Category Archives: Pac-12

Microphones At Press Conference

Platitudes Revisited for Pac-12 Basketball Media Day

Tomorrow, for the third straight year, I will be attending the Pac-12’s Basketball Media Day. Can’t wait. In all honesty, it’s a little boring. I love the opportunity to go but there are platitudes abound. More gets said by the Guilty Remnant.

The fun part is reading between the lines. Like knowing Andy Enfield ripped UCLA and hearing him have to then praise UCLA. Or listening to Bob Dibler discuss Ed Rush and trips to Cancun. Basically, nothing will be said tomorrow that shocks us.

But what if it didn’t play out that way?

I’ve scripted the questions I’d like to ask and provided what I think coaches will respond with and what I wish they’d respond with. Continue reading

Leftovers_ep2

Just in Case: The Leftovers and Your Role

If you didn’t watch HBO’s The Leftovers, it’s hard to say if you really missed out on anything. It’s a show about I-don’t-know-what, during which everything and nothing happens. It’s dark, captivating and confusing. I kinda hated it. I watched every episode.

The show centers on the aftermath of the disappearance, immediate and sudden, of 2% of the world’s population. In one moment, theygone. Husbands, wives, sons, and daughters disappeared and everyone else was left to cope with the “Sudden Departure.”

This Sudden Departure happened on October 14th.

Tomorrow is October 14th.

Tomorrow is my birthday.

So if I disappear, if the Sudden Departure consumes me and you’re left to fend for your Pac-selves this season, here’s everything I need you to do this season. Naturally, there are twelve of them.

  1. Creatively and non-sophomorically discover a way to hilariously reference Wayne Tinkle – We can be better than the obvious. And don’t do something weird on Photoshop. That would be uncomfortable for everyone.
  2. Discover a player who’s changed his game and his torching the universe – Jordan Adams was a mid-range god as a freshmen and then took it to a new level – and location – as a sophomore. You’re well versed on how I appreciate getting to the rim and Jordan did exactly that. My excitement got ESPN linkage.
  3. The teams. The teams are going to different things than they used to. Watch that – This is a really, really vague point so I’ll just go ahead and note a few key things y’all should monitor: UCLA’s offense and how it operates without Kyle Anderson feeding Wear family jumpers and Jordan Adams layups or perhaps pivots to a more traditional Alford style; Andy Enfield’s offense and if it can actually become a dunk city; Arizona’s defense and rebounding which carried them at times last season might not project to be as good this season; is Cuonzo Martin that good of a defensive coach; presumably Johnny Dawkins has developed Stefan Nastic, Chasson Randle, and Anthony Brown as far as he can (seniors) how will the undeveloped assets (projected to be good) fill into a system of inconsistency?
  4. Feed whomever is running the Pac-12’s social channels the best questions for Media Day – Because then famous people will love you:

  5. Think of me in Indy – You can’t look at me on the eve of my possible-if-not-impending-Sudden-Departure and tell me my ‘Cats aren’t going. Not only would that be heartless, it’d be silly.
  6. Don’t lurk on Andy Enfield’s beholden – After a while it gets weird.
  7. Love Askia Booker (and other senior guards) – Last year I wrote about it here, here, and here. Oh, here as well. Four articles, one player. And now he’s a senior guard on a team with moderate-to-high expectations that almost entirely rest on what kind of season he’s going to have. A senior guard. I don’t make the stories, I just tell them. Trust me when I say Askia Booker is a story. And I’m not crazy enough to think you’ll love him just because I ask you to. I’ve met enough strangers on Tinder to know you can’t request love. So maybe there’s a senior guard on your squad to adore. Cherish that. Whether it’s DaVonte, Chasson, TJ, or even – hell – Jonathan Gilling, love your seniors.
  8. Go to HecEd, in Red, for me – As of now I’m going to Seattle for that February 13th tilt. Anyone need a Valentines? Of course this is all for naught should I disappear tomorrow. Nevertheless, the plan is for me to make my inaugural appearance and perhaps – if allowed – an inaugural address to the audience. I highly doubt the latter becomes reality, but if it did, that would be awesome. A whole slew of Wildcats will be coming so it’ll be fun. Let’s have fun. And if I’m not there, you guys have fun. And if it’s not HecEd and it’s not Red that you’re willing to do, travel to one opposing arena. Make a weekend of it. We’re lucky to have teams in some of the best cities this country has to offer.
  9. Unabashedly share your excitement for a yet-to-be-determined moment in the season with a completely unassuming person - Preferably this would be a co-worker. I’ve subjected countless co-workers who don’t know Sean Miller from Dennis Miller but you know what? They love my enthusiasm and that unsuspecting co-worker will no doubt love yours. And if I may recommend an execution method, I suggest you say it as swiftly as you can. Catch them off guard and go for the massive knowledge drop. They won’t know what hit them and you’ll probably come out of it looking either insane, passionate, or some combination thereof.
  10. Don’t push the Daddy Ball agenda - In a general theme of fandom, you’re better than this. We’re all better than this. Not only did LaVine’s numbers significantly decline throughout the season, Bryce is legit and the Bruins went to the Sweet Sixteen which was pretty much their ceiling anyways. Does Steve have some biases for his own kid? Probably. Did it cost him in PG recruiting? Another maybe. But he has an All-Freshman point guard returning and the most familial thing about that is talent.
  11. Recognize the shining moments – It’s a great big long season that culminates in a heart ripping and beautiful dance. But get wrapped up in the hope. Notice the process from November to March. The nuance of mid-range jumper, the progress of a sophomore, the stones of a senior. They’re moments, brief and shining, but when you look hard enough, there can be so many of them.
  12. By the way, full credit to UCLA -
2011 NBA Draft

Recruitment to Draft Efficiencies: A Study Studied

With the NBA draft on Thursday, and a smattering of Pac alumni (well sort of alumni, they’re seemingly all early entries presumably taking ongoing coursework to ensure no APR hits), I thought it’d be worth posting a wordy piece I’d researched and wrote a year ago.

