Monday, March 30, 2015

Fun With Numbers

Well, the Final Four is set. It's an awful Final Four. By 2PM on Monday, week of, I was already tired of Badger fans throwing shade on how Kentucky runs its program. "We build men" in Madison. They don't graduate but they don't have any tattoos!


Michigan State
- Of the 4 teams, Sparty beat the most KenPom Top 25 teams during the tournament, beating Virginia, Oklahoma & Louisville.
- With the 47th rated defense, they are one of the worst defensive teams in the KenPom era to make a Final Four. Since 2010, only VCU (84th), Michigan (48th) & Wisconsin (49th) were worse. Oh, and Wisconsin (55th) this year. That number can get better depending on what happens.
- The only other 7 seeds to make the Tournament before were, UConn in 2014 & Virginia in 1984

- Duke's defense has improved to 17th best in KenPom after dipping into the 80's at one point. They've caught some breaks, playing poor offensive teams but Gonzaga was not one of them. Kudos to the staff and team.
- By being 3rd in AdjustedO and 17th in AdjustedD, they along with Kentucky fit the profile of a national champion. No national champion has been below 39 in AdjustedO at the end of the season (UConn last year) and no team has been below 21st in AdjustedD at the end of the season (North Carolina in 2009)
- As hard as it is to believe, this is only Duke's 3rd Final Four appearance since winning it all in 2002. It is Coach K's 12th trip, tying John Wooden for number of Final Four appearances.

- The Badgers AdjustedO rating is the best of the KenPom era. And it's not really close. They will attempt to be the first team with the best AdjustedO to win a title since Duke in 2010
- Wisconsin is the 1st 1-seed to come out of the West region since UConn in 2009
- Wisconsin is only the 2nd team to average under 60 possessions per game and make the Final 4 in the KenPom era. To really nerd out, they're technically the only one not to average 60 since G'Town was 59.9. My guess is, they're the 1st of many.

- Kentucky finished the year with the best AdjustedD, surpassing Virginia for the moment. The last team to win a title and finish with the best defense was Kansas in 2008 who also had the 2nd best offense.
- Three teams have won 38 games in a season. John Calipari has coached all of them. The 2008 Memphis team, the 2012 Kentucky team and the this year's Kentucky team.
- After failing to Make a Final 4 between 1998-2011, Kentucky has now made 4 in 5 years.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

DePaul, oh DePaul

It was announced this afternoon that DePaul was hiring former coach Dave Leitao as their next coach, replacing Oliver Purnell.

Leitao had some success in his first trip through Chicago from 2002-05, making an NCAA appearance and two NIT appearances. Leitao parlayed that into the Virginia job but was ousted after only four years.

This is a poor choice for DePaul and by default, the Big East. It's possible the Blue Demons have some success under him but realistically, this will be received as a mediocre hire and I'm not sure it'll motivate the program.

When we grew up, DePaul was a big deal. Legendary Ray Meyer built a national brand that saw itself on TV in lots of big games before every game was on TV. It's unrealistic to expect those days again but it isn't unrealistic to expect a program that is competitive. Even if they don't keep all the top talent home, there's enough talent within the upper Midwest for them to have good teams.

Maybe Bryce Drew and Bobby Hurley were never realistic choices. They can chose their next jobs selectively and DePaul is a lot of work and there has to be a question about the program's commitment. Even if this is true, exploring a top-young assistant would have been more desirable. Marquette chose that route and early indications are it was the right choice. Can you imagine rehiring Kevin O'Neill? 

I hope DePaul at least becomes competitive but this isn't the way to go about it. Marquette fans should be happy the school has a commitment to a strong basketball program as should the other Big East schools.

My Picks

Michigan State vs Louisville
Here's my take on the game.  I will be at a dance talent show during the entire second half and I don't care that I'm missing it.  When I check my phone between dances I am twice as likely to play candy crush than check the score of this game
Michigan State  Who Cares, Louisville I couldn't care less

Gonzaga vs Duke
The one team I didn't want to see Duke play before the championship.  Yep, you read that right.  I'd rather see them against Wisky or Kentucky than Gonzaga.  As good as the Notre Dame Kentucky game was last night this has the chance to be just as good.  The X-Factor will continue to be Justice Winslow who is just pouring it on as the season comes to a close.
Duke 71, Gonzaga 68

The Elite Eight: Sunday

Let's begin by commenting on how classy some Badger fans handled the Diamond Stone news on Friday night. In a nutshell, it was embarrassing, punctuated by Bo Ryan's daughter taking to the tweeter to basically say Stone was too dumb to get into Madison. The biggest fallacy created in the last few years has been this academic barrier at Madison for athletes. To impugn an 18 year-olds academic merits on social media because he spurned your school is sad. The coaches daughter doing the same speaks to the arrogance that emanates from the west. It began with Vander Blue and his recruitment and continues to this date when a player dares follow his own path and not the one set out by St. Bo. It was a shameful display and makes the elitist digs at Marquette laughable. Looking forward to a week of All-American Apple Pie Sociology Majors Do It The White Way taking on the Evil Don't They Know What College Is For narrative.

To the games...

East Region

Michigan State vs. Louisville - Did you know Izzo and Pitino blah, blah, blah. The coaching stroke fest should be vomit inducing on your television today. This game is unwatchable and I'm assuming Michigan State wins simply because it'd be the worst thing next week to hear as nauseum.  The Pick: Michigan State 52 Louisville 50

South Region

Gonzaga vs. Duke - This has been an impressive run by Duke. They play so well on limited depth. Their basketball IQ is through the roof. Their defensive efficiency has skyrocketed the last few weeks. Some of that has been fueled by playing terrible offensive teams. That noted, their offensive efficiency has suffered a touch but not so much it's hurt them. It's still impressive.

