

9. Louisville - Nothing like playing Duke to get the offense going.

8. Baylor - 1-1 week was no surprise and quite frankly, that's a good week in the Big XII when both your games are on the road. All that said, don't be surprised if this week was the high water mark in their season.

7. North Carolina - Nice win over a surging Florida State team. Based on schedule, have as good a chance as any to win the ACC. Notre Dame is 22 in KenPom and won a lot of close games. I don't believe in them.

6. Kansas - I have them ahead of UNC largely on record but there's some defensive concerns here. Frank Mason has taken on the Buddy Hield persona this season. That alone could carry them deep in March.

5. UCLA - Only the 4th team to do the mountain hop to Utah and Colorado and sweep those teams. Hard to take them seriously just looking at the 94th spot they have in defensive efficiency but harder to ignore the results. Still, be wary in March.

4. Gonzaga - Won by 23 at home against St. Mary's. The Gaels play at a glacial pace but the Zags still dropped 79 on them. Was close until late but the Zags were always in control. Them and UCLA own the west.

3. West Virginia - 2nd in KenPom and a damn fun team to watch. Yes, a Huggy Bear team is fun to watch. Despite the hectic style they play, they're 8th best at protecting the ball and best at forcing turnovers. If I looked at the numbers blind, I'd probably pick them to win it all.

2. Kentucky - The big issue with Kentucky is, the SEC is trash. Florida and A&M will test them, maybe even beat them but I'm not sure we'll know just how good they are. This is a unique Kentucky team that really doesn't have a comp to past Kentucky teams. The tempo is much quicker than 2012, the d well behind 2015. If you want to defend Calipari the coach, this club could be the one.

1. Villanova - The surgical second half dissection of Xavier was a thing of beauty. Seem disinterested early in some games which will be their downfall in March. Let St. John's hang around yesterday in an unispiring win. Not sure teams can ever turn on a "sense of urgency". It's one of those immeasurables stat heads hate but it's a cliche I think is real.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Buckeyes, Wolverines and the Descent

This week, Michigan went to middling Illinois and got annihilated 85-69. Last night, Ohio State was dominated at the Kohl Center losing to a good Wisconsin team, 89-66. As good as Wisconsin might be, there's no reason for a program with as many resources as the Buckeyes to be embarrassed like that.

As of today, Ohio State is 58th in Ken Pom but 0-4 in league play and 10-7 overall. That's not even a NIT profile. Michigan is 46th in KenPom and 1-3 in league play. 

In 2013, Ohio State lost in the Elite 8 as a 1-seed, finishing 7th in KenPom. Michigan made it back to the title game, finishing the year 4th in KenPom. Michigan made it back to the Elite 8 in 2014 while Ohio State was upset in round one by Dayton. Michigan missed in '15 and Ohio State missed last year. It's unlikely either team sniffs the second weekend this year barring a big run, meaning two of the Big 14's flagship programs will be on a 3-year Sweet 16 drought. 

Ohio State has become a revolving door. Over the last year, a number of players have left the program. 2014's top ten recruiting class yielded one likely NBA player, D'Angelo Russell who was a on-and-done. The rest of that class simply hasn't developed like many thought it would. That's on coaching or evaluating talent. There is time but they've underwhelmed thus far.

Michigan's descent into mediocrity has been similar. Players have come and gone and those that stayed haven't been as good as expected. When we look back at the key contributors to the 2013 team, other than Mitch McGary and GR III, most weren't expected to be major contributors early. Instead Nik Stauskas was gone after his sophomore year with GR III and McGary. Caris Levert and Spike Albrecht battled injury problems.

Since then, John Beilein has missed on Kam Chatman, DJ Wilson, Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins. Along with the aforementioned early departures, it's been hard for the team to develop any consistency.  

Michigan's defensive efficiency has never been great under Beilein but it's entered the territory where no matter how good the offense is, it's hard to be a consistent club. Ohio State's offense has been its undoing, staggering into the 100's in efficiency 3 of the last 4 years. (86th right now, so 2 of 4 but we get the drift)

Ohio State and Michigan fans are getting restless. It's hard to imagine Thad Matta and John Beilein get run this year. What both coaches need is some roster stability. If they can't do that or right the ship after doing that, then you'll see a change and rightfully so. There's no reason at least one of these programs isn't a legit Big 14 contender each year.