Per data collected by the Emory Sports Marketing group, amongst Pac-12 schools, Washington and USC were the most efficient at fulfilling living room promises of NBA paydays. Hoop dreams, as it were, are best suited for downtown Los Angeles and Seattle. Who knew?

Seattle

I mean, look at it…

I certainly didn’t, though I’ve long been aware of the conference’s ability to produce NBA talent. Since 1980, the Pac-12 has produced the second most draftees amongst the Big 6 conferences (Big-12 is not listed on that link as they really only began their existence in 1996-97. Since their inception, however, they’ve produced just 4.6 draft picks per season as compared to 6.4 or greater in each of the other five. Thus, it’s safe to assume they wouldn’t have flirted with second place. Just not enough Jayhawks and Longhorns.

From such bulk data we can make broad, surface conclusions that the Pac-12 has indeed produced talent. That’s clearly a lot of NBA players and tells us something about the quality of players the conference recruits, develops, and gets placed into NBA jobs. I suppose that’s what college is all about – job placement – right?

Of course the number itself doesn’t really say much. Wouldn’t it make sense for the late-Big East with its umpteen constituents to have produced the most NBA players by the simple fact that they have more players? That would seem to make the most sense but it’s not the case as they’ve produced the fifth most draftees (a reason I think the BE was overrated on the whole as a basketball conference but that’s a totally different conversation).

And so we’re presented with Emory’s study; a snapshot into how well a school (we begin to diverge from specific conferences) operates as a job placement service. They used the Rivals recruiting rankings beginning with the 2002 class and attributed weights to a given star rating observe efficiencies. The algorithm:

(# of NBA Picks) /(Weighted Recruiting Talent**)

**Weighted Recruiting Talent = Sum of draft probability
5-star = 0.51, 4-star = 0.13, 3-star=0.03, 2-star=0.008, unranked=0.004

Plug and chug to find that Washington and USC have done the best job (aka most efficient job) at transforming high school talent into NBA draft picks. While Arizona and UCLA have produced 40% of the conference’s draft picks since 1980, they evidently haven’t been as efficient at it (at least since 2002).

There are, of course, some innate issues to this study which they directly address. They essentially make no bones about the fact that the summarized data limits our ability to “draw deeper thoughts.” From a data standpoint we’re dealing with just a very small sample size. Having examined recruiting classes since 2002, we’re really only exposed to 7 classes that have completed their four years and become draft eligible; or at least had their hand forced into eligibility after receiving the maximum four years of instruction and coaching. The 2010 class and beyond could still be selected in June of ‘14 (though good luck cracking that draft class) and have an effect on these efficiencies.

Additionally, one could argue that Arizona and UCLA – two schools with renowned recruiting prowess – are at a statistical disadvantage considering their success at recruiting higher rated recruits. What’s more, their historical success can often skew recruiting rankings. A fringe three-star with a UCLA offer can suddenly find himself a four-star recruit with three-star talent and thus a lower probability (0.03 Weighted Recruiting Talent) of ever being drafted. While it is the responsibility of those respective coaching staffs to improve players, it is not their role to assign recruiting rankings. They’re just supposed to win with the players who signed “yes.” Nevertheless, it was Washington and USC who turned out the most efficient.

How?

Statistically speaking, I’ll struggle to find the answer. As the Emor-ites stated, this is summarized data that won’t quite allow us to dive deeper. Recruiting rankings are no exact science, but they also don’t often lead us wildly astray. No doubt the success of three-stars Derrick Williams and Russell Westbrook hold significant weight in this efficiency rating; but so too might the disappointing careers (otherwise read: undrafted) of former five-stars Mustafa Shakur, JP Prince, Jawann McClellan, and Josiah Turner. And it’s also worth noting the number of efficiency draining four-stars from the conference’s power schools who have gone undrafted: UCLA has seen nine four-star prospects go undrafted since 2002 while Arizona has four such draftless wonders (and five undrafted five-stars).

SilverDraft

His predecessor called a lot of Wildcats

As the “bluebloods” have managed to allure more highly rated talent (or seen the inflation of their recruits’ star rating) they’ve also managed to have 21 kids drafted since 2002 (18 per the study which does not include the 2013 draft). And I recognize that Washington has had more draft picks over this time period than Arizona but within the overall context of NBA products, Arizona’s had the most draft picks (OK tied for the most) of any college program since 1988. Finding that the Wildcats are the 11th most effective at getting kids drafted is surprising. For a brief comparison, within the scope of Emory’s project, Arizona has recruited the second most four- and five-star players (23). UCLA took the top spot (26) while the Huskies were third (20).

Equipped with that, two things become evident:

  1. It makes sense that the schools bringing in the most highly rated prospects have produced the most NBA picks
  2. Arizona must suck at developing talent and/or evaluating it (along with Rivals).

The first point here is sort of a numbers game, similar to the aforementioned Big East thought. Each of UCLA, Washington, and Arizona indeed had the most players drafted since 2002. USC, our second most efficient school, had the fourth most draftees. Bring in better players and they’re likely to get drafted. Sweet.

The second point, however, allows us to see more clearly how Arizona rated at the tail end of this study. They gathered up a ton of talent but it didn’t seem to go anywhere (except perhaps Europe). In fact, from 2002-2013, Arizona failed to make even one Final Four. A feat they’d accomplished four times in the 14 years prior. UCLA attended three. Worth noting, in Arizona’s defense, is the fact that over a critical four-year span (2006-2010) overlapping this study’s data range, Arizona had four different head coaches. They subsequently had little continuity to player development and recruiting.

Nevertheless, Arizona didn’t get many of its kids into the league.

So what did the Husky and Trojan staffs recognize that perhaps others didn’t? How’d they effectively place their players in NBA jobs? These aren’t the first two schools that come to mind when thinking about the Pac-12 and the NBA but that’s how it shook out. Something has made them unique within the context of this evaluation. What?

Recruiting is a natural starting point to understand their success. And seeing as how Washington “won” I began in Seattle.