On the other side are the Zags who I pegged before the season as a Final Four team. They've been very impressive this March. The big men have been effective and the guards deadly. They didn't shoot well on Friday but Ken Pomeroy has written a blog post pointing out, there's something to the difficulty of shooting at Reliant Stadium and it's probably not random.

If we believe it's hard to shoot at Reliant, which team is more likely to get more second chances? Duke is a better offensive rebounding team but the Zags aren't far behind. The Zags do have a bigger advantage on the defensive glass. Could it be the factor today? Let's keep an eye on second chance opportunities.

This could rival last night's Notre Dame-Kentucky game. I chose both these teams for the Final 4 before the season and it feels like a Final 4 game.  The Pick: Gonzaga 67 Duke 66

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Picks

Wisconsin vs Arizona
Should be a great game.  Neither played very well last game out but they match up nicely.  I expect this to go down to the wire with Dekker having a big game.
Badgers 66, Arizona 65

Kentucky vs Notre Dame
I have doubted Notre Dame all year and they keep proving me wrong.  For once I want to be proven wrong.  I'm going to put the kiss of death on the Irish and call the upset.
Notre Dame 77, Kentucky 75

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Elite Eight: Saturday


Arizona vs. Wisconsin - This is a Final Four level game. Arizona is a bigger favorite this year than they were last year according to KenPom, albeit just a single point. Arizona was pretty impressive last week but looked ordinary last night against Xavier. Wisconsin hasn't looked great but is winning because the offense, while efficient in the past, doesn't have the droughts that used to kill it.

When the brackets came out, I liked Arizona in this region. I shouldn't let one game cloud my judgement but the Arizona that makes you nervous showed up last night. They looked tight and made some uncharacteristic choices. Do that tomorrow and Wisconsin is far more equipped to take advantage than Xavier.

Arizona has pointed to this game seemingly all year, upset by last year's loss. There's an awful lot of pressure on them. I'm of the mindset they have to and Sean Miller has to, prove they can get over the hump. Until they do, I'm picking against them despite my initial thoughts.  The Pick: Wisconsin 69 Arizona 66


Kentucky vs. Notre Dame - Let's dispel the idea Notre Dame can shoot themselves to a victory. They could. They're the 2nd best 3pt. shooting team but Kentucky is the best at defending the 3, largely because of how long and quick they are. If Butler could defend Notre Dame from beyond the arc, let's assume Kentucky can.

The other issues that will hamper Notre Dame's upset attempt will be their lack of rebounding and short bench. Notre Dame is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation and has one of the shortest benches. On top of that, they lack the size to defend Kentucky all over the court. Wichita State got to the basket at will and won the rebound battle. They won't win against Kentucky if that happens.

It'll take a Villanova-Georgetown effort for Notre Dame to win. They can shoot but simply can't match Kentucky in any other area.  The Pick: Kentucky 80 Notre Dame 66

My Friday Picks

Gonzaga vs UCLA
The Bruins come crashing back down to earth after their “magical” run.  Gonzaga is good, very good.  They are relishing the chance to put UCLA in their place and I think they run away with it.
Gonzaga 83, UCLA 68

Duke vs Utah
Should be close for the first half causing mild stress within my life.  Ultimately I think Justice Winslow will be the X factor as Utah has enough bigs to contain Okafor.
Duke 71, Utah 60

NC State vs Louisville
Why isn’t this Villanova vs Northern Iowa?  That would be so much better.  Louisville has been playing above it’s numbers for awhile but so has Notre Dame.  I can’t see them both making the Elite Eight.
NC State 57, Louisville 55

Michigan State vs Oklahoma
I hope Buddy Hield goes all Danny Manning on the Spartans tonight.

Oklahoma 75, Michigan State 60

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday Sweet 16 Action


Gonzaga vs. UCLA- The best part of never watching ESPN or other cable outlets do highlights anymore is, I haven't seen the Adam Morrison crying video all week! I've mentioned UCLA is lucky to be this far, utilizing a big break in the SMU game and beating a 14-seed. The luck ends here. The Zags are a pretty big favorite in Vegas and for KenPom. They looked pedestrian against North Dakota State but ran Iowa off the court. Kyle Wiltjer has been playing like a man on fire. UCLA should get some buckets but their defense isn't good enough to slow down Gonzaga. The Pick: Gonzaga 79 UCLA 72

Duke vs. Utah- This is a great Sweet 16 match up. Duke is 6th in KenPom and Utah is 8th. Duke's defensive efficiency has improved quite a bit in the last month and this game I don't think it'll be an issue simply because Utah doesn't push tempo. If Duke gets out and can run, Utah will have a tough time keeping up. If it's a half court game, I also don't see Utah running away from the Devils. For Utah to win, it'll probably have to be a close game. They have some big bodies that could cause some problems for Duke. Okafor will have to be nimble on defense and avoid fouls early. Utah can put bodies against him. Duke should really focus on harassing Delon Wright and make it difficult for him to make clean passes. Let's see how Quinn Cook defends him. KenPom sees a toss-up. Think that's right but Duke finds an extra gear late and pulls away. The Pick: Duke 70 Utah 63


NC State vs.Louisville- My expectations for this game are pure chaos. Louisville is a terrible offensive team. NC State is very talented but prone to confounding basketball. They've also been pretty lucky. LSU ought to be kicking themselves for not getting a shot at Villanova. Villanova ought to be kicking themselves for missing so many layups and open 3's. NC State played as well as they could and almost coughed up the Nova game. They played as bad as they could and stole the LSU game. Louisville is coming off of one of their best games of the year. I can't believe their going to the Elite 8, but I'm picking them in what could be an ugly game. The Pick: Louisville 54 NC State 51

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma- You'll hear a lot about two things tomorrow. One will be the slobber fest that is Izzo/March. The other will be how much better Oklahoma is on defense this year. Play the drinking game to both. You'll die. Both teams have been pretty unlucky this year, though I'll argue Michigan State has created most of its bad luck. if you've watched them, they've found ways to lose or put themselves in position to lose. They've avoided that through the first two games to their credit. I think if bad Sparty show up, Oklahoma pounces. Buddy Hield is pretty well-known in Big XII circles but lesser so nationally. Think that changes tomorrow. Despite the seeding, this is a close game in Vegas and KenPom. I jumped the Sooner bandwagon in January and will stay on it. The Pick: Oklahoma 62 Michigan State 58

Sweet 16 - Thursday

4 games on tap and I have the priviledge of not seeing any of them.

