Gonzaga Could Be the Most Criticized #1 Seed Ever

The Gonzaga Bulldogs could end up being the most criticized #1 seed ever, if the unthinkable happens.

As a 16-seed last year, UNC-Asheville pushed #1 seed Syracuse to the brink before finally falling to the Orange.  Princeton, as a 16, gave Georgetown all it could handle in 1989 before losing by one point.  In that same tournament, East Tennessee State came within a basket of taking out top-seeded Oklahoma.  And Murray State took Michigan State to overtime before the 1-seed Spartans finally won by four points.

Yes, no 16-seed has ever beaten a 1-seed in the men’s tournament.  And, we all hold out hopes that it will finally happen to a juggernaut like Duke or Kansas or Kentucky.

However, here is Gonzaga — the major team in the “mid-majors.”  The team that goes out and looks for competition and has built itself up to being a perennial contender and power.  And though it was Butler that broke through and made the championship game as a mid-tier school — twice — Gonzaga is still the team people look at to finally give the “little guys” the best change to take home the title.

Gonzaga’s long, hard road to respectability finally paid off with a coveted 1-seed.  This after being ranked #1 in the polls for the first time ever!  And, even though some opine that it is undeserved due to the Bulldogs’ conference, Gonzaga did what the could with their non-conference schedule.

And yet, here is the dilemma.  We want to see that 16-seed pull the biggest upset in tournament history.  But, if it happens against Gonzaga, would it be bittersweet?  If Southern pulls off the shocker, how will it be perceived?

The win would not come against the so-called “big boys.”  Yet, it would still be a 16-seed doing the unthinkable.  On the other hand, some will say that such an upset would not have happened had Gonzaga been “properly seeded.”  They will argue that the Bulldogs should have never been a top-seed and will use the upset to buoy their argument that Gonzaga is overrated.

It is a tough spot for the ‘Zags.  A win is ho-hum…moving on.  But, the “epic” loss that we as basketball fans yearn to see — 16 knocking off the 1?  Devastating!

In the end, maybe Gonzaga blows out Southern and the game becomes simply a lost memory.  But, they could possibly be under the most pressure of any 1-seed facing a 16-seed in the history of the tournament.  And, they will probably be the most scrutinized if they do anything short of making the Final Four.

It all starts soon.


The Big East Does Not Deserve to Be in the Tournament

Sounds silly, yeah?  But over and over again during the “First Round” game between UAB and Clemson, the announcers continued to mutter that UAB looks like they do not belong in the tournament.

Really?  The Blazers get beat by a team that was hot — for their part the Blazers stumbled a bit down the stretch — and suddenly they “do not belong” in the tournament!?

Let’s be honest — UAB did not look great at all.  But are we suddenly going to take one game and allow it to speak for the entirety of a season?  Well, for those who thought that Colorado and Virginia Tech deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, the Blazers’ loss only legitimated their own arguments.  All the while, of course, ignoring the illogical notion that one isolated game makes a season.  But nevermind that — UAB sucks!  UAB did not belong because they were blown out by Clemson — a team, by the way, that despite my own criticism perhaps was underseeded.

Ah, but Virginia Tech lost in the NIT.  How can you now make the argument that the Hokies would have fared better than the Blazers?  And Colorado’s “big” wins over Kansas State, Missouri, and Texas?  All three are out of the tournament.  And do not bring up that the Buffaloes are in the NIT Final Four.  While I like the NIT, it is still “inferior” to the NCAA tournament.

Nevertheless, I do not buy that UAB’s loss somehow validates that they did not belong in the tournament.  But many people do.  What is ironic is some of those same people argue that VCU’s run does not validate the Rams being in the tournament.  Weird.

But if you are going to say that UAB losing proves that they did not belong, then let’s look at some other teams that apparently did not belong in the tournament:

  • Xavier (lost by 11 to a lower seed)
  • Syracuse (lost by four to a lower seed)
  • Texas (lost by one to a lower seed)
  • UNLV (lost by 11 to a lower seed)
  • Vanderbilt (lost by three to a lower seed)
  • Louisville (lost by one to a lower seed)
  • Georgetown (lost by 18 to a lower seed)
  • Texas A&M (lost by seven to a lower seed)
  • Purdue (lost by 18 to a lower seed)
  • Notre Dame (lost by 14 to a lower seed)
  • St. John’s (lost by 15 to a lower seed)
  • Pittsburgh (lost by one to a lower seed)

How can I say that a team that loses by one point does not deserve to be in the tournament?  Well, for starters this is my blog.  But, if you are the higher seed, you are supposed to win.  And, if you do not (i.e., are upset), then maybe you did not deserve that seed.  Hey, I am just trying to use the same logic that is being applied to UAB, a team that was likely the last team into the tournament (and thus, technically “seeded” below fellow 12-seed Clemson).

~Ugh! This is Big East basketball!!! (Getty Images)~

But look closer at the higher seeds that have lost.  Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, St. John’s, Pittsburgh.  Hmm.  Of the 12 higher seeds that were upset, half were from the Big East.  Now, of course, the Big East had a ridiculous 11 teams in the tournament — 11 teams!!!  Obviously they are more likely to lose because there are so many teams.  It is like driving your car down a sidewalk in Chinatown — you are almost certainly going to hit a Chinese person.

Still, half of the upset teams are Big East teams?  Three of those losses were in the First Round….ERRRR, sorry.  The “Second” Round.  And of those three winners, only VCU is still playing; the other two — Morehead State and Gonzaga — were blown out in the “Third” Round.

Oh, but it does not stop there.  Remember that 11 teams from the Big East made the NCAA tournament.  Eleven teams!!!  Remember that as recently as 2008 the Big East only allowed the top 12 teams in the conference to participate in their own conference tournament!!!  This means that had that format been in place this season, nearly every team would have made the NCAA tournament (only Seton Hall would have been left out).  Now, granted, all eleven teams had more that 20 wins.  But still…did all eleven really “deserve” to make it?

