Saturday, March 23, 2013

Payback is a Bitch, Shaka

You were pressing with a 40 point lead in the second half of your first round loss, so I guess it is a fitting result that you lose by 25 points in you Round 2 game. 

Adios, classless!

Full Round 1 thoughts NCAA Tourney Madness

Trending Up:
B1G - Yes the Big Ten is for real, 7 teams in the tourney and 6 advance on to round 2.  Very impressive showing for the B1G.  These teams all had great records against other power conferences going into the Big Ten season and then beat each other up but the reality is all 6 of the teams that advanced should probably be in the Top 15 teams in the country.  Still will be shocked if we do not see at least 2 of these teams in the Final Four.

A10 - What a great showing for an underrated conference.  They were a good conference before adding Butler and St Louis, now they are a great conference.  We are going to have to call them a Power Conference going forward.  Certainly more powerful than the Big 12 and maybe the SEC (in hoops).  They had 5 teams in the tourney and they still have 5 - very impressive.  Not sure if any of them can make it to the Final Four but I also would not be surprised to see one of them there.

ACC -  The ACC had a down year from a depth standpoint putting only 4 teams in the tourney, but three of those teams remain after Round 1. 

Missouri Valley - They only had 2 teams in the tourney, Creighton and Wichita State, but both of them advanced to Round 2.  I don't think I would call this impressive yet, since there are only two, but if one of them gets to the Sweet Sixteen -- that will be impressive.

Trending Down:
Big East - The conference is going to go out with a whimper in its final year.  The committee put 8 Big East teams in the tourney but only 3 remain after round 1, and one of those, Marquette, barely eeked out a win when their Davidson opponent fell apart in the last minute and gave up a 5 point lead.  The Georgetown loss as a #2 seed was a very bad loss.  While I think many people had Louisville going all the way in their bracket, I think some doubt may be sneaking into the back of people's minds.

Big 12 - The committee put 5 teams in from the Big 12 even though the conference competition was thinned dramatically with the loss of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC and Colorado to the PAC 12.  Well, they are unlikely to do that again next year because only 2 of those 5 teams are still standing after Round 1.  Kansas is a good team but probably not as good as the pundits think because of how weak the conference is this year.  What's more Gonzaga was also hanging its hat on three quality wins against Big 12 teams -- those aren't looking as solid as they once did.  I don't expect either to make it to the Final Four.

Treading Water:
Mountain West - After a brutal Thursday, the Mountain West put a second team in the 2nd Round with San Diego State's win.  So now 2 of their 5 teams made round 2, which is respectable vs horrible as it was shaping up in day 1.  However the #4 and #5 seed losses for New Mexico and UNLV, respectively, will likely the committee pause during seedings next year.

SEC - Only 3 SEC teams made it into the tourney but 2 have advanced to round 2 after Ole Miss' comeback win over Wisconsin.  However, it is hard to say this is an uptrend since it is only two teams and given Kentucky's stunning early exit from the NIT, this conference is still a huge question mark at this point.  It is hard to gauge just how good a team Florida is, given the uncertainty of the strength of the SEC.

Friday, March 22, 2013

First Day Thoughts from NCAA March Madness

Trending up:
Pac 10 - Conference was largely slammed as weak by the pundits and the tourney selection committee before the tourney started, bt yesterday proved that they may actually have been underseeded.  Two 12 seeds won yesterday and they were both from the Pac 10, Oregon and California. Oregon beat a Big 12 team, Oklahoma State, in a blowout and California knocked off UNLV from the Mountain West in a tight game.  Arizona also added a convincing win over Belmont.

A10 - The Atlantic 10 also had a very good day with convincing wins from VCU and St Louis and a solid win (closer than the score indicated) for Butler.  Granted all three teams were supposed to win over lower seeds but VCU and St Louis both shellacked their opponents to each win by at least 20 points.

B1G - The Big Ten only had two games yesterday but both Michigan St and Michigan won in convincing fashion.  Today will be the real test for the conference though as it has 5 teams playing.

Trending down:
Mountain West - In a classic case of "don't listen to the pundits", the Mountain West has been destroyed in the tourney so far.  If you recall, the pundits were placing the Mountain West's conference RPI at either #1 or #2 before the tourney.  Well the results are in and there is heartburn in the mountains this morning.  The Mountain West put 5 teams in the tourney including Boise St which lost in a play-in game on Tuesday.  Four of the five have played with only Colorado State winning its first round game.  UNLV and New Mexico were both heavily favored teams upset by #12 and #13 seeds.

Gonzaga -  Yes they won by 6 but the score does not tell the story here.  The Zags really struggled against a #16 seed Southern University and its 214 RPI.  Southern played great and you have to hand it to them for their clutch performance and the Zags fought back to get the W.  However, this just confirms what I said a week ago, the Zags will not be making a trip to the Final Four.  Their record is a farce and the result of a cupcake schedule with quality wins over weak Big 12 teams, one of which, Oklahoma St, lost to a #12 seed yesterday.

Treading Water:
Big East - While Louisville and Syracuse both took care of business with convincing wins in their first round matchups, Marquette and Pittsburgh struggled.  Pittsburgh lost in an 8/9 game to Wichita State.  Nobody can fault them for losing an 8/9 matchup.  However, while Marquette got the W, they really lost that game but for an utter collapse for cinderella Davidson, a #14 seed, who was up by 5 points with 45 seconds remaining. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spurs Leonard is a Leading Star

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recognizes talent when he sees it. On the night of the 2011 draft he said that his 15th pick Kawhi Leonard would be the future face of the franchise and into his second year Leonard is more than proving him correct.

