Monday, November 10, 2008


Yep, Greg Paulus was not in the starting lineup for Duke’s season opener. But like most of you, I don’t have ESPNU, so I don’t have anything relevant to say about the game.

For those of you checking in for the first time this fall, click here for the basketball preview I wrote a few weeks ago. I didn’t even pick a national champion because, quite frankly, it is impossible to pick anyone other than North Carolina with a straight face. But if you want a team-by-team list of the early season tournaments, it is worth a quick look.

Meanwhile, Rush the Court has been churning out just a ton of fantastic material, and I wanted to make sure two stories didn’t get lost in the archive.

1) The ACC is proposing putting limits on the drawn-out NBA early entry process. Rush-the-Court points out one potential benefit for the Duke’s and UNC’s of the world with this rule: They can use the early deadline to make scholarship offers to additional players if needed.

While this may be the main reason, I view the legislation another way. Coaches like Bob Huggins, John Calipari, and Tim Floyd freely tell their players that if they want to go to the NBA or test the NBA waters, they fully support that decision. They can support the individual over the team because they know they need individual success to have success. Meanwhile, if a player asks Coach K if Coach K will support his decision to test the NBA waters, Coach K will honestly have to say that he does not. (See Josh McRoberts.) He values players who want to get an education and he values the player development that comes from staying in school.

In a way, I view this legislation as a way to close a recruiting advantage that the Huggins and Floyds of the world have over Coach K by de-emphasizing a process that Duke abhors.

2) Rush the Court also posted the Vegas odds. I’m no fan of gambling on college athletics, but if you believe in betting markets, you have to believe these guys do a pretty good job of incorporating all the relevant information (returning players, prized recruits, coaching ability, ect.) And whenever a ranking differs from the Vegas odds, it is worth asking the question as to why.

In the case of the Rush the Court article, it is fairly clear that the AP poll is not doing a very good job of picking the national champ, and that may be true for a number of reasons. One key reason may be the variance/mean aspect of a national champ. Florida has an exceptionally young team (basically all sophomores and freshman) including a McDonald’s All-American point guard in Nick Calathes. Because of this youth, the expected outcome (or mean outcome) for the Gators may not be that high, AP #19. But because of the youth and talent, Florida probably has a greater upside than many of the other teams and is the 3rd most likely to win a national championship.

In contrast, Pittsburgh is a pretty good bet to have a sensational season and compete for the Big East title, AP #5. But Pitt is also a pretty low variance team. Pitt relies on solid defense and Jamie Dixon’s ability to develop a strong bench year-after-year, not on supremely talented players. And as such the ceiling for Pitt may be a little lower.

Basically while Florida may be a first round bust or National Title contender, Pitt is a fairly good bet to lose in the Elite Eight this year.
Along those same lines, Vegas likes Past Final Four coaches with young Talent (Georgetown and Ohio St.) a whole lot more than the AP top 25. Meanwhile the AP loves Gonzaga who is almost certain to have a fantastic regular season, but will continue to remain an unlikely pick to win it all.