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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Knock, knock NASCAR. Who's there? Not enough fans.

To some extent, we got pretty much what we expected at California this weekend. A Hendrick car won (Jimmie Johnson). Another finished in the top-5 (Mark Martin - 4th). Two Roush-Fenway Fords finished in the top-10 (Kenseth - 7th; Biffle - 10th) with one more just outside (Edwards - 13th). There were very few caution flags (6). The biggest surprise (for me, a NASCAR fan) might be three Richard Childress Chevrolets finishing in the top-10.

This is not typically an RCR dominant track, but Harvick had a strong Chevy for the second week in a row. He nearly won the race as he ran down Johnson in the final laps, only to tap the wall with 2 to go. He then had to fight hard to hold off his teammate Jeff Burton for second place. Clint Bowyer also raced well and came home 7th.

That's really all you need to know. It wasn't a supremely entertaining race, and if you fell asleep in a chair or on a couch for part, you didn't miss much as long as you caught the end. Sure there were a few wrecks and the last few laps were intense, but all-in-all, it was kinda dull. This is a problem the sport is facing more often than not lately.

NASCAR races are somewhat a family event. For most tracks (especially the "big ones" that hold 100,000+ fans), tickets aren't extremely expensive, especially when compared to the hundreds people will drop for the NFL's Bears or the NBA's Lakers. Granted, there are teams in the NFL and NBA that are practically giving tickets away, but almost every NASCAR track is affordable for a family or group of friends 3-5 deep. Plus, many NASCAR tracks let fans bring in coolers of drinks and snacks. If you own an RV, it's an all-day tailgating event with beer, brats, and burgers. But the problem for NASCAR isn't even overexposure (I don't think). I believe it's a matter of convenience.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Examining the Bubble

As the basketball season winds down there will be more talk about who is on the "bubble" and who is not.  It's fairly obvious which teams won't be sweating bullets on Selection Sunday; teams who win their respective conference tournaments, teams who are ranked in the top 25 polls, and teams that are awful  can go ahead and DVR the CBS special.
With the exception of the conference tournament winners, teams in the other two categories probably have a pretty good idea of who they are.  Everyone else is on the bubble.  I began listing bubble teams to see how they stack up against one another and to see just how many there are to choose from.  I looked at a variety of categories including each school's record on road and neutral floors, their conference record and RPI, and their record against top competition.  Below are the thirty six teams I listed and how I've ranked them.

School Record Conf Record Road/ Netural Non Conf SOS vs RPI      top 50 vs RPI      top 100 Conf. RPI RPI
UNLV 20-7 8-5 9-4 51 4-4 7-5 7 44
Florida St. 19-7 7-5 7-5 47 3-5 6-6 3 40
Clemson 19-7 7-5 6-5 32 3-5 7-6 3 35
OK St. 19-7 7-5 6-6 139 4-5 4-6 1 29
Louisville 18-10 9-7 4-6 23 2-6 6-9 2 30
VA Tech 21-5 8-4 7-5 98 2-3 6-5 3 45
Florida 19-8 8-4 7-5 156 2-6 6-7 4 54
California 18-9 10-5 5-8 1 0-4 5-7 8 23
GA Tech 18-9 6-7 5-8 113 4-6 8-8 3 31
UAB 21-5 9-3 10-3 97 1-0 6-4 11 33
Marquette 17-9 8-6 5-6 206 3-7 5-7 2 59
ODU 21-8 14-3 7-8 41 3-4 6-7 12 42
Uconn 17-11 7-8 3-8 6 4-6 9-9 2 41
Illinois 18-10 10-5 6-8 132 4-6 6-8 5 71
URI 20-6 8-5 9-4 28 2-4 4-6 6 27
Dayton 18-8 7-5 5-7 18 3-5 5-7 6 43
Cornell 23-4 9-1 14-3 65 0-2 3-3 21 49
St. Mary's 22-5 9-3 10-2 34 2-3 5-5 7 47
Utah St. 22-6 11-2 7-5 76 2-1 8-4 10 36
Miss St. 19-8 7-5 8-6 236 1-3 5-4 4 64
SDSU 20-7 9-4 7-6 58 2-4 4-5 7 39
Neastern 18-10 13-3 9-7 9 2-4 6-5 12 69
Charlotte 18-8 8-4 9-5 163 3-7 4-8 6 55
Memphis 20-7 10-2 6-4 74 1-4 4-5 11 62
Cincinnati 15-11 6-8 4-8 58 4-6 6-11 2 56
Bill & Mary 19-8 11-5 9-6 38 3-3 5-6 12 46
Wichita St. 22-7 11-5 6-7 297 2-3 7-4 9 50
Siena 22-6 15-1 9-6 101 0-4 3-5 15 37
Miss. 17-9 5-7 7-5 137 1-5 4-8 4 63
Seton Hall 15-10 7-8 3-7 149 3-9 6-10 2 52
St. Louis 18-8 9-3 4-7 221 3-1 4-5 6 82
Minnesota 16-10 7-7 3-8 86 3-5 4-8 5 77
Notre Dame 17-10 6-8 2-7 192 1-4 5-8 2 81
Washington 18-9 8-7 1-7 42 2-3 6-7 8 61
Arizona St. 13-13 9-5 5-5 69 1-4 4-7 8 57
LA Tech 21-6 8-4 11-5 310 1-2 4-5 10 65

