Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 31, 2009

Four (Tempo-Free) Roads to Detroit

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:06 am

I’ll have a proper Final Four preview up later this week. For now let’s wax retrospective and take a look at how Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova, and North Carolina got this far, leaving 61 other teams sprawled in the dust.

Each team has four wins under its belt, so we now have 160 minutes worth of tournament performance to consider. Moreover, with the brackets again holding form this year, there were no instances of a team arriving at the Final Four without having faced a high seed. Everyone here had to beat either a one-, two-, or three-seed to make it this far. Indeed Villanova in particular played a notably robust schedule: UCLA, Duke, and one-seed Pitt. (Not to mention the Wildcats had to mount a furious comeback after their terrible first half against American.)

Here is how these teams have performed over the course of their all-or-nothing four-game seasons.

Michigan State: So who needs (snicker) “good shooting”?
                              3PA/     TO     Oreb    FTA/ 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG     FGA     pct.    pct.    FGA
1.10    48.7   44.6   40.4    25.6    19.9    40.7    .37

During the regular season I fretted about the Spartans’ poor shooting from the field and, if I looked hard enough (I don’t want to), I could probably find a passage where I waggled my finger ominously at them and said they’ll never get to Detroit shooting like this. Well,  here they are in Detroit, still shooting poorly from the field. True, they’ve hit their threes, but they really don’t shoot many of those. Tom Izzo‘s team is scoring 1.10 points per trip anyway by taking pretty good care of the ball (it’s true!), crashing the offensive glass, and getting to the line. They just get more bites at the apple.

Opp.    Opp.   Opp.   Opp.    Opp.    Dreb    Opp.     Opp. 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG   3PA/FGA   pct.   TO pct. FTA/FGA
0.95    44.7   46.0   27.3    25.2    69.0    18.7    .32

The Spartans have been solid on D, particularly on the perimeter. (This team was a really bad two-seed for Louisville to draw.)

Connecticut: Total domination…until Missouri
                              3PA/     TO     Oreb    FTA/ 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG     FGA     pct.    pct.    FGA
1.19    54.9   57.9   29.6    22.8    16.7    38.8    .54

These are glittering numbers, of course, compared to Michigan State’s. Part of that is the lingering residue of a 56-point victory against Chattanooga in the first round. Then again this team scored 1.38 points per trip against Texas A&M. Note especially UConn’s outrageously frequent free throws. Jim Calhoun‘s gang has been shooting more that one freebie for every two field goal attempts. In addition they never turn the ball over (at least they didn’t until they ran up against Missouri) and make 58 percent of their twos. Do that and you’re going to score some points.

Opp.    Opp.   Opp.   Opp.    Opp.    Dreb    Opp.     Opp. 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG   3PA/FGA   pct.   TO pct. FTA/FGA
0.85    40.0   42.1   23.5    29.9    76.7    14.0    .18

Clearly Connecticut has continued their ridiculously extreme no-foul ways in the tournament. Even though opponents never turn the ball over, they never make shots, either. Nor do those opponents get any offensive boards.

Villanova: Not as perimeter-oriented as you think
                              3PA/     TO     Oreb    FTA/ 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG     FGA     pct.    pct.    FGA
1.14    50.2   53.2   29.6    34.2    18.2    38.8    .43

The intriguing thing about the Wildcats is that they’re an undersized team that has reached the Final Four without making their threes. They may look guard-oriented when you see them in action, but in the tournament they’ve gathered almost as many offensive boards as Michigan State while getting to the line more frequently than the Spartans.

Opp.    Opp.   Opp.   Opp.    Opp.    Dreb    Opp.     Opp. 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG   3PA/FGA   pct.   TO pct. FTA/FGA
0.93    46.4   48.8   29.0    45.2    77.3    18.9    .40

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Plucky little undersized Villanova has been absolutely insane on the defensive glass, even better than Connecticut. And what the Wildcats did to Duke in particular should be reported to the UN. (In that game ‘Nova hauled down 82 percent of the Blue Devils’ misses.) Jay Wright‘s team has also been notably successful at forcing opponents to shoot threes–a vital skill for a team that doesn’t do much shot-altering, much less shot-blocking. 

If there’s a source of worry here for Villanova fans it’s that opponents are going to the line almost as often as the ‘Cats are. In part that’s misleading: UCLA and Duke both shot more free throws than ‘Nova but they were never in serious contention. Still, there’s no doubt it’s something to watch. Pitt also shot more free throws than did the Wildcats and it almost made the difference.