In the first 30 years of the McDonald’s All-American game, only three Seattle prep stars were burger all-stars. Since 2004, however, there have been nine such heralded players. The area, despite losing their Sonics, has produced oodles of basketball talent. In examining the number of NBA players from Seattle (and we’ll use the greater Seattle area here) there are 28 such players. We again find ourselves staring at summarized data but for the sake of context, those 28 NBA players are more than the total number of NBA players produced by the States of Arizona and Colorado…combined.

Indeed the Emerald City has produced and that would seem convenient for the local college, wouldn’t it? As mentioned, there have been nine McDonald’s All-Americans from the Seattle area since 2004. Four of them stayed to play at HecEd. And if you bothered to read the previously linked Sports Illustrated article (linked again for your convenience) you’d have learned that there is a supportive culture surrounding prep basketball in Seattle. Those who make it return to help those trying to make it. Such nurturing could get a kid to stick around.

And so they have.

Of the nine players drafted out of Washington since 2002, six of them were from Seattle. Additionally, one of the picks was from Portland a convenient two-ish hours away and a city devoid a college team. So if you’re counting, 77% of the players drafted out of the University of Washington have been local kids. You think that proximity has something to do with talent evaluation? Or how about relationship building, trust, familiarity, comfort, ease-of-transition, and everything else that pertains to the success of a young man?

As for USC, half of the group drafted out of the Galen Center (and the Sports Arena until 2006) were LA locals. To drop more summarized data on you, there are 92 NBA players from Los Angeles; which doesn’t include the greater LA areas of Long Beach (13), Inglewood (9), Compton (8), or Hollywood (5).

CaliforniaLove

California Love.

And perhaps adding fodder to this localization fire would be USC’s coaching turnover during the 2002-13 time period. There have been three different men in charge; which doesn’t include the two interims who led for brief spells during the 2004-05 and 2012-13 seasons. They’ve also endured NCAA sanctions. Little surrounding the Trojan program would suggest developmental success. Remember when we blamed some of Arizona’s efficiency struggles on their coaching gaffes? USC suffered/incurred similar yet still managed to efficiently get kids selected. Local ones at that.

Which of course begs intrigue into Westwood. The other school in Los Angeles of basketball note – UCLA – finished fifth in the efficiency rankings. They too had access to LA’s finest and managed to get eleven of them snatched up by NBA teams. During the greatest stretch of UCLA basketball since the Wooden era (Howland’s three straight Final Fours) he was rolling out rosters packed with Angelinos: Afflalo, Shipp, Collison, Farmar, Roll, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Bozeman, Hollins. These were kids who grew up on UCLA. And then nine of them went League. The Bruins had nine locals drafted amongst their eleven draftees, 82%. A number that parallels that of Washington’s local draft rate (77%).

(Fun fact break: UW and UCLA have also combined to win six conference titles since 2002)

Returning to the draft, over the same stretch, Cal developed four recruits into NBA-level talents; three of whom were from the Bay Area. Cal was the third most efficient per Emory. Need more? Here is a list of Arizona natives who became Wildcats since 1984: Sean Elliot, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Jerryd Bayless. All lottery picks. As it were, All-American, Nick Johnson, will likely be the first Arizona raised Arizona Wildcat to not be a lottery pick. Nevertheless, Johnson received a call from Sean Miller in April of 2009 expressing his interest in his talents. It was Sean Miller’s first day on the Arizona job.

This is not to say that collecting local talent is a one-way pass to collegiate success and subsequent NBA paychecks. Certainly not as recruiting becomes increasingly national and international. Both Oregon State and Washington State have found success recruiting in Australia (Gary Bennett and Saint Mary’s, too). Of course both WSU and OSU just fired their coaches in the past two months so there’s that. Though also worth noting is that Ben Howland’s burning of LA recruiting bridges ultimately cost him his LA job.

The ultimate takeaway from this study might boil down to the basic Real Estate tenant of location, location, location. After all, home is where the heart is. And if your heart is set on the NBA, it would seem your best (most efficient) means of getting there would be staying right in your own backyard.

Paper_Letter

Don’t Ignore This Letter (The one from the Pac-12 Presidents)

Don’t ignore this letter. I did for a little while, but only because I went to a Mexican all-inclusive (recommended) to celebrate my brother’s graduation from medical school. But I implore you, do not ignore this letter.

The Pac-12 Presidents’ May 22 note to the rest of everyone is written in equal parts legalese, charm, altruism, and self-righteousness. They laud themselves as bold acting and seeking the autonomy not yet afforded them by the NCAA. And now their deadline is approaching (Hi, June) and this letter should not be ignored.

Because maybe these “pioneers of the west” are onto something? The NCAA has demonstrated a general inability to govern its institutions with any semblance of consistency or rationale. It is neither feared nor loved as Machiavelli would suggest leaving themselves susceptible to a coups, loosely what the Pac-12 Presidents have suggested (also, if you think Larry Scott isn’t all over this letter, you’re nuts).

Consider the Pac-12’s chest puffed. Bravado. They want a response from their “peer conferences” (presumably the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, and SEC) by June 4th before everyone meets on June 16th.

And before diving into the outlined objectives of this letter/initiative/revolution/coups, I’d like to note that the group rather swiftly denounces the resolution of athletes unionizing. Immediately prior to mentioning that this is “not the answer” the presidents refer to themselves and their peer leaders as CEOs. I find this language contradictory on many levels in such that unionization implies student-athletes are employees which the schools do not want. Meanwhile, proclaiming oneself a “CEO” suggests you hold chief office over employees. While there is not a concrete parallel between CEO and employment, the vernacular suggests as much. It is the only time CEO is referenced in the entire letter.

But this is less a matter of employment than a recognition that student-athletes (referenced 8x in the letter) deserve more. If they’ll go so far as to threaten unionization – autonomy! – there must be a gap between their needs and what they’re getting. The Pac-12 is recognizing this in a “bold” manner and trying to stay a step ahead. If they can deliver better benefits to their “non-employees,” they’ll pipe down and play the games, or rather get their educations or healthcare benefits. Is this the most fair means to a justified end? I dunno. But the important part is that the dialogue is happening. From Northwestern’s football team to the Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit, the conversation is being had – for better and worse – which will result in change. Change is can be good.

