Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs JacksonSt(SWAC)/NC A&T(MEAC)
Virginia (ACC) vs Penn (Ivy)/FGCU(Asun)
Duke vs Robert Morris (NEC)
Oklahoma (B12) vs Bucknell (Pat)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Purdue (B1G) vs Cal-Fullerton (Bwest)
Wichita St (AAC) vs Iona (MAAC)
Texas Tech vs Radford (Bsouth)
West Virginia vs Drake (Mvalley)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Kansas vs Montana (Bsky)
Xavier vs Belmont (OVC)
North Carolina vs SFA (Sland)
Michigan State vs ETSU (SoCon)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Seton Hall vs William & Mary (Col)
Arizona (Pac12) vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
Auburn (SEC) vs South Dakota St (Summit)
Kentucky vs Wright St (Horizon)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Clemson vs Vermont (Aeast)
Tennessee vs Buffalo (MAC)
Arizona State vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Cincinnati vs W.Kentucky/Alabama
6 seed vs 11 seed
Gonzaga vs USC/Boise State
TCU vs Maryland
Ohio State vs Syracuse
Miami vs UCLA
7 seed vs 10 seed
Michigan vs Texas A&M
Arkansas vs Middle Tenn St (CUSA)
Nevada (Mwest) vs Marquette
Florida State vs Missouri
8 seed vs 9 seed
Creighton vs Texas
Rhode Island (A10) vs Notre Dame
Florida vs Louisville
Butler vs St. Mary's (WCC)
First Four Out
Houston
Baylor
Providence
BYU
Next Four Out
Georgia
Washington
St. Bonaventure
LSU
Also Considered
San Diego State
Utah
Nebraska
Oklahoma State
Boston College
Northwestern
Minnesota
Penn State
Colorado
UCF
Mississippi St
SMU
Virginia Tech
Kansas State

Texas Tech

I’ve been on the Red Raiders bandwagon for awhile. It began when they stole Chris Beard from UNLV. A quick reminder of how he got to Lubbock is in order.
He was the coach at Arkansas-Little Rock and lead them into the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He parlayed that into a job offer at UNLV that he accepted. Shortly thereafter, Tubby Smith left Tech for Memphis. Beard had been an assistant at Tech for a decade and was a natural fit to replace Smith.

Fast forward to today and Texas Tech is one of the best teams thus far in college basketball. Similar to Clemson, the Red Raiders improvement on defense have turned their fortunes. They were 50th in defensive efficiency a year ago and are 2nd this year. Opponents have an effective fg% of 43.9 which is 10th best (Teams only shoot 42.9 from 2.). The Red Raiders 24.1 defensive turnover % is 9th best. Their steal rate is 12%, 10th best in the nation. They do put teams on the line.

They also are a very good rebounding team. Teams only have an offensive rebounding % of 25%. They’re also a good offensive rebounding team. They have an offensive rebounding % of 34.3%, 44th best. 

A year ago, they were 57th in defensive efficiency and teams had an effective fg% of 50.7%. Once again, a big defensive improvement has put a team in position for a special season. 

Tech is also a senior heavy team. They are getting a lot of good minutes from freshman Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver. Senior Keenan Evans is their best player. It may not have a roster full of NBA players but it’s a damn good college team. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Morning Top 10 Dump

10. Michigan State: Sparty had a terrible week. They got blown out in Columbus and needed overtime to beat Rutger. Michigan got them yesterday in East Lansing in what had to be a satisfying win for John Beilein and his team. Rumblings of them going undefeated in league play have been replaced by what’s wrong with Sparty. That’s too bad.

9. West Virginia: They won a rock fight over Baylor at home and blew a second half double-digit lead on the road to Texas Tech. Not a terrible week in the grand scheme of things but one that could have been great.

8. Clemson: Nice win yesterday over Miami at home. They go to UNC on Tuesday that should be a good test and a chance for them to do something they’ve never done, win in the Dean Dome.

7. Gonzaga: Are they the best team in the West? They very well could be. But other than St. Mary’s, tests will be few and far between in the WCC.

