Cal survives. Stanford doesn’t. Games are Played.

It’s one of my favorite and most comprehensive college basketball websites. NROPP takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to analyzing and commenting on the game and you can’t ask for much else. On the daily – or as possible – the site drops a preview of the day’s games. Here is what he had to say about Colorado and then where it got me thinking:

Pac 12: Colorado’s got some injury issues, so on paper the 7-4 conference record looks pretty good. But when you take out the altitude, the only positive is a victory over Washington State (188) that came by 1 in OT on the road. Other road losses come at Washington (112), Arizona (1), and Arizona State (34) – and all those losses were by double digits. Five of the final seven come on the road, four against top 50 teams, and the other against USC which has been playing better as of late, but doesn’t really show because they’ve played the toughest conference schedule of practically anyone in the country to date. Colorado’s in a really, really, really difficult spot moving forward.

First of all, he’s absolutely right. Colorado does have a difficult road ahead of themselves and are riding a three game home winning streak in part due to competition. I love the analysis because it factors both quantitative (their remaining schedule is five, sevenths on the road including four against top 50 teams) and the qualitative (injuries, 7-4 is inflated). I can’t and won’t make an argument against this.

But I’m a fan. Undoubtedly NROPP is a fan too but I also appreciate seeing that Colorado has overcome some demons to win their last three. You can’t tell me Colorado had seemingly every reason to roll over and die in the face of Brandon Taylor’s overtime inducing three pointer? Xavier Johnson has played at an all league level during this win streak. Have the Buffs needed every bit of it? Absolutely. But the overarching point in my estimation is that he’s done it when he had a multitude of excuses not to.

When this blurb was passed to me, I was watching the tale end of Justin Cobbs beating another team late. This time it was the Washington State Cougars who are the worst team in the Pac-12 but you know what? Cal won. Stanford didn’t. And look at the win probability graphs side by side:

win probsBoth squads had ample opportunities to accomplish the opposite result but that’s not how things manifested. Both were expected to win for the overwhelming majority of their respective games but, as stated: Cal won, Stanford didn’t.

At this time of year, in a removed-from-qualitative-and-quantitative-analysis-state, that’s all that matters. NROPP and any other smart site or person would be wise to think that beating WSU in overtime or dropping one to UW late suggests the Bay teams’ processes are flawed. Cal won but didn’t look good doing it and demonstrated further defensive ineptitude. I mean, who allows Washington State to score 1.19 ppp? Well, only Lamar who allowed the Cougs 1.20 ppp and who are 3-20 and rank 346th out of 351 teams per KenPom. That basically means the sixth worst team in the country is the only team to defend the Cougars less than Cal did on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Stanford managed just four points in the final 4:23 (3-9 from the field including FTs) against the Pac’s ninth best defense. They couldn’t close (Cal could) and it cost them not only a game to Washington but – more than likely – an NCAA bid. Process – as sites like NROPP, KenPom, and even PacHoops will tell you – matters. But filling the left column matters more.

We can’t really put a value on momentum. There isn’t a confidence quotient. I’m unable to muster many stats that tell you how how hard it is to beat Justin Cobbs.

So the cards may be stacked against Colorado tonight, while they conversely were stacked in Stanford’s favor. But there’s a reason we play. We play to win the game.

2 thoughts on “Cal survives. Stanford doesn’t. Games are Played.

  1. While the Pac-12 continues to autocannibalize itself two things are becoming clear (a) it’s hard for teams to pick up conference road wins and (b) the NCAA tourney bubble is obviously weak when Stanford can lose a a game it supposedly had to win at Washington and still is firmly in the field per most “bracketologist”.
    Even Oregon has a decent shot at rejoining bubbly conversation if it can do something it has failed to do consistently once conference play began – win at home. The Ducks close the year with five of the next seven at Matt Knight Arena. If they can somehow navigate home games versus OSU, Wazzu and UW they are looking squarely at a road split in Los Angeles and closing the year with possible resume building wins against ASU and UA. It’s possible the same bad luck and terrible offensive execution that has resulted in three consecutive heart breaks can get turned around with the softest part of their schedule beginning this weekend. Oregon has to scratch their heads when they see “bracketologist” place three teams they’ve defeated in their projected fields (Georgetown, BYU and MIssissippi). Stay tuned.
    Is everyone sold that the Wildcats are going to run the table? UA has five of its next seven contest on the road. ASU is playing really well lately and is looking every bit as a shrewd darkhorse pick to win the conference tourney in Las Vegas – I’m not bold enough to pick a Sun Devils upset, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If the Cats get through their trip to Tempe, they likely get tripped up in either Salt Lake City or in Boulder facing two teams that are Jekyll and Hyde (not sure which is more nasty, word is Dr. Jekyll had crazy range). Miller is going to tinker with personnel on a game-to-game basis, but from my couch Arizona doesn’t have the same “look” without Ashley. They go from a top five team, likely one seed that could cut down the nets in Jerry’s World to a team who’s margin for error went from the size of a freeway to a sidewalk.
    UCLA is impossible to figure out. They go on crazy offensive runs and then suffer two five minute scoring droughts her half where thay give it all back as they forget to share the ball and hoist contested jumpers. If the Bruins play unselfishly and keep the opposition off the foul line and offensive backboards they are hard to beat. They have, arguably, cemented themselves as the PAC’s second best team but what does that really mean in regards to this home court heavy conference? If Alford can get anything from his young, up and down bench (especially Tony Parker) UCLA has trendy NCAA sleeper pick written all over them. They also have team most likely to be beaten by 11 or 12 seed in opening, er, 2nd round too….
    Enjoy the weekend, don’t forget to spoil your significant other(s) on Friday – heck mix that in everyday why don’t ya.

    1. You had me at “autocannibalize.”

      Great stuff per usual. I’ll start with my Valentine spoiling as I’m taking the selfish route and hitting up the Arizona bar then Karaoke and doing me. All weekend. All day. When there is a significant other to spoil, I will be certain to revisit this post. Thank you.

      Does it seem like the “bubble” gets bigger and bigger every year? It started as just a phrase. Then it became last four in. Then next four out. Then next four out after those four were already out. If the committee isn’t going to expand the dance to 96 or 128, the pundits will at least ensure that 128 are in the conversation. I really can’t see Oregon or Stanford dancing at this point. They definitely could but wtf guys?

      And I agree with you on Arizona. It’s not foregone that they’ll run the table and they close the season on what you remind us is the very tough Pac-12 road. I don’t know if we have enough of a sample set of life without Brandon to declare them toast but freeway to sidewalk is a pretty damn good analogy. The Bruins have as much talent as any team you’ll see this season. There are at least 3 bonafide pros on that roster and if Bryce is hitting threes…You also mentioned Tony Parker who I’ve been touting as the linchpin to UCLA’s sleeper vs. favorite dialogue. Why can’t Alford just make fun of him before every game so he drops a double-double?

      Enjoy the extra day off.

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