On to the meat of this. The prezzies have outlined for us ten principle objectives for reform. Here they are with recognition of whether each principle is good or bad, what it is, and why it’d even be included (the third of which is also where I’ll take my blogging liberties). Also worth noting, certainly as we examine what each principle is, none of this has been spelled out for execution. As principles I think that can be excused but also highlights the complexities of institutional change. The good stuff:

  1. Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.
    • Good /Bad Principle: Good
    • What is it? From snacks to meals to housing and other comforts not currently afforded within an athletic scholarship, the University would have athletes’ backs.
    • What’s the point? Money talks and the NCAA and everything it’s associated with aren’t above this axiom. With the schools promising to spend more on their athletes, they will be demonstrating their commitments and taking care of their “student-athletes.” Further, by taking care of the entire cost of attendance, institutions can sidestep the conversation of paying student-athletes by noting that they’re already going above and beyond covering tuition.
  2. Provide reasonable on-going medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition  or practice.  Continue efforts to reduce the incidence  of disabling injury.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Get hurt at school, school’s got your broken back. They’ve also noted the CYA clause that they’ll reduce the incidence of disabling injury. Football is on high alert at all levels.
    • What’s the point? This seems to be a pretty obvious point and a friend of mine is producing a documentary noting that schools most certainly do not cover these athletes beyond their time on campus. Similar to principle #1, the Prezzies are recognizing where they could perhaps improve care of their non-employees. Presumably, as a union and/or employees, student-athletes would be eligible for benefits they are entitled to. If on-going care becomes a part of scholarships, the schools control the care and the amount of it. Not the union or the government.
  3. Guarantee scholarships for enough time to complete a bachelor’s degree, provided that the student remains in good academic standing.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Fulfilling a promise. These are student-athletes but just because the latter half falls off, doesn’t mean the school is off the hook for the former.
    • What’s the point? This is something like the Friday Night Lights principle. If you’ve ever read the book or are familiar with the story, these kids are adored and taken care of right up until they’re no longer playing. Remember Boobie Miles? Knee gone, love gone. Alas, this is not specifically referencing injury. Sometimes degrees take longer than athletic eligibility to complete. Allowing kids to complete their degree on the school’s dime is a good thing. Chalk this one up as a win for the engineers.
  4. Decrease the time demands placed on the student-athlete in-season, and correspondingly enlarge the time available for studies and full engagement in campus life, by doing the following: 1) Prevent the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week. 2) More realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season, including travel time.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Whatever.
    • What is it? The RichRod rule. He got wrist slapped for such abuses at Michigan and in discussing this letter I was passed this glorious rant.
    • What’s the point? It’s weak but I get it. There’s such aggrandized speech surrounding “college life” and “student-athlete” that if principles like this weren’t included we could scream bloody hypocrisy. But perhaps we can anyways. Larry Scott and the presidents’ ability to uphold this one will be fascinating. For example, Pac-12 basketball used to be pretty strictly Thursdays and Saturdays. It was simple, predictable, and allowed for the least amount of time away from campus. Now, with the addition of the Pac-12 Networks, most road trips include a Wednesday or Sunday game. Extended travel, time away from campus. Additionally, there were a handful of weekends that included a Wednesday and a Sunday game. Couple that with a dramatic increase in Thursday night football games and one has to consider why the second of the two sub-principles is suggested. It’s the right thing to do on paper, but would these guys really push for something that didn’t directly benefit them? Spreading the schedule thin benefits the networks. Tightening it up benefits the students (supposedly).
  5. Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Meh
    • What is it? I’m not terribly familiar with gratuitous amounts of out-of-season competition or where it occurs. I played in summer ball leagues in college but they weren’t school sponsored. Similarly there are Pro-Am leagues all over the country that give college kids opportunities to compete over the summer. Again, I’m not familiar with much beyond that (enlighten me?). That said, shortening season and minimizing competition correlates directly with principle #2 in which we’re trying to reduce injuries.
    • What’s the point? File this principle under “Consistency.” If we’re not going to let players get injured they sure as hell aren’t going to get injured while it’s not broadcast or not counting towards awards.
  6. Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for post-season play.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Ask Kevin Ollie?
    • What is it? Schools will have to graduate a higher percentage of their athletes in order to be allowed to play for titles.
    • What’s the point? Teaching to the test. Therein lies the flaw to No Child Left Behind (amongst others) and the APR. The point of upping the standards would obviously be to ensure that more students graduate to ensure more athletes can win! But such a standard directs coaches and players to simply fulfill a score. They can begin to “teach to the test” and the crux of an education is lost: To learn. Simply upping the standards just puts more student-athletes in situations to graduate for the sake of it. Like NCLB, the APR’s heart is in the right place, I’m just not sure it’s the most effective means to upholding the S-A mantra.
  7. Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.
    • Good/Bad Principle: WHAT???
    • What is it? A threat.
    • What’s the point? College coaches and administrators are powerful people and the NBA laughs at that power. The one-and-done rule was a hot topic during the 2012 lockout in college hoops circles. But it’s so un-tied to revenue that the Players Association and owners just tossed it aside. Ignored it. And that stings for these powerful coaches and administrators. It’s screwing with their altruism (student-athlete) and their brand. College basketball is becoming a minor league. The purity of the sport is diluted. A loss of innocence. New GS Warriors head coach, 5-time NBA champion, and Tucson demigod, Steve Kerr, thinks the age limit should be increased, too (that’s one insightful read, btw). But there’s a big gap between the wants and the haves. As it was brushed aside previously, Article X doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So the Presidents here are taking a little brother move and saying, “If we can’t play, then no one can!!” Threatening to keep freshmen from playing (a move institutions would no doubt frame as in the best interest of student-athletes) means NBA scouts and teams can’t evaluate their next generation of talent and forces them into making less educated decisions with their money. While this all boils down to $, NBA teams would likely not be willing to take gambles on assets their unfamiliar with. Schools would be taking a major risk in executing this plan – there are other options like Europe, Junior Colleges, lawsuits, etc. – but the mere threat could be enough to move the NBA needle.
  8. Provide student-athletes a meaningful role in governance at the conference and
    NCAA levels.