Thirty one conferences receive an automatic bid and another eighteen to twenty can consider themselves locks leaving fifteen or sixteen available spots.  A few schools I've listed like Cornell and Siena can be expected to gain an automatic bid by winning their conference tournament, but in case they don't they shouldn't assume they're safe.  It's impossible to say just how many of these teams will be able jump off the bubble and into the field of 65 or how many upsets will occur in conference tournaments causing the bubble to shrink.  One thing is for certain, though, if you're sitting at the Old Dominion line or below you have work to do.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 is an odd conference.  Despite its name there are fourteen members (memo: Big Ten).  It is not one of the so-called "Power 6" conferences but the conference is good enough at basketball that it shouldn't be considered a mid-major.  Really it's a bit of a tweener who gets robbed of some deserving schools when there are a great number of bubble teams from the bigger conferences and gets the benefit of sneaking in another school or two when the Power 6 has a down year.  For the latter this is one of those years.

I'll only discuss the teams with post season hopes and instead save everyone the chore of reading about the bottom dwellers--including Fordham who may be the worst team in Division I.
Read on after the jump.

NASCAR Race 2 - California

The crapshoot known as Daytona is over. And though some of the guys who were there at the end of the race are familiar faces on the plate tracks (Jamie McMurray, Dale Jr.), there were also a few pre-race favorites that fell back and disappeared by the time the checkers waved. Jeff Gordon wrecked on the final restart. Jimmie Johnson had tire problems that led to rear axle problems. Tony Stewart who raced so strong leading up to the Daytona 500 had nothing at the end and finished in the 20s.

Bring on the normalcy. The tracks of California and Michigan which are similarly sized and configured have been dominated by Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing. Expect to see the names Gordon, Johnson, Edwards, and Kenseth race well and, barring an accident or penalty, finish near the top this week in Fontana, CA.

Power Rankings:
1. Jimmie Johnson - Trouble at Daytona could be easily fixed with a strong run at California. Watch for the #48 to bounce back from the 35th place finish he brougt home last week.
2. Mark Martin - Never dominant last week, but he did manage to cross the line in 12th...not a bad start for his Championship run.
3. Tony Stewart - Moments of greatness leading up to the 500 could only muster a 22nd finish position.
4. Juan Pablo Montoya - Another solid effort from the Columbian finishing 10th. He starts California from 2nd position, and a strong run would certainly earn him some much needed respect.
5. Kurt Busch - Ran strong almost the entire race last week, only to fade to 23rd at the end.
6. Carl Edwards - The man who always seems to get wrecked or cause the "Big One" on the plate tracks ran clean and came home 9th, the 3rd Roush driver to finish in the top 10.
7. Jeff Gordon - Looked good in the middle of the race, but never got his groove back after the long delay for track repairs. Wrecked at the end, but he's still a threat to win races all year.
8. Jamie McMurray - Ran in the top 10 all race. Took the lead and held off one of the best active restrictor-plate drivers (Dale Jr.) to win his biggest race ever. Oh yeah, he's on the pole for California too.
9. Kevin Harvick - Another guy who raced strong the entire 500, but couldn't close it out in the end. He was in 1st on one of the final restarts, but his car had lost it's edge and he crossed in 7th.
10. Clint Bowyer - Bowyer had the chance to win the 500 but changed lanes to run with his teammate Harvick on the final restart. It might have cost him the race, but it gave him tons of respect. He starts 3rd this week and could be a dark horse for the Championship.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Putting Peanut Butter On Salary