Well, how many are still playing?  Two.  Out of 11 teams, only two are still playing — UConn, the team with perhaps the best player in college basketball this season; and Marquette, a team that probably did not deserve to be in the tournament to begin with (along with Villanova).  So, from the mighty Big East — a league so awesome that 68.75 percent of its members “deserved” to be in the tournament — only two remain.  And why do those two teams remain?  Well, look at who they beat in the “Third” Round — Cincinnati and Syracuse…two Big East teams!!!!

Sure, that means that two of those nine loses came at the hands of another Big East team…if you want to spin it that way.  But, what if UConn and Marquette played other teams?  Could it be that there would have been zero Big East teams in the Sweet Sixteen?  Maybe…although admittedly, that would have been highly unlikely.

So, if you want to make the argument that UAB did not belong in the tournament because they lost one game, then you should also make the argument that the Big East did not deserve eleven teams.  You might even be inclined to go as far as stating that the Big East is overrated.  UAB was “overrated” and did not belong in the tournament?  Fine.  The Big East was overrated and did not deserve to have 11 teams in the “Big Dance.”  Agreed?

Actually, in full disclosure, I do not buy that argument.  Just like I do not buy that UAB did not belong in the tournament because of one game.  Sports talker Peter Brown, filling in for Tim Brando, made the argument that one game (or in the case of the Big East, a series of “one games”) does not mean that the Big East is overrated or did not deserve to have that many teams in the tournament.  He also tried to argue that the runs by VCU and Richmond do not mean they are better than the Big East.  He is correct, but those teams’ respective runs do validate their place in the tournament, not as though they really needed to do that.

In fact, UAB, VCU, Richmond, and the Big East do not need to validate anything.  It is not their “fault” that they are in the tournament or have x-number of teams in…it is the Selection Committee that needs to validate their choices, not the teams.

Ergo, I agree with Brown — the nine teams out do not suggest that the Big East is overrated.  The Big East is still the toughest conference in college basketball and the entirety of the season proves that point.  It is like the SEC in college football.  It is tough year-in and year-out, but if they stumble one year in bowl games then the calls come out that the SEC is overrated.  You have to look at the entire product.  Besides, the SEC might have been 5-5 in bowl games last year, but one of their members won the BCS championship — the fifth straight title for that conference.  Thus, if UConn wins it all, everyone will forget about the fact that only two teams made it past the first weekend.

The Big East is not overrated because of one game.  But if you are going to buy that argument, then you also must buy that UAB is not undeserving of their at-large bid.  You cannot be selective with that argument.

So, go ahead and admit it…the Blazers deserved it.

Seeding Mismatches for the 2011 NCAA Tournament

Just as I did last year, I am going to examine the seeding mismatch relative to the RPI ratings.  Now, through various discussions — both here (via comments) and elsewhere — it has become understood and agreed that RPI is not the ultimate measure for tournament selection.  While true, should it not at least count towards seeding?  Even if it is the Sagarin Index, something needs to be used to place logic behind the seedings (and, I’d be willing to look at Sagarin mismatches if I have the time).

Still, while it is all too easy to point to Utah State and say that they lost and did not deserve a higher seeding, their placement as a 12 also gave them a tougher opening round matchup.

Here are the differences between RPI-predicted seeding and actual seeding.  A zero means the team was appropriately seeded; positive numbers mean the team was over-seeded (seeded higher than expected); negative numbers mean the team was under-seeded (seeded lower than expected).

Team Predicted Actual Seed Dif
Ohio State 1 1 0
Kansas 1 1 0
Pittsburgh 3 1 2
Duke 1 1 0
San Diego State 1 2 -1
Florida 2 2 0
Notre Dame 3 2 1
North Carolina 2 2 0
Syracuse 5 3 2
Purdue 3 3 0
BYU 2 3 -1
UConn 4 3 1
Texas 3 4 -1
Wisconsin 4 4 0
Louisville 5 4 1
Kentucky 2 4 -2
West Virginia 6 5 1
Vanderbilt 7 5 2
Kansas State 6 5 1
Arizona 5 5 0
Cincinnati 9 6 3
St. John’s 6 6 0
Georgetown 4 6 -2
Xavier 6 6 0
Washington 8 7 1
Texas A&M 8 7 1
UCLA 11 7 4
Temple 8 7 1
Michigan 12 8 4
Butler 9 8 1
UNLV 7 8 -1
George Mason 7 8 -1
Villanova 10 9 1
Illinois 11 9 2
Old Dominion 5 9 -4
Tennessee 9 9 0
Penn State 10 10 0
Michigan State 11 10 1
Florida State 13 10 3
Georgia 11 10 1
Marquette 13 11 2
USC 14 11 3
Gonzaga 13 11 2
Missouri 9 11 -2
Virginia Commonwealth 12 11 1
UAB 8 12 -4
Memphis 7 12 -5
Utah State 4 12 -8
Richmond 10 13 -3
Clemson 13 12 1
Princeton 10 13 -3
Morehead State 14 13 1
Belmont 12 13 -1
Oakland 12 13 -1
Bucknell 14 14 0
Wofford 15 14 1
St. Peter’s 16 14 2
Indiana State 15 14 1
Long Island University 14 15 -1
Akron 15 15 0
UC Santa Barbara 17 15 2
Northern Colorado 15 15 0
Hampton 16 16 0
UNC Asheville 17 17 0
Boston University 16 16 0
Arkansas-Little Rock 17 17 0
Texas-San Antonio 16 17 -1
Alabama State 17 17 0

Here is the breakdown by conference:

  • ACC: +1
  • Atlantic Sun: -1
  • Big 12: -0.2
  • Big East: +1.1
  • Big Sky: 0
  • Big South: 0
  • Big Ten: +1
  • Big West: +2
  • Colonial: -1.33
  • Conference USA: -4.5
  • Horizon: +1
  • Ivy League: -3
  • MAAC: +2
  • MEAC: 0
  • Mid-American: 0
  • Missouri Valley: +1
  • Mountain West: -1
  • Northeast: -1
  • Ohio Valley: +1
  • Pac-10: +1.8
  • Patriot: 0
  • SEC: +0.2
  • Southland: -1
  • Summit: -1
  • Sun Belt: 0
  • SWAC: 0
  • WAC: -8
  • West Coast: +2

~Quick Explanation: Predicted seeds are based on RPI order only of tournament teams.  Teams with an RPI 1-4 would be the top four seeds, meaning in the end the last seeds should have an RPI between 65-68.  However, because the selections have automatic qualifiers  with RPIs greater than 68, the tournament teams are ordered based off of their RPI — first is Kansas (RPI 1) and last is UNC Asheville (RPI 322).

For each set of four, there is a predicted seeding — 1-4 are predicted to receive the number 1 seeds; 5-8 are predicted to receive the number 2 seeds; 9-12 are predicted to receive the number 3 seeds; etc.  That predicted seed is subtracted from the actual seed to get the seed difference in order to determine mismatch.

For teams 65-68, those teams are given a predicted seed of 17.  Seed 17 goes to the AQ teams that participate in the “First Four” (i.e., not the last four at-large teams in).  Thus, the teams predicted to participate in the “play-in” game are UNC Asheville, UC Santa Barbara, Alabama State, and Arkansas-Little Rock.  Of those that had an actual “17-seed,” three of the four were involved in the “First Four” — only UC Santa Barbara was seeded higher, giving way to Texas-San Antonio.

Colorado Belongs in the NIT: Who Was Really Snubbed by the Selection Committee

Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes an interesting article about scheduling.  In that article, he addresses a lesson to be learned from Colorado’s alleged “snub” from the 2011 NCAA Tournament — schedule better.

Go back to the criticism leveled towards the Boise State and TCU football programs.  The crowded that hated those two teams united behind one critique — the Broncos and Horned Frogs did not play anyone!  They argued that both teams have one really tough game and should not be rewarded for winning one tough game.

Now, I have laid it out here before that I do not buy into that argument; good teams are good teams regardless of their conference.  But, if you want to make that argument in football, then why is it not applied to basketball.  Colorado beat Kansas State three times and has a win over Texas.  Nice.  But what about the rest of the schedule.  What about games against Longwood and Western New Mexico?  The latter of those two is a Division II basketball team!!!!!  I know the Mustangs are great and all, but what good does it do to play a D-II school, especially one that went 14-16 this year.  That alone should eliminate a team from even being in the discussion for an at-large bid.

[NOTE: I know Chaminade is a D-II school, but they host a tournament that attracts quality opponents.  That case is different].

Additionally, the Buffaloes played Cal State Bakersfield (9-19), Maryland-Eastern Shore (9-22), Texas-Pan American (6-25), The Citadel (10-22), Idaho State (9-20), and Alcorn State (4-24)!!  Add in Longwood (12-19) and those seven teams are a combined 59-151!!!  Add to that losses to San Francisco (17-14), Oklahoma (14-18), and lowly Iowa State (16-16) and there is a reason Colorado is playing in the NIT.  I am not even knocking them for their scheduled games against Indiana, Oregon State and Colorado State.  But when you have a non-conference schedule that bad, you do not belong in the NCAA tournament; you belong in the NIT!

Virginia Tech is another team that people try to argue should be in the tournament.  Sure, games against Kansas State (loss) and Purdue (loss) are good schedules.  But, Campbell (12-19), UNC-Greensboro (7-24), CSU-Northridge (14-18), St. Bonaventure (16-14), South Carolina Upstate (5-25), and Mount St. Mary’s (11-21) is just a bit too much on the “sure win” column.  The Hokies also played Longwood.  Those six “sure wins” combined to go 77-140 on the season!!!

Additionally, VT’s only signature win was against Duke and maybe Penn State.  And while they had no bad losses like Colorado, the Hokies were swept by Virginia, a team that went 16-15, lost to Seattle (an 11-20 independent), and only win against an NCAA tourney team was a two-point victory over Clemson (a marginal NCAA tourney team at best).  Although not as pathetic as Colorado’s schedule, Virginia Tech’s overall non-conference schedule — coupled with only one signature win — keeps them from “dancing.”

Yeah, I know.  Colorado head coach Tad Boyle tried to make the argument that they went on the road to Georgia (loss), San Francisco (loss), Harvard (loss), Indiana (win) and CSU-Bakersfield (win) and that is why they deserved to win.  Seth Greenberg complained that he beefed up his schedule and that is why they deserved to get into the tourney.  Problem is, Greenberg did not win any of those games; for Boyle 2-3 against those road games — 0-3 versus the “good” teams; 2-0 versus the bad ones.

So, let’s say that Colorado and Virginia Tech made the field; which teams do they replace?  UAB?  Virginia Commonwealth?  How about Southern California and Marquette?

You see, there is no clear determinant as to why UAB or VCU should be removed and Colorado and Virginia Tech should be added except for one thing — the former two are from mid-tier conferences while the latter two are from the so-called “Big Six.”  Strength of schedule?  That is a bogus measure.  First off, Virginia Tech is only slightly ahead of UAB (77 for VT versus 78 for the Blazers); VCU is 84…Colorado is better at 49.  But if you are going to target a team for its weak strength of schedule, how about Cincinnati (83), Florida State (84), George Mason (91), or Temple (92).

Strength of schedule is not a good specific measure.  Sure, it is a decent general measure, but think about this — the top overall seed Ohio State has a SOS of 23.  The top SOS is Georgetown, which is a sixth seed.  The team with the 14th SOS — Seton Hall — is not even in the tournament.  Ergo, strength of schedule is a poor measure.