    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? An invite to the party…
    • What’s the point? And a seat at the kids’ table.
  9. Adjust existing restrictions so that student-athletes preparing for the next stage in their careers are not unnecessarily deprived of the advice and counsel of agents and other competent professionals, but without professionalizing intercollegiate athletics.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Great.
    • What is it? While most everyone is going pro in something other than sports, those going on to play pro sports would have improved access to the people evaluating them as possible employees at that level.
    • What’s the point? As it is today, the (pointless) mid-April NCAA draft declaration rule comes well before the early May draft camps. Not even the NBA’s deadline to declare (late April) allows athletes to participate. Pro Days would seem to be a good idea. Surrounding this principle you hear a lot of discussion about Agents. Certainly they have a beat on draft statuses and interest. They could provide some sound advice, too. The overarching fear here (as evidence by the principles’ final sentence) is “professionalization;” otherwise read, “money exchanging hands.” Ironically enough, this one’s all about making and educated decision.
  10. Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Player’s have to sit out a year if they transfer, receive a release from their school (we see you, Leticia), can be limited in the schools the transfer to, etc. They wanna make it easier to move.
    • What’s the point? Transfers, certainly of late, are being considered an epidemic. Transfer rates are soaring and this is a bad thing (supposedly). I’m not sold, one way or the other, but believe that if someone wants to leave, they should be allowed to leave. We can preach all we want about commitment and follow-through. Words coaches use as a lifetime defending something. Transfers use them as a punchline (reference). But everyone else is doing it. Administrators and coaches jump ship for greener pastures, so why can’t the players? Hell, this whole thing is boiling down to what everyone else is doing so why not give the players a little bit of what everyone else is getting? Just so long as it’s not money.

Don’t ignore this letter. The B1G hasn’t and, as June 4th approaches, I imagine others won’t as well. I don’t think these principles are the answer to college sports’ inequalities, inadequacies, or inefficiencies, but it is a start. A conversation starter.

Let’s talk.

powell-dwight-randle-stanford

A Sweet Preview and Some PacHoops Art

I’ve been to Honda Center a handful of times. Most notably when it was called The Pond and we were all Might Ducks fans. Classic. For now, however, I want to discuss what I expect the gym to look like on Thursday when I’m there. It will be full of Badgers, Aztecs, Wildcats, and then the Baylor Bears. Here is my rendition of what the inside of Honda Center will resemble:

HondaCenter

Inside the Honda Center

Tell me I’m wrong?

 

Arizona v Colorado#1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State

Storyline: I love what Arizona has a chance to do here (shocker, right?). Should they advance to do what KenPom says they have the second best odds to do, Arizona would have beaten both SDSU and Gonzaga in doing such. Fitting. Last year the Zags were the first Western-based one-seed since UCLA in 2008. They were bounced like Shockers (round of 32). As for the Aztecs – between 2009 and a December 2012 loss to Arizona – SDSU won seven straight games against Pac-12 schools. They haven’t lost to a California based school in something like two Steve Fisher lifetimes (42+ games to be more exact). The Pac-12 was simultaneously doing things like not sending their conference champion to the NCAA tournament and so SDSU and Gonzaga were staking legit claim to the crown of West Coast hoops. But then Arizona beat SDSU in Hawaii (as far West as it gets) and again this past November. Arizona is reestablishing itself as the coast’s elite, San Diego State is trying to win the MWC’s first Sweet 16 game since 1991 (of current MWC members). I like the Wildcats’ pursuit of big things.

Style to keep an eye on: Look, let’s make no bones about it: San Diego State struggles to score. As in their offense ranks just a spot ahead of Northern Colorado and below Northwestern State. #GillingIt. They shoot the 304th ‘best’ FG% on their 2pt jump shots. This does not bode well for them. Arizona’s #1 rated defense is going to force them to take a lot of these shots. Their defense – as we’ve discussed – is predicated on forcing this shot and they do it better than anyone else in the country. So if you want me to run the math for us, I will: Arizona is going to force SDSU to take a ton of shots they don’t make. That’s a rock and a hard place framing that Aztec. And they really do themselves any favors. SDSU is already offensively inefficient and they assist on the third lowest percentage of FGs in the country. For a bro school, they’re really not being bros. Share the rock.

Match up to keep an eye on: Sean Miller doesn’t think there’s a “better guard in the country.” Never mind that his own off-guard is an All-American, Miller effused about Xavier Thames. And rightfully so. He’s putting up 27 per tournament game and draws fouls at a nearly 60% rate. Trouble with a capital DEPTH ISSUES FOR ARIZONA. But this is our match up section. That All-American we mentioned? He happens to be really good at guarding big guards no matter their skill set. Ask Jordan Adams, Roberto Nelson, Chasson Randle, Justin Cobbs, or Xavier Thames. Last time around, Thames got his points (note that aforementioned foul line) but he had to work for it; shooting 5-16 and just 3-12 from inside the arc. As noted, Thames is hot and the Aztecs have needed about every one of his buckets. The game hinges on his play.

Norman Powell, Xavier Talton#4 UCLA vs. #1 Florida

Storyline: The Gators have eliminated UCLA in three of their last six NCAA tournaments. That’s interesting by itself but now let’s note that one of those eliminations came in the national title game and another came in the national semifinal (Final Four if you need an assist). Florida won back-to-back titles and UCLA watched Ben Howland lose his team, program, and eventually his job. We could play the Sliding Doors game and note the ‘what ifs’ but that’s just mean (Like I don’t dwindle on Tim Floyd or Kevin O’Neill thoughts as an Arizona fan). This one means something to the UCLA community no matter who struts that sideline.

Style to keep an eye on: All of it. UCLA wants to get shots up, owners of the 15th shortest possessions in the country. Conversely (a key word as we walk through this match up) Florida forces teams to take the 2nd longest possessions in the country. The Bruins do one helluva job stealing the ball and turning that into transition offense. I writed all abouts it. They’ve got the 4th highest steal rate in the country feeding the 39th highest percentage of transition offense. The converse? Florida’s offense has a very mediocre steal rate (ranks 188th) but have the 13th best transition defense. Are you with me here? These two have very opposing styles which makes for one terrific match up. It projects to be a lot like the Pac-12 championship game which was phenomenal. Hooray the March sport!