Wichita State vs Notre Dame
Like Kurly I have been off Notre Dame all year and I’m not going to buck that trend now.  Butler had a nice game plan against them and I expect Wichita to do the same.  Limited possession and lots of pressure.  Wichita never lets the fighting irish get going.
Wichita 61, Notre Dame 56

North Carolina vs Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been trending down since the tournament started while UNC is trending up.  I think this is where things change.  Meeks won’t be at 100% and North Carolina likes to play at a break neck speed.  Bo Ryan will not let that happen and I can see them getting frustrated early.  Roy may have to try and think about Coaching a bit and it’ll probably be a disaster unless Scott May has eligibibility left.
Wisconsin 66, North Carolina 61

West Virginia vs Kentucky
I’d really like to pick West Virginia here as I think there havoc defense can cause some problems but I think this will go like any other Kentucky game…they get flustered and are own 2 with 10 minutes left and then get there crap together and win by 12.
Kentucky 78, West Virginia 66

Xavier vs Arizona
I’m just going to say it.  I think it’s a blowout.
Arizona 79, Xavier 61

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sweet 16: Thursday Edition


Wichita State vs. Notre Dame- This is basically a pick 'em game in KenPom. Wichita State is 9th and Notre Dame is 10th. The Irish are more dynamic on the offensive side of the ball while Wichita State is a better defensive team. Wichita ranks, 16th in AdjustedO and 13th in AdjustedD, while the Irish are 3rd and 103rd respectively. The Irish are the best 2pt shooting team in the nation, making 58%. Wichita State is the 9th best at defending the 2. They hold teams to 42.1%, which is 9th best. While the Irish aren't great from 3, the Shockers are worst at defending the 3. If Notre Dame gets hot, it shouldn't be a Wichita State is a much better rebounding team on both sides of the ball. If the Irish aren't hitting shots, they won't likely get many second chances while Wichita State may create longer possessions for themselves. I've been touting the Irish as overrated all year. I'll stick with that but if they're making from deep, they'll win. The Pick: Wichita State 65 Notre Dame 63

West Virginia vs. Kentucky- West Virginia is an interesting match up for the Wildcats. They press on misses and makes, so even if Kentucky is forcing misses, which they will because WVU is a bad shooting team, the Mountaineers will apply pressure. I saw some pundits pontificate about Kentucky being loose with the ball. Okay, the numbers disagree completely. They have the 16th best turnover % on offense this year. They protect the ball. West Virginia is a great rebounding team and they'll need to be on defense. Kentucky matches them on the offensive glass. If the Mountaineers had a couple of dead eye shooters, I'd give them a chance. Unfortunately, they don't. Think they can keep it close for awhile but Kentucky's depth won't be fazed by the pressure. KenPom has the Wildcats as significant favorites and I see the same. The Pick: Kentucky 74 West Virginia 58


Wisconsin vs. North Carolina- The Tar Heels average 10 more possessions per game than Wisconsin. I actually think if the game is played at that tempo, it favors Wisconsin who is a better team. If Kennedy Meeks were playing, I'd be tempted to pick UNC but without him, I thinks it unlikely. Wisconsin should be more aggressive and try and get to the line and get the bigs of Carolina into foul trouble but that hasn't been a Wisconsin strength this year. Carolina is a strong offensive rebounding team and Wisconsin is a strong defensive rebounding team. If Carolina can win that battle, they have a chance but Meeks is their best rebounder. The Badgers don't defend the 3 very well. If Carolina can get hot there, they can scare Wisconsin. That said, I think too much has to go right for North Carolina to win. The Pick: Wisconsin 77 North Carolina 71

Xavier vs. Arizona-Credit to Xavier for making their 5th Sweet 16 in 8 years but the season ends here. I stand firm in my assertion Arizona is the 2nd best team in the land and a better team than last year. It'll take a herculean effort by the Musketeers or a complete no-show by Arizona. The Pick: Arizona 70 Xavier 60

Monday, March 23, 2015

Round of 32 Notes, Thoughts and General Disarray

Let's get to it

UCLA vs. UAB - UCLA making the Sweet 16 validates nothing. To their credit, they've taken advantage of the opportunity presented and deserve kudos for doing so. Doesn't mean they belonged in the field. 

Gonzaga vs. Iowa - This game intrigued me. Iowa, at times, looked like a team capable of making an Elite 8 run. At other times, you wondered how they won games. The tournament proved to be a microcosm of that dynamic. Not many teams looked more impressive in their opening round win. And few looked less impressive in their second round loss. A lot of credit goes to the Zags. Kyle Wiltjer has been one of the best players in the thourney thus far. Would love to see them play Duke.

Georgetown vs. Utah - A lot of people, including myself pegged Utah as a first round upset. While they didn't look great against SFA, they looked much better against the Hoyas. Entering the dance, not many teams had a better "numbers" profile than Utah. Historically, their numbers say they're legit to win it all. After watching them play late in the regular season and Pac-12 Tourney, I dismissed them. Sometimes, the numbers shouldn't be ignored.

Duke vs. San Diego State - The Aztecs didn't have a chance, really. Duke is far too dynamic on offense and SDSU can't match that. Duke has had two cakewalks so far. Utah will be a tough matchup because they have good size. Grant Hill called Justise Winslow the best defender Duke has ever had. That's heady (wrong) praise but pro guys love his game.