The NFL's recent problems concerning player salaries have started to bum me out. In the past, or at least in the last decade or so, when disagreements between the NFL and Player's Association or other troubles occurred, it seems at the last second, things were resolved.

In this particular instance though, that happy ending doesn't seem realistic. I really wish the NFL owners would look through the eyes of the people just once. With changes comes different forms of the game. So far even though the teams could basically operate without a salary cap, several spokesmen have come out and said their teams will operate as though one still exists. I respect this and believe it really could be the right choice when considering the future. Excessive spending now really could come back to bite teams in the backside.

The salary cap in my eyes, binds the league into an ultra-competitive force with beautiful rotations of parody. I have really come to admire and appreciate the roster wizardry of successful organizations like Bill Belichick's Patriots. Staying on top for a while in this kind of system requires basically perfection when it comes to making roster decisions.

Few teams have been considered long-time doormats in the league. Teams that struggle in my opinion generally draft poorly. The draft is setup to allow teams with bad records to increase their success rate by adding top collegiate players. The one hindrance in this system is rookie salaries, specifically in the first round. Coincidentally I think this is really the one change I wouldn't mind taking place.

Yes the first draft class to receive lower salaries will complain but they should realize their contracts are still worthwhile compared to past generations. Also the pressure to perform would be lessened because the financial implications would be lessened. The players can still earn top money if they play consistently through their initial contract. Situations where a player vastly under-performs but has an insane salary such as JaMarcus Russell would be far less likely to occur. Also because the teams will have to invest less money in one top-notch player, they can spread the money around and increase their talent level by adding several players. Thus the top draft choices are less-likely to play for bad teams.

I state my case as a traditionalist who simply appreciates watching football on Sundays in it's current state. The owners need to step up and represent the fans. The NFL has been running on all cylinders in recent years for a reason. Let's keep it that way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb 14: Power 16

We're one week closer to March and while many teams have solidified themselves as contenders there's been some movement in the Power 16.

 Now that Evan Turner is back in the fold, Ohio St. should be 
considered a serious contender for the Final Four.