Match up to keep an eye on: I’m going to list a few because I’m interested in this. First, Kyle Anderson and Will Yeguete. Few people can stop let alone slow, Slo-Mo. He’s too big for traditional guards, too crafty for bigs, and too good for the rest of the floor. Will Yeguete, however, may have the guile (read: size and athleticism) to contain the point-forward-center-wing. Yeguete is Florida’s 6’8″ garbage man. A crazy thought if you consider just how much dirty work a guy has to do in order to be considered the guy that does the dirty work on a Billy Donovan team. He just might be dirty enough to stop Anderson. Conversely (I’m using it again), there’s nothing dirty about Michael Frazier’s jumper. It’s a thing of beauty. He connects on 44% of his threes and Shot Analytics went ahead and reminded us just how good he is (spoiler: quite good). And UCLA’s defense poses the match up here. They allow the fourth highest percentage of shots to come from distance. Me thinks Michael is going to get some looks. Also, I’ve got to mention the transition D (Florida) vs. transition O (UCLA), again. SUCH A GREAT MATCH UP THAT I’M NOT GOING TO GET TO WATCH WITH THE SAME TIP TIME AS AZ-SDSU. Uggggh.

Stanford v Connecticut#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton

Storyline: Three weeks ago Stanford was dead to rights. They had just lost at home to Colorado on a weekend that probably couldn’t see them lose at home to Colorado. And then, on the season’s final Saturday, I was looking up at the television to see Utah with the ball down a point, with a shade less than a shot clock of time remaining, and presumably a play drawn up to sink Stanford’s dancin’ chances. Evidently the Utes didn’t have a play as they dribbled everywhere and eventually off themselves and Stanford won. And they’ve subsequently beaten Kansas, too. Yup, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford Cardinal. The Card have now claimed two of their four biggest wins since joining the biggest stage. So what’s beating KenPom’s #44 team, Dayton (rated below ASU and Utah)? Let’s just say the Stanford Cardinal – dead to rights, playing for their coach’s job – have a very legitimate shot to be playing for a Final Four against a team (UCLA) they’ve already beaten. Think about that. And why the hell not? Stanford beat Kansas – Kansas – without making a single three pointer! The Jayhawks hadn’t limited an opponent to zero 3-pointers since 11/26/2010 when Ohio went 0-18 and Kansas won 98-41. Reread that score. A week later the Jayhawks did the same thing to North Texas as they went 0-12 and Kansas won 93-60. Stanford went 0-9 from deep and beat Kansas.

Style to keep an eye on: Don’t expect Stanford to win going oh-fer from distance this time. Not necessarily because of Dayton – they actually defend the three quite well – but because of the law of averages. Alas, this game won’t soon hinge on the three pointer. This is a game Stanford should win. They’re the bigger, stronger, faster kids who just beat – arguably – the biggest, strongest, fastest team. They’re playing as good of defense as they have all season (0.85 ppp in the tournament) and it really doesn’t matter what they’re doing offensively if they can do that. Similarly, Dayton has been playing sound defense, allowing teams under 0.9 ppp in the tournament. Granted, they’ve upset Syracuse and Ohio State who are (were?) more defensively than offensively oriented, but that shouldn’t take away from their defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Flyers haven’t particularly scored it well. They are well below their average offensive efficiency in the dance. This could come down to a battle of who can out ugly the other, garnering a few easy baskets off turnovers or offensive rebounds (looking at you Josh and Dwight, though the O-boards aren’t Stanford’s game). I’ve been saying it for awhile, that I’m no longer concerned with pageantry, but if you need to see something that looks good, avert your eyes from this game.

Match up to keep an eye on: The best match up here is Stanford staring down the barrel of Father Time. I’ve spoken about it all over the place – how this is Johnny Dawkins’ group of seniors that stayed. I could note Devin Oliver, Dayton’s stretch-ish four. A 6’7″ 39% 3FG% who is still taking 36% of shots at the rim and leading the team in rebounding…and assists. A similar player to Dwight Powell in that versatility. But at this point, it’s all about Stanford. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. They are on their last legs. A team on some semblance of a mission to play one more game together. And then another. And another. Until there just aren’t any more games to play.

Hooray the March sport, indeed.

mascot_finals

Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: The Finals

If I had a dollar for every time this week that I heard “I pick my bracket based on how the mascots would fight each other” then I would’ve hosted my own $8 bracket challenge. I CREATED THAT PREMISE FOR YOU RIGHT HERE! Granted, I would probably be beating them in any bracket challenge as it were. I’m winning.

And so too are Ralphie and Butch.

Which is a fascinating championship. Here we have what seemingly amounts to the quintessential anthropomorph – an adorable and hugable Cougar who gloriously plays up that lovable side to the extent that he has ‘hey girl‘ photos and a grossly formal Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, Ralphie is celebrated for her definitive realism, a literal charging buffalo onto the field of battle. For all of Butch’s sweetness, Ralphie matches it in raw American.

Here we are at the championship, two contrasting styles who’ve arrived through voluminous support, charm, and probably some Francis Underwood. Ralphie (not Chip) has received 1074 votes. Butch has received 1084. This is the championship we need and deserve.