North Carolina: Yet to break a sweat
                              3PA/     TO     Oreb    FTA/ 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG     FGA     pct.    pct.    FGA
1.20    55.5   52.0   45.0    22.9    14.6    34.5    .32

As I noted yesterday, Carolina is the only Final Four team that has yet to be challenged. They’ve played 295 possessions in the tournament and outscored their opponents by 90 points.

Opp.    Opp.   Opp.   Opp.    Opp.    Dreb    Opp.     Opp. 
PPP     eFG    2FG    3FG   3PA/FGA   pct.   TO pct. FTA/FGA
0.90    44.3   45.1   28.4    31.6    68.3    20.7    .23

UNC’s defense has been fine, particularly on the perimeter, but of course these are numbers compiled against opponents trying to catch up with a team that just keeps scoring. It may be impolitic to say (high school coaches, cover your players’ eyes), but when your offense veers north of 1.20 points per trip, defense simply becomes a little less salient. Florida proved this point most memorably in the 2007 tournament.

March 28, 2009

Your Chalk Stat of the Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:21 am

As of this moment:

Since the Year of Salutary Chaos (otherwise known as 2006), one-seeds are 44-2 against tournament opponents who aren’t fellow one-seeds, which translates into a fairly robust .957 winning percentage.

Villanova, Missouri, Michigan State, and Oklahoma, take note: your heroes and role models in your games today and tomorrow should be those scrappy UCLA and Georgetown teams from 2007, who each made the Final Four despite being lowly (snicker) two-seeds.

Best of luck in rocking the chalk.

Alabama Chooses Grant

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:09 am

Yesterday Alabama announced that they have reached an “agreement in principle” with VCU coach Anthony Grant, and that Grant will be officially introduced as the new coach of the Crimson Tide tomorrow night. (Tip to Tuscaloosa: Make sure Grant signs the contract. A mere Memorandum of Understanding doesn’t always work out so well.)

A longtime assistant to Billy Donovan at Florida, Grant is something of a head coaching wunderkind. At 42, he has just three seasons under his belt as a head coach, but what a three seasons it’s been. His first Rams team received an 11-seed, beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and then took Pitt to overtime before falling in second round. His team has won the CAA regular season championship outright in each of Grant’s three seasons.

In 2007 when Donavan said “yes” to the Orlando Magic and let it stick for two days, Grant was pursued by Florida. Ever since his name has come up anytime there’s been an opening in the SEC. In fact some observers have wondered whether Grant waited to make sure Donavan isn’t going anywhere this year before saying yes to Alabama. Be that as it may, Grant is bound for Tuscaloosa.

He will find himself in a situation not unlike the one Trent Johnson found himself in at LSU last year: a first-year coach for an SEC team that fired its previous coach mid-season, went on a pretty good post-firing run, and returns a core of some pretty good talent while having said goodbye to one its leading scorers (Anthony Randolph in Johnson’s case, Alonzo Gee in Grant’s). That’s not necessarily to say Grant should be able to next year do what Johnson did this year: win the SEC. Merely that it’s not a total basket case of a program that Grant’s inheriting here, as can sometimes be the case for a rising young coach hire lured into the major-conference scene.

We will see what he can make of it.   

March 27, 2009

Gillispie Out at Kentucky

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 3:36 pm

Within the past few minutes both ESPN and SI.com have posted stories saying that Billy Gillispie will not return next season as head coach at Kentucky. The school has announced a press conference for today at 4:30.

There will be a coaching carousel this season after all. A vacancy of this magnitude creates its own carousel. 

March 26, 2009

Chat Today, PLUS Ads the Readers Like!

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 9:55 am

Join me today for the live chat thing as we prep for the Sweet 16. Click here starting at noon Eastern to go live or do it earlier and submit your question in advance. What’s on your mind? Allegations at Connecticut? Mass exodus at Iowa? Let me hear from you! 

And because I believe no Unfiltered post should be limited to a shameless plug for a chat, please accept the latest results from my town-hall forum on the ads we’ve all been seeing during these games.

To recap: on Tuesday I noted that I’ve literally seen more ads in the past six days than I had in the previous six months. I therefore threw the floor open for nominations and asked you, the reader, to tell me your most and least favorite ad that you’ve encountered during the tournament.

Yesterday we covered that “least favorite” angle and found a clear winner. (Hint: Does your watering hole feature a concealed control panel where the bartender can alter the outcome of basketball games? Would you want it to? I thought not.) But lest we at Unfiltered be accused of only having a torch for burning and no hammer for building, I today present ads that pass muster with the notoriously discriminating readers of this here blog. 