  1. Kansas - Only Kansas St. has challenged the Jayhawks in conference play.  This team should cruise the rest of the way.  Chances of #1 overall seed: 80%
  2. Kentucky - Tennessee played them tough at Rupp Arena last night but Kentucky is starting to silence the critics who claim there is too much youth on this team to take them seriously.  Odds of #1 seed in NCAA: 70%
  3. Syracuse - Just when you thought the Orange were gaining on Kansas they lose at home to a bubble team. Ouch.  Still 24-2 is mighty impressive.  Play at Georgetown this week so the ride might get a bit bumpy.  Odds of #1 seed: 67%
  4. Villanova - Sneaky win in Morgantown last Monday solidifies Villanova a notch above the next four.  If you like scoring you like Villanova basketball.  Odds of #1 seed: 50%
  5. Purdue - Statement win in East Lansing shows these Boilers should be taken seriously.  A 5-1 record against the RPI top 25 makes them the most likely candidate to challenge for a #1 seed.  Odds of #1 seed: 30%
  6. Duke - Crushed the Terrapins yesterday.  There will be no challenger for the Duke's regular season title although they still have three road games left.  Odds of #1 seed: 30%
  7. West Virginia - A bad week for the Mountaineers as they lost both at home to Villanova and at Pitt in a 3 OT thriller.  A loss this week may cost them #2 seed.
  8. Kansas St. - A win over Iowa St. moved the Wildcats to 7-3 in Big 12 play.  They're now at the easier part of their schedule with the only game they should have much trouble in is a road game against the Jayhawks.  If they don't slip up beforehand, KSU may have locked up a 2 seed.
  9. Michigan St. - This is where the rankings get fuzzy.  Lucas is back and so is the Spartans' mojo.  Indiana appears to be the unfortunate victim of MSU's renewed focus before Ohio St. comes to town Saturday.
  10. Georgetown - Wildly inconsistent.  The Hoyas play extremely well against good teams yet have losses to Old Dominion, home to S. Florida, and now at Rutgers.  Expect a tight game in their first round match-up of the NCAA tournament.
  11. Ohio St. - The win at Illinois should act as a wakeup call to everyone.  Evan Turner is the best player in college basketball and Ohio St. is an elite team when he plays.  If the Buckeyes defeat Purdue this week they'll vault into the #2 seed group.
  12. New Mexico - Steve Alford has this team ready for the NCAA Tournament.  The Lobos had a couple of impressive road wins this week against UNLV and Utah.
  13. Wisconsin - The home loss to Illinois was a bit of a shocker.  Still, Wisconsin is 9-4 in Big Ten play and completely annihilated the Hoosiers yesterday.
  14. Brigham Young - There's no shame in losing on the road to UNLV but losing there shows the Cougars aren't unstoppable.  They may be a better team than New Mexico but we'll have to wait until the end of the month to prove it.
  15. Vanderbilt - A complete trouncing of Tennessee keeps the Commodores in the Power 16.  Next Saturday's home match vs. Kentucky could be the game of the weekend.
  16. Gonzaga - Sweeping the top three teams in the WCC moves the Zags into the Power 16 for the first time this year.  The WCC doesn't participate in Bracket Busters so the Zags next meaningful game won't take place until their conference tournament.  For now they need to continue to win to avoid slipping in the minds of the committee.
Also considered: Butler, Temple, Tennessee, UNLV

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

True, I never finished my BCS sim-tournament, but it's time I put something up again.

With tomorrow's official kickoff to the NASCAR season at the Daytona 500, here are a few things to watch for, or at least consider if you don't plan on watching.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big 12

With all the talk of the craziness in the Big Ten, I thought I'd wander a bit and focus on the Big 12. 

If you've been reading the blog (or not) you're aware that Kansas is really good.  You might also have heard since being annointed the #1 team in the country Texas is 2-5.  Unfortunately the rest of the conference has taken a back seat to these noteworthy performances.
Here are the standings as of 2/10/10:
Conf. Overall
Kansas 23 1 9 0
Kansas St. 19 4 6 3
Texas A&M 17 6 6 3
Missouri 17 6 5 3
Texas 19 5 5 4
Baylor 17 5 4 4
Oklahoma St. 16 7 4 5
Texas Tech 16 7 4 5
Oklahoma 13 10 4 5
Iowa St. 13 10 2 6
Nebraska 13 10 1 7
Colorado 11 12 2 7
  • Kansas is truly an elite team as they rank second in both adjusted (tempo-free) offense and defense.  They've nearly locked up a one seed and have to be the favorite to earn the number one overall seed.
  • Kansas St. now has to be considered the second best team in the conference. With wins over Xavier and on the road at UNLV they have a decent non-conference resume.  If there were still doubters after starting 17-3, taking Kansas in OT should have convinced them this team is for real.  They are currently sitting in the 2-4 seed range.  
Read about the other teams after the jump.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

If the NCAA Tournament were today...

These are the 65 teams I have as "IN":
America East: Stony Brook (auto)
Atlantic 10: Charlotte, Xavier, Temple, Rhode Island, Richmond, Dayton
ACC: Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St., Clemson
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb (auto)
Big 12: Kansas, Kansas St., Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma St.
Big East: Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Marquette
Big South: Coastal Carolina (auto)
Big Sky: Weber St. (auto)
Big Ten: Michigan St., Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio St., Illinois
Big West: Pacific (auto)
Colonial: Northeastern (auto), Old Dominion
Conference USA: UTEP (auto), UAB
Horizon: Butler
Ivy: Cornell
Metro Atlantic: Siena
MAC: Kent St. (auto)
Mid-Eastern Atlantic: Morgan St. (auto)
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa
Mountain West: BYU, New Mexico, UNLV
Northeast: Robert Morris (auto)
Ohio Valley: Murray St. (auto)
Pac 10: California
Patriot: Lehigh (auto)
SEC: Kentucky, Tennssee, Vanderbilt, Florida
Southern: College of Charleston (auto)
Southland: Sam Houston (auto)
Southwestern: Jackson St. (auto)
Summit: Oakland (auto)
Sun Belt: Arkansas St. (auto)
WAC: Utah St. (auto)
West Coast: Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Author's edit: Teams with "auto" listed next to them are currently leading their conference but would not receive an at-large bid if they fail to win their conference tournament.

