Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 17, 2011

Join Our Tournament Pool/Live Chat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:23 am

It seems like every site on the Internet has an NCAA Tournament pool, and Basketball Prospectus should not be an exception. I’ve started a group at ESPN for BBP readers (and a handful of authors who chose to participate). While this is last minute, there is still time for you to fill out your bracket and put your picks on the line. Just make sure to randomize your choice beyond simply Ken Pomeroy‘s log-5 projections, since this is one pool where you can guarantee just about everyone has read them.

Once the games begin tomorrow just before 12:30 p.m. Eastern, join the Prospectus crew for a live chat covering the first two days of the NCAA Tournament from all angles. It’s your chance to react live and share the excitement as we enjoy unexpected results and try to piece together what’s left of our brackets. Hope you’ll join us!

March 16, 2011

Shorten It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:23 pm

Over the greatest week of basketball all year, I will watch a variety of different hoops: NCAA men, of course, the NBA and also the NCAA women (whose madness starts on Saturday). One thing in particular will make the NCAA men’s basketball action stand out from the other games: the length of the shot clock. The NBA famously has used a 24-second shot clock since the concept was invented by the late Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, as do FIBA and the WNBA. The women’s college game gives teams 30 seconds to shoot. Beyond the prep level, then, there is only one organized form of basketball in the entire world that believes players need a full 35 seconds to get off a shot: men’s college basketball. It is past time for that to change.

1. It Promotes Stalling

In a recent Unfiltered post, my esteemed colleague Mr. Gasaway agreed with a reader who complained about the bias against slow-paced games, arguing, “Possessions in these games always include passing, screening, and cutting, activities which are just as much the essence of basketball as shooting (and that’s just the offense on a given possession).” (This was, of course, before Wisconsin and Penn State set hoops back 40 years.)

That’s true–to a point. Certainly, the relationship between speed and quality is imperfect. One of my favorite NCAA games of all time was Princeton’s upset over a defending champion UCLA in 1996, a game that saw the Tigers take the shot clock down time and again using the kind of basketball actions reader Jack promotes. (Sean Gregory, a reserve on that team, has a terrific story about that game and team in this week’s TIME magazine.)

However, I draw a distinction between a deliberate offense and one that deliberately stalls the game. The latter features players passing the ball back and forth on the perimeter, a style of basketball that no one finds entertaining. Eliminating stalling is the primary reason we have a shot clock at all. The 35-second clock just doesn’t go far enough in the process.

2. It Fails to Reward the Defense

This, to me, is the worst aspect of the NCAA shot clock. In the NBA, when a team plays solid defense for 15-20 seconds and deflects a pass out of bounds, they’re rewarded by getting the chance to force the offense into a short-clock situation. At the college level, there is still plenty of time to run a play in such a scenario. For NBA teams, shot-clock violations reflect the ultimate in defensive intensity and effort. When teams do fail to get a shot off in the NCAA, it’s generally because the offense was discombobulated more than the work of the defense.

Answering the Counterpoint: Will a Shorter Shot Clock Hurt Offense?

If cutting the shot clock means sacrificing offensive efficiency in the name of speeding up the game, the change might not make sense. In order to reward defense more, we’ll have to be willing to accept a few forced shots in end-of-clock situations. However, I think there is evidence to suggest that offenses will successfully adapt to the new scenario.

The WNBA is an interesting proving ground for NCAA changes. The women’s pro league beat the NCAA to lengthening the three-point line by a couple of years (though to the former international length of 20’6″ instead of the 20’9″ used by the NCAA) with similarly minimal effect on percentages. In 2006, the WNBA cut its shot clock from 30 seconds to 24. Coaches feared the repercussions. In response, the league-wide Offensive Rating, which had stagnated around 98 points per 100 possessions for years, jumped to 99.1. It has since continued to grow to the point where WNBA teams now average more than a point per trip down the floor.

(Fun coincidence: One of the key players in the success of the faster-paced WNBA game was former Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead, who coached the Phoenix Mercury to a championship in 2007.)

When the NCAA did previously reduce the shot clock from 45 seconds to the current 35 in 1993-94, there wasn’t the same kind of uptick in scoring, but the impact on points per play (with no accounting for offensive rebounds, which are tough to track down at the national level so long ago) was modest: Scoring went down from .9 points per play to .893. Steady growth in the 2000s has pushed it back up to about .91 points per play now.

