Monthly Archives: March 2014

PacHoops’ Nine-Steps to Normalcy (and November)

If you’re reading this, know that I am well. Also know that I’m not entirely sure who your team is. What your favorite player did when the clock approached it’s termination and took the season with it. But I do know that more likely than not, your season is through. Tough. To help us, I’ve developed a nine-step grieving process which is really just nine things that you’re going to go through while still bumming out about a shot that never left someone’s hands.

It’s swift madness this tournament and game. From where I’m sitting now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except every other way.

PacHoops’ Nine-Steps to Normalcy (and November):

  1. Run away – Particularly if you’re sitting in the stadium. Contemplate a 6-hour drive home no matter the hour and energy levels. This is a common tactic whenever feelings are felt and while it’s not long-term effective for anything, it’s an option.
  2. Pretend it didn’t happen – Whether you ran or didn’t you can act as if your favorite pastimes are crocheting and new restaurants. Those are safe and never hurt you. The final outcome of a basketball game never makes the new Asian-fusion bistro taste bad. It can, however, make everything taste bitter.
  3. Text it out – Turns out, you’re not alone! Group text is annoying as shit when it comes to figuring out Friday night plans but it’s cathartic as anything when you’re commiserating. Besides,  maybe one of your buddies has a totally new and fresh perspective on why you lost. That’s always fun.
  4. Know and comment on next season – Eff that. College basketball is brief. It’s fleeting. It celebrates one shining moment. You have to capture those moments as best you can. This moment was captured by someone else. But talk a lot about next season starting yesterday.
  5. Read a message board – Just to feel better about yourself and discover that despite how you’re feeling, you really do have perspective.
  6. Close your computer and eat a cookie – I did this and the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie was a little dry but the fudge cookie was to die for.
  7. Watch one interview. Alone – You cannot risk what might be witnessed by a third party so do this by yourself and make sure that you at least know the gist of what’s going to be said. Absolutely no surprises in this time. Then allow the one interview to spiral into all of the interviews and commentaries and replays. We both know it was going to happen so just do it.
  8. Read an article about the coach of the team who beat you and how he took his dad – as a birthday gift – for 30 straight years to the Final Four and how that dad passed away in August and that the first Final Four that coach will ever coach in will be the first he won’t attend with his dad Yes.
  9. Appreciate the season –  I’m serious on this one. To salvage your irrational fandom, to give yourself a reason to come back, find the ‘remember whens.’ Mention it in that group text or YouTube it. Recall everything that ever got your team into position to even break your heart and know that anything that does break your heart was probably worth it because everything before it made your heart swell. From the edge of your seat to the hallows of defeat, that’s a season. That is sports. For better or worse. Now have another cookie.

Arizona’s Elite Meeting with Wisconsin

Amongst travel and remote activity, I’ve managed to learn so much about the Wisconsin Badgers. Granted, it helps that my road trip-mate is a born and raised Milwaukeean and lives and breaths Bob Uecker, cheese, Lambeau Field, believes Ryan Braun really did have herpes, and nearly died when he saw this photo:

ArodBoryanI mean, if you’re a Wisconsin boy does it get much better than that? There is, of course, this side of the reality coin:

Anyhow, with that sort of travel companion, I was bound to learn a lot about the Badgers. This is what I’ve got: They. Are. Disciplined. And they’ve been to the Rose Bowl. Arizona has not.

It’s a Bo Ryan team and they cherish possessions like you cherished that Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card when you were eight. In eleven seasons, Wisconsin hasn’t ranked outside the top 10 in offensive TO% but twice. And in those two campaigns they were still top-20. This game will not become the Gonzaga game.

