Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 23, 2009

The Weekend in Hoops PLUS: Mailbag!

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:47 am

I’ll try to do one of these each Monday from here on out, but hereafter it will be labeled with the infectious straight-to-viral acronym “TWIH” to free up precious headline space.

Craig Robinson’s had a better month than his brother-in-law
Oregon State has officially progressed beyond the cute “they play hard” stage. Now they’re actually a pretty good team, no patronizing qualifiers needed. Look no further than the Beavers’ 65-54 win against Cal on Saturday in Corvallis. The light apparently went on for Craig Robinson‘s team late in the evening on January 17, after they’d been stomped at home by Washington, 85-69. Since that time OSU’s gone 6-3, outscoring opponents by 0.03 points per trip. The Beavers’ offense and defense metamorphosed simultaneously, with both units going from “Aaaiiieeee!” to “OK, I guess.” Sophomore Calvin Haynes is emerging as a legitimate Pac-10-quality weapon on offense for a team that plays one senior. Right now Corvallis is getting all the stimulus it needs.

Correction: UCLA is bad! Wildly correctly-rated, too!
On Saturday the Bruins mounted a heroic comeback at Pauley Pavilion before losing to Washington State, 82-81. Know what would have been even more heroic? Not spotting the seventh-best team in your league to an eight-point lead with two minutes left on your home floor. Two weeks ago when I proclaimed UCLA underrated, I was looking at a team with an incredible offense and a so-so defense. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Ben Howland could preside over a defense that would actually get worse than so-so. That is precisely what has happened. Over their last four games the Bruins have allowed opponents to score 1.16 points per possession, making mid- to late-February UCLA the rough equivalent of Baylor. On paper this is still the best team in the Pac-10 by a hair (tune in tomorrow for Conference Check), but at this point that’s meaningless. Howland needs to find a way for this team to get some stops. As it is the Bruins may have played themselves into seeing a one-seed in their second NCAA game–assuming they can get that far.     

And then there was DePaul
Oregon got off the conference schneid Saturday, beating Stanford 68-60 in Eugene to reach 1-14 in Pac-10 play. That leaves DePaul as the last major-conference team without a win in league play. It still looks as if the Blue Demons are down to one all-or-nothing shot at evading history: this Saturday’s game at home against St. John’s.

LSU took care of business–now the fun starts
The Tigers beat Auburn 79-72 in Baton Rouge on Saturday, meaning Trent Johnson‘s team enters a long-anticipated big week with an 11-1 record in SEC play. Tomorrow night LSU hosts Florida and on Saturday they visit Kentucky.

West Lafayette. It is the campus where you are right now while you are being on a campus.
Today’s Leopold von Ranke Award for bold historical revisionism goes to the redoubtable Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. In West Lafayette to gauge the temperature of the once-heated PurdueIndiana rivalry, Kravitz threw cold water in his day-after piece on any “chat-room crazies” who think the Hoosiers could be competitive again as soon as next year. Noting that next year’s IU team will again be quite young, Kravitz says if “you’re expecting 20 wins in Year 2” of Tom Crean‘s tenure in Bloomington, you need to “get a clue.” I have no clue if IU will win 20 next year, but it seems almost willfully peculiar to make this particular assertion from Mackey Arena, where last year Matt Painter‘s team went 15-3 in the Big Ten by giving 92 percent of the available minutes to players in their first or second seasons in a Purdue uniform. Not that I expect Indiana to repeat Purdue’s 2008 performance in 2010. But that’s precisely my point: last year I didn’t expect Purdue to do it either. Surely the Boilers showed that success can arrive on its own schedule, one not necessarily congruent with auto-pilot coachspeak about “building a culture,” “senior leadership,” “continuity,” etc. BONUS Purdue note! Despite pre-game reports to the contrary, Robbie Hummel did indeed play in the Boilers’ 81-67 win over Indiana.

North Carolina lost on the road. Yawn.
Try as I might, I just can’t work myself up into being worried about the Heels. Last year they lost at home to these very same Maryland Terrapins and still made the Final Four.