As far-fetched as the Buffalo Wild Wings ad, but good
The McDonald’s filet-o-fish ad is a perfect example of post-modern minimalism and conforms almost perfectly to the Dogme 95 collective of film-making that values purity and eschews gimmickry.

Plus it has a singing fish.
Rob I.

For reasons that I cannot explain, I love the McDonald’s ad with the singing fish on the wall, despite the fact that:

1) I don’t like McDonald’s food in general.

2) The cultural reference (Big Mouth Billy Bass) peaked in popularity eight years ago, making it about as timely as Zubas and Furbies.

3) Even though there are two actors in the commercial, neither one has a speaking role.

4) The principal actor (bearded guy eating the sandwich) is slightly obese.

5) The lyrics to the song, and the later shot of the fish sandwich being torn apart to expose the breaded white fish, oddly emphasize the connection between the cute animal and your dinner, which is a bit strange.

But still, every time that commercial comes on, I stop talking, listen intently, and hum along/smile awkwardly.
Sean

Corporate behemoth plucks heartstrings quite well
Easily the best commercial is the AT&T spot where the dad is traveling for business and his daughter puts her stuffed monkey in his briefcase. The dad proceeds to use his cell to take pictures of the monkey doing various things throughout the trip and sends them to his daughter. At the end she’s elated to find a picture from their front lawn and she greets him with a big hug at the door.

It just works for me. Also I remembered what product it was for (shockingly). The “more bars in more places” tag is invoked subtly as you see adjacent items increasing in size from left to right. (Who needs that many baguettes?) The little girl is cute, too.
Ben A. 

“It’s workin’!”
Hotels.com. Man talking to wife in the hotel room while standing in the bathroom, discovers extra shampoo and expresses happiness to wife. She says, “It’s only because they’re trying to get you to write a good review on Hotels.com.” Man proceeds to open both shampoo bottles and generously applies shampoo to his dry head, proclaiming: “It’s workin’! They got me! It’s workin’!”

Simple, effective, hysterical.
Pat A.

“Rejected!”
Favorite commercial for several Marches running? Three words: Weak. Tot. Action.
Jerry H. 

Best commercial of the tournament is Sonic’s tater tot rejection spot. I know it’s a bit old, but I still laugh every time I see it.

“Rejected! You take that tot strong to the mouth or you don’t take it at all!”

Second place is a tie between the Sonic ad where the guy hurt his shoulder working the remote and the one where he’s drawing up a play on the clipboard.
Billy R. 

Good work, readers! Keep your eyes peeled the next four days and let me know if anything new captures your fancy. 

March 25, 2009

WARP vs. EWA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:09 pm

In the continuing effort by stat geeks to create as many acronyms as possible, be prepared to add VA (Value Added) and EWA (Estimated Wins Added) to your vocabulary. I kid, but in truth John Hollinger‘s additions to his PER system are important and useful, taking into account playing time as well as performance in a similar fashion to my own WARP system. Check out Hollinger’s explanation of his new methods on ESPN.com.

I thought it would be interesting to take this opportunity to see how WARP and EWA compare, at least at the top of the league. With most teams having played 70 games, the numbers have settled down and any differences reflect what the two systems value differently. Here are our top 10 leaderboards:

Player          WARP     Player           EWA

LeBron James    23.6     LeBron James    28.1
Chris Paul      21.6     Dwyane Wade     26.5
Dwyane Wade     21.5     Chris Paul      23.4
Dwight Howard   18.5     Dwight Howard   18.6
Tim Duncan      14.1     Kobe Bryant     18.2
Pau Gasol       12.7     Brandon Roy     17.0
Kobe Bryant     12.3     Tim Duncan      15.4
Brandon Roy     12.3     Dirk Nowitzki   14.4
Rajon Rondo     12.0     Pau Gasol       14.2
Yao Ming        11.2     Yao Ming        13.7

For the most part, WARP and EWA are in agreement about the league’s elite. Nine of the top 10 players are the same between the two lists, and three players show up in the same spot either way. WARP tends to favor Chris Paul‘s efficiency and Tim Duncan‘s defense, while EWA is slightly more enamored of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant because of their ability to create shots.

The biggest discrepancy here is on Rajon Rondo, who comes out as the Celtics’ most valuable player by WARP but is a distant 27th in EWA. Rondo’s defense is valued more highly by my methods.

