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March 3, 2008
Conference Check
End-Game Edition

by John Gasaway

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Through games of March 2, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

Missouri Valley: The Numbers Are In

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  Drake            61.5    1.14    1.03   +0.11
2.  Illinois St.     61.6    1.06    0.99   +0.07
3.  S. Illinois      61.1    1.02    0.96   +0.06
4.  Creighton        63.9    1.04    1.02   +0.02
5.  Missouri St.     64.6    1.04    1.03   +0.01
6.  Bradley          67.3    1.06    1.05   +0.01
7.  N. Iowa          60.3    1.02    1.04   -0.02
8.  Indiana St.      63.4    1.02    1.05   -0.03
9.  Wichita St.      60.5    0.99    1.07   -0.08
10. Evansville       64.5    0.92    1.06   -0.14

Clip and save this little table for your brackets. The Valley has already concluded its regular season, so these are the final tempo-free stats for one of those wonderfully Euclidean conferences in which every team plays every other team home and away. That means the results listed here give us the most accurate read we have on the true relative quality of these teams. Drake is best, obviously, but not nearly as dominant as a 15-3 conference record would seem to suggest.

ACC: Clemson Has a PR Deficiency

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM   
1.  North Carolina   75.0    1.13    0.98   +0.15
2.  Duke             75.7    1.12    0.99   +0.13    
3.  Clemson          68.9    1.08    1.00   +0.08
4.  Maryland         72.6    1.04    1.03   +0.01
5.  Georgia Tech     72.4    1.04    1.05   -0.01
6.  Virginia Tech    72.6    0.96    0.99   -0.03
7.  Miami            69.8    1.06    1.09   -0.03
8.  Wake Forest      72.8    1.01    1.04   -0.03
9.  Florida St.      67.7    0.99    1.04   -0.05
10. BC               69.2    1.05    1.10   -0.05
11. Virginia         69.6    1.02    1.08   -0.06
12. NC State         67.6    1.00    1.14   -0.14

In terms of performance, Clemson is closer to Duke than they are to Maryland, whom they defeated by three in College Park last night. James Mays and Trevor Booker crash the offensive glass while Cliff Hammonds and K.C. Rivers harass opponents into turnovers and missed threes. If the Tigers do end up being a seven-seed, as they're projected to be in the brackets I'm seeing, I could envision them giving some unlucky two-seed a very tough game the first weekend.

Big 12: What's the Matter with Kansas?

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  Kansas           69.2    1.14    0.94   +0.20
2.  Kansas St.       70.3    1.11    1.01   +0.10
3.  Texas            65.6    1.10    1.01   +0.09
4.  Baylor           72.5    1.09    1.07   +0.02
5.  Texas A&M        63.3    1.02    1.01   +0.01
6.  Oklahoma St.     64.9    1.03    1.03    0.00
7.  Texas Tech       69.8    1.00    1.05   -0.05
8.  Oklahoma         63.7    0.99    1.04   -0.05
9.  Nebraska         64.5    0.97    1.03   -0.06
10. Missouri         70.4    1.04    1.10   -0.06
11. Iowa St.         67.4    0.91    1.01   -0.10
12. Colorado         60.9    0.98    1.10   -0.12

I've had some nice things to say the past couple weeks about Texas as a team and about Rick Barnes as a coach, but I have to admit I was kind of glad they lost at Texas Tech. The Longhorns were being crowned as a presumptive one-seed way too fast for my tastes. After all, even within the cozy confines of the Big 12 there's another team whose performance has been head and shoulders above that of the 'Horns. Why that other Big 12 team gets relatively little attention, I can't say. Yes, that other team lost by one at Oklahoma State. Hey, last year Florida lost by ten at LSU, for goodness sake. What's the big deal?

Big East: Louisville is (Still) Clearly the Best

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  Louisville       67.5    1.07    0.91   +0.16
2.  Georgetown       62.9    1.04    0.93   +0.11
3.  Marquette        68.9    1.07    0.97   +0.10
4.  West Virginia    64.3    1.07    1.00   +0.07
5.  Connecticut      67.2    1.10    1.03   +0.07
6.  Notre Dame       73.4    1.11    1.06   +0.05
7.  Pitt             64.0    1.08    1.04   +0.04
8.  Syracuse         69.9    1.02    1.03   -0.01
9.  Cincinnati       64.3    1.00    1.01   -0.01
10. Villanova        68.6    1.00    1.02   -0.02
11. Seton Hall       69.0    1.04    1.10   -0.06
12. Providence       66.9    1.03    1.09   -0.06
13. DePaul           67.1    1.04    1.12   -0.08
14. S. Florida       63.3    1.00    1.10   -0.10
15. St. John's       65.2    0.89    1.01   -0.12
16. Rutgers          66.1    0.88    1.06   -0.18