Kentucky vs. Cincinnati - The style the Bearcats played against Kentucky was referred to by some as the style to be copied.  What? Cincinnati played physical with no discernible offensive game plan. As far as I could tell, all they tried to do was intimidate Kentucky and hope they got rattled. They didn't and Willie Cauley-Stein killed a Bearcat with a dunk that demonstrated the mental resolve Kentucky has. It was an embarrassing effort by Cincinnati and kudos to Kentucky for not being baited.

West Virginia vs. Maryland - Of all Big XII teams, West Virginia was the one I had seen the least of. After seeing them last night, I was pretty impressed. They play an aggressive style that leads to fouls and they don't shoot well but agaisnt Maryland who had few ball handlers, it worked like a charm. Melo Trimble was knocked out midway through the 2nd half and that was it. If West Virginia had any shooters, they'd be a very dangerous team, more than they already are. 

Butler vs. Notre Dame - I've been highly critical of the Irish all year but to their credit, they won a game where the offense got bogged down and played a tempo at Butler's speed. Some solid defense late and a poor late possession by Butler sent the game to overtime where Notre Dame's more athletic players took over. Butler had a great season but they need to get more athletic moving forward 

Kansas vs. Wichita State - In a game that wasn't an upset, the Shockers simply outclassed Kansas. The Jayhawks struggled to find an identity all year and despite all the talent they have, none of the players stepped up like Wichita who had all their stars play well. Anyone dismissing Bill Self or Kansas as frauds though, are pretty clueless. What they've accomplished under him is second to none.

Arizona vs. Ohio State - All the talk about D'Angelo Russell was overshadowed in this game by another brilliant performance by TJ McConnell. He was phenomenal as was Gabe York. They carried the Wildcats who were too much for Ohio State. The Buckeyes had no answer. Arizona also crushed them on the glass. Not many teams are playing better than Arizona right now.

Xavier vs. Georgia State -Xavier is going to their 5th Sweet 16 in 8 years and third under Chris Mack. Georgia State was game but Jalen Reynolds and Matt Stainbrook were far too much. Ron Hunter was the star of the first weekend.

North Carolina vs. Arkansas - UNC has played two diametrically opposed teams as anyone. They played steady Harvard and chaotic Arkansas on the first weekend and won both games. That's a nice stretch for the Tar Heels. I half jokingly said they'd lose to BC in the ACC Tourney but it's clear I underestimated them. It's not their most talented team under Roy by far. Credit to them for playing as well as they have.

Wisconsin vs. Oregon - Bucky survived Joseph Young and the Ducks in a game far closer than I expected. Last summer, the Ducks had 3 scholarship players. Not a bad season at all by them. Wisconsin's defense isn't that good. That offense, though. Holy smokes, there isn't one better. But their margin for error is pretty small because they aren't going to win with defense.

Michigan State vs. Virginia - It may not have been pretty but credit to Sparty. They didn't sit back and let Virginia dictate pace. They were the aggressors on both sides of the ball from the beginning and established themselves. Virginia never looked comfortable. They're going to need a favorable draw like Dick Bennett's 2000 Badgers did to make a deep run in March. Their style isn't adaptable and it bit them yesterday. I'm not sold on Michigan State having discovered something late to make a run. That said, Izzo schooled Bennett yesterday.

Oklahoma vs. Dayton - I admit I was actively cheering for Oklahoma. As an 11-seed, it wasn't fair the Flyers were playing in Columbus. To their disadvantage, they were playing their 6th game in just over a week and with limited depth, I think it caught up to them. I pegged OU as a sleeper Final 4 team in January and with a few breaks, they have been given a golden opportunity. Take a look at Lon Kruger's Final 4 run at Florida and tell me this doesn't look eerily similar. 1 & 2 seeds bounced before regionals.  Just saying.

NC State vs. Villanova - The cliche is March is about matchups and this game was a terrible one for Nova. They simply couldn't match the size and ability of the Wolfpack. People dismiss NC State because of their schizophrenic results but they don't lack for talent. They have 8 top 80 players and they played like it. Nova was awful from range and missed many layups. The Wildcats still had a chance but could never get over the hump. It'll be a long off season in Philly.

Louisville vs, Northern Iowa - When the bracket came out, I immediately thought UNI had a chance in this bracket but my fear was they'd run into a hot shooting team. I never imagined it would be Louisville. UNI is the 2nd of 3 top ranked under 60-possession teams to be eliminated. It doesn't detract what they accomplished this year but they have to be disappointed knowing a Final 4 run was legitimate. They ran into a team who had one of its better offensive games (sad as that is) of the year at the wrong time.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday Recap


After a roller coaster Thursday, yesterday's games failed to match the excitement level. Upsets were there for the taking but late game possessions proved too difficult for teams to handle. 

It's an epidemic that happens at high, mid and low majors. Coaches have taken control of the game so much, players look to the coach instead of letting instinct or trust take over. Mix in some offense on practice, coaches.

1. Committee Folly
The committee made all kind of odd choices this year, an increasingly disturbing trend. One of the sillier occurrences was putting Dayton in the play-in game. Under no metric was Dayton one of the last 4 in. But they were and had to play in Dayton and earned their win over Boise State. What was avoidable was putting them in the Columbus region. Under no circumstances should an 11 seed have home court advantage. BYU can't play on Sundays, so Dayton had to play Friday. National pundits are shrugging saying it was unavoidable. You have weeks and months to plan. It's avoidable. As for the game, Providence played its worst game of the year. It was rattled early by questionable officiating and simply didn't handle it well. 

2. Coaches Hot Seat
Oklahoma State under Travis Ford had its defining moment last night. Before half, their sideline thought they had a foul to give and fouled an Oregon player. They didn't and Oregon got two freebies. Tom Crean continued a proud tradition of Big Ten losing coaches acting like petulant children telling an official "You Suck" after the game before even shaking Gregg Marshall's hand. Wichita shot more free throws but that's because Indiana is a jump shooting team. Good luck if you let him come back, Hoosiers. Steve Lavin could be on thin ice, too. His current group of Seniors graduated without a tournament win and has a pretty thin roster returning. In a region teeming with up and comers, he's squarely on the hot seat.