31 Auto Bids
34 At-large
A10: 6
ACC: 6
Big 12: 7
Big East: 7
Big 10: 5
Colonial: 2
Conference USA: 2
Mountain West: 3
SEC: 4
West Coast: 2

Last team IN: Marquette
First team OUT: Wichita St.

Wanting More From The Linebacker Store

My fellow blogger Zorak84 opened up a can of worms the other day in my mind when he stated he doesn't like 3-4 defenses. I have thought about the 3-4 defense a bunch since then and have made several observations.

NFL 3-4 defenses obviously need specific personnel. I think scouting these types of players is somewhat difficult. Hybrid outside linebackers in a 3-4 are hard to find. A scout must watch 4-3 rush ends on tape and in practice and make evaluations on overall athleticism. Scouts must simply make a prediction as to whether or not these players can make a successful position change at the next level. These defensive ends will not be asked to get out of a 3-point stance and stand farther back on the line of scrimmage very often.

There is enough evaluation involved when it comes to selecting collegiate players in the draft. Guessing about whether a position change is possible right off the bat makes things even more difficult. The draft is about acquiring talent that can help the organization sooner rather than later. The 3-4 automatically requires position changes to take place immediately.

Few college football programs run three-four defenses. Only a hand-full of players in the draft can play nose-tackle in the NFL 3-4 defense. A couple of defensive tackles will weigh-in around 300 pounds but have the sheer brute strength to at least be decent at the position. 350 pounds plus though is a general requirement. This position requires taking on at least two blockers every down, maintaining the line of scrimmage and causing as much inside havoc as possible to stop the run. These players are asked to do this for the first two downs of every series, then usually come out for third downs when a pass play is likely from the offense. Thus they are a one-dimensional player that rarely provides any sort of pass rush.

The inside linebackers in the 3-4 defense usually weigh-in at around 250 pounds because they are asked to take on offensive linemen much more often than their 4-3 counterparts. These middle linebackers though, are usually asked to have the athleticism to cover and provide a little pass rush just like the 4-3 middle linebacker. This type of player is also tougher to find in many peoples eyes. The 3-4 defensive end usually has as much strength as many 4-3 defensive tackles while being taller and having longer arms for taking on offensive tackles. Sometimes these players also played another position previously, usually defensive tackle in college.

Many NFL teams have recently switched their defensive scheme to the 3-4, but for many I think this will be unsuccessful overall. Why? Because the type of players they require are simply harder to find. Several teams will take players in the first or second round, expect them to change positions and learn the scheme instantly, but this will not be the case. Others will try to move NFL defensive players from the 4-3 around so that the 3-4 defense can be used. This will also only have mixed results.

Then why do I still favor a 3-4 defense? A successful one is dominant in many fashions. When the right players are added, both stopping the run and rushing the passer is made possible. When a dominant nose-tackle takes up two blocks and forces the runner outside, he has a huge impact on the game. Even if the nose tackle doesn't provide a pass rush, by taking up two blocks, he allows other players, probably an outside linebacker, to squeak through sometimes completely unblocked. If the front three have the strength to take up most of the offensive line, you have three to four linebackers running around free to stop plays. The biggest reason though that I like the 3-4 is the schematic possibilities. Linebackers can rush from many different places and leave offenses confused and exposed.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

What last night's games mean

#2 Villanova 90, #8 Georgetown 103
Georgetown handed Nova's first conference loss and second loss of the season in a ridiculously high scoring game.  In typical Wildcat fashion, the game was played at a frenetic pace (86 possessions!).  Nova had problems rotating on defense allowing the Hoyas to get several open 3's which they hit.  In terms of NCAA seeding, this win meant more for the Hoyas.  G'town could not afford to suffer two home losses in one week (they lost to a hot USF squad earlier).  Villanova will likely drop in the polls but I think they hang on to their one seed.

