Category Archives: florid historical references

What we talk about when we talk about “major” conferences

AZ

Major-conference status is subject to change, but not merely on the basis of one really good, or really bad, tournament. (AP/Otto Kitsinger)

If you see someone say or write “power 5” in a basketball context, it means they’re not actually talking or writing in a basketball context. Excluding one of the six major conferences — the one that’s won two of the last three national titles, no less — just because it doesn’t play FBS football is, in basketball terms, problematic.

In other nomenclature news, there are still, by my lights, six major conferences.

Let’s look at the contenders for this label starting with the 2014 season, when conference memberships assumed more or less their current form.

1. Tournament wins
Congratulations, ACC. It’s been an impressive five years in the tournament, even allowing for the fact that you have 15 teams with which to flood that zone while other majors have just 10.

NCAA tournament wins, 2014-18

Based on current memberships
              Total wins    Per team-season
1. ACC            69             0.92
2. Big 12         41             0.82
3. Big Ten        47             0.69
4. Big East       31             0.62
5. SEC            40             0.57
6. Pac-12         31             0.52
7. American       18             0.33       

Continue reading

The cumulative game

EP

There’s something to be said for combining a very low turnover rate with normal (or even below-average) offensive rebounding, a la Villanova. Conversely, other teams may be underperforming by four or even five points per game due to a sheer lack of scoring chances. (Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports)

Over the past couple years, I’ve started wondering whether the manner in which our brains are hard-wired is conspiring with the inherent nature of basketball to keep us from recognizing how important it is to generate a lot of shot attempts.

Consider the Premier League. A proper appreciation of shots that had a chance to go in but didn’t for Arsenal or Chelsea constitutes a rudimentary level of “well, duh” analysis. In that setting, shots on goal are a really big deal. They’re tracked closely and dissected individually by the studio talent after the match.

In basketball, however, attempted shots are the fabric of the game itself. Attempts in this sport are numerous, unremarkable in isolation, and, indeed, most of them (56 percent, give or take) are misses. Shots that don’t go in aren’t exciting visually, they’re never featured in highlights, and each miss represents a failure, of sorts. Continue reading

RPI, fatally flawed metric, finally dead at 38

ncaanews

NCAA newsletter, 1981

The Ratings Percentage Index, a misbegotten multi-sport statistic that mistakenly became an object of misplaced obsession for everyone connected with men’s college basketball, died Wednesday at the age of 38. The death was announced by the metric’s lone sponsor and last surviving adherent, the NCAA.

No official cause of death had been announced by Wednesday afternoon, though the RPI had long suffered from complications associated with chronic analytic confusion.

When the RPI was born in the fall of 1980 (no definitive birth date has ever been established), college basketball games were only sporadically televised, the NCAA tournament field consisted of 48 teams, and the men’s basketball committee had little or no reliable data with which to support its selection and seeding decisions. Continue reading

Prepare for (by far) the most perimeter-oriented first round ever

RW

Even Robert Williams attempted 12 three-pointers last season. (Don’t ask how many he made.)

The 2018 NBA draft is now just hours away, and it’s already a virtual certainty that the 30 players selected in the first round will be far and away the most perimeter-oriented such group we’ve ever seen.

Just how different is this 2018 bunch? Here’s a handy graphic representation…

first_round_threes

Behold, seven years of first-round picks. I’ve even thrown in a special bonus surprise in the form of the 2018 first round. No, it hasn’t happened yet, but I trust a fair portion of these players will in fact hear their names called. (I’ve used Jonathan Givony’s projected order of selection.) Continue reading

If lottery selections just parrot earlier high school rankings, does the NBA really need one-and-done?

Ayton

(Kevin Jairaj, USA Today)

One fascinating aspect of one-and-done has always been that, at least in theory, it has no logical basis for existence. Recall that the rule was instituted on July 29, 2005, in part, to give NBA franchises additional and badly needed information on draft prospects. There were to be no more Kwame Browns.

An understandable wish, surely, but one that affords an exceedingly odd occasion for a proscriptive rule. After all, in a world where high school graduates are immediately draft-eligible, why would you need to make this a rule in the first place? If a front office feels insufficiently confident to draft a player right out of high school, they can just pass. No one’s holding a gun to their head and saying they must draft an enigma.

If you’re more confident using a draft pick on a player who’s been in college for one season, fine, draft a freshman. Make one-and-done the “rule” for your franchise. It’s a free country.

Or so it would seem, based on how markets are supposed to work in a classical model. Then again, that’s not how professional basketball functions. Indeed, the NBA tried that very system 20-some years ago, and, eventually, found it wanting. Continue reading

Style, talent, and the eclipse of the chess match

Nova

(villanova.com)

Villanova has succeeded to a degree that is seen in post-Wooden college basketball only once every decade or so, and that success, of course, comes with some very serious role-model responsibilities.

There’s just one problem. Holding up the Wildcats as a paragon of How to Win in 2018 and Beyond turns out to be more easily proclaimed than promulgated. It’s difficult if not impossible to find any discretionary schematic, stylistic, and/or demographic characteristic wherein Jay Wright’s men rate out as No. 1 the way they so clearly do in terms of bottom-line results.

Take the scheme on offense. Villanova has indeed performed remarkable feats using it, and, in the 2018 afterglow, this usage is being depicted as decade-plus-long reign of laudable (if not mandatory) NBA awareness, one dating all the way back to the four-guard Wildcat lineup that reached the 2006 Elite Eight.

Those memories aren’t incorrect so much as incomplete. For, in the early years of this decade, the Wildcats consistently ranked outside the top 100 nationally for three-point attempts and, on occasion, put paint-shooting-only 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11 types at both the 4 and the 5 spots. All it got Nova in between 2011 and 2013 was a 54-45 record and zero NCAA tournament wins. Going small has clearly been the correct choice for Wright, but his is far from the only small-ball team in Division I. Continue reading

You say you want a (three-point) revolution

Marjack

Mark Jackson, three-point forefather. Yes, Mark Jackson. (Photo: Ray Chavez)

Today at ESPN.com, you’ll find a good many words in two pieces on the three-point shot written by Myron Medcalf and yours truly, respectively.

It’s a good topic upon which to lavish a good many words. You can make a case that the rapid increase in three-point attempts is the central performance story in the sport of college basketball over the last five years.

Here, in thumbnail form, is one possible version of how that story’s played out thus far, and what may lay ahead. Consider what follows as a conjectural narration of the three-point revolution’s origins, spread, and limits, delivered in handy pocket size.

Origins
Somewhere in the front offices of the late-1960s-era American Basketball Association (ABA), there resided a pioneering thinker who had the idea of resurrecting a novelty dating from (we think) the early-1960s-era American Basketball League. It seems unlikely in retrospect that said thinker could have had any idea of exactly what it was being unleashed. Continue reading