Friday Morning Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs Mt.St.Mary(NEC)/Weber St (Bsky)
Kentucky (SEC) vs MorganSt(MEAC)/Rider(MAAC)
Kansas (Big12) vs UC Irvine (Bwest)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs New Orleans (Sland)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Virgina vs GaSouthern (Sbelt)
UCLA vs Boston (Pat)
Florida State (ACC) vs Belmont (OVC)
Baylor  vs Princeton (Ivy)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Duke vs Texas Southern (SWAC)
Louisville vs UNC-Ashville(Bsouth)
North Carolina vs FGCU (Asun)
Florida vs ND State (Summit)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Oregon (Pac14) vs Vermont (Aeast)
Butler vs New Mexico State (WAC)
Creighton vs Akron (MAC)
Xavier vs Chattanooga (SoCon)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Arizona vs Arkansas/Kansas State
West Virginia vs Oakland (Horizon)
Notre Dame vs Oklahoma State/Nevada
Cincinnati (AAC) vs Boise State (Mwest)
6 seed vs 11 seed
St. Mary's vs Texas Tech
Minnesota vs Northwestern
Purdue vs Middle Tenn St (C-USA)
Wisconsin vs Dayton
7 seed vs 10 seed
South Carolina vs Wichita State
Maryland vs Illinois State (Mvalley)
Indiana vs UNC-Wilmington (Col)
Virginia Tech vs Rhode Island (A10)
8 seed vs 9 seed
SMU vs VCU
Iowa State vs Michigan State (B14)
Pittsburgh vs Seton Hall
Clemson vs USC
First Four Out
TCU
Illinois
Georgia
NC State
Next Four Out
Michigan
Marquette
UT-Arlington
Houston
Also Considered
Memphis
Wyoming
Mississippi
Wake Forest
Temple
Syracuse
Arkansas St
Colorado
Davidson
Nebraska
Utah
Vanderbilt
Miami
Ohio State

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday Morning Thoughts

Last night was a big night in college hoops with three top 25 matchups. Here are the results:

Villanova 79 Xavier 54
West Virginia 89 Baylor 68
Florida State 88 Duke 72

All three games don't define a season for any of the teams involved but point to problems for the losers.

Xavier was a preseason darling as a sleeper Final 4 team and they're talented enough to do that but something isn't right in Cincinnati. They got Myles Davis back last night but it'll probably take time to work him into the rotation. They're 29th and 32nd in AdjustedO & AdjustedD . Those are fine numbers but they look more like a team with a Sweet 16 ceiling at this point and even that seems unlikely.

Baylor's reign at number one in the polls was never going to last long. The Big XII is too deep and they were underdogs in Vegas and on KenPom but the 21-point beat down stings. Baylor is one of the slowest teams in the nation and turn the ball over a lot. I like them but I don't consider them a legit Final Four contender.

As for Duke, the problems on defense that have plagued them in recent years continue. You can blame youth but when you go the one-and-done route, that's the risk you take. The Blue Devils are 28th in defensive efficiency but that's largely built on an unsustainable 3-pt defense. Watch for the defensive efficiency to drop and for good shooting teams to be a problem for them down the road. There's reason for concern.

Of the winners, FSU deserves a closer look. 9th in the humanoid polls, the Noles are 16th in KenPom with efficiency numbers in the top 20's. The profile isn't of a title contender but they have a projected lottery pick in Jonathan Isaac who looks the real thing. It's a solid team but I'd pump the brakes a bit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Baylor (Big12) vs F.DickensonNEC)/Weber St (Bsky)
Villanova vs MorganSt(MEAC)/ND State (Summit)
Kentucky (SEC) vs UC Irvine (Bwest)
Kansas vs New Orleans (Sland)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Gonzaga (WCC) vs GaSouthern (Sbelt)
Duke vs E.Tenn St (SoCon)
Virgina vs Belmont (OVC)
UCLA vs Princeton (Ivy)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Xavier (Beast) vs Bucknell (Pat)
Louisville vs UNC-Ashville(Bsouth)
North Carolina vs FGCU (Asun)
Florida vs Fairfield (MAAC)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Oregon (Pac14) vs Texas Southern (SWAC)
Butler vs Vermont (Aeast)
Creighton vs New Mexico State (WAC)
Florida State (ACC) vs Akron (MAC)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Arizona vs Nevada/Kansas State
West Virginia vs Oakland (Horizon)
Notre Dame vs Northwestern/Oklahoma State
Cincinnati (AAC) vs Boise State (Mwest)
6 seed vs 11 seed
St. Mary's vs Arkansas
Minnesota (B14) vs Middle Tenn St (C-USA)
Purdue vs Dayton
Wisconsin vs Michigan
7 seed vs 10 seed
South Carolina vs Illinois State (Mvalley)
Maryland vs Michigan State
Indiana vs Rhode Island (A10)
SMU vs VCU
8 seed vs 9 seed
USC vs UNC-Wilmington (Col)
Virginia Tech vs Seton Hall
Pittsburgh vs Iowa State
Clemson vs Wichita State
First Four Out
Miami
Illinois
Georgia
NC State
Next Four Out
TCU
Texas Tech
UT-Arlington
Ohio State
Also Considered
Memphis
Wyoming
Mississippi
Wake Forest
Temple
Syracuse
Arkansas St
Colorado
Davidson
Nebraska
Marquette
Houston
Utah
Vanderbilt

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ranking the Modern Final Fours: 25-21

25. 1990 (Denver): The 1990 tournament was a wild one. Go back and look at the crazy buzzer beaters and high drama. The Final Four did not share those traits.