The ‘Ship:

RalphieButch

#5 Ralphie (not chip) vs. #11 Butch

Round 1 (255 votes):
Chip from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff: I guess, ostensibly, I’m supposed to be talking about Chip, our Mickey Mouse with horns made available for the kiddies.  However, if you’re going to talk University of Colorado athletics, there is only one mascot that matters – the ton of rampaging bison known as Ralphie.  Often a source of confusion, let me confirm that Ralphie is, in fact, a female.  It’s an important distinction, because, if we were to let a male bison loose, death would ensue; after all, a buffalo is an unstoppable goring machine when pissed off.  With the lady involved, we’re only talking serious bodily harm, if you’re lucky.  So, come at me with your anthropomorphic plush toys.  I got a frickin’ buffalo, and you don’t.
Round 2 (199 votes):
Ralphie (not Chip) from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff
Well, I guess Ralphie thundered past poor old Traveler.  My condolences to the family of the deceased, but the glue factory’s quota must be met!  Now onto Oskie, which, as far as I can tell, is some kind of pervert bear.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between the noble symbol of the American West and furry bait for Chris Hansen, I’m taking the buffalo.  Free choice, and all, but I think we all know the right choice here.
Semifinals (620 votes)
Ralphie 
from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.
Round 1 (119 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: He looked more badass before his costume change (made in the name of safety) but Butch T. Cougar is still all that embodies WSU. The dude rides an ATV at full blast onto the field before a football game for cripes sake. He has been known to photo bomb even the most carefully planned sorority pose picture and he isn’t shy about acting his age…which we don’t know but we assume he’s in his rambunctious teenage years. More important than any of that is how much he’s beloved by every single WSU fan from ages 3 to 103. He’s one of the best known mascot in the country for a reason: everyone, even visiting fans, want a picture with the gregarious fella with the long tail. Do you see any other Pac-12 mascot pop up on your Facebook feed as often as him? I didn’t think so.
Round 2 (445 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: Butch T. Cougar has advanced to the second round past some shrubbery which is somehow the mascot for a school who takes their nickname from a color. He faces off now against a solar being from the underworld of some kind and all I know about those creatures is that they go to the South looking for spirits to extract from country singers. Butch embodies everything about a mascot you should love. He’s beloved my children and their grandparents who all want a picture with what is arguably the most recognizable mascot west of the Mississippi. He combines the perfect about of ferocity and loveable-ness. He shows up in more pictures with alumni than any other mascot in the conference and there’s a reason for it: WSU is extremely proud of their mascot. Bonus info: the T. in Butch T. Cougar stands for…anyone, anyone?…”The”. So…there’s that too!
Semifinals (520 votes)
Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#5 Ralphie (not Chip) vs. #11 Butch T. Cougar

  • #11 Butch T. Cougar (57%, 1,718 Votes)
  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (43%, 1,300 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,018

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Kansas Stanford

Three Pac-12 Teams Are So Sweet

Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?

General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.

mcdermott1This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.

And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.

This:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:

“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”

#4 UCLA Bruins

I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.ASU-bench-reaction-to-loss-to-Texas-720x375

Jermaine Marshall

Pac-12 Team-by-Team: One Final 2d Round Preview

Games tip shortly and what do we need? More data and charts! I took one more run through each of the Pac-12 teams and highlighted a statistic or philosophy central to their success – or otherwise – and how their forthcoming opponent(s) might behoove or limit that skill.

The Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

When Arizona found its Christ Air 720, they put themselves back into the national title conversation. They only stepped out for a second, but jumped back in the ring with outings at Colorado (1.33ppp) and against California (1.28) and Stanford (1.18). Transition offense. Since that game in Boulder, the Wildcats have been getting 23.6% of their offense by Christ Air. Their season average of 21.1% ranks them 151st nationally. That upgraded version – 23.6% – would rank them 92nd. So who in the West Regional is liable to let these Cats run? Let’s look:

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 8.19.11 PM

As we see here, Wisconsin might be the most susceptible to the Christ Air attack. But that may be a little too far ahead of ourselves. Anaheim isn’t far from San Diego, but it’s pretty far from San Diego if we’re step-in-step right now. Weber State does a good job of limiting this, actually third best in the region, and as they are Arizona’ first opponent, they’re worth noting. Interestingly enough, Arizona’s first weekend opponents all do a pretty fair job of limiting transition work. They each do this by also not crashing the offensive glass. Each of these opponents ranks greater than 200th in OR%. In short, these guys shoot and get back on defense – a similar strategy to Cal (207th in OR%, 53rd in transition D). The benefit to Arizona is they already rebound the ball well defensively and they don’t necessarily need Christ Air to win. But it sure helps.

#4 UCLA Bruins

The mid-range game seems to be a lost art. Not in Westwood, it isn’t. Awhile back we examined how Kyle Anderson affects the game. In that study we didn’t report on it – focusing on the rim – but Anderson takes the most shots in the 2-pt jumper range amongst all of the players studied (5.9/game). He was the fourth most effective at creating offense in that range as nearly 55% of his 2-pt jumper possessions result in a score. As the PG of this team, Anderson sets a mid-range tone for this team. Wanna see?

ShotAnalytics

Thanks to the genius of Dylan Burrkhardt’s brand new site, Shot Analytics, we can see just how dominant Anderson is in the mid-range. What does it mean for Bruin opponents? We’ll keep it brief and look just at their possible weekend foes:

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 8.44.41 PM

 

In looking at this, I have two quick reactions: 1) Good luck, Tulsa, and 2) Gimme that VCU-UCLA matchup for all of the reasons and then some.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Here is my Mid-Major with a budget. The team that lives by the three and dies by it, running into the NCAAs on an 8-1 streak and connecting on greater than 47% of their threes in those wins. And it didn’t matter who they were playing! Arizona allows the 308th most offense from 3-point territory. Ducks didn’t care and made 10 threes, just the seventh team to make reach double digit threes in five years against Arizona. They shoot to win. But once again, let’s ask: Who’s going to let ‘em?