But in some regards it could. The Badgers take lots  of three pointers. About 40% of their shots are from deep. When they miss – and they don’t often, making them at a 37.6% rate, 51st in the nation – it results in long rebounds which can turn in to run outs. Otherwise read as transition offense. Otherwise read as Christ Air (if you’re reading with Wildcat eyes). Against San Diego State (good riddance) the ‘Cats struggled to get out and move and you may have noticed their offense was less than explosive. They worked for those 70 points but two of the biggest plays of the game and momentum swings came on transition buckets like the one at the head of this post. Wisconsin, with their long misses, ranks 308th in percentage of shots coming in transition (23.6%); or, right about what Arizona has averaged since Brandon Ashley’s departure. Opportunity, Wildcats.

One point to keep an eye on – as the Badgers love them some possessions – would be the offensive glass. I’m not entirely sure it’s a strong suit of Arizona 2.0BASHLEY but it certainly isn’t a weak point. Wisco hits the defensive glass at the 10th highest rate in the nation. This ensures their opponents don’t get extra opportunities to score.

At it’s simplest form, this is a match up of an elite offense and an elite defense. It’s also just an exciting match up, period. Let’s run down the lineups:

AZWiscoYou and I both know that the above means very little. But it’s still a pretty interesting glimpse into the similarities – personnel-wise – that these two are running. It also interestingly highlights that you can have similar outputs and accomplish those outputs in very different ways.

The Badgers are going to try and shoot their way to Dallas. Not quite at the level of Michigan, but those aforementioned three-pointers are going to be what gets them to North Texas or sends them home. They make 40% in wins and 30% in losses. In either scenario they are taking about 20 three point-jumpers per game. For context, Oregon was shooting nearly 26 threes in losses and just 18 in wins. Did I mention Wisconsin is disciplined?

And how, you might ask, does Arizona defend the three? Sean Miller’s pack line has allowed the 11th lowest percentage of shots to come from deep – just 26.5% of opponent shots. This does not bode well for Wisconsin. But the converse could hold true. Wisconsin, as we’ve noted, is good at making these shots and one way to beat the pack line is to shoot out of it. Ask Oregon who became just the 7th team to make 10-or-more three pointers against Arizona since Sean Miller became coach.

Moving inside the arc, when the Badgers do lose, it’s because someone attacked. Teams that beat UW have gone at them and taken the ball to the rim. It also hasn’t hurt that what few threes those teams took (average 12), they made (average 6). When Wisconsin wins, the opposition’s three-pointers look more like 4-15. They’re not going to let you take or make many threes, we’ve established this. So when life gives you lanes, make layups. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson certainly has, of late.

There will be one elite offense and one elite defense in one elite game.

Maybe we call this one net cutting practice?


Honestly, Spencer and I did one of the better NCAA tournament previews you will ever hear. Unfortunately, only Spence, myself, and our respective computers and perhaps roommates will know. Media malfunction. Or user error. This is a basketball blog not a semantics debate so let’s cut to the hoop: D.A.N.C.E. Sure we missed the overall preview but if coaches keep their jobs with Sweet Sixteen appearances, then consider us the Steve Lavin-now-Johnny-Dawkins of podcasts. Listen:


Now, as for The Table. This was a tough one to wrap this week. Road trips to Anaheim aren’t conducive to writing but are conducive to content. More to come.

Instead I can just effuse briefly on what a great day it is for Pac-12 basketball. I know it’s “just” the Sweet Sixteen but there’s something to be said about having three teams in it. There’s something to be said about coming from where the Pac-12 did over the past few years and where it is today. That something is: Bravo. The proverbial bull’s horns have been grabbed and the Pac-12 is reminding a lot of people that there is basketball – good basketball – played after 10 pm EST.

A dear friend, new to New York, has noted his increased Pac-12 defense. He’s a Wildcat, as good as they get, but knows he must sing the praises of Kyle Anderson and Dwight Powell for the world to notice his TJ McConnell. Or just to get Kyle Anderson the attention he deserves. And maybe he doesn’t want it? Maybe he – and Dwight and TJ, too – don’t care who’s saying what about them but rather just the simple fact that they’re playing, and 42 other teams are jealous.