Also worth noting: EWA figures tend to be somewhat higher overall. I set replacement level using the standard that a team of replacement players would win about 10 games, which results in practice of a replacement level about 83 percent of league average. Hollinger’s empirical method, which uses different replacement levels for each position, comes out around 75 percent of league average. The standard from other sports–with the caveat that I’ve yet to get to Baseball Prospectus 2009, which tweaks the way our baseball brethern treat replacement level–is around 80 percent, so both are in that ballpark.

All of this is interesting, but worth keeping in context. I’m also working on a column that explores the debatable importance of single-number rating systems as part of a look at the big picture of APBRmetrics. Also, several people have e-mailed to ask about leaderboards for WARP and other stats from the Basketball Prospectus stats pages. Rest assured they are in our plans, though they likely will not be available this season.

Prospectus Hoops List: Week of March 22

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 1:02 pm

This week’s Hoops List was one of many items that fell by the wayside as my writing time was sucked into a domestic vortex. You ever get a house ready to put on the market? If so, you know what I’m talking about. If not, well, I have three words for you: rent, rent, rent. In any event, if anyone is looking to move into midtown Kansas City, I know of a great, 4 bedroom/2 bath place in the city’s best urban neighborhood. Shoot me a message.

For continuity’s sake, I’m putting up this week’s rankings sans commentary so we can all put this experience behind us and move ahead with the Sweet 16 & Elite 8. Next Tuesday, the Hoops List will return to its regularly-scheduled format. Unless, of course, someone walks in with a big wad of cash and wants to move in over the weekend.

Questions and comments.
(Statistics through March 22)

Rank. (Last week) Team (Power rating) [Win pace / Pythagorean win pace / Preseason projecion ]

1. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (65.9) [ 66 / 64 / 44 ]
Rankings: NET: 1; OFF: 4; DEF: 3; PACE: 25

2. (2) Boston Celtics (62.3) [ 61 / 62 / 63 ]
Rankings: NET: 2; OFF: 5; DEF: 2; PACE: 19

3. (3) Los Angeles Lakers (61.7) [ 65 / 60 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 4; OFF: 2; DEF: 6; PACE: 5

4. (4) Orlando Magic (59.4) [ 60 / 60 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 3; OFF: 6; DEF: 1; PACE: 12

5. (6) Portland Trail Blazers (52.6) [ 51 / 51 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 5; OFF: 3; DEF: 17; PACE: 29

6. (8) Houston Rockets (52.3) [ 53 / 52 / 61 ]
Rankings: NET: 7; OFF: 16; DEF: 5; PACE: 20

7. (5) San Antonio Spurs (51.9) [ 53 / 52 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 6; OFF: 14; DEF: 4; PACE: 27

8. (7) Denver Nuggets (51.5) [ 52 / 49 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 10; OFF: 11; DEF: 8; PACE: 6

9. (9) New Orleans Hornets (49.8) [ 52 / 49 / 45 ]
Rankings: NET: 9; OFF: 9; DEF: 7; PACE: 28

10. (10) Utah Jazz (49.7) [ 51 / 51 / 50 ]
Rankings: NET: 8; OFF: 7; DEF: 11; PACE: 11

11. (12) Atlanta Hawks (47.7) [ 48 / 46 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 12; OFF: 10; DEF: 12; PACE: 24

12. (13) Dallas Mavericks (46.7) [ 49 / 44 / 51 ]
Rankings: NET: 13; OFF: 8; DEF: 15; PACE: 15

13. (14) Phoenix Suns (46.1) [ 45 / 47 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 11; OFF: 1; DEF: 23; PACE: 4

14. (11) Miami Heat (43.0) [ 43 / 40 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 15; OFF: 17; DEF: 14; PACE: 21

15. (15) Philadelphia 76ers (41.7) [ 42 / 42 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 14; OFF: 21; DEF: 10; PACE: 17

16. (16) Detroit Pistons (39.8) [ 40 / 39 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 16; OFF: 18; DEF: 16; PACE: 30

17. (17) Chicago Bulls (39.1) [ 37 / 37 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 18; OFF: 20; DEF: 18; PACE: 9

18. (18) Milwaukee Bucks (36.8) [ 35 / 37 / 31 ]
Rankings: NET: 17; OFF: 22; DEF: 13; PACE: 10

19. (19) Charlotte Bobcats (36.1) [ 36 / 37 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 19; OFF: 27; DEF: 9; PACE: 26

20. (21) Indiana Pacers (35.8) [ 33 / 35 / 41 ]
Rankings: NET: 20; OFF: 19; DEF: 19; PACE: 3

