Category Archives: tuesday truths

Tuesday Truths: Final Reality

Marshall

He looks like you look when you’re trying to look relaxed.

Events move fast this time of year. Seven days ago I was patiently building an airtight and irrefutable case for why I would not pick likely No. 8 or 9 seed Wichita State in a round of 32 game against a No. 1 seed. Now the Shockers are said to be in danger of falling out of the field entirely. It’s like I’ve been preparing to defend Aqaba, but now the invaders have come from the land instead of the sea.

The plight faced by Gregg Marshall’s team will rightly be discussed from now until Sunday. Here are three more thoughts to toss into that mix.

The mock bracket confusion triggered by Wichita State is extreme but not unprecedented
It’s true that some name-brand bracketologists have the Shockers out of the field entirely, while others have them as a No. 7 seed. That’s unusual, to say the least. Still, it turns out that past mock brackets have disagreed even more sharply on other teams. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Law of March Twitter edition

Zg.jpg

In? Out? Twitter will know.

Customarily when March arrives a proposal will surface to expand the NCAA tournament to include every team in Division I. I’m not opposed to the idea, I just think that in effect it’s what we already have. The blank-slate pathway to the field of 68 that’s made available to (nearly) every team is the best thing about the first half of the calendar’s best month.

Now that NJIT is safely ensconced in an auto-bid conference, the tournament-eligible population is once again synonymous with the non-banned and non-self-imposed-ban portion of D-I itself. Every eligible team in the nation save eight (sorry, Ivy — but what you have is kind of cool too) gets a court, a ball and 40 minutes in the form of a bid in their conference tournament. Win enough games and you’re dancing.

It may seem self-evident to observe that most teams don’t win their conference tournaments, but every March I’m struck by Twitter’s hard-wired zeal to proclaim that every single losing team beyond only the most obvious blue-chippers has seen their bubble burst. Losing in a conference tournament does indeed decrease your chances of getting into the field of 68, and Twitter understands this point well. Too well, in fact. Thus the Law of March Twitter:

Fandom hath no hurry like the rush to declare every conference tournament loser “out” of the NCAA tournament.

What my feed loses sight of annually, however, is that there’s a countervailing force being exerted on the losers’ behalf in the form of a fixed number of at-large berths. This ratio — 36 at-large bids versus 300-some-odd losing teams in conference tournaments — stays the same every year as one “weakest bubble ever” follows another like clockwork.

When you hear Twitter saying last rites for your team, grieve not. Rather find strength in what remains behind, namely the fact that the committee has to get to 68 somehow.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

It’s unclear how many of the A-10’s clear top three will go dancing
Through games of February 29, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  VCU                  13-3   70.1    1.13    0.96    +0.17
2.  Saint Joseph's       13-3   70.3    1.12    0.97    +0.15
3.  Dayton               12-4   67.7    1.06    0.94    +0.12
4.  George Washington    10-6   66.5    1.09    1.02    +0.07
5.  St. Bonaventure      12-4   68.9    1.13    1.06    +0.07
6.  Rhode Island          8-8   64.9    1.06    1.01    +0.05
7.  Davidson              9-7   70.1    1.13    1.11    +0.02
8.  Richmond              7-9   67.5    1.10    1.09    +0.01
9.  Duquesne             5-11   74.0    1.03    1.08    -0.05
10. UMass                5-11   70.8    0.98    1.07    -0.09
11. Fordham              6-10   67.0    0.99    1.08    -0.09
12. George Mason         4-12   69.4    0.99    1.10    -0.11
13. Saint Louis          5-11   70.1    0.92    1.05    -0.13
14. La Salle             3-13   65.5    0.93    1.13    -0.20

AVG.                            68.8    1.05
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 89

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Tuesday Truths: Justice can wait edition

It’s been two weeks now since the Farce at Fort Collins, time enough to sift the rubble, digest the lessons learned, and make recommendations for the future.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that requiring officials to huddle around a monitor is no guarantor of justice. Indeed it appears that requiring officials to do so with regard to teams from the state of Colorado in particular is, for some unknown reason, a positive menace.

Reviews drive everyone crazy. They drive me crazy too. Intrusions do detract from the game, and they need to be whittled down to a bare minimum. In a perfect world we would have correct calls every time delivered instantly.

We don’t live in a perfect world. In the old days, of course, we simply lived with the “delivered instantly” part. That did not always go well. Someone needs to write up the cross-sport history of reviews, but my cursory exploration of the subject suggests the 1979 AFC championship game might be a good place to start.

Much closer to temporal home, we may want to think back to the 2011 Big East tournament before we embark on any reforms of the review process. Possibly the only thing worse than seeing refs huddle around a monitor is seeing refs abjectly refuse to huddle around a monitor.