Oklahoma lost on the road, but without Blake Griffin for much of the game. Yawn.
Blake Griffin missed the second half of the game against Texas with a concussion. Right now it’s uncertain if he’ll be able to play tonight against Kansas in Norman. Let’s hope so, for Griffin’s sake and ours. We fans out here desperately need a good benchmark for the Sooners. Griffin sitting the second half in Austin means we still don’t have one. Most of what we track here at Prospectus suggests that, despite their ostentatious record, the Sooners thus far are functionally indistinguishable from the Jayhawks or Missouri. Which, actually, is high praise for Jeff Capel‘s team. I don’t think most people yet understand just how good KU and Mizzou have been.  

UAB is coming together with impeccable timing 
In the last two weeks the Blazers have made a compelling case that they are in fact the second-best team in C-USA, with the latest item entered into evidence being their 86-56 mauling of Southern Miss in Birmingham on Saturday. That whole “clear second-best team” thing works out well. Memphis comes to visit Thursday. 

Speaking of Memphis….

Unfiltered-Back!
Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Winning 53 straight conference games might mean it’s time to shop for a new conference
OK, seriously, WHY IS MEMPHIS STILL IN CONFERENCE USA?

I will continue to pose this question until I receive a satisfying answer.

Dexter F.

Football.

The jumps made by DePaul and Marquette to the Big East notwithstanding, very nearly every decision made today about conference membership is based almost solely on football. And upon closer examination the Blue Demons and the Golden Eagles are actually the exceptions that prove the rule. The Big East already had basketball-only members and decided to go for a 16-team look in hoops. But now the Big East is full and no other conference is going to make a basketball-driven decision to extend an invitation to Memphis.

The tempo-free world: Are we there yet?
Since I think it’s possible that you and Ken Pomeroy have watched a couple games this season, I’m surprised you’re not shouting from the rooftops about the occasional use of what could only be possession-based stats by mainstream (i.e., ESPN) media.

I haven’t been keeping notes and I may be biased, but it seems to me Fran Fraschilla is the main culprit here. Anyway, here are some approximate quotes by actual TV announcers on actual live broadcasts:

“DeJuan Blair rebounds one in four of his team’s misses.”

“Hasheem Thabeet takes just 17 percent of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor.”

“Duke’s offense is in the top five in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency.”

“Pittsburgh’s offense is the most efficient in the country.”

Unfortunately, I have not heard concurrent mention of the phrase “tempo-free.”

Alex

The actual stuff in question of course dates back a few decades to legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith, whereas the term “tempo-free” was only just cooked up by some doofus in the past few years. It’s far more important that the stuff be used than the term be repeated.

Fran Fraschilla was indeed the earliest of the on-air adopters. Two seasons ago he was virtually alone, and if you’re reading these words right now you owe Fran the hearty fist-pound you’d give any pioneer. Now, as Alex notes correctly, Fran has company. Jay Bilas, for example, says “efficient” an awful lot and what’s more applies that label correctly. Good on you, Jay. However, I would venture to say that the engraved Fran Fraschilla Tempo-Free Announcing Cup goes to someone you don’t even see unless you have ESPNU. Former Wisconsin great Mike Kelley is both an avid user and a skillful peddler of tempo-free wares.

Off the air, Luke Winn of SI.com is of course admirably fluent, as was his colleague Grant Wahl before he disappeared to wherever he disappeared to. The same fluency has also been shown by Andy Glockner, late of ESPN, now glimpsed at SI.

Otherwise? Still some miles to go before we sleep.

Just as long as it isn’t Demi Lovato
Alert reader Bill perused my piece on Winehouse Factors, an honor I’ve named after the famously erratic British pop diva and one that I give to highly inconsistent teams. Groping for a parallel term to describe consistent teams, I suggested a Miley Cyrus Factor. Bill begs to differ.

I wouldn’t say Miley Cyrus; she did pose “provocatively” for Vanity Fair. How about Kelly Clarkson or Mandy Moore?

Anyway, great illuminating stuff. Hope to make thousands of dollars in March.

Bill

So it shall be! The Tennessee offense is Mandy Moore; the Volunteers’ defense is Amy Winehouse. Man, this works great! Thanks, Bill.    

I defy any other hoops site to post an email this erudite
I was enjoying your post on BracketBusters and saw that you had written “et. al.” The “et” requires no period–“et” is the full Latin for “and.”

Aside from that, cheers all around. You made me want to watch every game for various reasons. 

Mike N.
A Basketballophillic Classicist

Yo, sic transit gloria mundi back atcha, bro.     

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