With the perspective of nearly 20 years of the current clock, the notion of 45 seconds to shoot–let alone an unlimited shot clock–seems curiously archaic. I suspect that if the shot clock were to move to 30, we’d think the same thing about the 35-second clock within a decade’s time. A 30-second clock would produce a better NCAA game.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

Casual fans and March formalities

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:46 pm

I said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s a good thing that people who don’t ordinarily follow college basketball start writing and talking about college basketball in mid-March. This is no time to get territorial and protective. I say: Y’all come. The passing interest of short-timers is a March ritual as hallowed as the brackets themselves.

Sure, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith might say erroneous things about particular teams or players, but people who fancy that they know more about particular teams or players say erroneous things all the time. Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. Besides, he’s Charles Barkley. Talking about college basketball. What’s not to like?

So it is that the estimable Michael Wilbon has cast his gaze toward college hoops and, taking a page from official Prospectus peep Jay Bilas, has voiced his concern over the state of the game. To Wilbon’s eye college basketball today has too few great players (they’ve all decamped to the NBA), too few great teams (see above), and a low overall quality of play.

To me the most plausible aspect of a lament like this is that absent time travel it’s inherently irrefutable. Wilbon could be right. If I were dropped in, say, 1987, maybe I’d watch a few minutes of Billy Donovan in short-shorts at Providence, slap my forehead, and say, “It is better!” There’s just no way of knowing for sure.

That said, I do think saying the college game is or will soon become bereft of stars vastly overstates our ability to know where the next stars are going to come from, just how good they’re going to be, and how soon they’ll be that good. At the moment the brightest star in the college firmament, one now projected as a mid-first-round pick, is a not terribly athletic 22-year-old from Glens Falls, New York. Good luck traveling back to March 2007, pointing to the young man, and telling everyone about this Mania thing that’s taking place in 2011. Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, and Dwayne Wade all played college basketball subsequent to a draft they were eligible to enter because too few learned observers realized just how good these guys were going to be.

I realize I’m stealing a page (pdf) from Ken Pomeroy — he runs a more aesthetically pleasing version of this chart annually, I believe — but what the heck. This:

What you see here is the overall free throw percentage recorded by Division I in every season from 1948 to 2010. In 1948 D-I players were not very good at making free throws. Back then they shot just 59.8 percent at the line. Free throw shooting improved steadily over the following decade, however, and despite recurring laments that no one can shoot FTs “anymore” the accuracy has been more or less stable at right around 69 percent for the better part of 50 years.

I don’t suppose free throw accuracy translates seamlessly or even particularly well into the qualities that Wilbon finds in short supply: stars, formidable teams, and a high quality of play. But the serene knowledge that I could travel back in time to the Truman administration and kick my similarly-aged grandfather’s butt in a free throw contest has always made me provisionally skeptical of laments that things aren’t like they were in the good old days. Very often this lament is indeed correct, of course (I nominate movie stars and architecture), but it’s one we should always treat with some caution precisely on the grounds that it does come to our lips so easily.

Wilbon and I watch the same sport but come away with different impressions. That’s fine. Wilbon saw the same national championship game that I did last year. I thought it was well played, had NBA-track stars, and was quite thrilling. I may well be proven wrong eventually, but for now mark me down as blissfully unconcerned.

Last request. Before you make the (equally popular in March) inverse-Wilbon point — the world-weary belief that college basketball was born in original sin — by using “Sam Gilbert” as a two-word club, please read this. Failing that at least read this, which has the condign virtue of being 4,980 words shorter.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here. Book: now available on Amazon.

March 14, 2011

Starting tomorrow: The essential bracket previews

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:08 am

I love this week. The nation as a whole is focused on what truly matters in life, college hoops. Every year this week has its own particular rhythm. Monday is for reflection, correction, and fact-finding.

But Tuesday’s when it’s time to get down to cases — especially now with this First Four dealie. So we’ve decided to spring three of our four full-length regional previews on you tomorrow. It’ll be a preview roadblock, courtesy of Kevin Pelton (Southwest), Asher Fusco (Southeast), and yours truly (East). Then on Wednesday Ken Pomeroy will close the deal with his preview of the West bracket.

As with the conference tournament previews you’ve enjoyed this past week, the analysis will be lucid, lilting, and log5-fueled. See you tomorrow!

