Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

January 25, 2010

Weekend in Hoops: I’m all in for Kentucky/Favre

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:34 pm

Later today 19-0 Kentucky will ascend to the number one ranking in the polls, thanks in equal measure to one eminently forgettable week from Texas and to UK’s own rather emphatic 101-70 win over Arkansas in Lexington on Saturday.

So welcome to Kentucky Week here at Basketball Prospectus! I’ve decided to call upon the awesome power and majesty inherent in my position (“college hoops dude,” I think) to mobilize all the resources that Prospectus can bring to bear and concentrate them on one hitherto obscure and shamefully overlooked team. “John Wall“? “John Calipari“? You may not have heard these names before, but by the time Friday rolls around you’ll know these so-called “Wildcats” as well as you do your own name!

On tap for this week….

Ken Pomeroy has officially recorded the “get” of the year: An exclusive on-the-record interview with himself on the implications of Kentucky’s relatively “low” Kenpom rating (currently ninth in the nation), as well as additional thoughts on the college hoops courtscape.

Bill Simmons says Daryl Morey is “Dork Elvis.” I guess that means Kevin Pelton is Dork Big Mama Thornton. Kevin and yours truly will have a cross-disciplinary Back-and-Forth on the sudden yet unmistakable Eric Bledsoe-for-the-2010-Lottery boomlet. What on earth have these boomlet people been smok–uh, I mean, what does the future hold for Bledsoe in 2010 and beyond?

–And much, much, more! (Hint: UK should look pretty good in tomorrow’s Tuesday Truths.)

The ACC’s leading “Williams” in terms of offense
For once it’s not Roy Williams. No, to this point in the season that honor would definitely go to Gary Williams, whose Maryland team has ripped through its first four conference games to the tune of 1.17 points per trip. Will that number fall? Of course! But the point is these games are in the books, they happened, and Terps have already played this way for fully 25 percent of their ACC schedule. In conference play Greivis Vasquez and the gang have made more than half of their (rare) threes while never ever turning the ball over. At 3-1, the Terps’ only loss has been in OT at Wake Forest. They get Miami at home tomorrow night before going to Clemson on Sunday. Keep an eye on them. 

Wow! What a game in New Orleans!
I hardly know where to start, seriously. You think you know what’s going to happen, but in the end there are always so many unexpected occurrences. Turnovers, big plays, and, one team just wanting it more.

What? You think I’m talking about the NFC champion Saints? That was pretty cool, but actually I’m talking about Tulane‘s very strange 61-46 loss at home to East Carolina yesterday afternoon. Not only did the visiting Pirates enter this game winless in CUSA, they were also in that most unique of non-Ivy League positions: Mack McCarthy‘s team was playing its second road game in two days (they lost 68-53 at Southern Miss on Saturday), making this a true NBA-style back-to-back. Be that as it may, ECU shook off any weariness and held the Green Wave to a really paltry point total in what was actually a fast (76-possession) game. Indefatigable road warriors of Greenville, NC, I salute you!

In other NFL-obscured news, Indiana lost 58-43 at home to Iowa last night, a result that has been attributed in part to a late-arriving Colts-distracted crowd in Bloomington. The Hawkeyes may want to schedule all future games in close spatial and temporal proximity to the Super Bowl, World Cup, vampire movie release dates, etc.: This was their first win on the road in the Big Ten since March 4, 2008.

No, seriously, about that game in New Orleans….
I stumbled into this whole writing about college hoops thing due to a series of coincidences, any one of which was pretty insignificant taken by itself. One example: A few years ago a LA Times columnist wrote that Mike Krzyzewski had “saved” college basketball when he turned a blind eye to a potential opportunity to coach the Lakers and instead stayed at Duke. Mind you I have used oceans of figurative internet ink singing Coach K’s praises in the years since, and I particularly and specifically admire his willingness to adapt himself stylistically to changing circumstances and personnel (a willingness that his coaching mentor did not always display).

Nevertheless, the cringing obsequiousness and vaporous imprecision inherent in saying that any one non-John Wooden human has “saved” college basketball led me to stand on my desk (again, figuratively) at my day job that very day and make the following Scarlett O’Hara vow: As Dean Smith is my witness, I can write about college basketball in a way that is much better and much more informative than this guy.

Well, maybe I have and maybe I haven’t, but I will say this for that LAT columnist. He was a model of stoic reserve compared to Fox last night.