For all its quality and sprawl, the Big East this season has been surprisingly orderly by my tempo-free lights. The best team is clearly Louisville. The second-best team is likely Georgetown, although Marquette is right there with the Hoyas. (That would have been made plain on Saturday if not for the second catastrophic play of the year to be visited upon a Georgetown opponent in the closing seconds. Both plays resulted in Jonathan Wallace free throws.) After that comes a three-team knot: take your pick among Connecticut, West Virginia, and Notre Dame. Lastly there's ever-more-healthy Pitt and, as far as I'm concerned, here's where you pull up the drawbridge.

Big Ten: Nice Explosion, Michigan State. Now: Win on the Road.

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  Wisconsin        60.4    1.07    0.92   +0.15
2.  Purdue           64.1    1.06    0.93   +0.13
3.  Michigan St.     63.7    1.07    0.97   +0.10
4.  Indiana          65.1    1.09    1.02   +0.07
5.  Ohio St.         63.7    1.01    0.95   +0.06
6.  Minnesota        65.7    1.02    1.02    0.00
7.  Illinois         62.3    0.99    0.99    0.00
8.  Michigan         64.0    0.97    1.04   -0.07
9.  Iowa             59.3    0.92    1.01   -0.09
10. Penn St.         62.3    0.99    1.12   -0.14
11. Northwestern     61.6    0.94    1.17   -0.23

If you tuned in to CBS yesterday at 2 p.m. Eastern, you saw a combustible mix of unconscious shooting by the Spartans and weirdly comatose defense by the Hoosiers in East Lansing. When the smoke had cleared, Tom Izzo's team had scored 103 points in just 70 possessions. That's nice, but then again MSU has been weirdly comatose themselves (2-5) on the road in the Big Ten. Now they'll close the year with games at Illinois and Ohio State, two teams who, as seen here, are both better than commonly realized. It's as if it were meant to be. The Spartans have copped their Senior Day buzz. Now, can they carry it with them on the road against the fifth- and seventh-best teams in the conference?

Pac-10: The Truth about Oregon

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  UCLA             64.7    1.13    0.95   +0.18
2.  Stanford         62.7    1.07    0.96   +0.11
3.  Washington St.   58.3    1.09    1.01   +0.08
4.  USC              64.6    1.05    1.01   +0.04
5.  Arizona          63.0    1.08    1.08    0.00
6.  Oregon           64.1    1.10    1.11   -0.01
7.  Washington       68.2    1.01    1.03   -0.02
8.  Arizona St.      62.6    0.99    1.02   -0.03
9.  Cal              67.3    1.08    1.14   -0.06
10. Oregon St.       65.9    0.88    1.17   -0.29

When I read articles that speculate on Ernie Kent's future in Eugene and that lay the Ducks' struggles at the feet of youthful point guards or poor three-point shooting, I slap my forehead. Such articles do not contain the word "defense." Let me be clear: given that Oregon has one of the best offenses in the nation, if they had merely a Pac-10-average defense this season, they'd be at worst a five-seed. Instead they'll likely go to the NIT. All for lack of defense--more specifically, a total lack of turnovers by opponents.

SEC: Mississippi State Has an Opportunity

									 
                                     Opp.
                     Pace    PPP     PPP      EM
1.  Tennessee        71.6    1.10    0.97   +0.13
2.  Mississippi St.  66.9    1.05    0.95   +0.10
3.  Arkansas         69.0    1.03    0.98   +0.05
4.  Vanderbilt       68.0    1.06    1.03   +0.03
5.  Florida          68.8    1.09    1.07   +0.02
6.  Kentucky         63.5    1.00    1.01   -0.01
7.  Alabama          69.3    1.03    1.06   -0.03
8.  Ole Miss         69.9    1.05    1.09   -0.04
9.  South Carolina   64.4    1.03    1.09   -0.06
10. Georgia          67.3    0.97    1.03   -0.06
11. LSU              66.4    0.98    1.05   -0.07
12. Auburn           68.2    1.07    1.15   -0.08

The Bulldogs would appear to be the second-best team in the SEC and, as such, they clearly should be ranked. The good news is that Rick Stansbury's team has a chance to prove both assertions beyond a shadow of a doubt when they play at Vanderbilt Wednesday night.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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