And how sweet would it be to watch Stanford and UCLA battle – round 4 – inside the Memphis’ FedEx Forum for the South Regional title. Has a nice ring to it, no? Unless you’re CBS.


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:


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.

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:


#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)
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):
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):
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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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.


#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

And the Ball Was Tipped

Do you remember scouring message boards and twitter for the results of your team’s secret scrimmage? First of all, ignore the ridiculous nature of a ‘secret scrimmage’ and your pursuit of a practice game’s results. That’s not relevant because the professional transgressions you’re about to commit in the next two weeks are arguably greater than that.

Back then, March was two clock changes and a season away. There was an non-conference schedule, a conference schedule and a conference tournament to play. But all that mattered then was what happened during a closed door practice. At that juncture we needed information. Something, anything to give us a glimpse as to what were were about to watch for four months. Could the new kid do this? The veteran do that?

And today? Today we find ourselves with more information than we know what to do with. I’ve calculated how Jordan Bachynski rebounds against the conference’s top-3 offensive rebounding teams; the percentage of possessions that Kyle Anderson converts into a score at the rim; and how well each Pac-12 team defends the rim. Further, we can poke around on any of a number of sites to gain gross insights into how our team might fair in a given match up and how they project to play in a football stadium.

Here’s an analysis:

March EnjoyedI appreciate all of that and acknowledge that none of it matters. Because shortly Luther Vandross will note that ‘the ball is tipped’ and, for right now, that’s all that matters. I’m not dismissing any of this information. I rather cherish it. But I further love the 102 games about to transpire. Ripe with possibility and opportunity, allow me to be the first to tell you that your team has a chance. They do. Now let me be the infinitesimal person to tell you they’ll lose

Because the ball will be tipped. And that’s where you are.

A ball floated into the sky with the opportunity to bounce either way, in any direction, in anyone’s favor. I can tell you who might win; but I can’t tell you who will win.

Enjoy your long lunch, streamed media, and accelerated heart rate. Spill a beer in unadulterated excitement for Cinderella’s heave. Curse your rival. Lament Gus Johnson’s absence.

But most of all: Let the games begin.

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:

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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?


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:

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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?

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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:

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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.

The PacHoops Challenge: In Pursuit of the One

We launch this bracket challenge with less-than-or-close-to just 24-hours until madness. There’s a reason for this. I want to know which one of you has the strongest gut. The one decisive enough to create the best possible bracket in short order. Decision making has never been a strong suit of mine. Consider this my Samuel L. Jackson pursuit of Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. Now make like Neo and pick:



Curious what you’ll win? That’s to be determined. I told you I’m not very decisive. You could win, but might also not:

  • An autographed T-shirt
  • A gift card
  • Free legal advice from my dad
  • Free medical advice from my brother
  • A housing consult from my mom
  • A full family tree drawn by a cousin of mine who is younger than 4
  • Eternal glory
  • Eternity
  • Jawbone gear from my buddy who works at Jawbone
  • Concert tickets
  • A high-five
  • A hug
  • A letter from me to your significant other or boss describing how great you are, the prospects of your upward movement, and that you deserve more vacation time (all scenarios apply to both sig-otro and jefe)
  • You will not win $1 billion

We’ll refer to you – for at least 51 weeks – as the preeminent bracketeer of the preeminent Pac-12 basketball blog. Or that guy who was X picks away from a billion dollars. Or worse, that guy with the perfect bracket not in the billion dollar challenge.

Use your gut and best of luck. THE PASSWORD IS: pachoops

Here’s everywhere that I went wrong in a bracket I finished in three minutes. I think I’ll name her Chalk Boring Butler.Adams Bracket

A Look at Tournament Seedings, RPI, and KenPom

I still haven’t filled out a bracket despite scouring over tons of data, predictions, and analysis. I know minutiae about style components, match ups, and expectations that I wouldn’t otherwise bother learning. But it’s March and understanding and evaluation are imperative until it’s all tossed out the window when I actually do fill out a bracket.