During February, with the Spurs big three (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan) all unavailable, it was Leonard who showed maturity and stepped up to the mark scoring a career high 26 points against the Bulls and at the same time neutralizing the very real offensive threat of Luol Deng. Two days later it was Leonard who scored the winning three pointer against the Cavaliers.

 Leonard was signed very much as a defensive specialist and has let nobody down, regularly guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player.

Expectations of his offensive play, based on college performances, were very limited, but in his first pro-season his three-point shooting was impressive, upping an average which stood at 29% at college to 38% in his first season in NBA.

Not bad when you consider the extra three feet distance to the hoop in NBA. His impressive performances through his rookie year resulted in him being chosen to be part of the USA Select squad chosen to play against the US Olympic team in the summer of 2012.

Thanks to many long hours of shooting practice his offensive percentages have also improved dramatically. His average points per game increased from 7.9 in his rookie year to 11.6 this season and up until the All Star game he averaged 10.5. His scoring average has jumped to 15.2 since the break.

Praise has come from his teammates, with Tim Duncan, the 14-time All-Star saying of the 21 year Leonard, “He’s going to be a special one, he’s developed so quickly, and he has loads of ways to go. He could do a lot more.”

Popovich has also been impressed by Leonard’s offensive work and especially the more aggressive way he is playing. Popovich says, “There are some guys who want to take shots, want to step up when the lights get brighter. Some guys don’t and you find out who they are, but he’s one of those guys.”

Leonard is young and has a very long way until he reaches his prime; but is already showing the sort of potential that Tony Parker showed when he joined the Spurs at 19. Parker at 30 is very much the superstar, but to reach that level required the trust that was placed in him by his coach. In Leonard the Spurs have a new future superstar, who so far has not allowed anything to distract him. If he carries on along the same path there is every reason to believe that he will reach the top of his profession.

But the young Californian remains level headed and acknowledges that the ascent to the top will take time. That first year followed by training camp has given him greater responsibility on court and a much better understanding of the offensive game. At the same time he is quick to highlight the influence of coach Popovich, “Oh yeah, Coach Pop, that’s the type of coach he is,” says Leonard. “He’s very humble; he’s not high on himself. So, day in and day out we’re just trying to get better.”

While you may or may not bet on basketball, Leonard is not only playing the right game, he’s also talking the right game. For fans of San Antonio there is every chance that they have a young superstar in the making.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Random Observations as we Head to March Madness

I am very excited for this upcoming NCAA Tournament and you should be too.  It is a wide open field and anyone of 9 teams could win the whole thing this year.  So which 9 teams am I talking about?  Well I will get to that in a minute, I will give you a hint though only one of the teams starts with a G, not two.  First, some other observations about this year so far.

Upsets Down this Year
While it has been very difficult to stay at the top of the polls this year, the total number of upsets is actually down on the year.  The guys over at Statsheet, put together a study of the last thirteen years to find that trend is not increasing, and in fact has actually decreased this season.  However, the study only compares periods through 1/25 each year so hopefully they will update the comparison after the tourney.

If Kentucky Misses the NCAA Tourney...
They would join an illustrious group of 19 other teams that have not made the field in the year following winning the NCAA Championship.  The most recent teams to do it were the horrible 2010 UNC Tarheels and the 2008 Florida Gators.  However, before that you had to go all the way back to 1989.  We shall see if they become the 20th team to join the list.

Big Ten Deserves Two #1 Seeds
It is not looking like it will go this way, at least according to Lunardi, but I think it would be a crime if the B1G did not end up with two #1 seeds.  That conference is crazy good this year and they have had 5-6 teams ranked in the Top 25 all season -- Amazing!  One team played non-conference undefeated (Michigan), 3 teams went into conference play with 1 loss each (Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois) and 3 teams went in with 2 losses (Ohio State, Mich State and Iowa).  And they have 5 teams with legitimate shots at getting to the Final Four.  Likely, they will only get one #1 seed but still put at least two teams in the Final Four.

Conference Power Ratings -- ACC is 5th!
When was the last time that the ACC was 5th in conference power rankings, or the SEC was 9th?  Had to be a long time ago.  At any rate here are the latest Conference Power Rankings, according to RealTimeRPI:
1. Big Ten
2. Big East
3. Big 12
4. Mountain West (surprise!)
5. ACC
6. Pac 12
7. Atlantic 10
8. West Coast (really just Gonzaga)
9. SEC
10. Missouri Valley

9 Teams that Could Win the Championship
And finally, here is my list of the teams that could legitimately win the NCAA Championship this year.  I know what you are thinking, how could you leave the #1 team in the nation off the list.  I am sorry Zags fans but I think your team is a paper tiger.  Your SOS is 73rd in the country, so you have not played many tough teams.  You have played 4 teams that were ranked during the year, you lost to Butler and Illinois and you beat two teams in the Big 12 (which I also think is overrated this year).  I don't think your team can put together 6 wins against Top 40 teams.

And no New Mexico, you are also not on the list. Yes it has been a nice season but your strength of schedule is overrated by the fact that the Mountain West is overrated.  You do not have wins over any teams that are currently still rated in the Top 25.  Doh!

Sorted by Order of liklihood, in my opinion:
1. Indiana (still have the most talent of any team in the country)
2. Duke (if Ryan Kelly is healthy - they are undefeated with his glue!)
3. Michigan (great guards that can carry this team far)
4. Kansas (Freshman McLemore will have to carry the team but he is amazing)
5. Michigan State (Izzo even more than the talent)
6. Georgetown (Porter is a beast and Starks provides the Junior leadership)
7. Louisville (Pitino is amazing at getting to the Elite 8, then they need 3 more)
8. Miami, Fl (Loads of talent but some troubling losses on their resume)
9. Florida (Great senior leadership at the Guard positions could make it happen)