Final List of 2010-11

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Perrotto @ 4:04 am

The time for rankings is over. The NCAA Tournament field has been announced and the 68 teams will battle on the court for the national championship, beginning Tuesday.
However, let’s take one last look at The List for the 2010-11 season. Unlike The Associated Press’ media poll and USA Today/ESPN’s coaches (re: sports information directors) poll, we take into account subjective data to present our weekly Top 25, a cross section of Ken Pomeroy’s Pomeroy Ratings at kenpom.com, the Jeff Sagarin ratings for USA Today at usatoday.com, Team Rankings at teamrankings.com, Kyle Whelliston’s State of Basketball rankings at basketballstate.com and the Ratings Percentage Index, more commonly known as the RPI, which can be found at various sources. We also project the 68 teams most deserving of being in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Duke
2. Ohio State
3. Kansas
4. San Diego State
5. Pittsburgh
6. Brigham Young
7. Texas
8. Purdue
9. Notre Dame
10. Kentucky
11. North Carolina
12. Syracuse
13. Wisconsin
14. Louisville
15. Florida
16. Utah State
17. Connecticut
18. Georgetown
19. West Virginia
20. Cincinnati
21. Arizona
22. Belmont
23. Nevada-Las Vegas
24. Xavier
25. Washington

March 13, 2011

Log5: NCAA tournament

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ken Pomeroy @ 11:49 pm

Here’s the log5 analysis of the NCAA tournament field. The first list is the entire field grouped together, and then each region follows. Some random notes…

– Last season, we gave Duke the best chance of winning the tournament. This is far different from saying we successfully predicted Duke would win the tournament. We did no such thing. This season, Ohio State has the best chance to win it all, and if I had to endorse one team to win it, it would be the Buckeyes. That said, it’s much safer to say that Ohio State won’t win it. Whoever does take the title will need to play very well and also get some good fortune in events outside of their control.

– I’m not terribly confident about the probabilities for Utah State and Belmont. I’m confident they are seeded undeservingly low, but by how much is very difficult to say. Maybe the NCAA will seriously study situations like these someday and we can remove the scheduling issue from the selection process.

– As with the conference tournament projections, I’m using an exponent of 11 to determine these probabilities. If that means nothing to you, don’t worry about it.

The numbers in each table represent the chance in percent of a team advancing to the round in question.