21. (22) New Jersey Nets (34.4) [ 35 / 34 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 21; OFF: 13; DEF: 24; PACE: 22

22. (20) New York Knicks (33.5) [ 33 / 34 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 23; OFF: 15; DEF: 26; PACE: 2

23. (23) Toronto Raptors (31.5) [ 29 / 31 / 42 ]
Rankings: NET: 22; OFF: 23; DEF: 21; PACE: 16

24. (24) Golden State Warriors (29.9) [ 29 / 32 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 24; OFF: 12; DEF: 28; PACE: 1

25. (25) Minnesota Timberwolves (26.3) [ 23 / 28 / 26 ]
Rankings: NET: 26; OFF: 24; DEF: 27; PACE: 14

26. (26) Oklahoma City Thunder (23.8) [ 23 / 26 / 23 ]
Rankings: NET: 25; OFF: 28; DEF: 20; PACE: 8

27. (27) Memphis Grizzlies (21.1) [ 20 / 23 / 19 ]
Rankings: NET: 27; OFF: 29; DEF: 22; PACE: 23

28. (29) Los Angeles Clippers (19.2) [ 19 / 18 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 28; OFF: 30; DEF: 25; PACE: 13

29. (28) Washington Wizards (19.1) [ 18 / 19 / 32 ]
Rankings: NET: 30; OFF: 26; DEF: 30; PACE: 18

30. (30) Sacramento Kings (18.6) [ 17 / 19 / 39 ]
Rankings: NET: 29; OFF: 25; DEF: 29; PACE: 7

Definitions:

NBAPET = stands for National Basketball Association Projection, Evaluation and Tracking = A database and system of metrics for analyzing professional basketball.

gRATE = a one-game metric that measures a player’s offensive and defensive contribution and expresses it as a net point total. The sum of a team’s gRATE figures for a game will equal its actual point differential for that game.

Adjusted winning percentage (AWP) = ((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) / (((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) + ((home losses x .1.4)+(road losses x 0.6)))

LUCK = the difference between a team’s 82-game win pace and its 82-game Pythagorean win pace.

Opponents winning percentage (OWP) = aggregate percentage of games won for each team’s opponents, based on the number of times the team has faced that opponent.

Pythagorean winning percentage (PYTH) = uses the basketball-reference formula of Games x (Points scored^14) / ((Points scored^14) + (Points allowed^14))

Power rating = (((PYTH + AWP)/2)*(OWP/.500)) x 82

WP82 = wins produced per 82 games, adjusted for playing time

WP3K = wins produced per 3,000 minutes

RANKINGS: NET = net efficiency ratio; OFF – offensive efficiency; DEF – defensive efficiency; PACE: average possessions per game

Chat Tomorrow, PLUS Readers No Likey this Ad

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 7:27 am

Join me tomorrow at noon Eastern for the live chat thing. Click here tomorrow to go live or do it now and submit your question in advance. All topics welcomed! Though that obscure happening known as the Sweet 16 would seem to be a rather apposite site for discussion.

And because I believe no Unfiltered post should be limited to a shameless plug for a chat, please accept the initial results from my town-hall forum on the ads we’ve all been seeing during these games.

To recap: yesterday I noted that I’ve literally seen more ads in the past six days than I had in the previous six months. I therefore threw the floor open for nominations and asked you, the reader, to tell me your most and least favorite ad that you’ve encountered during the tournament.

As far as least favorite, we have a clear winner. Oh do we have a winner.

“Hey, send it in to overtime!” 
I really hate those Buffalo Wild Wing commercials. What kind of bizarre alternate universe is this where you have to go home as soon as the game ends and the thought of going home is so awful that the guy in the “Boston” shirt is cheering when his own players get hurt?

Rob M. 

I suspect this will be a popular choice, but I am particularly bothered by the Buffalo Wild Wings commercial. Though I’ve never frequented one, I will stipulate that I’m sure it’s a great place to watch sports.

But no matter how fantastic it is, under no circumstances would any self-respecting fan actually root for their team to blow, or be prevented from making due to an otherworldly camera flash, a wide-open game-winning layup merely to spend more time at the restaurant during overtime. Yet that is exactly what this commercial asks us to believe by showing us “Boston” fans cheering after two of their players are considerably harmed by outside interference.

I just don’t buy it, and it bothers me.

Elliot S.

