(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
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
Defense may or may not win championships, but it is true that 75 percent of the teams in San Antonio are showing a remarkably similar performance arc on that side of the ball.
Defense, conference play vs. tournament
Opponent points per possession
Michigan 1.02 0.89
Villanova 1.06 0.93
Kansas 1.09 1.02
Loyola Chicago, as always, is an outlier, stubbornly playing a similar level of D (albeit against better competition) as what we saw from the Ramblers in the regular season. They are bold iconoclasts, these lads from Rogers Park.
Now, why are these other three teams suddenly such world-beaters on defense? Good question. Here’s what appears to be taking place, with some null-hypothesis words devoted to Porter Moser’s group for good measure…. Continue reading
When a No. 11 seed gets an automatic bid at 28-5 and then makes the Final Four, the irresistible temptation is to draw lessons from that tournament run with regard to selection. A team as good as Loyola Chicago, it is said, should have been in the running for an at-large bid even if, by chance, the Ramblers had lost to Illinois State in the Missouri Valley tournament final.
I know it is said, because I’ve said it.
Just so we’re clear, however, the fact of the matter is that we knew or should have known before the NCAA tournament that Loyola was good enough to merit an at-large bid. Porter Moser’s team outscored the No. 9 KenPom conference in Division I by 0.16 points per trip. That’s a classic bid-worthy profile, up there on the same at-large bleachers as VCU last year (a No. 10 seed), BYU in 2015 (another No. 11), or Creighton in 2012 (a No. 8).
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.
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
Virginia has unwittingly offered itself up as a near-perfect test case on the potential relationship between a slow tempo and very bad tournament performance. But, before we sift that rubble, a word of respect is in order for fans of a team that has somehow wandered into such an analytically convenient yet expectation-crushing artillery range.
Cavalier postseason futility is no Bill Self case, where the woke analytic point to be made is that the underlying perception is itself mistaken. Here, the perception is accurate and unavoidable.
No other team comes close in terms of quantifiable NCAA tournament misery, and the trail of statistical ugliness is easily explained. UVA keeps getting beautiful seeds, and then bowing out extraordinarily early. (The 2016 and 2017 tournaments being, in retrospect, exceptions of rare normalcy.) To gloss over that, much less to pretend otherwise, is to do traumatized Hoo fans a manifest disservice. Continue reading
Generating a very high number of shot attempts is fun! (Photo: J.D. Lyon Jr.)
The story so far. Last year I cooked up a way of measuring how well teams combine taking care of the ball and getting second chances. I called it a shot volume index, North Carolina led the (major-conference) nation in said measure, and the Tar Heels won a national title. Boom! Analytic perfection!
Well, not really. UNC looked really good retroactively on the same measure in 2016, after all, and a fat lot of good that did them in the 40th minute of that year’s national championship game.
Speaking of the Heels, they are No. 1 again in the 2018 rankings, and this time they won going away.
Shot volume index (SVI)
Turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and shot volume
Major-conference games only
TO% OR% SVI
1. North Carolina 16.2 40.5 102.4
2. West Virginia 16.9 36.4 99.7
3. Florida 13.8 27.8 99.4
Year after year, the men in Chapel Hill put a nice floor under their offense, one that can come in very handy on bad shooting nights. Then again, you don’t have to be an insanely great offensive rebounding team to do so. Look at Mike White’s Florida Gators, slightly below-average on the offensive glass and generating a very high number of shots anyway. Continue reading