6. Oklahoma: They has two home games this week, winning against two good teams in Texas Tech and TCU. Trae Young continues to be a marvel but he did have quite a few turnovers yesterday. Will the rigors of league play wear him down? His usage rate is insane.

5. Duke: Big jump this week for Duke. They embarrassed Pitt at Pitt and beat Wake at home yesterday. They did so in convincing fashion. It was the kind of week you’d expect. They have a home game against Miami on Big Monday. 

4. Texas Tech: OU handled them early in the week but I was impressed by the toughness they showed yesterday in overcoming Press Virginia. They were sloppy for 30 minutes but even as the Mountaineers built a double-digit lead, did you get a sense the Red Raiders were panicked. I don’t have a feel for their ceiling but that’s a damn good team.

3. Virginia: Barf

2. Purdue: The Boilermakers escaped Ann Arbor and then embarrassed Minnesota on their home court yesterday. When Purdue is clicking on offense, they’re as good as any team in America. This is a Final 4 team and a team that can cut down the nets.

1. Villanova: They ran Xavier out of Philly on Wednesday in a game that was never close. The defense is probably good enough but worth monitoring. Having Phil Booth healthy is such a bonus. This is easily Jay Wright’s most dynamic offensive team

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Daily Bracket Notes

Kurly mentioned Syracuse who I was going to talk about a little today as well.  I agree they have been lost in the shuffle of the ACC but one thing is different this year (even though they lost last night)....their computer numbers.  Usually they are middling right around 70 in the RPI due to poor non-conference scheduling.  This year they aren't super strong but they do have a RPI of 26 and KenPom of 46.  Those numbers will go up as they grind through the ACC and as long as they get to 7 or 8 wins they won't even be on the bubble.  Congrats to Jim Boeheim on figuring that out 10 years too late.

Other games of note:

Texas A&M is falling off the map.  As high as a 3 seed going into conference season they are in the 7-8 range.

Auburn keeps churning out win after win.  Can't stand it but they look good.

Baylor was one of my last 2 teams in and lost so they fall out.  Who leaps in?

Well, 3 of my first four out won so it comes down to Marquette, Boise State, or Alabama.  Let's go with Marquette since they had the biggest win coming against Seton Hall.

On to Wednesday night...

Wednesday Wisdom

Some brilliant observations for you all...

- Michigan had a chance for a “signature” win over Purdue at home last night but came up just short in a game where the zebras became the story late. Refs on sports are getting way too much airtime. Ultimately, the refs didn’t cost Michigan a win, getting the calls right but a lack of consistency shines through. We’re at the point, though, where Michigan has probably cemented itself below MSU and Purdue, along with OSU as the 3rd and 4th best teams in the league.

- The Big 14 Network went a propagandizing last night blasting critics of the league’s basketball teams. They’re wrong. Whatever metric you want to use tells us the league is very bad. Underachieving Minnesota and Northwestern are the culprits. Rebuilding Indiana and puzzling Wisconsin, the other two. If I’m a Big 14 honk, I’d focus my energy not defending the dreck of the league but pointing out the two national title/Final 4 contenders.

- The Big 12 minus 2 gave us another great night. West Virginia held serve at home over a game Baylor team. That’s the kind of ugly game I suspect trips up West Virginia in March. Texas Tech had a chance to cement itself as legit threat but fell on the road to Oklahoma. Kansas held off a spry Iowa State team behind Malik Newman who played liked a 5*. A good Newman could be a big boost for Kansas going forward. Let’s see if this gets him going.

- As wild as the Big 12 will be, I think the Big East will match it for great nightly tussles. Creighton handed Butler a second straight loss. Butler has issues on defense and if they miss the tournament, that’ll be why. Speaking of defense, Marquette played some last night and showed what they’re capable of when they do, thumping Seton Hall by 20. That’s Wojo’s 3rd win in 3 years over a Top 15 team. St. John’s dropped to 0-5 in league play with a bad home loss to Georgetown. They’re without Marcus Lovett but they need to start showing some results in Mullin’s 3rd year.