3. Maryland Luck
The Terps have been one of the luckier teams this year, KenPom's luckiest team thus far. Yesterday didn't change that. A blown replay, a missed hack on the last attempt by Valpo and a date with West Virginia on Sunday. Get that lucky penny, Huggy Bear.

4. Conference Glory
Your conference is not superior or inferior based on what happens in March. If your assessment of a confrences strength is based on a single-elimination tournament, I can't listen to your argument. The ACC is 6-0 after one round. It's not the best conference and is a few plays from being 3-3 and possibly 2-4. But it's a fun argument, so I get it. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Second Round Preview

Saturday will be interesting day of games.  The closest game according to KenPom will be Butler vs. Notre Dame. There's potential for some blowouts on tap but as we know, anything goes. Quick thoughts on all 8.

East Region
Only one game out East as Villanova takes on NC State. Villanova is the 2nd biggest favorite behind Kentucky but the Wolfpack have a history of being upset makers. Don't see it but think they make it interesting for awhile.

West Region
Three games here. Arizona is a solid favorite over Ohio State. Like the Nova game, this'll be close but Zona pulls away and wins comfortably. Georgia State is the Cinderella but Xavier is the better team. 

Arkansas-UNC has the chance to be the best game of the day or the dumbest. No in between.

Midwest Region
Thanks for playing Cincinnati. Enjoy your parting gifts.

Butler-Notre Dame is the closest game on paper. Honestly, if you believe in this stuff, there's no pressure on Butler. Notre Dame is the bigger school in state. If the Irish are clicking on offense, can't see Butler winning but if the can make it ugly and limit second chances like they do if the Irish are cold shooting, they can win.

West Region
UAB against UCLA happened in 1990 and the Bruins won. Means nothing but I recalled it. Think they win again.

Utah-Georgetown meet in the game everyone didn't think would happen. Utah is a decent favorite but given their slower pace, I doubt they run away and hide. I like the Hoyas here

The Day That Was

If you weren't entertained yesterday, you're probably a Baylor or Iowa State fan.

1. What to make of the Big XII

The easy reaction is to say the conference was overrated. That's far too simplistic a reaction to one day of a single-elimination tournament. Nonetheless, it wasn't good. Iowa State had been playing with fire for awhile and they finally got burned. Poor shot selection and getting out hustled is a recipe for losing to a 14. As for Baylor, their loss will sting for a long time blowing a 12-or lead with just under 3 minutes left. A lot of people will criticize Scott Drew and maybe he deserves it but this team overachieved all year. Georgia State is a pretty talented team. They've underachieved in my eyes but yesterday erases that.

2. Texas

Brian picked the Longhorns to go to the Final 4 at the start of the year. I thought they were good enough to usurp Kansas. We were both wrong. No offense to Butler who is a well-coached and Godoy team, Texas should beat them. Forget seeding, Texas has the better players. I'm not sure Rick Barnes is going to get fired but if I were Texas, I'd give it a long look. He's been there a long time and had lots of success but it can get stale. The basketball team will always take 2nd to football and some would say 3rd to baseball but it's an attractive job in a great city and has all the resources you need. If I'm Shaka Smart, I look at where I am and realize that the ceiling at VCU is unfairly low because of Power 5 arrogance (I'll get to this later). Worth a look.


UCLA is in position for back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances after beating the Ponies and seeing Iowa State upset. The story of the game is the goaltending call. Whatever side of the call you come down on, it doesn't matter much to me. There seems to be a lot of assumption that cost SMU the game. It certainly didn't help but they also blew a 9 point lead with 6+ minutes left and had two really good looks to win it. 

4. The Coin Flip Games get Flipped

8/9 games to me are the toughest to pick. Yesterday certainly backed that up as Cincinnati overcame a late 7 point deficit to beat Purdue in overtime and NC State took advantage of an LSU collapse. That game went to script. NC State, man, it's always interesting with the Wolfpack. 

5. Mid-Major Strut

We touched on the two big upsets of yesterday earlier but let me say this, the difference between mid and big majors isn't nearly as big as the Power 5 wants you to think. The Power 5 would love to shutout all mid-majors because it means more money for them and that's all the tournament is about. For people complaining about the schedules of mid-majors? Get lost. No school wants to play these teams if they're any good, afraid of that loss on their schedule and a loss in general. The committee has an easy out by referencing SOS every year knowing Murray State can't get those games and knowing they'll never have the SOS. And if you think they had those games and went 0-5 out of conferemce like UCLA and still ran the table in conference like the Racers would get in, you're wrong. It's a crooked game and why I'll be cheering for those teams today. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

First Round Preview

East Region:

I say chalk holds form here with the only upset coming courtesy of UC-Irvine over Louisville. The Anteaters hold teams to an effective fg% of 44.7%. Louisville can't shoot. Irvine also has big men, 7'6" Mamadou Ndiaye and 7'2" Ioannis Diamakopoulos. It has the potential to be a rock fight no one should watch under any circumstance.

I give a punchers chance to Belmont.

8/9 Coin Flip: LSU vs. NC State - Between these two teams, it all comes down to which one doesn't beat itself. According to KenPom, it's a COIN FLIP. I'm making the 8 the head and the 9 tails. It comes up tails in this one, so it's Geaux Tigers.

West Region:

Wofford has been a trendy pick over Arkansas. They line up somewhat close by Four Factors with the Terriers scoring an advantage in effective fg% on both sides of the ball. This is the most important number of the Four Factors, so it's not far fetched. I still lean Arkansas because they have the best player, Bobby Portis. Xavier is a weird team, capable of winning or losing just about any game. I'm not picking them to lose to Ole Miss but given their penchant for disappearing for stretches of games, they're susceptible to being upset. By the numbers, Ohio State should beat VCU. VCU is an odd case. They may have found their legs finally after being lost without Briante Weber. I know Brian has Ohio State as a potential bracket buster but I'd be shocked if they make it to the second weekend but they should "upset" VCU.