Polls are also a poor measure because those do not rank every team.  The RPI is the only measure that ranks every team on a seemingly objective basis.  I have argued the use of the RPI as a way to fill in the at-large bids before.  So, let’s use that and see where Colorado and Virginia Tech fall.

Out of the 68 seeds, 31 are guaranteed to winners of specific conferences; the remaining 37 are up for anyone.  Of the 31 conference champions, it is likely that some will fall beyond an RPI ranking of 68 — this year 15 teams had an RPI higher than 68, ranging from 75th (Long Island) to 322nd (UNC Asheville).

Now, of the 37 at-large teams, all 37 have an RPI of less than 68; the two lowest are Marquette (64) and Clemson (57).  Thus, if Colorado and Virginia Tech were to replace anyone, would it not be those two teams instead of UAB or VCU?

Ah, but there is more.  Let’s say that after the 31 automatic qualifies that the remaining 37 will be given a bid based on their RPI.  In other words, the remainder of the field will be made up of teams with the highest RPIs amongst the non-champions.  Through this method, teams like BYU (RPI 5), North Carolina (6) and Pittsburgh (10) will no doubt be in the field.

But where is the cut off?  Because 15 automatic qualifiers fall outside the RPI Top 68, only the top 53 in the RPI would get in.  However, that numbers is altered a bit because Gonzaga (56th) and Oakland (53rd) also made it in as AQs.  Belmont is the 51st rated team in the RPI, therefore the at-large pool would only go to number 50.

Based off of that criteria, the following snubbed teams would get into the NCAA tournament:

  • Harvard (RPI 35; seeded 9th)
  • Cleveland State (RPI 42; seeded 11th)
  • Missouri State (RPI 43; seeded 11th)
  • St. Mary’s (RPI 46; seeded 12th)
  • Colorado State (RPI 50; seeded 12th)

The five teams that would be knocked out based off of this criteria:

  • Michigan (RPI 52; NCAA seed 8th)
  • Florida State (RPI 55; NCAA seed 10th)
  • Clemson (RPI 57; NCAA seed 12th)
  • Marquette (RPI 64; NCAA seed 11th)
  • Southern California (RPI 67; NCAA seed 11th)

Now, the seedings for the five that would get in under this format is based on ranking the teams 1-68 in order of RPI.  Therefore, Kansas would be the number one overall seed and UNC-Asheville would be the 68th seed (so to speak).  In terms of the First Four games, it would set up as follows:

  • 16th seed – UNC-Asheville v. UC Santa Barbara
  • 16th seed – Alabama State v. Arkansas-Little Rock
  • 12th seed – Colorado State v. Virginia Commonwealth
  • 12th seed – Illinois v. Georgia

At this point it should be obvious who is still not in — Colorado (RPI 65) and Virginia Tech (RPI 63).  And, notice who still is in the tourney — VCU (49) and UAB (31).  In fact, based on the criteria presented, the Blazers would be an eight seed.

Furthermore, not only would the Buffaloes and Hokies still be left out under the RPI criteria, but there would still be nine teams ahead of both of those (eleven ahead of Colorado — Marquette and Virginia Tech).  Of those nine, six are other snubbed teams — Marshall, Boston College, UTEP, Wichita State, Oklahoma State, and Southern Miss — and three are teams that got in — Michigan, Florida State and Clemson.  So, why does Colorado or Virginia Tech deserve to be in over any of these teams!?

The point is that by an objective measure, Virginia Tech and Colorado do not belong in the NCAA tournament.  Both teams are exactly where they need to be — the NIT.  Beyond that, both teams have to do better than Longwood.

Besides, let’s be real — how many teams have a legitimate shot at winning the tournament?  Five?  Maybe ten?  So the other 58 teams are just filler.  Is that what Colorado and Virginia Tech really want to be — filler?  It is like a 6-6 team making it to a bowl game.  Sure you went to a bowl game, but will anyone really remember it beyond the universities involved?  Same here.  Would anyone really remember that Colorado went as a 12 seed and maybe had Sweet Sixteen run, at best?  Exactly.

Enjoy the National Invitational Tournament!

Rick Pitino: Dirtbag

Am I a corpse?So Rick Pitino’s extortion trial started. He had, by all acounts, a very brief sexual encounter with some old Louisville huer up on a table at Porcini’s in Louisville back whenever the fuck it all happened, I can’t be bothered to look up the date. This much we do know though.

But Pitino the victim? Wow…

And before I go any further, Rick Pitino isn’t a sex-addict; he’s a shitbag. He banged(?) a money grubber after he’d been out golfing and drinking all day and it’s come back to bite him in the ass. He got her pregnant, he paid for her abortion and he set her up with some sugar daddy new husband that was already employed within the UofL Athletic Department. I’m not linking any of it because you can all look it up for yourselves. Rick Pitino did all those things. All for 15 fucking seconds on a tabletop. Good lord. Is Karen Sypher a sex addict? Probably not. But even if she is, focusing on her “addiction” missed the damn point about as badly as Aramis Ramirez misses a mid-90’s fastball right down the goddamn middle of the plate. In other words, if you don’t watch the Cubs, Doyel whiffs and looks like an asshole doing it.

What bothers me most in all this disgusting story isn’t Rick. Nope. Its actually his employer, the University of Louisville. Where have they been throughout this whole process? Do they have anything to say during the trial of their most public employee? Does Pitino’s boss Tom Jurich, who only wears borrowed ties, have anything to say? Nah, not really, other than the fact that UofL gave Pitino a goddamn “loyalty bonus” back in the Spring, long after his little table top fling had already occured. LOYALTY BONUS? Why wasn’t he fired?