- The most disappointing team at the moment might be Texas A&M who lost at Kentucky last night. Both teams have personnel issues but A&M is now 0-4 in league play and head to Tennessee Saturday. The Vols got a solid road win at Vandy last night. The Aggies are still 25th in KenPom but things aren’t good in College Station

- Finally, Virginia beat Syracuse last night but does anyone else think it’s still weird Syracuse is in the ACC? I feel like they’ve lost some of their identity and are just another team in the ACC. In the Big East, they always had the aura of being one of the Big Dogs and usually were. I don’t get that sense with them in the ACC. Just an interesting dynamic to me.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Clemson

I put Clemson in my top 10 yesterday based on the 14-1 record. They’re 15th in KenPom and 13th in T-Rank, so it’s not a stretch. Is this Clemson team the one that puts Brad Brownell back into the tourney?

Clemson lost star player Jaron Blossomgame to the NBA and expectations were middling entering the season. Brownell was on the hot seat. At 14-1, Clemson is predicted to go 13-3 in the ACC, which would have them finishing 2nd in the league behind Virginia. That’s a big jump for a team pegged for the NIT. What’s changed?

The answer is simple. Despite a reputation as a defensive-first coach, the truth was, Clemson’s defenses had been good but flawed. Offensively, this team isn’t much different than the last two seasons. They’re currently 47th in offensive efficiency. They were 35th last year and 45th in 2016.

On defense, they’re 10th in defensive efficiency. A year ago, they finished 86th and 62nd in 2016. They’re currently 30th in effective fg% on defense. Last year, they were 228th. In 2016, they were 77th. Teams have an effective fg% of 46.3 against the Tigers. Last year, that number was 51.9%.

The big difference is teams are only shooting 44.1% from 2. That’s 31st best. Last year, that number was 228th. The defense has propelled Clemson this year. Couple this improvement with a low foul rate, something that they’ve done the last two years, and you get a tournament level team. They’ve also increased their block rate to 2016 levels.

Pay attention to these numbers. The offense remains the same, the defense has vastly improved. If they maintain it, they’re not a mirage. 

Monday Morning Musing

Just as I was saying Michigan State looks to be head and shoulders above everybody else they go out and get steamrolled by Ohio State.  That game was never close.  This is shaping up to be a year where you could go about 30 different ways with your final four picks.

Wichita State took South Florida to the woodshed and looked great.  I can’t call them a sleeper pick but they aren’t getting the attention that the big names schools are getting.

Florida State and Miami played a solid game; both looked good.

In the Pac-12, Arizona squeaked one out while USC got nipped by a half court buzzer beater.


We are a 9 weeks to Selection Sunday….

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova vs T.Southern(SWAC)/Canisis(MAAC)
Michigan State vs N.Orleans(Sland)/Montana St (Bsky)
Virginia (ACC) vs Morgan St (MEAC)
West Virginia (B12) vs Robert Morris (NEC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Duke vs Bucknell (Pat)
Arizona State vs Radford (Bsouth)
Oklahoma vs Penn (Ivy)
Wichita St (AAC) vs Wright St (Horizon)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Purdue (B1G) vs Vermont (Aeast)
Seton Hall (Beast) vs ETSU (SoCon)
Kansas vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
Xavier vs William & Mary (Col)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Clemson vs Murray St (OVC)
Arizona (Pac12) vs South Dakota St (Summit)
Auburn (SEC) vs Buffalo (MAC)
North Carolina vs UC-Davis (Bwest)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Texas Tech vs Lipscomb (Asun)
Kentucky vs Missouri St (Mvalley)
TCU vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Tennessee vs Baylor/St. Bonaventure
6 seed vs 11 seed
Texas A&M vs Washington/Louisville
Miami vs Georgia
Arkansas vs Maryland
Florida State vs Middle Tenn St (CUSA)
7 seed vs 10 seed
Cincinnati vs UCLA
Nevada (Mwest) vs St. Mary's (WCC)
Butler vs Notre Dame
Creighton vs Rhode Island (A10)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Michigan vs Syracuse
Florida vs Missouri
Gonzaga vs Ohio State
Texas vs USC
First Four Out
Boise State
Alabama
Minnesota
Marquette
Next Four Out
UCF
SMU
Mississippi St
BYU
Also Considered
Utah
St. John's
Houston
San Diego State
Providence
Utah Valley
Nebraska
Oklahoma State
Boston College
Central Michigan
Tulsa
Iowa State
Northwestern
Virginia Tech
Kansas State
Penn State
LSU
Colorado

Top 10: January 7

10. Duke: This is a pity ranking alone, based on potential and not current reality. The defense is a train wreck, a new Duke tradition. Losing to NC State on the road has happened before and will happen again but they were pretty heavy favorites in this game. As of now, they’re a tantalizing what could be.