Maybe the next time a Fort Collins situation arises the refs can make sure the replay is running at the correct speed.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

A-10: The spelling gods visit their wrath on the “Fayers”
Through games of February 22, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  VCU                  12-2   70.4    1.15    0.95    +0.20
2.  Dayton               11-3   68.0    1.09    0.94    +0.15
3.  Saint Joseph's       11-3   70.3    1.13    0.98    +0.15
4.  George Washington     9-5   66.4    1.10    1.03    +0.07
5.  St. Bonaventure      10-4   68.8    1.12    1.05    +0.07
6.  Rhode Island          7-7   65.0    1.07    1.01    +0.06
7.  Davidson              8-6   70.5    1.13    1.11    +0.02
8.  Richmond              6-8   67.0    1.11    1.11     0.00
9.  Duquesne              5-9   74.4    1.04    1.07    -0.03
10. UMass                 5-9   71.0    0.98    1.06    -0.08
11. Fordham              4-10   67.2    0.97    1.09    -0.12
12. Saint Louis           5-9   70.3    0.94    1.07    -0.13
13. George Mason         3-11   69.1    0.98    1.12    -0.14
14. La Salle             2-12   65.4    0.92    1.15    -0.23

AVG.                            68.8    1.05
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 78

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Tuesday Truths: Mock selection edition

The NCAA’s annual mock selection exercise was held last week, and as usual this meant my Twitter stream was filled with (literally) minute-to-minute updates on which No. 9 seed was going 130 miles more distant to which arena in a wholly fictitious bracket. In my most idealized self-conception I most certainly didn’t send out such tweets in February of 2012. In reality I probably did.

(By the way, moving the actual selection to NYC  is an excellent move. Salute.)

When mock selection occurs, the continuing presence of the three-letter antique is made painfully clear. In fact if I were a conspiratorial sort (I rejoice I am not), I would speculate that the NCAA goes through this exercise just so my brethren and sistren in the media will tweet out team sheets to show that once again the three-letter antique is the very bone and sinew of this entire selection process. Speak now or forever hold our peace.

I’ve spoken, and it’s still here. So be it. It will still be here next year, and I’ll still believe that obsessing over “top-50” wins with a metric that’s off by 50 or more spots seven percent of the time is a tad counterproductive, inertial and needlessly blinkered by an arbitrary fascination with round numbers. But it will still be here next year.

I will be too.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

A-10: Dave Paulsen really does not like takeaways
Through games of February 15, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Dayton               11-1   67.4    1.11    0.91    +0.20
2.  VCU                  10-2   70.5    1.14    0.94    +0.20
3.  Saint Joseph's       10-2   69.7    1.12    0.95    +0.17
4.  Rhode Island          6-6   64.4    1.07    0.98    +0.09
5.  St. Bonaventure       9-3   68.9    1.13    1.05    +0.08
6.  Richmond              6-6   67.2    1.11    1.07    +0.04
7.  George Washington     7-5   65.8    1.08    1.06    +0.02
8.  Davidson              6-6   70.7    1.10    1.09    +0.01
9.  Duquesne              5-7   75.5    1.03    1.05    -0.02
10. UMass                 4-8   71.5    0.98    1.07    -0.09
11. Fordham               3-9   66.7    0.96    1.10    -0.14
12. George Mason          3-9   69.2    0.98    1.14    -0.16
13. Saint Louis           3-9   70.2    0.93    1.09    -0.16
14. La Salle             1-11   65.0    0.93    1.16    -0.23

AVG.                            68.8    1.05
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 67

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Tuesday Truths: Art-of-the-question edition

CN

Cam Newton walked out of a certain press conference on Sunday night, and I immediately thought of interview guru John Sawatsky. Then again I’m weird. After all, maybe Newton left because he overheard Denver cornerback Chris Harris giving a somewhat boastful interview of his own on the other side of a nearby logo-bedecked curtain.

In any event, the spectacle of a Super Bowl quarterback walking out on the Fourth Estate resulted in a Zapruder-like focus on the questions leading up to Newton’s hasty exit. For the record, those questions were as follows:

Q. Can you put into words the disappointment you feel right now?

A. We lost.

Q. Did Denver change anything defensively to take away your running lanes?

A. No.

Q. I know you’re disappointed not just for yourself, but your teammates. It’s got to be real tough.

A. [shakes head] I’m done, man.

Press conferences are tough, and huge press conferences are especially difficult. Goodness knows I’ve mangled questions in them myself. It’s also true that if an interview subject is fully committed to being a recalcitrant and enigmatic frog in the rain, no question however artfully phrased is going to change that.