8/9 Coin Flip: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon - I could be wrong but I think nearly every pundit has picked Oregon to win this game. I'm not saying they're wrong, the Cowboys have lost 6 of their last 7. Anyway, the coin flip says Oregon. The Ducks it is.

Midwest Region:

I'll say this, if New Mexico State beats Kansas, I'd be surprised but not shocked. Valpo is a trendy pick over Maryland which gives me pause. I'm not a Maryland honk but when you see the national media falling over themselves to pick against them... Anyway, KenPom gives Valpo a 39% chance of pulling the upset. Either way, the numbers say it profiles as 1-game possession. That's pretty close for a 4-13 match up.

Buffalo and Texas are trendy upset picks, too. Is Juwan Staten healthy? If so, I think they advance. Buffalo does have a Milwaukee connection with Germantown Frosh. Lamonte Bearden. Bearden could end up having a really nice career at Buffalo. He was bit of a late bloomer. Texas is the proverbial tease. A superbly talented team capable of beating anyone. They're a very good rebounding team. So is Butler. Should be close. This region could be a bloodbath for top seeds.

8/9 Coin Flip: Cincinnati vs. Purdue - This game makes me violently ill. The coin flip says Cincinnati.

South Region:

Eastern Washington has been picked by everyone to beat Georgetown. Good, I'll take the Hoyas then. I'm much more bullish on Stephan F. Austin beating Utah. I like what Utah has done this year but I like the Lumberjacks better in one game.

UCLA is the team no one wants in. Probably means they win a game.

Think this region pretty much holds to form by seeding and no coin flip, I'm flat out picking San Diego State over St. John's.

NCAA Tournament Preview

Final Four Pick: Kentucky over Wichita State
Top Seed Most Likely Eliminated Early:   Could be any of seeds 3-5, ND, Maryland, or UWV.  Maryland is grossly over seeded
Low Seed Most Likely to Make a Run: Texas – preseason Final Four pick for me

Final Four Pick: Northern Iowa over Virginia in a terrible basketball game***
Top Seed Most Likely Eliminated Early: Virginia could get toppled by Michigan in round 2
Low Seed Most Likely to Make a Run: I’m pretty chalking until the Elite Eight so Northern Iowa is my pick

Final Four Pick: Duke over Gonzaga
Top Seed Most Likely Eliminated Early: Utah and Georgetown.  Wouldn’t surprise me if they both lost
Low Seed Most Likely to Make a Run: SFA, again

Final Four Pick: Wisconsin over Arizona in an instant classic
Top Seed Most Likely Eliminated Early: Xavier by Mississippi, possibly Arkansas
Low Seed Most Likely to Make a Run:  Ohio State is underseeded at 10.  They should be able to dispatch VCU and possible ride Russell further

***I reserve the right to change my East pick.  I’m leaning more towards Villanova or Virginia the more I think about it.  Maybe even Oklahoma if Buddy Hield turns into Danny Manning

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Word is Tempo

As usual, Monday was HOT TAKE Monday with regards to the brackets. Every pundit gave their bract, Final Four, etc. First up was a beautiful piece of hot trash by Forbes about why it would be good for college basketball if Wisconsin won the national title. Here's a piece that completely eviscerated that notion

Later, on one of the ESPN debate shows, Bomani Jones made the egregious mistake of saying he didn't like the style Virginia or Wisconsin play, which is slow tempo. Immediately, Badger twitter and social media was in an uproar, yelling this is the best offensive team Bo has ever had, and they're right. Jones simply stated he didn't like T-E-M-P-O. This Badger team is crazy efficient, protects the ball and doesn't foul (according to Big Ten refs, anyway). Jones went on to point out last years team was actually 5 possessions faster. Why is he arguing tempo? Here's why.

The following is a list of all Final Four teams in the KenPom era and the number of possessions they averaged that season.

2014: Wisconsin (63.8), Kentucky (65.2), UConn (64.6), Florida (62.5)
2013: Louisville (66.8), Michigan (65.1), Syracuse (64.2), Wichita State (65.1)
2012: Kentucky (66.2), Ohio State (68.2), Kansas (67), Louisville (66.9)
2011: Kentucky (65.9), UConn (65.4), VCU (66.1), Butler (64.4)
2010: Duke (65.5), West Virginia (63.3), Butler (64.1), Michigan State (66.1)
2009: North Carolina (73.9), Michigan State (67.3), Villanova (69.2), UConn (68.4)
2008: Kansas (67.8), Memphis (68.8), North Carolina (74), UCLA (65.5)
2007: Florida (66.8), Ohio State (65.9), Georgetown (59.9), UCLA (64.3)
2006: Florida (68), UCLA (62.8), LSU (68.7), George Mason (63.7)
2005: North Carolina (73.9), Illinois (65.1), Michigan State (67.6), Louisville (68)
2004: Duke (69.8), UConn (69.7), Oklahoma State (66), Georgia Tech (70.3)
2003: Kansas (73.1), Syracuse (72.1). Marquette (67.2), Texas (70.9)
2002: Maryland (75.1), Kansas (78.3), Oklahoma (68.9), Indiana (66.9)

We have one outlier here, Georgetown in 2007 who averaged 59.9 possessions per game.

Now, a counterargument can be made the game has slowed down and Final 4 teams averaging less than 60 possessions per game will start making the Final 4 more often. Maybe, but only 9 teams averaged less than 60 possessions per game this year. 3 of them are Virginia, Wisconsin & Northern Iowa. Another 15 averaged less than 61 a game.

