Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 12, 2010

Does it matter if Syracuse is a 1-seed? (PLUS chat!)

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:40 am

Congratulations to Georgetown, 91-84 winners over Syracuse in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden yesterday. The Hoyas will meet Marquette in the semifinals tonight. Meantime the Orangemen have now lost two straight, and Arinze Onuaku left yesterday’s game late in the second half with a knee injury. While Onuaku is scheduled for an MRI this morning, his team’s presumed one-seed is now a topic of discussion. That one-seed may well be perfectly safe, of course, but to even raise the issue would have been unthinkable just six days ago when Jim Boeheim‘s team was still 28-2.

Upon hearing this one-seed being questioned, my immediate reaction was to be impressed that observers seem to understand just how important Onuaku really is to this team, even though on paper he scores but 11 points per game. For all the attentions paid to Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins, the ‘Cuse offense does what it does thanks largely to twos and offensive boards. The points in the paint offset the turnovers, which still furrow Boeheim’s brow. (Or they should. The Orangemen coughed the ball up on 21 percent of their possessions in Big East play.) Onuaku, of course, is a monster of two-point excellence. Put it this way, he made 18 more twos than Johnson this season–on 25 fewer attempts. And Onuaku and Rick Jackson give Boeheim the luxury of having two very strong offensive rebounders on the floor at the same time.

Then came my sober second thought. What difference does it make if Syracuse is a one-seed or not? Being put on the top line of your regional is a really cool honor, of course. But historically the instrumental value of a one-seed is that it keeps you away from the one or two other best teams in the country for as long as brackets will allow. And in 2010 I’m just not convinced that there is truly a Big Scary prohibitive favorite team to fret about staying away from. On paper those teams this year would be Duke and Kansas. Worthy foes, certainly, but would facing either in a regional final as opposed to seeing them in Indy really be the end of the world for the Orangemen?

Not to mention some of the teams I’m seeing projected as seven-seeds would be much easier second-round opponents than some potential eight-seeds. If I’m a team about to be seeded on one of the top two lines, the opponents I want to stay away from are teams like Cal (currently shown as an eight) and Richmond (seven), while teams like Oklahoma State (seven) and Florida State (eight) are, relatively speaking, good news. In other words, if there were a method to the seeding madness (something like this) then of course it would matter if you were a one-seed versus a two. But since seeding as currently constituted is such a blunt and clumsy instrument, there are any number of scenarios where you’re better off as a two.

BONUS programming note! I’m doing a live chat today starting at noon ET. Join me

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