                          Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ   1 in...
 1. 1E   Ohio St.         98.9    83.2    62.0    47.7    30.9    21.6    5
 2. 1W   Duke             98.3    84.5    56.5    40.3    23.5    15.3    7
 3. 1SW  Kansas           96.9    72.6    52.4    35.0    23.6    12.4    8
 4. 1SE  Pittsburgh       95.1    76.5    47.4    31.8    16.8     7.5    13
 5. 4W   Texas            86.8    67.9    32.0    20.4    10.2     5.8    17
 6. 3SW  Purdue           91.8    68.0    41.8    20.9    12.0     5.1    20
 7. 2W   San Diego St.    92.7    70.1    47.1    20.7     9.5     5.0    20
 8. 2SW  Notre Dame       91.3    66.6    36.2    16.8     9.1     3.5    28
 9. 4E   Kentucky         88.7    61.0    23.1    13.9     6.5     3.4    30
10. 3SE  Brigham Young    85.4    55.7    35.4    17.0     7.5     2.7    37
11. 4SW  Louisville       87.6    60.8    25.2    13.0     6.8     2.5    39
12. 3E   Syracuse         90.1    62.2    35.2    12.9     5.4     2.5    40
13. 4SE  Wisconsin        61.0    38.5    20.4    12.8     6.2     2.5    40
14. 2E   North Carolina   89.7    52.4    28.6     9.7     3.8     1.6    61
15. 2SE  Florida          87.8    57.8    29.4    12.2     4.6     1.4    73
16. 3W   Connecticut      83.3    48.3    22.1     7.2     2.5     1.0    101
17. 7E   Washington       72.7    37.7    19.7     6.3     2.3     1.0    104
18. 12SE Utah St.         60.1    26.9    11.9     6.4     2.5     0.8    125
19. 13SE Belmont          39.0    20.5     8.7     4.6     1.7     0.5    189
20. 9SW  Illinois         51.7    14.4     7.0     2.9     1.3     0.4    276
21. 6W   Cincinnati       56.6    28.7    11.8     3.3     1.0     0.4    281
22. 11SE Gonzaga          53.0    22.2    11.1     3.9     1.2     0.3    338
23. 8SW  UNLV             48.3    12.8     6.0     2.4     1.0     0.3    363
24. 5E   West Virginia    57.6    22.3     5.5     2.4     0.7     0.3    373
25. 5W   Arizona          76.8    24.1     6.1     2.4     0.6     0.2    482
26. 6SW  Georgetown       60.9    20.0     8.0     2.4     0.8     0.2    506
27. 6SE  St. John's       47.0    18.5     8.7     2.8     0.8     0.2    550
28. 5SW  Vanderbilt       55.7    21.3     5.6     2.0     0.7     0.2    620
29. 5SE  Kansas St.       39.9    14.0     5.0     2.2     0.7     0.2    626
30. 11E  Marquette        52.5    19.4     7.5     1.7     0.4     0.1    762
31. 10SE Michigan St.     55.0    22.9     8.6     2.5     0.6     0.1    765
32. 11W  Missouri         43.4    19.3     6.8     1.6     0.4     0.1    833
33. 8E   George Mason     50.5     8.5     3.2     1.3     0.4     0.1    890
34. 12E  Clemson          30.9    11.3     2.6     1.1     0.3     0.1    947
35. 9E   Villanova        49.5     8.2     3.1     1.2     0.3     0.1    963
36. 6E   Xavier           47.5    16.5     6.0     1.3     0.3     0.09   1167
37. 10SW Florida St.      50.8    16.2     5.2     1.4     0.4     0.09   1173
38. 7W   Temple           51.0    14.7     6.0     1.3     0.3     0.08   1183
39. 7SW  Texas A&M        49.2    15.4     4.9     1.2     0.4     0.07   1337
40. 10W  Penn St.         49.0    13.8     5.5     1.2     0.3     0.07   1407
41. 12SW Richmond         44.3    14.9     3.4     1.0     0.3     0.06   1657
42. 8W   Michigan         56.8     9.5     2.9     0.9     0.2     0.06   1761
43. 7SE  UCLA             45.0    16.8     5.6     1.4     0.3     0.05   1841
44. 11SW USC              31.6     9.1     3.2     0.8     0.3     0.05   1928
45. 9SE  Old Dominion     51.1    11.8     3.5     1.2     0.3     0.05   2035
46. 8SE  Butler           48.9    10.9     3.1     1.0     0.2     0.04   2506
47. 10E  Georgia          27.3     8.4     2.5     0.4     0.08    0.02   6107
48. 9W   Tennessee        43.2     5.9     1.5     0.4     0.07    0.02   6151
49. 12E  UAB              11.5     2.9     0.4     0.1     0.02    0.005  21266
50. 13W  Oakland          13.2     4.9     0.7     0.2     0.02    0.004  24675
51. 14SE Wofford          14.6     3.6     0.9     0.1     0.02    0.001  67960
52. 12W  Memphis          23.2     3.1     0.3     0.05    0.006   0.0008 131751
53. 14W  Bucknell         16.7     3.6     0.6     0.06    0.006   0.0007 142009
54. 13SW Morehead St.     12.4     3.0     0.3     0.04    0.006   0.0005 192702
55. 13E  Princeton        11.3     2.5     0.2     0.04    0.004   0.0005 195063
56. 11SW VCU               7.5     1.2     0.2     0.03    0.005   0.0005 203187
57. 14SW St. Peter's       8.2     1.7     0.2     0.02    0.003   0.0002 560787
58. 15SE UC Santa Barbara 12.2     2.6     0.3     0.03    0.003   0.0002 624434
59. 14E  Indiana St.       9.9     1.9     0.3     0.02    0.001   0.0001 751535
60. 15SW Akron             8.7     1.8     0.2     0.02    0.002   0.0001 854892
61. 15W  Northern Colorado 7.3     1.4     0.2     0.01    0.001  <0.0001 1178554
62. 15E  Long Island      10.3     1.5     0.2     0.01    0.0009 <0.0001 1216609
63. 16SE UNC Asheville     4.0     0.8     0.08    0.009   0.0007 <0.0001 2883054
64. 16SW Boston U.         3.1     0.3     0.02    0.002   0.0001 <0.0001 24701695
65. 16W  Hampton           1.7     0.2     0.008   0.0004 <0.0001 <0.0001 261976455
66. 16SE Ark. Little Rock  0.9     0.09    0.004   0.0003 <0.0001 <0.0001 454126213
67. 16E  Texas San Antonio 0.9     0.06    0.002   0.0001 <0.0001 <0.0001 1028345510
68. 16E  Alabama St.       0.1     0.003  <0.001  <0.0001 <0.0001 <0.0001 1090873445634