In 2002, Kansas averaged 78.3 possessions per game, 3rd highest. History shows us Roy Williams teams play fast. The highest tempo team that year was Alabama A&M, who averaged 79.6 possessions per game. In 2002, not rounding up, 150 teams averaged 70+ possessions per game. This year? 10. Yuck. FWIW, 3 of those teams are in the bracket: BYU, UNC & Arkansas. LSU, Lafayette, Hampton, Iowa State & Buffalo are all over 69.

The Hoyas as the outlier deserved a closer look. they beat Vandy in the Sweet 16 by 1-point and beat Carolina in the Elite 8 in overtime. We can deduce luck played a role (and you can argue that in any close game) and it did, partially. Carolina missed 22 of 23 shots over a 15 minute span, including its first 12 of overtime. There's good defense and then there's a complete collapse by an offense. Kudos to the Hoyas for taking advantage and scoring 96 points in 74-possession game, including 81 in regulation.

The conclusion is this, Jones argument that slower tempo teams are harder to trust in March bears true. It doesn't mean a thing is guaranteed. At some point, we'll have outliers and the game tempo in general is only getting slower. That said, history shouldn't be ignored either.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reseeding the Brackets

What would the brackets look like if reseeded by KenPom? Here's your answer.

1. Virginia
2. Villanova
3. Oklahoma
4. Northern Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Louisville
7. Providence
8. Georgia
9. NC State
10. Boise State
11. Dayton
12. LSU

If you've looked, a lot of people filling out brackets see the East as the one that seems ripe for some chaos. Part of this is people are doubting Villanova and Virginia and the other part is there are some bracketing questions. Louisville is over seeded and Sparty is under seeded. Louisville is ripe for an upset and should be a popular upset pick. Michigan State has a chance to make it to the second weekend as their closer to Virginia than people probably think. I don't necessarily buy that. Michigan State had a good run through the Big Ten tournament but as we'll see later, Maryland is wildly overrated. If you've watched Sparty at all, they are prone to mind numbing moments of sloppy basketball. That won't fly against Virginia. At first glance, I thought Northern Iowa wasn't a crazy pick from here but I've rethought that idea. If you believe history, they are one of a few teams that could actually win it all. What should scare you is, they play so slow, it's unlikely they run from anyone. Wyoming is a tricky game. The Cowboys won't be afraid to play ugly and slow. In a 1-2 possession game, anything goes. Also, they'd be higher in KP had Larry Nance, Jr. not missed so much time. This also shows Dayton isn't that far from where they belong, though it would have them as the last 10 seed. LSU will be a trendy pick as they play up to their competition but Villanova should handle either them or NC State.

1. Arizona
2. Wisconsin
3. Baylor
4. North Carolina
5. Ohio State
6. Xavier
7. Arkansas
8. VCU
9. BYU
10. Oklahoma State
11. Ole Miss
12. Oregon
13. Georgia State
14. Harvard
15. Wofford

Ohio State as a 10 is too low. They perplex me as a team and everything I see when I watch them screams first round exit. If VCU had Briante Weber, I'd call it a lock. The numbers say Ohio State is the pick. Xavier gets the BYU/Ole Miss winner and that looks like BYU. That's a tougher game than a 6 should have. Only good news is the short turnaround time. Wofford will be a trendy pick to upset Arkansas. Wofford as a 12-seed tells us a lot of weak low majors made the field. Wofford profiles lower, as does Arkansas. The Razorbacks actually may catch a break getting the Terriers here. I've seen some talk of Georgia State over Baylor. Ryan Harrow isn't 100%. I don't see it. Oregon-OK State are over seeded in this region with the Cowboys profiling as the better club. I'd bet Oregon gets like 70-75% of the picks in brackets. Ohio State is a potential bracket disruptor if you buy the numbers over the eyes here.

1. Kentucky
2. Notre Dame
3. Kansas
4. Wichita State
5. Texas
6. Butler
7. West Virginia
8. Maryland
9. Cincinnati
10. Purdue
11. Indiana
12. Buffalo
13. Valpo

My initial reaction to this bracket is Kentucky got the easiest draw they could to advance to Indianapolis. People love Notre Dame after their run through the ACC and it was impressive but i'm always leery of those teams. They still don't have a top-100 defense and there is no way they come out of a bracket with that profile. As for the reseeding, kansas and Wichita State are the losers. the Shockers are too low and Kansas could get a team that profiles as a 4 in the round of 32. FWIW, if a 15 were to win, New Mexico State is as good a bet as any. They're 88th in KenPom. That's the 2nd highest 15-seed ever. the highest? Lehigh at 82 in 2013. Texas is under seeded because they found ways to lose to inferior teams. That bides well for Butler who could be a target for an upset based on seeding. Maryland and West Virginia are also over seeded. The Mountaineers should really be a 6, so a 5 isn't terrible but for this region, they're too high. I've been harping on this all year, Maryland is way overrated. Can Valpo beat them? Sure. Will they? Eh, I don't know. It's probably closer than a 4-13 is, though. Kentucky should win this region by a combined 1,000 points.

1. Gonzaga
2. Duke
3. Utah
4. Iowa State
5. SMU
6. Georgetown
7. Iowa
8. San Diego State
9.. Davidson
10. Stephan F. Austin
11. UCLA
12. St. John's

Utah is under seeded but overrated. Make sense? Eye test overrules the numbers here. SFA beating them shouldn't surprise anyone. Iowa State is about where they belong. A Sweet 16 match up against Gonzaga would be a great game. Georgetown is over seeded and traveling across country isn't good. They'll be a trendy upset pick. Iowa-Davidson is a potentially great game with little to no defense being played. San Diego State should beat St. John's who is seeeded too high and will be without Chris Obepka who likes the weed too much. The Cyclones, Zags and Duke are a great top 3 but the rest of this bracket is pretty weak. Since I got harassed by a Hawkeye fan, my crush on Davidson is larger.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Crimes Against Humanity

Indiana and UCLA.