Pitino hasn’t been fired yet because of the absurdly-named KFC Yum! Center, that’s why. Louisville, like the small minded river town that it actually is, hemmed and fucking hawed about an arena for years, finally breaking ground on the NBA-quality structure in late 2008. The only problem? The main money maker for the main tenant of the building had sex on top of a table with a locally-known whore and later paid for her abortion during the same time that anyone could’ve gone downtown and scrawled their initials in the newly-poured foundation of the $200+ million dollar riverside monument. UH OH!

So what was UofL supposed to do? Fire their coach who has a National Championship and multiple Final Fours on his CV? Would you have done that? Would you have done it even if you were staying in your old dump down on the fairgrounds? I don’t think I would have. But i damn sure wouldn’t have fired the best coach the university has ever had while I was opening a new arena that the university and the city couldn’t afford to begin with.

This dirtbag had a city by the balls at the same time some old gold digger had him by the actual balls. And no one involved was even remotely aware of it all, which is the point: No one involved in college athletics seems to really care about college athletics. They care about money and power and I guess occasionally having sex on top of restaurant tables. They break rules and when the hammer is about to drop, they move to Seattle and avoid any penalty whatsoever. They change their school’s conference affiliation at the drop of a hat all the while talking about tradition and respect.

Pitino’s still out recruiting. And he’s still employed by UofL. And they’re still a member of the Big East, a BCS conference that competes within the NCAA. And he will be for as long as he wants.


Rondo v. Wall?: A Reaction to the Dan Patrick Poll

On 24 June, Dan Patrick ran a poll on his website asking “Who would you take right now?”  The two choices: Rajon Rondo or John Wall.

I should be #1 all the time!

Really?  This is like asking who would you take right now — Carlos Boozer or Derrick Favors?  Is it not obvious that right now you would take Boozer?  It is just as obvious that you would take Rondo over Wall right now.  In both cases, you already know what Boozer and Rondo are capable of; Wall and Favors have not proven anything in the NBA and both only competed one year in college.

Any time you compare a current, established player with a new draftee, more times than not you will take the established player because you know what you are getting.  Perhaps the only time this would not happen would be in a comparison of, say, DeMarcus Cousins and Darko Milicic (although I do believe that the latter is improving).

Keep the following in mind — Rondo was 21st in the 2006 NBA Draft.  That was behind such “great” players as Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, J.J. Redick, Quincy Douby, and Renaldo Balkman (!?).   Similarly, Boozer went in the second round of the 2002 draft (35th overall) and behind “all-stars” such as Nikoloz Tskitishvili (5th!?!?), Jared Jeffries, Marcus Haislip, Bostjan Nachbar, Qyntel Woods, Robert Archibald, and Vincent Yarbrough.

There is a reason that teams passed on Rondo (and Boozer).  While Rondo was drafted in the first round, remember that he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and then traded to Boston.  The scouting report on Rondo was that he was not a great perimeter shooter (in his sophomore year at Kentucky, he shot 27.3 percent from beyond the arc), and struggled from the line (57.7 percent free throw shooter while in Lexington).  His defense was praised as was his character and ability to find the open man and (defensive) rebounding.

Interesting how that all still holds true both negatives (24 percent from 3-point land; 63 percent from the free throw line) and positives (4.4 rebounds per game; 6.8 assists per game and coming off a career high 9.8 APG in 2009-10; 1.9 steals per game and led the NBA in 2009-10 in SPG with 2.3).

So, if you compare Rondo now with Wall now, why would you not take Rondo?

But, compare Rondo in 2006 when he was drafted with Wall now.  You would take Wall.  While Wall has his downside — still developing his jumpshot; tends to turn it over a lot — Wall would have been chosen ahead of Rondo in 2006.  In 2010, Rondo would have still been in the first round, but probably mid- to late first round.

Yeah, I went first Rondo. Suck on that!!

Similarly, in four years, compare John Wall 2014 version with Rajon Rondo 2010 version.  See how Wall has progressed in that time.  Keep the comparisons the same.

Point here is that there was a major fallacy with that poll.  It is the same whenever people attempt to compare two teams from different eras — there is no accounting for changes in the game (looking at you ESPN and your laughable comparison of the 2005 Southern California Trojans with teams from the 50s and 60s).

You cannot compared a kid just coming out of college with an established NBA all-star and champion.  Well, you can but it makes you a damn fool!

What Happened!? Champions Missing the Playoffs

Last night, the North Carolina Tar Heels fell to the Dayton Flyers in the NIT championship game, 79-68.  UNC had a chance to become the first team to win back-to-back championships.  That is, win the NCAA championship and then win the NIT championship.

Wow! What a difference a year (and the NBA Draft) makes!

North Carolina had this opportunity because they struggled mightily to adjust to life after Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington and finished 16-16 in the regular season.  The Tar Heels placed tenth in the ACC (5-11; technically tied for ninth with NC State and Virginia) and was bounced in the first round of the ACC tournament by Georgia Tech.

But, the Tar Heels also joined an “elite” group — teams that failed to make the playoffs the season following a title.  In college basketball, because there are so many teams, it does not happen that often.  Since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, only four champions have failed to return to defend their crown — Louisville (1986 champion), Kansas (1988; on probation in 1989), Florida (2007) and North Carolina (2009).

But how often does this occur in other sports?  Due to the nature of baseball’s playoffs, it would be obvious that it occurs often in Major League Baseball.  So, let’s look at other playoffs.

In the NBA, this has only happened two times.  Following their 1968-69 title, the Boston Celtics fell hard, going 34-48 in the 1969-70 season and finishing sixth in the seven-team Eastern Conference.  The loss of many key players hurt the Celtics.  Similarly, the loss of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and head coach Phil Jackson decimated the Chicago Bulls.  The Bulls went from celebrating a second three-peat in June of 1998 (and a 62-20 regular season record) to winning just 13 games in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

Since the NHL took full control of the Stanley Cup, this scenario has occurred seven times.  Interesting to note that it happened three times prior to the 1967 expansion — the Detroit Red Wings (1936-37 champs); Chicago Blackhawks (1937-38); and the Toronto Maple Leafs (1944-45).  This is noteworthy because with fewer teams, there was a higher chance of making the playoffs.