If Minnesota scored a touchdown, Fox would show Brett Favre. If New Orleans scored a touchdown, Fox would show Brett Favre. If Percy Harvin fumbled, Fox would show Brett Favre. If Adrian Peterson fumbled, Fox would show Brett Favre.

If they were going into commercial, Fox would show Brett Favre. If they were coming out of commercial, Fox would show Brett Favre. If the Vikings had the ball, Fox, unavoidably, would show Brett Favre. If the Saints had the ball, Fox, avoidably, would show Brett Favre. 

When Peterson had fumbled about 113 times, Fox showed Brett Favre talking to Peterson on the sidelines and the announcers said with oleaginous presumption that Brett Favre had been called upon “to be a psychologist” for Peterson for much of the night. When Brett Favre injured his ankle, Fox showed Brett Favre’s worried family in the stands. (When Cedric Griffin, the Vikings’ best cornerback, injured his ankle on the opening kickoff of OT, Fox did not show his worried family in the stands.) When Garrett Hartley kicked the game-winning field goal for the Saints in OT, giving the city of New Orleans its first Super Bowl berth in 43 years of professional football, Fox showed Brett Favre.

I had of course heard that Favre is the subject of some media attention from time to time. But until you actually sit through three-and-a-half hours of it you can’t truly grasp the depth of the media pathology at work here. And the strange part is at this point it has little to do with Favre. For all I know he’s one swell guy. I do know that prior to his Favrian interception at the end of regulation he was humming in some sweet strikes, especially in the first half. But, sweet mother of Princess Diana, no human up to and including St. Francis of Assisi could possibly withstand this level of camera- and announcer-adulation.

In today’s less Brett Favre-ish venues….
Seriously, this news does not involve Brett Favre at all, so you may want to just skip it. Anyway: Washington continues to make my friend Kevin Pelton very, very sad with each and every anemic road performance they record. (Road efficiency margin in Pac-10 play: -0.24 points per trip, meaning U-Dub away from Seattle is the functional equivalent of Rutgers.)…Drake continues to be way more dangerous to opponents than their 10-11 record would indicate….Dominique Jones scored 46 points in South Florida‘s 109-105 win in OT at Providence, a game in which the Friars led by 13 with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation. “Epic collapse“? You be the judge! But Keno Davis is right to fret vocally about his D: USF needed “just” 83 possessions to veer well north of the century mark on points….Chandler Parsons did his incredible buzzer-beating thing again for Florida, this time against South Carolina. Gator fans no doubt consider it karmic payback after an equally incredible last few seconds went the Gamecocks’ way on this very same weekend last year….Marquette has lost a lot of close games….So has Penn State….Pundits are murmuring one-and-done murmurs about Hassan Whiteside of Marshall. Glad I got in on that ground floor….At 12-8 overall, Illinois continues to make Gene Hackman, Will Leitch, Roger Ebert, Hugh Hefner, Ang Lee, and yours truly very, very sad, the latest example being the Illini’s 73-68 loss at Northwestern on Saturday night. I’m worried about my brother’s well-being because he hasn’t called to gloat yet.

Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Only a matter of time before UConn becomes a POT!
On Friday I noted that Connecticut is on-pace to attempt fewer threes this season in Big East play than any other team in recent major-conference history. The readers respond!

Hey, John,

Just read your latest Unfiltered post on UConn and three-point attempts. You mention that interim coach “Blaney doesn’t need to turn into John Beilein overnight,” but, looking at the stats, who would take the extra threes? Stanley Robinson is the team’s best three-point shooter percentage-wise, but he is most effective around the hoop for broken plays. After that, the next highest percentages are Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson. Despite the percentages, Dyson is clearly the best shooter on the team–so is he the logical answer?

Many thanks!

Matt G.  

Since I noted the Huskies’ aversion to threes they went out and beat number one Texas rather easily in Storrs, 88-74. (What a great atmosphere at Gampel. Too bad UConn has to shuttle between campus and the notably more funeral XL Center in Hartford.) I of course am taking full credit for the win, since Associate Head Coach George Blaney‘s team attempted an incredible (for them) 15 threes in this game. Connecticut didn’t shoot particularly well from outside (they made six), but I do think a somewhat more normal distribution of shots will help an offense that has struggled thus far in Big East play. Make no mistake: UConn’s defense has been fine so far in-conference. If the offense can look anything like it did on Saturday, this is indeed a much more effective team than the one I groused about rather dyspeptically three weeks ago.   

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