Plain and simple.  Decisions have always been questionable but I've never seen something as terrible as those decisions.  Lets but these teams in because they are gaining steam and um, well, I can't think why Indiana gets in.  320th NCSOS according to KenPom, 4-7 in the last 11, 4-9 against the top 50 RPI.   Terrible.

My first glance Final Four:

Northern Iowa
Duke barely over Gonzaga
Wisconsin barely over Arizona

Post Bracket Reveal Yell Session

Let's dive into the bracket and yell.

East Region:

Boise State gets to go to Dayton and play Dayton. Hope Tyler Haws goes off for 80. Belmont owes me for all the times I picked them as bracket buster. Get it done. They won't but still. Nothing else angers me here. 

West Region:

Chanticleers, baby! Really good bracket. 

Midwest Region:

Kentucky should win this region by a billion. This region is awful and if I were a betting man, I'd bet this region will be in shambles by this time next Sunday. Wichita State as 7 is a disgrace to humanity but they could get Kansas in the 2nd round. That would be bananas. Cincinnati and Purdue is a borderline war crime against basketball matchup.

South Region:

The South is a mess. Duke could have a rematch against St. John's in the 2nd round. St. John's and Georgetown could meet up in the Sweet 16 because why not. Oh, the Hoyas? We'll give them a 4 and ship them out to Portland to play Eastern  Washington. JT III has a gripe here. UCLA somehow made the bracket because "they're gaining steam" according to the Chair. That's a great reason. Steam gaining. At least the committee put them up against Larry Brown who took them to the Final 4 in 1980, 35 years ago!

The yelling is over. Let's play the games and FWIW, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona & UNI

I'll re-seed tomorrow by KenPom

Bracket - FINAL

Edit - Butler listed twice; had them as a 7; michigan st as a 6.

1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs Hampton (MEAC)/Bob Morris(NEC)
Villanova (Beast) vs Manhattan (MAAC)/Lafayette(Pat)
Wisconsin (B1G) vs N.Florida (Asun)
Duke vs TexSo(SWAC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Virginia vs C.Carolina (Bsouth)
Arizona (P12) vs Belmont (OVC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs Albany(Aeast)
Iowa State (B12) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Kansas vs New Mexico St(WAC)
Notre Dame (ACC) vs Northeastern (Col)
Maryland vs UAB (Cusa)
Baylor vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
4 seed vs 13 seed
North Carolina vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Oklahoma vs Wyoming(Mwest)
Northern Iowa (Valley) vs E.Washington (Bsky)
Arkansas vs Harvard (Ivy)
5 seed vs 12 seed
West Virginia vs Buffalo (MAC)
Utah vs SFA (Sland)
Louisville vs Wofford (SoCon)
Georgetown vs Valparasio(Horizon)
6 seed vs 11 seed
Providence vs Missisippi/Murray State
Wichita St vs Boise St/Texas
SMU (AAC) vs Purdue
Michigan Stvs BYU
7 seed vs 10 seed
Butler vs Georgia
VCU (A10) vs LSU
Dayton vs Colorado State
SD St vs Davidson
8 seed vs 9 seed
Xavier vs Oklahoma State
Iowa vs NC State
Oregon vs Ohio State
Cincinnati vs St.John's
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Texas A&M

Bracket Coming in A Minute

Last team in is Mississippi.  Temple out.  Murray State......IN!

Big Ten

I hope this game goes into triple overtime and screws with the bracket.

Murray State

Getting close to locking them in based on the fact that if Belmont doesn't make that last shot the committee is probably discussing whether they are a 11 or a 12 seed.  Because Belmont made 1 shot that drops them 5-6 seeds from an 11/12 to out?  I don't see it.

Decisions need to be made but I'm thinking Murray State is in and the last spot is going to be between Mississippi and Temple with Connecticut ready to grab it.


Locked in.

Taking their 10-0 record over 101-200 RPI teams over:

Mississippi 4-4
Temple 1-2
Murray State 9-2


Mississippi, Texas, Temple, Murray State.  4 teams 3 spots

Connecticut could steal a bid

Team W-L RPI Kpom Lun JP SOS NSOS 1-25 26-50 51-100
Mississippi 20-12 55 44 11 11 47 196 1-2 2-5 6-2
Texas 20-13 43 19 11 9 10 202 2-10 1-2 5-1
Temple 23-9 32 50 11 FF 98 100 1-4 1-3 6-0
Murray State 27-5 68 77 NF 276 243 0-0 0-1 1-1


1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs Hampton (MEAC)/Bob Morris(NEC)
Villanova (Beast) vs C.Carolina (Bsouth)/Lafayette(Pat)
Wisconsin (B1G) vs Manhattan (MAAC)
Duke vs N.Florida (Asun)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Virginia vs TexSo(SWAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs Belmont (OVC)
Arizona (P12) vs Albany(Aeast)
Iowa State (B12) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Kansas vs New Mexico St(WAC)
Notre Dame (ACC) vs Northeastern (Col)
Maryland vs UAB (Cusa)
Baylor vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
4 seed vs 13 seed
North Carolina vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Oklahoma vs Wyoming(Mwest)
Northern Iowa (Valley) vs E.Washington (Bsky)
Arkansas vs Harvard (Ivy)
5 seed vs 12 seed
West Virginia vs Buffalo (MAC)
Utah vs SFA (Sland)
Louisville vs Wofford (SoCon)
Georgetown vs Valparasio(Horizon)
6 seed vs 11 seed
Providence vs Texas/Temple
Wichita St vs Boise St/Purdue
SMU (AAC) vs Mississippi
Butler vs BYU
7 seed vs 10 seed
Michigan St vs Oklahoma State
Dayton (A10) vs Colorado State
SD St vs Davidson
8 seed vs 9 seed
Xavier vs Ohio State
Iowa vs NC State
Georgia vs St.John's
Oregon vs Cincinnati
First Four Out
Murray State
Next Four Out
Texas A&M