Such an understanding, however, had myself and Jason curious as to some of these evaluative properties. You hear RPI and BPI, Pomeroy and Sagarin, numbers that are used to rate every team in the tournament (or otherwise). Often the most controversial is the RPI which is also the one that the selection committee  seems to put the most weight in. Now selecting this field is no easy task. It’s rather thankless and if you’re looking to be congratulated for your work, then you need a different job. Subjective roles are rarely rewarded.

And yet as I looked through this bracket, trying to find rhyme or reason for possible outcomes, I kept coming back to the Colorado-Pittsburgh game. First, how the hell did Colorado stand a chance even as the higher seed? Second, how the hell was Pitt a nine seed? Jason had the same questions stemming from his thorough scouting report of the Panthers.

The easiest way to answer this was by revisiting that controversial number: RPI. Colorado’s RPI is 35. Pittsburgh’s RPI is 39. I suppose that quantifies our 8-9 matchup, but why did everything about their performance resume (KenPom) suggest this was such a lopsided game? Why did Vegas open this at -6.5 with a Panther favorite? Well, that’s because KenPom has these two rated as the 64th and 18th best teams in the land, respectively. Not so 8-9 anymore, is it?

This, of course, got us thinking and developing towards a holistic view of the tournament, its seeds, and how that marries up in a relationship of RPI and KenPom ratings. Here’s what that looks like:

Iowa 11 11 27 64 -37
Cal Poly 16 16 173 205 -32
Tennessee 11 11 13 42 -29
Oklahoma St. 9 9 22 44 -22
Pittsburgh 9 9 18 39 -21
Louisville 4 4 2 19 -17
American 15 15 96 112 -16
Albany 16 16 177 192 -15
Harvard 12 12 33 46 -13
Xavier 12 12 42 51 -9
Michigan St. 4 4 10 17 -7
Virginia 1 1 4 9 -5
Ohio St. 6 6 19 24 -5
Stanford 10 10 37 41 -4
Mount St. Mary’s 16 16 190 194 -4
Creighton 3 2 8 10 -2
Arizona 1 1 1 2 -1
Duke 3 3 7 8 -1
Syracuse 3 3 15 16 -1
VCU 5 4 12 13 -1
Kentucky 8 8 17 18 -1
Nebraska 11 11 48 49 -1
North Carolina 6 6 26 26 0
Gonzaga 8 8 20 20 0
Providence 11 11 40 40 0
Tulsa 13 13 68 68 0
Wichita St. 1 1 5 4 1
Villanova 2 2 6 5 1
UCLA 4 4 16 15 1
New Mexico St. 13 13 72 71 1
Florida 1 1 3 1 2
Arizona St. 10 10 47 45 2
Michigan 2 2 14 11 3
Cincinnati 5 5 24 21 3
Saint Louis 5 5 34 31 3
Baylor 6 6 31 28 3
Connecticut 7 7 25 22 3
Oregon 7 7 30 27 3
Texas 7 7 39 36 3
Oklahoma 5 5 29 25 4
Wisconsin 2 2 11 6 5
Kansas 2 2 9 3 6
Texas Southern 16 16 237 231 6
San Diego St. 4 4 21 14 7
Stephen F. Austin 12 12 59 52 7
Manhattan 13 13 67 60 7
Memphis 8 8 45 37 8
Dayton 11 11 53 43 10
North Carolina Central 14 14 78 68 10
North Carolina St. 12 12 66 55 11
Iowa St. 3 3 23 7 16
New Mexico 7 7 28 12 16
George Washington 9 9 46 29 17
Saint Joseph’s 10 10 49 32 17
Mercer 14 14 99 81 18
BYU 10 12 50 30 20
North Dakota St. 12 12 55 33 22
Kansas St. 9 9 44 20 24
Weber St. 16 16 169 144 25
Louisiana Lafayette 14 14 115 89 26
Massachusetts 6 6 52 23 29
Colorado 8 8 64 35 29
Wofford 15 15 184 155 29
Eastern Kentucky 15 15 129 99 30
Milwaukee 15 15 163 132 31
Delaware 13 13 105 67 38
Coastal Carolina 16 16 232 189 43
Western Michigan 14 14 113 69 44