Nevertheless these three questions, purely as disembodied objects of study, contain within them no shortage of cautionary lessons. (For starters one of them isn’t even a question.) Rather than merely sift rubble, however, allow me instead to pass along this interview that my colleague Jeff Goodman did a couple weeks ago with Bob Huggins. Jeff got an abundance of good stuff from West Virginia’s head coach, and from my chair he was able to do so because he Sawatsky’d the heck out of their session.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

A-10: My streak of consecutive posts without a pun on Charles Cooke’s name continues!
Through games of February 8, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Dayton                9-1   66.7    1.13    0.90    +0.23
2.  VCU                   9-1   70.8    1.15    0.96    +0.19
3.  Saint Joseph's        8-2   70.6    1.08    0.95    +0.13
4.  Rhode Island          5-5   64.0    1.07    0.98    +0.09
5.  St. Bonaventure       7-3   70.3    1.15    1.07    +0.08
6.  George Washington     7-3   66.7    1.10    1.03    +0.07
7.  Richmond              4-6   67.8    1.11    1.10    +0.01
8.  Davidson              5-5   71.9    1.11    1.11     0.00
9.  Duquesne              5-5   74.8    1.03    1.04    -0.01
10. UMass                 2-8   70.5    0.95    1.08    -0.13
11. Saint Louis           3-7   70.9    0.95    1.09    -0.14
12. George Mason          2-8   69.9    0.99    1.15    -0.16
13. Fordham               3-7   67.4    0.94    1.10    -0.16
14. La Salle              1-9   64.6    0.92    1.14    -0.22

AVG.                            69.1    1.05
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 56

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Tuesday Truths: Caucus edition

Iowa

(Des Moines Register)

One question I’ve entertained with respect to the NBA concerns whether it’s truly as open to unforeseeable performances as (to adopt a timely benchmark) the Iowa Caucuses. Not that any shortcomings in this direction would be the NBA’s fault, mind you. If you have to blame anyone or anything, blame math.

No other professional sport has such a ridiculously small number of draft picks, yet a tiny pool of 30 first-round guys, augmented annually, constitutes a far larger share of the league (60 percent, give or take) than in baseball or football. These structural imperatives dictate that you’d have to be crazy or supernaturally courageous or both to wander off the stereotype reservation with a first-round pick. You or I would be no different in a GM’s shoes, but a fair portion of lived experience outside of professional sports suggests there has to be a tremendous opportunity cost being incurred here in the area of unforeseeable performance.

My hunch is that if the NBA ran the Iowa Caucuses, last summer the league’s front offices would have had a draft-like barrier to entry up all along the state’s 1,000-mile rectangular border (a beautiful wall, if you will). Candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have been sent away months ago on the grounds of being a mere reality TV star and a socialist, respectively. The NBA experts would have told the two men confidently that there’s no way on earth that they could finish in second place in Iowa come February 2016. After all, neither candidate fits the profile.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

A-10: Archie now has defensive bragging rights at Miller get-togethers
Through games of February 1, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  VCU                   8-0   71.5    1.15    0.94    +0.21
2.  Dayton                8-1   66.5    1.09    0.90    +0.19
3.  Saint Joseph's        7-1   70.8    1.08    0.93    +0.15
4.  Rhode Island          4-4   64.3    1.08    1.00    +0.08
5.  St. Bonaventure       5-3   71.1    1.16    1.08    +0.08
6.  George Washington     5-3   66.7    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Davidson              4-4   72.4    1.10    1.10     0.00
8.  Duquesne              5-4   74.5    1.02    1.03    -0.01
9.  Richmond              3-5   67.9    1.12    1.13    -0.01
10. Fordham               3-6   67.0    0.96    1.09    -0.13
11. UMass                 1-7   72.4    0.98    1.12    -0.14
12. George Mason          1-7   69.8    0.99    1.13    -0.14
13. Saint Louis           3-6   71.4    0.96    1.10    -0.14
14. La Salle              1-7   64.6    0.90    1.10    -0.20

AVG.                            69.4    1.05
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 46

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Tuesday Truths: “Very old debate” edition

JT

On this date in 1913, Jim Thorpe was forced to relinquish the two gold medals he’d won at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. Thorpe turned in the medals after it came to light that he’d previously played semipro baseball in North Carolina. It took 70 years, but his medals were returned, posthumously, in 1983, and the Olympics has long since moved past trying to will into existence an artificial line between amateurism and professionalism. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 55 mid-majors are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Major-conference Truths are at ESPN Insider.

A-10: Snowstorms, 30-hour bus rides, and actual basketball too
Through games of January 25, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                          W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  VCU                   7-0   70.9    1.16    0.94    +0.22
2.  Saint Joseph's        5-1   69.9    1.11    0.96    +0.15
3.  Dayton                6-1   68.0    1.10    0.96    +0.14
4.  Rhode Island          3-3   62.6    1.13    1.03    +0.10
5.  George Washington     4-2   66.7    1.09    0.99    +0.10
6.  St. Bonaventure       4-3   71.6    1.15    1.09    +0.06
7.  Davidson              4-3   72.0    1.13    1.11    +0.02
8.  Richmond              2-4   68.8    1.12    1.11    +0.01
9.  Duquesne              3-4   74.0    1.01    1.08    -0.07
10. Saint Louis           3-4   70.9    1.03    1.12    -0.09
11. George Mason          1-6   69.7    0.99    1.14    -0.15
12. UMass                 1-5   72.5    1.00    1.15    -0.15
13. Fordham               2-5   66.5    0.95    1.11    -0.16
14. La Salle              1-5   64.7    0.93    1.09    -0.16

AVG.                            69.2    1.06
KenPom rank: 8
% of games played: 37

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