Nebraska 64, #1 Kansas 75
Nebraska hung tough but in the end could not hang with the Jayhawks.  There's really not much to discuss here. KU's four future NBA players didn't all have great nights but they dominated when it mattered.  Big night from Marcus Morris and Nebraska's Ryan Anderson.

#3 Kentucky 81, LSU 55
Kentucky showed both how well they can play and how bad LSU is.  In the first half the Wildcats went on a 34-4 run or something which took all the fight out of LSU.  I know everyone is talking about John Wall, but Mr. Cousins is Kentucky's best player right now.  He might even be the best big man in college.

#5 Michigan St. 73, Illinois 78
This was an exciting game.  Illinois HAD to have it to stay in the Big Ten race.  Not having Kalin Lucas obviously hurt the Spartans as their fill-in point guard turned the ball over twice in their first four possessions and Lucious turned it over six times off the bench.  Michigan State's rough week likely drops them from a two seed to a three while Illinois' win probably puts them in the tournament. Illinois and three others are now just one loss behind MSU in the Big Ten standings. 

#6 West Virginia 79, St. John's 60
Rough loss for St. John's.  After being up by 16 they end up losing by 19.  This loss likely ends their bubble hopes.  The Mountaineers can still win the Big East.

#9 Duke 66, Boston College 63
Duke got lucky in this one as they really didn't play well.  BC's poor free throw shooting cost them in this one.  Why is Duke a top 3 team at home but a bubble team on the road?  I think how they play in the ACC tournament will foreshadow their performance in the NCAA tournament.  There are no home games in March.

#10 Texas 71, Oklahoma 80
When you're only 10-27 from the free throw line you're not going to win.  Oklahoma meanwhile went 20-28 from the charity stripe giving them a comfy win.  Texas is really struggling right now and I don't know how the committee will view their profile.  The committee puts a lot of weight on how you finish and after starting 17-0, Texas is now 19-4 and 5-3 in the Big 12.  Oklahoma gets an unlikely win to keep their small bubble hopes afloat.

#11 Kansas St. 79, Iowa St. 75
KSt. gets a road win as they try to solidify a protected seed.

#12 BYU 74, UNLV 88
I watched some of this game and boy was the Thomas & Mack Center rocking.  UNLV had a great offensive night scoring 88 points in 70 possessions.  The win puts them in a 3-way tie for first with BYU and New Mexico.  Perhaps I've been underrating them because they looked really good last night.  BYU probably drops to a four seed with the loss.  UNLV might move up to a six.

#13 Gonzaga 66, Memphis 58
This loss really hurts for Memphis as it shows they are likely not a tournament team.  Gonzaga is showing no ill affects from their loss to an awful San Francisco team.  I don't think the Zags are a top 15 team but they're no doubt going dancing. 

#14 Tennessee 79, South Carolina 53
Tennessee manhandles the Gamecocks at home.  USC likely burst their bubble here.  It's not the loss so much that hurts as it is the margin of defeat.  You can't lose by 26 and expect any favors from the committee on Selection Sunday.

#15 Butler 74, Wright St. 62
Usually commentators talk about how mid-majors struggle against bigger schools because they aren't used to the physical play.  Let me tell you this will not be a problem for Butler.  It's a shame they didn't play as well in the non-conference as they are now but no matter.  They're really hitting their stride and will be a dangerous team in March.

#16 Wisconsin 62, Michigan 44
Michigan is bad. Great week for the Badgers.  Likely a top four seed the rest of the way. 

#17 Temple 54, Richmond 71
HUGE win for the Spiders.  As it stands now they're in.  Temple's only two conference losses are on the road to Richmond and Charlotte.  The A-10 could get five bids.

NC St. 71, #19 Georgia Tech 73
Georgia Tech is a weird team.  They're 12-1 at home but 3-4 on the road.  Another team to watch in their conference tournament to see how they handle playing on a neutral floor.