What we find is that quite a few of these teams appear to be appropriately seeded but some of the young teen seeds are over- and underseeded. The lower seeds (Colorado, UMass) have smaller RPIs and bigger KenPoms and vice versa. By subtracting, we can recognize the difference in the ratings and subsequent evaluation.

What the chart suggests, when look at its oles, is that Iowa and Western Michigan are the most inappropriately seeded teams in the field. The Hawkeyes seemingly perform better than what their RPI and/or the committee is willing to give them credit for. Meanwhile, the WMU Broncos are perceived as better than their play suggests (tough for a 14 seed). Perhaps WMU isn’t our best example but what about #9 Kansas State? They’re RPI of 24 is consistent with that of

Now I don’t intend this as a critic of the selection committee’s job but rather as a means by which we can recognize where there might be some favorable match ups. We could bring the conversation back to our CU-Pitt game where we see an overvalued team (Colorado) taking on an undervalued team (Pitt). There are obviously a ton of factors that play into, A) making your picks, B) Why these teams were pitted against one another, and C) What’s actually going to happen. But in anticipation of the dance, and with $1 billion on the line, understanding some opportunities where the committee might have been short sighted can’t hurt.

Here are a handful of other games and teams to keep an eye on in the tournament’s opening rounds and beyond.

Games to watch/pick:

  • (#11 Iowa vs. #11 Tennessee) vs. #6 UMass – I’ve broken this into the Play-In game and subsequent second round game because they go hand in hand. The Play-In projects to be a pretty tight ball game between high majors. Both teams have a huge gap between their RPI and KP scores (-37 and -29, respectively). Thus, as both of these teams play better than their RPI represents – or at least are capable of such – it could very well spell trouble for #6 UMass in whomever they were to face. The Minutemen seem to be one of the more overvalued teams (+29).
  • #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh – This was obviously central to this data compilation but it’s worth noting that it is the second round game featuring the second biggest discrepancy. The Buffs at +29 and the Panthers at -21 leaves us believing that Colorado, despite being the higher seed, really stands little chance.
  • #5 Cincinnati vs. #12 Harvard – In their opening round game, the Crimson are facing the appropriately seeded (+3) Mick Cronins despite what he’d have you know about conspiracies against him. We note Harvard, here, however, because they seem to be relatively underseeded (-13) in a favorable 12-5 matchup. Neither team will benefit from being in Spokane and Harvard managed to knock of #3 New Mexico just one season ago.
  • #12 Xavier vs. #12 NC State – This game is in the books and basically poopoos on everything we just discussed. Xavier was arguably one of the more underseeded teams (-9) while the WolfPack – by just about every imaginable standard – weren’t only over seeded but rather uninvited (+11). Naturally, in Tuesdays play-in game, the WolfPack beat Xavier, 74-59. Good luck, everyone.

Teams to keep an eye on:

  • #3 Iowa Sate – RPI suggests their gaudy three seed while their production suggests something more along the five-line. They could be ripe to be picked off.
  • #7 New Mexico – Their RPI would have them closer to the 3 or 4 line. Their KP score, however, would have them ranked – well – at right about a seven. Don’t but too much into the Lobo hype. #Pac12hoops
  • #4 Louisville – Your’e probably sick of hearing about this now but, by our model, all that’s been said about the Cardinals is pretty accurate. Even their RPI, however, begs that they be rated higher than the four seed they received. Their KenPom score has them rated second in the country. Good night, and good luck.

As we move forward in this tournament, let’s revisit this list to see just how the over and underseeded teams are doing.