SOUTHWEST              Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ
 1    Kansas           96.9    72.6    52.4    35.0    23.6    12.4
 3    Purdue           91.8    68.0    41.8    20.9    12.0     5.1
 2    Notre Dame       91.3    66.6    36.2    16.8     9.1     3.5
 4    Louisville       87.6    60.8    25.2    13.0     6.8     2.5
 9    Illinois         51.7    14.4     7.0     2.9     1.3     0.4
 8    UNLV             48.3    12.8     6.0     2.4     1.0     0.3
 6    Georgetown       60.9    20.0     8.0     2.4     0.8     0.2
 5    Vanderbilt       55.7    21.3     5.6     2.0     0.7     0.2
10    Florida St.      50.8    16.2     5.2     1.4     0.4     0.09
 7    Texas A&M        49.2    15.4     4.9     1.2     0.4     0.07
12    Richmond         44.3    14.9     3.4     1.0     0.3     0.06
11    USC              31.6     9.1     3.2     0.8     0.3     0.05
13    Morehead St.     12.4     3.0     0.3     0.04    0.006   0.0005
11    VCU               7.5     1.2     0.2     0.03    0.005   0.0005
14    St. Peter's       8.2     1.7     0.2     0.02    0.003   0.0002
15    Akron             8.7     1.8     0.2     0.02    0.002   0.0001
16    Boston U.         3.1     0.3     0.02    0.002   0.0001  0.000004

SOUTHEAST              Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ
 1    Pittsburgh       95.1    76.5    47.4    31.8    16.8     7.5
 3    Brigham Young    85.4    55.7    35.4    17.0     7.5     2.7
 4    Wisconsin        61.0    38.5    20.4    12.8     6.2     2.5
 2    Florida          87.8    57.8    29.4    12.2     4.6     1.4
12    Utah St.         60.1    26.9    11.9     6.4     2.5     0.8
13    Belmont          39.0    20.5     8.7     4.6     1.7     0.5
11    Gonzaga          53.0    22.2    11.1     3.9     1.2     0.3
 6    St. John's       47.0    18.5     8.7     2.8     0.8     0.2
 5    Kansas St.       39.9    14.0     5.0     2.2     0.7     0.2
10    Michigan St.     55.0    22.9     8.6     2.5     0.6     0.1
 7    UCLA             45.0    16.8     5.6     1.4     0.3     0.05
 9    Old Dominion     51.1    11.8     3.5     1.2     0.3     0.05
 8    Butler           48.9    10.9     3.1     1.0     0.2     0.04
14    Wofford          14.6     3.6     0.9     0.1     0.02    0.001
15    UC Santa Barbara 12.2     2.6     0.3     0.03    0.003   0.0002
16    UNC Asheville     4.0     0.8     0.08    0.009   0.0007  0.00003
16    Ark. Little Rock  0.9     0.09    0.004   0.0003  0.000009 0.0000002

WEST                   Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ
 1    Duke             98.3    84.5    56.5    40.3    23.5    15.3
 4    Texas            86.8    67.9    32.0    20.4    10.2     5.8
 2    San Diego St.    92.7    70.1    47.1    20.7     9.5     5.0
 3    Connecticut      83.3    48.3    22.1     7.2     2.5     1.0
 6    Cincinnati       56.6    28.7    11.8     3.3     1.0     0.4
 5    Arizona          76.8    24.1     6.1     2.4     0.6     0.2
11    Missouri         43.4    19.3     6.8     1.6     0.4     0.1
 7    Temple           51.0    14.7     6.0     1.3     0.3     0.08
10    Penn St.         49.0    13.8     5.5     1.2     0.3     0.07
 8    Michigan         56.8     9.5     2.9     0.9     0.2     0.06
 9    Tennessee        43.2     5.9     1.5     0.4     0.07    0.02
13    Oakland          13.2     4.9     0.7     0.2     0.02    0.004
12    Memphis          23.2     3.1     0.3     0.05    0.006   0.0008
14    Bucknell         16.7     3.6     0.6     0.06    0.006   0.0007
15    Northern Colorado 7.3     1.4     0.2     0.01    0.001   0.00008
16    Hampton           1.7     0.2     0.008   0.0004  0.00001 0.0000004