#20 Vanderbilt 58, Georgia 72
This was not a good loss for Vandy.  They're going to make the NCAA Tournament but losses like this cause them to slide down the S-curve (what's used for seeding).  I'm guessing now they don't get higher than a six seed.

Seton Hall 58, #21 Pitt 83
Statement win for Pitt.  After losing four of five this big win should ease some doubts.  That sound you just heard might have been Seton Hall's bubble bursting.

S. Illinos 52, #22 Northern Iowa 55
This conference is over. Only thing left to see is if the Panthers slip up in the MVC Tournament to make it a two bid league.

San Diego St. 86, #23 New Mexico 88 (OT)
Rough loss for SDSU here.  Going off the top of my head they probably got leapfrogged by Illinois and Dayton last night.  This might put them on the outside looking in.  New Mexico is pitching a tent in the six seed group.

#24 Baylor 71, Texas A&M 78
Baylor slips to 4-4 in the conference and 1-3 on the road in conference.  I think A&M is in and this win solidifies their standing.

Brown 60, #25 Cornell 74
Nothing to see here. Moving on.

Xavier 65, Dayton 90
Statement game two ways here. Dayton gets a big win putting them one of the top teams on the bubble list.  Xavier is probably staring at an eight or nine seed now.  This bad loss shows me they are not the best team in their conference right now.

Wake Forest 64, Virginia 61
Important win for Wake as they have a shot at winning the ACC regular season title.  Virginia sits on the bubble but seems NIT bound.

Bubble Team to watch: Marquette
To my knowledge Marquette currently is not on anyone's radar as a sleeper.  They're 6-5 in the Big East (lost @West Virginia, Villanova twice, @DePaul-ouch, @Syracuse.) but have a nice stretch of games they should win.  I can see them finishing fourth in the Big East and with 20 wins.  This should catapult them ahead of several other bubble teams and land them in the tournament.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Pac 10

I'm sure you've heard rumblings (on this site too) about how mediocre Pac 10 basketball has been this season.  It's quite possible only one team may qualify for the tournament.  This unprecedented for a BCS conference - even the SEC which is not known for basketball routinely gets three bids.  The most common reasoning I've heard for the conference's poor season has been the number of players drafted by the NBA over the last couple of years.  Let's take a look.
School Record RPI Players Lost
Arizona St. 16-7 (6-4) 76 James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
California 14-8 (6-4) 27 Ryan Anderson, DeVon Hardin*
Arizona 12-10 (6-4) 57 Jerryd Bayless, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger
UCLA 11-11 (6-4) 123 Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Luc Mbah a Moute*,
Jrue Holliday, Darrin Collison*
Washington 15-7 (5-5) 60 Jon Brockman
USC 13-9 (5-5) 83 OJ Mayo, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson
Oregon 12-9 (4-5) 137 Malik Hairston*, Maarty Leunen*
Stanford 10-12 (4-6) 148 Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
Wash. St. 14-8 (4-6) 110 Kyle Weaver*
Oregon St. 9-12 (3-6) 205

* denotes this player would be unable to help this season due to exhausted eligibility

Wow, that's a lot of players. UCLA in particular could have four more players on their team right now.  I still think this is a bit misleading.  I think the majority of players who know they will be first round picks as an underclassmen bolt, but how many do as freshman? Last year two players declared for the draft as after their first year in college making it likely that if it wasn't for the silly NBA rule these guys wouldn't have attended college at all.  I think schools realize the possibility of this happening when they offer a high profile kid a scholarship.  Only John Calipari has come to grips with it.

My take on this is, yeah, the Pac 10 has lost a ton of talent to the NBA which has caused typical contenders (UCLA, Arizona, ASU) to come back to the pack.  The result is a bunched conference with no elite team.  But saying the Pac 10 is a terrible basketball conference is lazy and doesn't address the real issue.  After all they've had 21 players drafted in the last two seasons.  The question analysts should be asking is where is that talent now?  I don't see any underclassmen as sure thing first rounders.  Last time I checked, when a player leaves school you get that scholarship back to offer to a new recruit.  This is likely just the result of a cyclical pattern but it bears watching next season.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bracket Busters

I try my best to write about topics without being influenced by large media outlets.  One way I do this is to delay reading content online until after I've blogged about what I'm going to say.  Unfortunately, when I learned the Bracket Buster pairings were announced, I pounced at the insight on  Luckily I don't agree with 100% of what they have to say so I still have something to blog about.  If you want to refresh your memory on where some of these teams stand read my conference breakdown from a couple of weeks ago.  Since the Pac 10 is apparently the gift that keeps on giving several of these outcomes will influence the selection committee.  I've ranked the games in order from most significant to least significant.