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 9.01.06 PM

If you hadn’t been paying attention, please note that there will be a lot of points scored in this Oregon-BYU game. The Ducks take 33.1% of their offense for deep and make the 19th highest percentage of them (39.1%). Live and die and it appears the Cougars are going to be willing to give the Ducks their chance. In beating BYU earlier this year, Oregon was 10-32 from deep. Because of BYU’s pace, Oregon will have plenty of chances to make every varietal of basket. But let’s jump ahead to Wisconsin. Bo Ryan predicates his defense on not letting teams shoot three pointers. That 25.3% 3FG/FGA rate ranks sixth in the nation. The Badgers’ haven’t allowed 30% of offense to come from deep in five years. But here’s the thing, Oregon doesn’t care. They didn’t when Arizona came to town and they won’t should they earn the opportunity to play the Badgers. Live and die.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

This is the worst matchup in the second round. I calculated it by seeding standards and Jason sort of calculated it by scouting standards. I note that he only ‘sort of’ did because he didn’t break things down for all 36 opening games. It doesn’t necessarily look good for Colorado. But let me give you the silver lining. Pittsburgh takes the 272nd longest possessions in D-1 basketball. Subseqently they play the 293rd fewest possessions per game. This game projects to have just 63 possessions per KenPom. But did you know, the Buffs are 5-2 in games played to the tune of 63 possessions or less. Such a pace of game suggests an opportunity for Colorado to keep the game close, an opportunity for a last shot. Of Pitt’s 34 games, 15 were decided by 6-or fewer points (thanks, Jason). Keep it close – as Tad’s methodology tends to dictate – and the Buffs could have a chance to advance. Where they’ll likely meet Florida who is even slower than Pitt! But even better on offense and defense. And they’ll all be in Orlando. And they are the odds on favorite to win everything. G’luck.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

He might not always play well, but when he does, he’s the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year. Big Jordan Bachynski man’s the paint for ASU and is their primary rebounding option. As a team they’re generally pretty poor, ranking 339th in OR% and just 116th in DR%. Texas, meanwhile, is the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the nation. Let’s examine how ASU faired against the Pac-12’s top 3 offensive rebounding teams:

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 9.54.08 PM

Red indicates games in which the Devils held the opposition below their in-conference OR%; yellow indicates games in which Bachynski was held below his normal DR%. Turns out, rebounding is a team effort. It would also seem that when the Sun Devils come together to collectively rebound, they’re pretty successful; 2-1 to be exact with the outlying loss – in Tucson – coinciding with the fourth worst defensive effort by the Devils (1.2 ppp). Now a six game sample set doesn’t indicate much, but if I’m going to take anything away from this, it’s that the Devils seem to bode better by limiting offensive boards, and Jordan Bachynski is just a cog in that machine. Also note that he’s not generally in the best position to rebound as he’s often in position to block shots. Those swats are recovered by his teammates or himself – all Devils however you slice it – 43.2% of the block. If they can manage to keep the Longhorns to fewer second attempts, then the Devils have a better chance at keeping Texas below 1ppp – a feat the Devils managed in each of their four wins against tournament teams.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

In that same post where Dylan notes Kyle Anderson and UCLA’s mid-range mastery, he also notes Stanford’s mid-range misery. Hoop-math, where I would’ve found this information, suggests that the Cardinal aren’t half bad; taking 38.8% of their shots there and making 40.4% of them. My guess is that this FG% is inflated with closer-to-the-rim-than-expected data drawn from play-by-play game logs (Shot Analytics reported 24% FGA and 35% FG%). That’s fine. What Dylan presents is derived from Synergy Sports which is taken from reviewed game film. Papa like and papa trust. Alas, what this overwhelmingly demonstrates to me is the individualized style of ball Stanford plays. The Cardinal rank 290th in percentage of made shots that are assisted; 281st on 2pt jumpers. Meaning these are shots the Cardinal are creating. Comparatively, UCLA’s mid-range game is fed by execution. Nearly 50% of their 2-pt jumpers are assisted (22nd best). So how does this translate into the weekend? New Mexico allows the 10th lowest FG% from 2-pt range in the nation (29.9%). That’s data derived from hoop-math which we assume already has an inflated 2-pt FG%. Now consider that teams are shooting below 30% from Stanford’s favorite spot against New Mexico and further consider that our story assumes that’s an inflated number. Stanford might have to find another way to score.

mascot_semis

The Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Semis On!

With four remaining we find ourselves a few firsts. Wilbur and Ralphie feature the first rematch – in some regards – that we’ve ever seen in a death match. Which is actually completely contradictory because intrinsic to a ‘death’ match is that someone dies and is no longer. Perhaps our matches aren’t so morbid? Whatever the case, when the coaches squared off, our championship bout saw Whooping narrowly edge the Colorado Cranium, 440-403. Lofty numbers that were Butch T. Cougar nearly beat. But seeing as this is a tournament, survive and advance is all that matters. Butch, Wilbur, Joe Bruin, and Ralphie have survived. They’ve advanced.

The Semis:

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

Two years ago, this was our title match. Look. At. Those. Punims.

MillBoyle

Wilbur from Roommate Pete of That Poor Architect
Wilbur ‘Fists-of-Furry’ Wildcat – He doesn’t roam the open range, don tribal headdresses or eat his weight in fresh water salmon. Nor does he traverse the Iditarod, chase after younger men or sit motionless and dormant in a Northern Californian forest. He won’t protect you from STD’s, quack at your principal or build you a dam, and he most certainly won’t prance around with a pitchfork wearing red and yellow tights calling himself ‘Sparky.’  Wilbur Wildcat won’t do any of these things because Wilbur Wildcat ain’t no paperback bitch. The man in the navy blue cowboy hat will hunt with guile in grassy lowlands, perch confidently atop desert mountains, and sit comfortably and notoriously atop the Sonoran Desert food chain. Wilbur don’t mess around, and neither do his Wildcats.

Ralphie from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (56%, 642 Votes)
  • #1 Wilbur (44%, 501 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,143

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#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

ButchBruin

Joe Bruin from Luc of The Stoop Kids
After a comfortable rout over Puddles in the last round, it’s onward and upward for Joe Bruin. I mean did you see that game Saturday afternoon? If there was ever a time to be coming into one’s own, this is really it. Joe’s hot at the right time, and won’t think twice about bowling over the Wildcats as they confusingly bear down before him. Ralphie has the awesome sprint across the field thing, but if we’re talking death match, Joe will be feasting on Rocky Mountain Oysters once he’s through with the Buffs. The Cougs had an impressive showing in the last round, and were even rumored to knock off Joe in some faraway locale a few weeks ago, but memory is short and time will prove that their last meeting was an aberration. Joe’s poised for the big stage, and ready to bring home Championship #110 to Westwood.

Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

  • #11 Butch (64%, 520 Votes)
  • #2 Joe Bruin (36%, 289 Votes)

Total Voters: 809

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