EAST                   Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ
 1    Ohio St.         98.9    83.2    62.0    47.7    30.9    21.6
 4    Kentucky         88.7    61.0    23.1    13.9     6.5     3.4
 3    Syracuse         90.1    62.2    35.2    12.9     5.4     2.5
 2    North Carolina   89.7    52.4    28.6     9.7     3.8     1.6
 7    Washington       72.7    37.7    19.7     6.3     2.3     1.0
 5    West Virginia    57.6    22.3     5.5     2.4     0.7     0.3
11    Marquette        52.5    19.4     7.5     1.7     0.4     0.1
 8    George Mason     50.5     8.5     3.2     1.3     0.4     0.1
12    Clemson          30.9    11.3     2.6     1.1     0.3     0.1
 9    Villanova        49.5     8.2     3.1     1.2     0.3     0.1
 6    Xavier           47.5    16.5     6.0     1.3     0.3     0.09
10    Georgia          27.3     8.4     2.5     0.4     0.08    0.02
12    UAB              11.5     2.9     0.4     0.1     0.02    0.005
13    Princeton        11.3     2.5     0.2     0.04    0.004   0.0005
14    Indiana St.       9.9     1.9     0.3     0.02    0.001   0.0001
15    Long Island      10.3     1.5     0.2     0.01    0.001   0.00008
16    Texas San Antonio 0.9     0.06    0.002   0.0001  0.000003 0.00000010
16    Alabama St.       0.1     0.003   0.00004 0.0000007 0.000000007 0.00000000009

How to watch Selection Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:05 am

With only four games to be played today, the selection committee should have the field of 68 pretty well set — with one exception. Dayton, with no hope of getting a bid otherwise, can steal an invite away from a bubble team somewhere with a win in today’s A-10 championship game over Richmond (who should be safely in even if they lose).

Who’s in?
Andy Glockner has Georgia in and Saint Mary’s out, while Joe Lunardi has the the Dawgs out and the Gaels in. Both Glockner and Lunardi have UAB out, but the Bracket Project has the Blazers in.

Let’s do this. Here’s a list of bubble teams sequenced by our old friend these many years RPI. For simplicity’s sake I’m leaving Penn State off — the Nittany Lions are still in the hunt for an automatic bid.

UAB 30
Georgia 43
Saint Mary’s 46
VCU 53
Colorado 65
USC 68
Alabama 77

Who are the 1-seeds?
Ohio State and Kansas are locks. Pitt is generally assumed. Most mocks have Duke as the fourth 1-seed. Inveterate iconoclast Lunardi has Notre Dame.

Bear in mind that as long as the committee continues to use RPI as “just one tool” (a bit like using phrenology as just one tool), interest in who gets a 1-seed will exceed the importance of getting a 1-seed. Starting with the round of 32 the strength of your opponents is a crap shoot regardless of your seed, because the field’s been seeded using a system that thought New Mexico was a 3 last year. A 1-seed’s a really cool honor, but you may have an easier path as a 2.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here. Book: now available on Amazon.

March 12, 2011

The slowest game you’ll ever see. Hopefully.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:42 am

Friday was madness. Sweet, glorious madness. I’ve been trying to decide what’s more amazing. Jimmer Fredette scoring 52 points in BYU‘s 87-76 win over New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament semifinals; Jimmer Fredette taking 54 percent of his team’s shots from the field in their win against the Lobos; Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg weeping openly; or Saint Joseph’s making the A-10 semifinals after going 4-12 in-conference.

I’ve settled on “none of the above.” The most amazing thing that happened Friday was that Penn State beat Wisconsin 36-33 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. That’s pretty notable right there — both the score and the fact that the Badgers were upset by the Nittany Lions.

But what was truly remarkable about this game was its pace. When the final horn sounded fans at Conseco Fieldhouse had been “treated” to just 42 possessions of basketball, and that is historically low.

This wasn’t a regular-season game, of course, but one way of grasping just how slow this game really was is to compare it to all the basketball that came before it. There were 621 major-conference games played this year during the regular season, and just 75 (12 percent) of those came in at under 60 possessions. And even when we look at this slowest 12 percent, we see a powerful gravitational pull at work, trying valiantly to pull all these aberrantly slow games up into the normal 60s.

Here’s how the slowest major-conference games were distributed this season. By the time we get down to 51 possessions, we can cite the games individually. That’s how rare they are.