The '90 Final 4 was a crowning of Jerry Tarkanian's UNLV Runnin' Rebels. The only 1-seed to make the Final 4, the Rebels actually trailed 4-seed Georgia Tech by 7 at halftime but would win easily, 90-81. In the other semi-final, Duke defeated Arkansas who was lead by the May-Day combination of Lee Mayberry and Todd Day, 97-83. Phil Henderson scored 29 for Duke in that game.

The final saw UNLV down Duke 103-73 in a rout. Duke super frosh Bobby Hurley missed most of the game due to illness and the Rebs ran all over Duke. This is the only Final 4 since 1985 where all winning teams scored 90+ points. It's the only one where a team eclipsed 100 and was arguably the end of the offensive era of college hoops.

24. 2007 (Atlanta): 2007 was a Final Four with four real good basketball teams and schools. Florida was back, looking to repeat. Ohio State was lead by Greg Oden and a fellow 1-seed like the Gators. They were joined by 2-seeds Georgetown, returning to a Final 4 for the first time since 1985 and UCLA who was making a second straight appearance.

The games themselves were fine but hardly elicited any great moments. Neither game in the semi's had a team get to 30 in the 1st half and both Ohio State and Florida seemed predestined to meet in the title game.

In the title game, they did meet with Florida winning after building an 11-point halftime lead. The Gators were the first repeat winner since Duke and the last through today.

23. 2014 (Dallas): This Final Four saw a 1-seed Florida team, a 2-seed Wisconsin team, a 7-seed UConn team and an 8-seed Kentucky team who needed a lot of magic to make the Final 4.

The early semi-final saw UConn upset the favored Florida team who had made it back to the Final 4 after a few near misses the previous seasons. UConn slugged their way to a 25-22 halftime lead and eventually won 63-53.

The second game was a classic. The Badgers lead 40-36 at halftime of a well-played game. The second half matched the first with Kentucky winning on a late 3 by freshman Aaron Harrison who had done the same to Michigan a week earlier. While this game is a top semi-final, the rest of this final 4 was a dud.

The final saw the 7-seed UConn upend an 8-seed Kentucky, 60-54 in a game UConn largely controlled. The Huskoes lead at half 35-31 after leading 30-20 at one point. At no point would UConn trail.

While it's arguable that Kentucky team was under seeded, the UConn team was not. This is one of the weakest champions of this era.

22. 2005 (St. Louis): If we remember back, the regional finals included 3 overtime games and one of the wildest comebacks in tournament history. The Final 4 would include 1-seed Illinois, 1-seed UNC, 5-seed Michigan State and 4-seed Louisville. It was a good Final 4 mix.

The games did not match the hype. Illinois playing a virtual home game, beat Louisville by 15. In the other semi-final, UNC throttled Sparty by 16, out scoring them 54-33 in the second half.

North Carolina would win their 4th National Championship 75-70. They built a 40-27 halftime lead and held off two different 2nd half surges by Illinois who managed to tie the game at 70. The final few minutes saw Illinois squander plenty of chances to tie or take the lead and UNC miss a FT to give Illinois one of those chances.

21. 1988 (Kansas City): This Final 4 is the Danny and the Miracles Final 4. The 6th-seeded Jayhawks would deny 1-seed Oklahoma and Billy Tubbs a national championship. Arizona, another 1-seed and Duke, a 2-seed compromised the rest of the field.

In the semi-finals, Kansas jumped Duke to take a 38-27 halftime lead and would win by 7. Oklahoma took a 12-point halftime lead over Arizona and won by 8.

The title game saw Kansas meet Oklahoma for the 3rd time that season. KU had been beaten easily in the previous two games but would prevail 83-79 in this game. Tied at 50 at half, Kansas rode a 31-point, 18-board performance by Danny Manning to a title. Since Larry Brown was the coach, Kansas ended up on probation shortly thereafter.

This could be higher but I dock points for the pending probation.

Next Week: 20-16

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Weekly Super Duper 10

10. Wisconsin - The least likeable team in basketball checks in at 10.

9. Gonzaga - Zags are 11th in effective fg% on offense and 5t in effective fg% defense. That's a great combination.

8. North Carolina - Eh

7. Butler - Key difference for the Bulldogs versus last season is the defense is much better. Kamar Baldwin appears ready to join a long line of Butler players you ask how long have they been there?

6. Duke - Time to sit Grayson Allen permanently.

5. Kansas - Won two games at home to start league play. Yes, one was interesting to say the least but some things never change.

4. West Virginia - Lost at Texas Tech in overtime and held off TCU at home. Will be favorites against Baylor, the new poll darling on Tuesday.  Will not be an upset when they win.

3. Baylor - At West Virginia and K-Stte this week. Will do well to split.

2. Kentucky - They added five star Hamidou Diallo yesterday who can play immediately. Also favored in the rest of their games.

1. Villanova - They played a stinker at Butler but blew out Marquette at home, responding like champions. Still the team to beat