Since expansion, champions have failed to make the playoffs four times, including the first post-expansion year (1967-68) when the Toronto Maple Leafs once again failed to find the post-season.  The next season, the Montreal Canadiens did the same thing, missing the playoffs due to tie-breakers and the Red Wings throwing the final regular season game (well, Habs fans believe that).  The other two champions to miss the next season’s playoffs are the New Jersey Devils (1995 Stanley Cup Champions) and the Carolina Hurricanes (2006).

Football has seen its champion miss the playoffs a lot — 13 times in the Super Bowl era.  Most teams do not miss the playoffs by too many games, in some cases only missing it because of tiebreakers.  The “worst” champions have been Super Bowl XXI winner New York Giants (6-9 in 1987) and Super Bowl XXXIII winner Denver Broncos sans John Elway (6-10 in 1999).  The San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XVI champs, went 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Here is the list of Super Bowl champs that failed to make the playoffs the following season:

  • Super Bowl II: Green Bay Packers
  • Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs
  • Super Bowl XIV: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Super Bowl XV: Oakland Raiders
  • Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 49ers
  • Super Bowl XXI: New York Giants
  • Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins
  • Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants
  • Super Bowl XXXIII: Denver Broncos
  • Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots
  • Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Super Bowl XL: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers

While the FBS does not have a playoff, the FCS tier does.  Since the playoffs were implemented for what was then known as Division 1-AA in 1978, there have been ten champions not return the following year.  It should be noted that four of those ten occurred prior to expansion to current 16-team format, including Florida A&M, which won the 1978 title in a four-team format that existed until 1980.

Idaho State won the title in 1981 — the only year with an eight-team format — and did not return the following post-season, while Southern Illinois (1983) and Montana State (1984) won it in a twelve-team bracket.

Since the 1986 expansion to the current format, Northeast Louisiana (now UL-Monroe) in 1987, Georgia Southern in 1990, Youngstown State in 1994 and 1997, and most recently James Madison in 2004 have not returned to the playoffs the following season.  The Dukes missed the D-I playoffs after finishing second in the Atlantic 10 South division (fifth overall) with a 7-4 record (5-3 in conference).

The other champion not to return to the playoffs is the 1996 Marshall team, which went 15-0 on its way to its second title.  Marshall moved up to D-1A in 1997 and continued its dominant play in the MAC, winning the conference title.  It helped to have Chad Pennington and some guy named Randy Moss.

So while in general it is unusual for a champion to follow up their title by missing the playoffs, it has happened.  The year 1970 was especially brutal as the previous champions in the NBA (Celtics – 1968-69), NHL (Canadiens – 1968-69) and NFL (Chiefs – 1969) all missed the playoffs.

It seems much more common in the NFL, the FCS and NHL than in other sports, although not as common in hockey since expansion.  It is rarer in the NBA.

So, chin up Tar Heel fans!  Some of the most successful teams in their sport — the Canadiens and Maple Leafs; the Celtics and the Bulls; the Steelers, 49ers and Packers — have missed the playoffs following a title.  That is mighty fine company!

Mismatch: Rankings, Seedings and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Mississippi State makes a strong run to the SEC championship game, pushing Kentucky to the brink by taking the Wildcats to overtime.  During that run, MSU defeated a Florida team that lost their last three regular season games and 5-5 in their last ten, excluding the SEC tourney (MSU was also 5-5).

Unfortunately, you have to watch the NIT to see Jarvis Varnado swat shots.

So, how is it that despite having a higher RPI ranking, that Mississippi State is in the National Invitation Tournament while Florida is in the Big Dance as a ten-seed?  Certainly the Bulldogs suffered a “bad” loss down the stretch at the hands of Auburn, but it is quite confusing how a team with a better record and a higher RPI ranking — a measure of a team’s strength — is left out of the tournament.

Scenarios like this play out every season; which teams were snubbed and which teams made the field that probably should be in the NIT.  It is a debate that plays out the minute the field is announced.

But there is a greater issue here beyond the teams that are snubbed — seeding mismatch.  Every season there are mismatches between the teams in field and their proper seeding.  This issue trickles all the way down and leads to teams being left out that deserve to be in…at least according to the rankings.

Take a trip back to the 2006 tournament.  George Washington finished the regular season with only one loss, but lost in the Atlantic 10 tournament (won by Xavier).  At 26-2 and ranked 14th, George Washington should have been a four-seed.  Instead, they were given the eighth-seed and subsequently lost in the second round to the one-seed Duke.

This seeding mismatch put the Colonials at a disadvantage because they faced a more difficult match-up.  They started with the nine-seed UNC-Wilmington — a game that went to overtime before GW won it 88-85 — and then faced the number one overall seed.  Meanwhile, fourth-seed LSU — a team that based on their ranking of 19 should have been seeded fifth — made it to the Final Four.

But how often do seeding mismatches occur?  Well, based on the pre-NCAA tournament rankings, the answer is fairly often.  And, the tendency is to under-seed teams.  Here is the average seeding matching for Top 25 teams from 2003 until this season:

  • 2010: -0.47
  • 2009: -0.27
  • 2008: -0.2
  • 2007: -0.56
  • 2006: -0.2
  • 2005: -0.08
  • 2004: -0.583 (-1.0)*
  • 2003: -0.208*

* – Only 24 of the 25 ranked teams made the NCAA tournament in 2003 and 2004.  In 2003, Georgia withdrew from all post-season tournaments while investigating then-head coach Jim Harrick.  In 2004, Utah State was not extended an invitation.  If they are included in the discrepancy measure and their actual is 17 (i.e. not in the tournament), then the average discrepancy in 2004 is -1.0 rather than -0.583.