If I’d seen it once, I’d be OK with it. But the fact that it leads off every single commercial break allows me way too much time to analyze it. Given that amount of time, I’ve realized that it’s vaguely horrifying for a few guys in a bar to ruin a sporting event for everyone else by manipulating the outcome for their own benefit.

Eric J.

COMING tomorrow! Ads Unfiltered readers actually like! (Yes, there are some.) Meantime, keep those nominations coming!

March 24, 2009

Ask Mr. Etymology!

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 2:18 pm

My last post was rather winsomely entitled “Chalk Show,” and since its appearance I’ve received a steady stream of:

What do they mean when they use the term “chalk” when talking about the tournament, brackets, teams remaining, etc.?

Kevin

“Chalk” refers to favorites in sports. Applied to college basketball in late March, the term denotes the higher seeded team in a game or the highest seeded team in a bracket. The word itself started its career as a betting term in horse racing.

Then again so did “pari-mutuel” and I don’t see anyone falling over themselves to drop that particular p-bomb this week. The beauty of “chalk” in particular is that in 2009 it represents the last best hope for pudgy men with soul-crushing jobs in tall office towers to still at least sound a little like Damon Runyon.

My understanding is this: Back when bicycles had outlandishly tall front wheels and the yellow press was alternately fighting traction trusts and starting wars in Cuba, bookies used to update odds for horse races on a chalkboard. Someone who placed their bet according to the odds–as opposed to relying on their keen instincts, intuition, or the horse’s cool name–was thus said to be following “the chalk.”

Fine. But then through a process that is still not entirely clear to me (since of course odds for all horses–favorites and long-shots alike–were written in chalk), the term came to be synonymous with the odds-on favorite. Thus today, with the top 12 seeds in the tournament all still alive, we say the bracket has been chalk, or it’s a chalkalicious tournament, or nice bracket chalkapottamus, or whatever you prefer.

BONUS thought wholly unrelated to words, hoops, or maybe even your interest! In today’s modern world, what with our self-winding film cameras and Otis elevator safety brake, I can go weeks without seeing an entire ad on TV. That of course is not an option in March. During the regular season I DVR almost all games of interest but this past weekend those games were far too numerous to take in after-the-fact. They had to be watched live.

In other words, after months of feeling only an occasional sprinkle I’ve just staggered weakly out of an absolute immersion in 15 feet of commercials. I am therefore now accepting nominations: your most and least favorite ads. Entries written up with suitably fervent praise or lucid damnation will be reproduced here. Winners to receive a hearty fist-bump from yours truly. (Yes, I will! O, the rapture!)  

Like Upsets? Watch the Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:42 am

A funny thing happened on the way to St. Louis. The NCAA Women’s Tournament, historically much more favorable to top-seeded teams than its male counterpart, has provided the upsets that have been noticeably absent from the Men’s Tournament this year.

The Sweet 16 is merely halfway complete, but already it features two six seeds (Arizona State and Purdue) and a seven (Rutgers) while just one team seeded lower than five advanced amongst the men.

Sunday night’s conclusion to the opening round brought one huge upset and one near-miss. The latter saw Texas-San Antonio bid to become the first 15 seed ever to win a game in the Women’s Tournament, taking Baylor (sans coach Kim Mulkey, in a Jim Calhoun parallel) to the extra session before running out of steam. Oddly, the only 16 seed ever to win an NCAA Tournament game was on the women’s side, the Harvard Crimson taking down the injury-battered Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion.

Even had the Roadrunners down the (nearly) unthinkable, it still would have been overshadowed by the Tennessee Lady Vols being upset by Ball State. In pure seeding terms, the outcome wasn’t stunning–it was a classic 5-12 upset, one of two in the first round this year. But these are Pat Summitt‘s Vols, the defending national champions. Summitt had never failed to reach the Sweet 16 since the NCAA Tournament began. This year’s Tennessee squad had to rebuild after losing five key seniors, four of whom went to the WNBA. Yet the Lady Vols were still expected to reach the Sweet 16 and certainly not lose to a Ball State team making its NCAA Tournament debut.

One factor in the upsets? The women’s subregionals take place on campus, with the host team getting to play at home to boost attendance. That frequently gives lower-seeded teams home-court advantage, which Rutgers parlayed into its victory over Auburn. 12 seed Gonzaga, which knocked off Xavier in the first round and nearly beat Pittsburgh to join the men in the Sweet 16, got to play in front of a partisan crowd in Seattle. Had this scenario played out on the men’s side, the airwaves would be filled with experts crying foul. For the women, it’s a necessary evil–but one that does serve to make the early rounds more unpredictable.

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