Monthly Archives: December 2015

Why Bo Ryan was the most influential coach of his era

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Ryan addresses the media at the 2015 Final Four. (Reuters)

In the spring of 2001 when Pat Richter placed a call to Wisconsin Milwaukee head coach Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin athletic director had been through a challenging few months. Fresh off a surprising run to the 2000 Final Four as a No. 8 seed, the Badgers lost their coach when Dick Bennett decided to retire just two games into the 2000-01 season. Brad Soderberg coached the team the rest of the way that year, but it was widely assumed in basketball circles that the man that Richter — and the entire state of Wisconsin — really wanted for the job was Utah head coach Rick Majerus.

Only now, as Richter made his call to Ryan, the Utes’ coach had pulled his name from consideration for the post in Madison. The Badgers needed a Plan B immediately, and Richter had just one question for the man on the other end of the line:

“Bo, are you ready?”

“Pat, I’ve been ready.” Continue reading

Elite freshmen, playing time, and Bill Self

Cheick

Cheick Diallo (right) before he was eligible. He often looks like this now that he’s eligible, too. (Rich Sugg, Kansas City Star)

After a protracted battle with the NCAA, Cheick Diallo became eligible for Kansas on November 25. What we all forgot to account for, however, is that Diallo actually has two hoops to jump through to play college ball. One was the organization in Indianapolis, and the other is an individual on the sidelines in Lawrence. Usually when a coach gets one of the best recruits in the country, he’s kind of anxious to, you know, have the freshman play basketball. But, as we saw this time a year ago with Kelly Oubre, Bill Self is comfortable being the exception to this rule.

I wanted to add a cherry on top of the excellent work already done on this topic by Jesse Newell, and the question I had for myself was a simple one. Exactly how weird is Self being? To see how aberrant KU’s coach really is, I scooped up every top-10 (RSCI) freshman from the past two seasons. Since I’m interested in actual in-game decisions as opposed to sheer player availability, I worked up figures for the percentage of “discretionary” minutes played.

Sometimes discretion and eligibility are the same thing. Diallo, for example, has been eligible for just three games and he’s played 41 of a possible 120 minutes. But I also wanted to account for things like Kansas choosing to keep Cliff Alexander on precautionary infractions ice at the end of 2014-15, Rashad Vaughn missing nine games due to injury, or even something as minute as Mike Krzyzewski resting a banged-up Jahlil Okafor against Clemson last season.  Continue reading

The college basketball implications of Stephen Curry

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If it turns out the usage-efficiency tradeoff doesn’t apply to one player, what does that say about how the game should be played by every other player? (fivethirtyeight.com)

As an incorrigibly casual and contentedly sporadic NBA fan, I really enjoyed Benjamin Morris’s piece on what precisely Stephen Curry hath wrought in our game. Previously I had struggled to piece together a coherent awe from the stray random shouts I caught from trusted and unmistakably thunderstruck colleagues on Twitter. But after stumbling across Morris and his arresting visuals, I get it. A player who is (apparently) “virtually immune to burden” reorders the hoops universe.

So now what? As an incorrigibly dedicated and contentedly constant fan of the college game, I have some questions.

Should Curry change what college coaches do?
If nothing else Curry has erected a tower so that first-grade math can shine forth like a beacon and claim its due deference. Three is greater than two, and one possibility Curry raises is that, purely in the abstract sense, the first option for any basketball possession should be an open three-point attempt.  Continue reading

Three questions for the Iowa Caucus of hoops

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He looks uncertain. That makes two of us. (AP/Charlie Niebergall)

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge happens very early in the season — perhaps even too early — and its results are hungrily overanalyzed by information-starved pundits who’ve just emerged from a very long no-hard-news period and are thus eager to pontificate on any morsel of actual substance. That being said, the Challenge is also a genuinely compelling competitive spectacle and people do tend to remember who won.

In other words it’s uncannily similar to an Iowa Caucus. These are my questions for the 2015 incarnation…

Whatever happened to home-court advantage in this thing?
In the first nine years of this event the home team won 70 percent of the time. In the last seven years, however, that percentage has dropped all the way down to 55. This is an oddly low figure in light of the fact that in each of the two competing conferences over the past 10-plus years the home teams can be counted upon to win 64 (ACC) or 65 (Big Ten) percent of the time in league play. Continue reading