A quick explanation about how this was calculated before I analyze this further.  Because there are four regions, that top four teams in a poll should receive the four number one seeds; the next four teams in a poll (ranked five through eight) should receive the four number two seeds; and so on.

Based on this, the projected seeding is subtracted by the actual seeding resulting in a discrepancy.  If the discrepancy is zero, then the seeding matches the expectation.  But, any deviation from zero means there is a mismatch.  A positive number means a team is seeded higher than expected; a negative number means a team is seeded lower than expected.

What's so funny? Butler is ranked eighth but seeded fifth. Hahaha...wait a minute!

For example, Butler is ranked eighth in the coaches poll and should be a two-seed.  However, the Bulldogs received a fifth-seed, which gives them a discrepancy of -3.  Or, to put it another way, they are seeded three spots lower than where they ranking suggests they should be.  Meanwhile 21st ranked Baylor is seeded three spots higher than where they should be.

Thus, what the trend indicates is that on average, a Top 25 team is slightly under-seeded.  But there is more to it than the overall average.

But, if you look at a conference breakdown since 2003, what becomes clear is that certain schools get under-seeded while others are over-seeded.  The following is the net seeding discrepancy, with the average in parenthesis:

  • ACC: 4 (0.148)
  • Atlantic 10: -2 (-0.25)
  • Big 12: 7 (0.292)
  • Big East: 1 (0.024)
  • Big South: -5 (-5)
  • Big Ten: -10 (-0.476)
  • Big West: -2 (-2)
  • Conference USA: -16 (-1.23)
  • Horizon: -12 (-1.6)
  • Missouri Valley: -12 (-3)
  • Mountain West: -5 (-0.714)
  • Pac 10: -4 (-0.222)
  • SEC: 5 (0.263)
  • WAC: -8 (-2)
  • West Coast: -7 (-1.167)

What is surprising is how under-seeded the Big Ten tends to be.  But it is not close to how grossly under-seeded the WAC, West Coast and Missouri Valley conferences tend to be.  And if you include the 2003 snubbing of Utah State, then the WAC’s numbers become even worse.

What is not surprising is that the ACC usually has their members seeded higher than their rankings indicate.  But over-seeding among the Top 25 seems to be marginal.

However, when we group the conference together, a clearer pattern emerges.  The Big Six tend to be over-seeded by 0.0199 spots.  In other words, teams from the Big Six — ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 10 and SEC — are usually seeded correctly or slightly over-seeded.

Teams from all other conferences tend to be grossly under-seeded.  On average, a team from a non-Big Six conference is given a seeding that is 1.55 lower than their ranking would suggest.  What this means it that the selection committee believes that teams from outside of the Big Six are ranked too high.

It is this type of mentality that upsets coaches and teams from outside of the Big Six.  In an article written by Ray Melick of the Birmingham News, UAB head basketball coach expressed disappointment in the NCAA selection process.  His frustration was not because the Blazers were left out of the tournament.

UTEP gets a 12th seed? That’s a pretty strong message. They were the best team in our conference, a top 25 team, and they get a 12th seed?

UAB coach Mike Davis is ready to go to war...for UTEP?

Again, this speaks not necessarily to who is in and who is out, but this statement speaks to the mismatch that occurs in the seeding process.  With the seeding mismatch for this season being -0.48, it is worth looking deeper at the 2010 seedings for all teams receiving votes in the coaches’ poll.

For the 38 teams that at least received votes in the pre-tournament poll, the average discrepancy is -0.82.  The conference breakdown should not surprise anyone.  Here is the net seeding discrepancy for all conferences with teams receiving votes:

  • ACC: 0
  • Atlantic 10: 2 (0.67)
  • Big 12: 6 (1.2)
  • Big East: 5 (0.83)
  • Big Ten: -2 (-0.4)
  • Conference USA: -5 (-5)
  • Colonial: -2 (-2)
  • Horizon: -3 (-3)
  • Ivy League: -4 (-4)
  • Metro Atlantic: -4 (-4)
  • Missouri Valley: -3 (-3)
  • Mountain West: -7 (-2.33)
  • Pac 10: -3 (-3)
  • SEC: 0
  • WAC: -4 (-4)
  • West Coast: -6 (-3)

Once again, the non-Big Six programs tend to be under-seeded (-2.4 average) while the Big Six schools are on target or slightly over-seeded (0.261 average).

The point of all of this is that ranking are useless in college basketball.  What good is being ranked eighth when you are not seeded accordingly.  It makes no sense to have BYU ranked 16th and seeded seventh if teams ranked below them — Pittsburgh (17th), Wisconsin (19th), Maryland (20th), Baylor (21st), Vanderbilt (22nd), and Texas A&M (23rd) — are seeded higher.

What is worse is that a team that is not even receiving votes — Notre Dame as a six-seed — is seeded higher than both BYU and Gonzaga (ranked 18th; seeded eighth).

These types of mismatches turn polls into jokes.  But how does a ranking system like the RPI measure up?

Well, if looking only at NCAA tournament teams in the RPI top 65, then there is actually a slight over-seeding (0.235).  But, due to upsets and conference champions with extremely low RPI ratings, not every team in the RPI top 65 gets in the Big Dance.  The average RPI of all NCAA tournament teams is 114.57.  This is because there are 14 teams with an RPI greater than 65.

Therefore, those 14 teams take the place of 14 teams in the RPI top 65 that are not conference winners.  This means that the last four into the tournament should be UNLV, Kent State, UAB, and Wichita State.  Of those four, only UNLV made it in as an eight-seed.

What the hell are you doing here!?