The shot clock played a featured role
Major-conference games under 60 possessions, 2011

Poss.  No. of occurrences
 59     19
 58     18
 57     16
 56      4
 55      8
 54      3
 53      3
 52      0
 51      West Virginia @ Villanova, Feb 5
 50      Wisconsin @ Northwestern, Jan 23
 49      Ohio State @ Northwestern, Jan 29
 48      Notre Dame @ Pitt, Jan 24
 47      0
 46      0
 45      0
 44      0
 43      0
 42      (Penn State vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten tournament)

That was one slow game.

BONUS superstition! Last night’s loss by the Badgers marked the fifth time in the past six years that the Big Ten tournament’s 3-seed has lost in the quarterfinals. That seed line is cursed, I tells ya. Cursed.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here. Book: now available on Amazon.

March 11, 2011

Seeding should be skeptical

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:42 am

Programming note: Live chat today at 1 ET. Join or post questions in advance here.

Pitt lost on a buzzer-beater to Connecticut yesterday, and Notre Dame looked fantastic while cutting Cincinnati up into tiny bits, so the campaign to give the Irish a 1-seed (though not necessarily at the expense of the Panthers, of course) has gathered more steam. Mark me down as a skeptic.

I’ve been a delighted spectator of Mike Brey‘s offense for years, and I give the coach full credit for continuing to lacerate opposing defenses in the post-Harangody era. Last month I clambered happily on the ND bandwagon, proclaiming this the best team Brey has had in recent memory.

But we’re talking about 1-seeds now, and those are scarce. Notre Dame had the whole season to play as well as Pitt or Duke did, and they didn’t do it. In fact, they didn’t come close. If they make the Final Four, Brey’s team will be the worst-performing major-conference team to do so since Georgia Tech in 2004. (Update: since starting this post I see where my old boss Nate Silver has made a similar point with respect to the Irish.)

Maybe Notre Dame will take a 2-seed as an injustice visited on them by the committee. Great, knock yourselves out.

No, seriously, you could be right. Florida was right in 2006. They won the national championship as a 3-seed. And, anyway, with the committee still using that 8-track tape known as RPI it’s not like you can be confident the opponents you face starting with the round of 32 will be easier if you’re a 1.

Prove the skeptics wrong. You have the opportunity to do so. This ain’t the BCS.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here. Book: now available on Amazon.

March 9, 2011

Log5: Big West, Great West, and Ivy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ken Pomeroy @ 2:04 am

This is the eighth and final installment of mass log5 numbers. Arkansas-Little Rock’s victory in the Sun Belt title game last night currently stands as the craziest tournament-related happening so far. Log5 gave it just a 3.8 percent chance of occurring before the Sun Belt tourney started.

The numbers in each table represent the chance in percent of a team advancing to the round in question.

Big West
March 10-12. All games at Anaheim, Ca.

Dan Monson has quietly put together a nice team at Long Beach. Remember when the 49ers were giving UNC fits? Well, it turns out that was as much about LBSU being pretty good as it was about the Tar Heels trying to find themselves.

                      Semis   Final   Champ
1 Long Beach St.       81.8    64.3    44.5
2 Cal Poly             80.0    48.7    21.6
4 Pacific              53.2    28.1    13.3
5 UC Santa Barbara     46.8    23.4    10.5
3 Cal St. Northridge   56.2    18.0     5.4
6 Cal St. Fullerton    43.8     8.4     2.1
8 UC Irvine            18.2     6.4     2.1
7 UC Riverside         20.0     2.7     0.5

Great West
March 10-12. All games at Utah Valley.

It’s better to be Big than Great because the Great West doesn’t get an automatic bid (not to the NCAA tournament, anyway). But hey, they’re a real conference just like the Big Ten and Big East! The Wolverines are the favorite to win this event, which takes place mere minutes from Jimmer-land.

                      Semis   Final   Champ
1 Utah Valley           100    76.3    62.3
4 South Dakota         94.5    23.6    15.8
3 North Dakota         71.5    41.6    10.4
2 NJIT                 73.5    39.8     9.3
6 UTPA                 28.5    10.5     1.3
7 Houston Baptist      26.5     8.1     0.8
5 Chicago St.           5.5     0.1     0.02

Ivy
March 12. All games at New Haven, Conn.

The top two seeds get byes all the way to the championship game in this tournament’s unusual format. Tommy Amaker’s club is a slight favorite to win this one.

            Champ
1 Harvard    57.8
1 Princeton  42.2
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