9. Clemson: I’m taking a closer look at them tomorrow but so far, they’re one of the more pleasant surprises on the season. We’ve been down this road before, though. Will this year be different? We’ll see.

8. Oklahoma: Lost at West Virginia last night but there’s no shame in that. Should have been a good experience for the young team. Wouldn’t surprise me if this is the high point of the year for them.

7. Kansas: Arguably the most maddening team around. Personnel issues make it difficult to gauge them. 

6. West Virginia: They are off to a nice start in the Big XII. They play an exhausting style. I wonder if that doesn’t catch up to them as league play rolls on.

5. Virginia: Barf

4. Purdue: The numbers absolutely love the Boilermakers and given the weakness of the Big 14, they’ll be highly rated by the numbers all year. Good test at Michigan on Tuesday. They’re a decent favorite on the road over what might be the 3rd or 4th best league team. 

3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are a damn fun team. They got their first ever win over Kansas at the Phog this past week. Schedule doesn’t slow down as they travel to OU on Tuesday and then host West Virginia on Saturday. 

2. Villanova: Defensive issues have cropped up. Worth keeping an eye on.

1. Michigan State: As of now, they’re the prohibitive favorite to win it all. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

January 4th Notes

I was finally able to sit and watch basketball last night with little to no distractions.  What a night to pick.

Markus Howard was unbelievable.  I don’t recall seeing someone score 50 in college in a game I was watching.  The best part is they won as they need every single game they can get

North Carolina let another game slip away.  At Florida State is never an easy win but those are the type of game National Championship contenders figure out.


Trae Young is a beast.  Can’t say I was impressed with the technical he got for mouthing off but the Steph Curry short term comparisons are spot on at this point

52 Points Deserve Some Superlatives

Marquette’s sensational sophomore guard, Markus Howard dropped a casual 52 points on Providence in their gym last night. He did so, by tying a Marquette record he holds, making 11 of 19 from deep and by scoring an astonishing 42 points in the second half.

A lot of big scoring nights can be largely inefficient but that was not the case for Howard. In addition to being 11-19 from deep, he was 17-29 overall and 7-7 from the charity stripe. That’s efficient.

The kid is now 45-45 from the line on the season. He’s 57-97 from 2, having developed a deadly little floater to compliment his 40% 3-point shooting. His effective fg% is an incredible 59.8% which is 174th in the nation. He pulls this off while taking 35% of the available shots while he’s on the court, making him 14th in the nation in % of shots taken. That number would be concerning if he wasn’t such a damn good shooter.

His counterpart in Marquette’s back court, Andrew Rowsey can be a maddening player but Howard is a joy to watch...on offense. Defensively, he has a long way to go but on offense, there are not many better players in the country. He plays heavy minutes, shoots well and protects the ball. Enjoy him while you can Marquette fans. 

Anyway, some fun facts...

- He outscored Rutger last night making him the new owner of the Big 14’s prestigious College Football Conference NIT Champions trophy

- He equaled the total points Virginia Tech put up at home against rival Virginia

- He’s younger than Trae Young


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018

I had my bold predictions all ready this weekend but then I sat down and watched Duke barely beat Florida State and realized there’s no way that’s a Final Four team at this point in the season.  Their rotations on defense are getting worse and no amount of offense is going to offset that terrible defense.

That being said here is my final four as of today:  Villanova, Michigan State, Arizona, and Kansas

Yep, I took the traditional route of picking 4 for my final four.

By the way, I put about 6% faith in getting even one of those correct.


Bracketology will be starting up next Monday.  Until then, enjoy the new year!