Accordingly, the last four out should have been Notre Dame, Marquette, Memphis and Mississippi State.  So, while perhaps MSU still should not have made it in, why is Notre Dame and Marquette in?  Not only that, but why are those two teams graced with sixth seeds while a team like Northern Iowa (RPI  17) is a nine seed?

In the end, the problem rests on perceptions.  If polls and RPI do not matter, then what does seem to count is conferences.  Some will say that strength of schedule offsets the polls and that would be fair to argue why Northern Iowa or BYU are low and a team like Texas A&M is higher.  But, then again, what of Kentucky and their 31st S.O.S.?

So, it is still all about the conference.  Even though the Big Ten does tend to be under-seeded, the ACC and Big 12 make up for that loss, along with the SEC and the Big East.  Meanwhile, conferences like the Missouri Valley and Mountain West continue to be underappreciated and under-seeded.

And, if we are going to simply go by the perception of conferences, should Division I be subdivided like D-I football?  I mean, the likelihood of Robert Morris making even the Sweet Sixteen is slim, let alone the title game.  Subdivide it so teams from the Atlantic Sun or Patriot League have a shot a title and the “big boys” can play amongst themselves.  That is what the selection committee wants, right?

The selection committee is human and we should at least be somewhat appreciative of that.  If the tournament seedings were simply conducted by computers, then we would have no drama, no suspense, no debate, and people like Joe Lunardi would be out of the job.

But because of the human factor, we are left with biases that allow a mediocre team like Wake Forest in on the perception of their conference while the UABs and Wichita States of the college basketball world are left sitting in the corner wondering when someone will ask them to dance.

Of Deadbeat Bloggers…

Hard at Work

Hi all, Jubbo here. Hope you’re doing well. Actually, I don’t really care how you’re doing, but enough about you.

I, Jubbo the Deadbeat Blogger, promise to blag more in 2010 (well, actually the final 10 months of 2010). I’m excited. I really frickin’ am.

I plan on dropping some MLB previews in the coming weeks. At the same time basketball, which is truly the sport of the Gods, will begin to get serious, so I’ll have plenty to say about that as well. With the turn of the calendar into March, it really is starting to become a great time in the big wide world of sport. Before you know it, I’ll be down at Hawthorne taking in the Illinois Derby, then a month later it’ll be actual DERBY time, not to mention the fact that UK will have won their 8th National Championship, baseball will be in full swing, and it might be above 60 degrees in Chicago. Get some!

For example, I’m going to blag the fuck out of Starlin Castro. Its gonna be great. Not to mention D-Rose. And of course GodWall.

A new day has dawned here at Uncle Popov…


Revisiting My Bracket: 2009 Final Four

SO…in terms of the Final Four, I am 0-4.  So my bracket is useless now and I can begin focusing on baseball, I suppose.

But a few notes first on the teams that have made it to the Final Four, and the 2009 tournament in general.

First, this year’s tournament was perhaps the most boring and least drama filled that I have ever witnessed.  In terms of the Sweet Sixteen, there was only one team with a seeding higher than sixth (Arizona as a 12th seed).  While that occurred in 2007, the average seeds of the teams in this year’s Sweet Sixteen is lower than in 2007 (3.06 versus 3.1875).  Furthermore, that is a rare occurance, not happening any other time in the last ten years.  Add to that the fact that this year was the first time all top three seeds made it to the Regional Semis, AND this was the first time in the last ten years (at least) that there were two regions where all four top seeds advanced.


And the buzzer beaters and Cindarellas are lacking, save Villanova’s heroics.  A lot of blowouts.

BUT, I would argue what this means is that there is parity in college basketball.  I know, all the top seeds winning does not seem like parity, but here is my argument.  When George Mason makes it to the Final Four, that is not necessarily parity — that means that among the top teams, there is really only a couple of dominant players.  There is really parity among the middle-tier programs, whether it is a team from the Colonial Athletic or one from the ACC.  Keep in mind it was still Florida (a team that has been to three title games in the last ten years) versus UCLA (storied program) in the Championship Game in 2006.  GMU fell back to earth the following season.

But this year, it seems as though there is no clear team in the top-tier.  North Carolina looked like it early on, but a loss to Boston College (who then lost to Harvard) shook up everything.  And whenever UConn or Pittsburgh looked to be the team to beat, they would lose.

Having all three seeds in each region make it to the Sweet Sixteen is actually proof that those teams are all solid and that there is parity among the elite programs.  However, it shows that the mid-tier is down.

NOW, as for the Final Four for 2009, let me say a couple of things about two of the programs.

First, Connecticut.  I hate them.  I really do.  I do not like Jim Calhoun.  I am not a fan of their team at all.  BUT, I respected something that they did.  Once they won the West Region, they did not cut down the nets.  Thank god!  Cutting down the nets for winning a region is as worn out as the Gatorade shower.  So big ups to Connecticut for showing everyone that just making it to the Final Four is not something to necessarily celebrate.  For the Huskies, it will be what happens on Monday (if they are lucky).

Second, Michigan State.  I hate MSU.  I hate their style of play.  But I give mega-props to Tom Izzo.  I caught him on PTI this week and on one of the sports talk shows (either Dan Patrick or Jim Rome…I cannot recall) and the guy is awesome.  He is down-to-earth, will clown around and have a good time.  He was a great interview in both cases.  He is the kind of cat you would want to hang around with.  Not arrogant and willing to show his lighter side and a sense of humor.  I appreciated that, even if I do not like his coaching style.

As for the NCAA title game, I think it will be Connecticut versus North Carolina, with UNC winning it all.  I am hoping for the exact opposite — Michigan State v. Villanova.  And I hope the Spartans will win it.  Not only because, of the four teams remaining, I think fewer people have MSU winning it all (and thus screwing up other people’s bracket), but because that means more kick-ass interviews with Izzo.

Either way, I am not likely to watch the title game.  Instead, I’ll be praying for another AL East title for the Rays!