Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bracket Busters and Other Thoughts

Conference Results
WCC 2-0
MVC 7-3
CAA 8-4
MAAC 6-4
Horizon 5-5
MAC 4-8
WAC 5-3 (Hawaii score not included)

-I sort of called it on Monday when I said the biggest opportunity belonged to the MAAC. Siena’s win over Northern Iowa and second place Niagara’s win over Illinois St. pretty much cemented Siena as the best mid-major bubble team. Beyond the obvious choices like Butler and Gonzaga, there are very few mid-major candidates with solid resumes this year, but Siena is clearly the best of that group.

-And as I also suspected, Utah St. really hurt their at large chances with the loss at St. Mary’s. I’ll want to see how the RPI Top 100 shakes out after the Bracket Busters before I declare a final verdict, but 25-3 looks a lot better until you realize that includes 13-0 against teams 200+ in the RPI.

-So was Stephen Curry moving more slowly because of the injury or were the Butler defenders just doing a better job shutting him down? There were several times when he was guarded one-on-one and couldn’t get a good shot. I actually thought his teammates played with a ton of energy, especially early in the game, but this was a bad televised loss for Davidson. With just one win against the RPI top 50, Davidson needed to show they were in the same league as Butler to have a chance at an at large bid.

-A lot of these Bracket Buster stadiums looked deceivingly empty. The problem is the TV cameras kept showing the area behind the basket. For example, they show this shot every time a player shoots a free throw. But most fans choose those seats only if every sideline seat is taken, so these seats aren’t necessarily representative. I think that’s unfortunate because the atmosphere in some of these smaller stadiums can be pretty amazing.

(I thought the same thing happened at the general admission seating Old Spice Classic. It was sold out for several sessions and yet the TV highlights would always be zoomed in on the set of empty seats under each basket.)

-On the flip side, I think the Bracket Busters has been great advertising for teams like Creighton (and Butler in past years) because they really show how some mid-major schools can draw huge crowds.


“Out of bounds, Washington St. ball.”

“Again, are you kidding?”

UCLA fans had to be screaming as their furious comeback came short against Tony Bennett’s squad. In the final two minutes, I counted about 6 different plays where UCLA’s pressure defense caused a ball to ricochet out of bounds, and despite every one of those calls being very close (i.e. could have been off UCLA or Washington St.), the Cougars got the call every time. Hey, sometimes in the history of basketball you get a break. Washington St. is now 2-50 at UCLA.

Washington St.’s Taylor Rochestie scored 33 points and made 10 of 10 clutch free throws to seal the one point win. He and Kyle Weaver used to be a lethal combination, as perfect bookend distributors in Washington State’s slow paced attack. Without Weaver, Washington St. is a lot weaker this year, but you can’t blame Rochestie who is having another fabulous year shooting 40% from three point range with one of the leading assist rates in the country. Rochestie is also now on my list of favorite Pac-10 players. (Remember, these aren’t necessarily the best players, just my favorites.)

Taylor Rochestie, WSU “Don’t pass it kid, you’re shooting too well”
Jordan Hill, Arizona, “Box out, box out, he’s killing us!”
Derek Glasser, Arizona St., “Go ahead, double team Harden, I dare you”
Alfred Aboya, UCLA, The Bruins really need about 3 of him in the paint
Jerome Randle, Cal, The “other” short guy in the Pac-10

Washington isn’t the only team with a dominant player under 6 feet tall. Despite leading Cal in scoring and assists, I’ve barely heard any national publicity for Jerome Randle this year. But no one has improved more consistently. Just look at these numbers.

PPG - 3 Pt % - ORtg - Year
6.5 - 30.2% - 97.8 - 2007
11.8 - 39.7% -101.8 - 2008
18.4 - 46.1% -122.4 - 2009
As always, ORtg is from

Randle’s improved ability to knock down threes early in the year has kept defenders honest, and he’s punished them by taking the ball to the basket and earning a ton of free throws. Perhaps the reason for the lack of publicity is that his shooting percentage is down slightly in conference play relative to the way he started the season, but I think the main culprit is that Cal just isn’t on TV.

Of course, as soon as I wrote this I checked the box score for California at Oregon St. and Randle went 1-7 from the field with only 1 assist, while California took the loss. With UCLA, USC, Arizona, and Arizona St. left on the schedule, the odds of Mike Montgomery winning the Pac-10 in his first season just took a big hit. Still, you have to be happy with what this team has done this year and if Randle can take another jump in his production next year… wait, is that even possible?

Quick Thoughts

-I turned off the Maryland vs UNC game figuring Maryland wasn’t coming back. For Gary Williams sake, I’m hoping the Maryland fans didn’t do the same thing.

-Oklahoma better hope Blake Griffin’s concussion isn’t too serious because they still have games against Kansas and Missouri.

-Oklahoma St. beat Baylor in a huge bubble game. Oklahoma St. still has work to do, but getting to .500 in conference play was a big step.

-The margin of victory numbers hate Dayton and that finally caught up to them as they lost to St. Louis. Rick Majerus finally earns a big win in A-10 play.

-Oregon won. Good for them.

-I’m really glad the Big East has a double bye. I don’t need to see Pittsburgh or UConn play South Florida or DePaul ever again.

-Can we all just admit that Providence is done? They are going to lose to Pitt and Villanova, finish the year 9-9 in the Big East, and not have an NCAA resume. Still, the more I think about timing, the more I think Providence had the perfect timing when they hired Keno Davis. Coaches normally don’t get a push of recruits until their second year with the team and with 8 seniors leaving, Davis has a nice class of 5 players coming in next year. Providence will be good again, but not yet.

-Home court watch: I knew it was going to be a long day for Georgetown when a fan shouted “[obsenity] Marquette” during the national anthem. There’s just no good karma coming out of that one. One word I would use to describe Marquette is “relentless”. No matter what you throw at them, they aren’t phased. And having typed that, this article explains why. Buzz Williams has basically motivated his team by saying that they are responsible for maintaining the flow of the game.