Monday, February 4, 2008

Ben McCauley – NC State icon

The NBA has tried to copyright buzzer beaters with its four quarters and time outs that allow teams to set up at mid-court. But college basketball games all count (for seeding if nothing else), and the buzzer beaters are all the more special. (Heck, one of the Illinois bookstores still replays Marcus’ Griffins two-foot jumper to beat Wisconsin in a 2001 regular season game.)

The ACC season has been chalked full of tremendous memories this year, but what ending could be more dramatic than the tip-back dunk by NC State’s Ben McCauley after Gavin Grant’s 3 pointer bounced off the cylinder in Sunday’s game against Wake Forest. McCauley has made only 41% of his shots this year, which is pretty disappointing for a 6’10” Junior Center, but on this day he made his mark with a thunderous dunk as time expired. He also upstaged an equally amazing flip shot by Wake Forest’s Ishmael Smith that had tied the game moments earlier. (Recap here.)

Meanwhile Ryan Reid hit the first 3 pointer of his career (!) to lead Florida St. to OT against a UNC team playing without an injured Ty Lawson. (Recap here.) The ACC has now had a ridiculous 22 of 43 games decided by 3 points or less or overtime. I mentioned this last week and the ACC television coverage has even started to mention this remarkable string of close games. (They posted a graphic during the Wake Forest vs NC State game.)

I know a lot of people are going to look at these indistinguishable ACC teams and say they are not that good because they are not separating from the pack. But with 9 games to go, the bubble is wide open and every one of these games counts. If any of these teams go 6-3 down the stretch, they can make a legitimate argument for an NCAA bid. Ignore conference record at this point, because the last 10 is going to be so important. Virginia Tech may be 5-3, but they absolutely have to keep winning. I mean compare Virginia Tech and Miami’s profiles:

Virginia Tech (8 losses) defeated
Boston College
Florida St.
Virginia (Twice, but both in OT)
NC Asheville (and 7’7” Kenny George)

Miami (6 losses) defeated
Georgia Tech
Mississippi St.
VCU (CAA leader)
Marist (currently RPI #95)

Things sure seem bad for Miami right now, but there is a slim margin between the inside and the outside and all the remaining buzzer beaters will be key.

Brook Lopez vs Robin Lopez

From the “I am a moron category”, when I was doing my McDonald’s All-American update, I only listed one of Stanford’s Lopez brothers. The problem harkens back to the preseason when, because of academic issues, Brook Lopez was suspended indefinitely. At that time, I crossed him off the MAA list. Then, when I went to update the MAA numbers, I only updated the numbers for the more prolific one.

For me to make this error is pretty egregious at this point. After all, Stanford is now second in the Pac10, and quickly making a case for a 2 seed come tournament time. (You can easily excuse the Siena loss by noting Brook’s absence.) But yet every time they show Sportscenter highlights of these guys, the announcers just butcher the game. “Uh this is the other Lopez kid.” “Yeah, this seemed like it was out of this Lopez kids range, but he made it anyway.”

Come on folks, these are star players; Brook might be a lottery pick. We should know them better than this. Keep in mind that Brook has the short hair. Is he winking in this picture? Seriously? No, he probably just got stuck in one of those situations where you have a bright light shining in your eye and you aren’t supposed to blink while the cameraman spends eight minutes adjusting the focus. Robin has the obnoxious long curly hair.

While Brook has a reputation for being a much better player, when you look at the efficiency stats (courtesy Ken Pomeroy), they really aren’t that different. They are both 7 footers who can rebound effectively and who don’t spend a lot of time on the perimeter.

Brook Lopez, 108.1 ORtng, 48.1 eFG%, 13.6 OR%, 20.8 DR%, 0-5 on 3’s
Robin Lopez, 105.6 ORtng, 52.0 eFG%, 14.7 OR%, 15.5 DR%, 1-1 on 3’s

Brook Lopez, 55.0 FTR, 14.7 TORate, 6.7% Blocks
Robin Lopez, 43.0 FTR 20.7 TORate, 9.4% Blocks

Brook has a slightly lower shooting percentage this year, but he had a higher percentage last year, and you certainly shouldn’t consider Brook to be the inferior shooter. Brook takes a much wider variety of shots while Robin primarily scores on dunks and tip-ins. Brook also has a lot better body control this year, earning more free throws and committing fewer turnovers. But since this wasn’t true last year, I wouldn’t say he is fundamentally better in those areas.

No, the key difference is that Brook takes shots at a ridiculously higher rate:

Brook Lopez 31.4% of Shots
Robin Lopez 19.6% of Shots

Brook’s shooting may also explain Robin having a consistently higher offensive rebound rate, since Robin tends to clean up the jumpers that Brook misses.

Brook Lopez 18.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Robin Lopez 8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG

At 7 foot, Brook can basically get his shot off whenever he wants, and when he is feeling it, few Pac10 players can guard him. The result is the gaudy scoring numbers you see here. And to all you west-coast viewer who already knew this, I’m sorry for wasting your time.

Midnight Madness Amusement

I’m thinking of adding a feature where I focus on ESPN’s Midnight Madness show. I can’t stand Doug Gottlieb, but you really have to watch a show like this to pick up on games you don’t watch.

From Saturday:
“Arizona used more timeouts in the first half than my 3 year old grandson. And he needs to go on timeout a lot.”

“No need for a DNA test, Patrick Ewing Jr. looks exactly like his father. ” The comment was in part because Ewing Jr. scored a career high of points against Seton Hall. And the pictures being referenced were basically these two. Ignore the large photo and look at the smaller grinning photo of Ewing here and open up another browser and compare to Ewing Jr here. The cheeks and smile are remarkably similar.