1. Siena @ Butler:  This is the marquee game for the Bracket Busters.  Butler is a lock for the tournament but Siena needs a boost.  They will likely win their conference tournament but lack any significant road wins.  If they win at Butler they'll kill two birds with one stone.  I'm going to hide the remote so I can see this one.

2. Old Dominion @ Northern Iowa: Northern Iowa sorta got the shaft on this one. Since they've already played Siena this season they can't play them for the Bracket Buster.  I don't know all the rules but I would've liked to have seen them at Butler.  As it is this should be a pretty good game.  Expect a Wisconsin-esque score in this one as these two teams play excellent defense and like to slow the tempo.  This game means more to ODU.  I don't think they have to win necessarily, but if it's really close they could still sneak in as an at-large team.

3. Morgan State @ Murray State: Both of these teams are undefeated in conference play.  Morgan State's best win this year was at Arkansas whereas Murray State's is probably Morehead State. Still, I think Murray State is the better team and I won't be surprised if they win by eight or more.

4. William & Mary at Iona: William and Mary get screwed here.  As a legit bubble team you'd hope for another opponent on the bubble.  Unfortunately that's not the case.  Ion has won seven in a row but it's a little late for them to enter the bubble picture.  A win for W&M doesn't help much as they already have road wins over good ACC schools Wake Forest and Maryland.  A loss, however, could could pop their bubble.

5. Wichita St. @ Utah St.: Wichita St. is firmly on the NCAA bubble.  Barring a conference tournament surprise, if the MVC is to get two bids it's going to be from Wichita St.  Going on the road to Utah St. is not easy.  Utah St. is one of the only two schools to defeat BYU this season and is a WAC powerhouse.  Unlike last season Utah St. is not on the bubble and I don't really know what they can gain by winning this game besides receiving a 13 seed instead of a 14 when the NCAA tournament pairings are announced.  For Wichita St. this game is do or die.

6. Akron @ Virginia Commonwealth: Akron is likely the only team that can challenge Kent State in the MAC.  VCU is really playing well and a win here might boost their stock just enough to get in on Selection Sunday.

7. Western Carolina @ Kent State: WCU defeated Louisville very early in the season but this team is weakly on the bubble.  Kent State is the best team in the MAC in my opinion so this could be a decent measure of where they stand against another decent school since the competition in the MAC is really mediocre.

8. Louisiana Tech @ Northeastern: Northeastern has been coming on strong of late and now sit at 14-8 after starting 2-7.  The Colonial is no slouch this year so if they can keep winning they may be earn an at-large bid.  LaTech is trying to cement it's spot atop the WAC.  While they likely aren't a bubble team this game will have an impact on their seed if they win their conference tournament.

9. College of Charleston @ George Mason: George Mason is 10-1 in conference play. Pretty ridiculous considering I just talked up the Colonial Athletic Association as being no slouch.  I don't consider them a bubble team though I could see why others would if they continue their hot play against conference opponents.  CofC is a virtual lock to win their tournament.  Little drama here.

10.  New Mexico St. @ Pacific: NMSU is tied for first in the WAC with Utah St. and Louisiana Tech.  Still, their resume's a little weak to be considered a bubble team.  Pacific is the class of the Big West.  Yeah, that's not saying much.

11. Nevada @ Missouri St.: I like Missouri St. I root for them to do well because their coach is former Purdue great Cuonzo Martin.  When they started off 10-0 I was pumped and thought good things were coming.  Sadly that was pretty much the end of the good times for the Bears.  Nevada's 5-3 in the WAC but that's not going to cut it.  Even the networks must see this game as a dud because it's the only Bracket Buster without a TV spot.