Sunday, October 7, 2007

Vacation Time

While all sorts of experts are going to be pushing North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, and Georgetown as the favorties this year, keep in mind the following fact:

Starting with the 2003 NCAA Tournament, no Elite Eight team has advanced further in the following year's tournament.

How can this be? Partly it is due to attrition. Partly it is due to the fact that a team must have some luck to have a deep run in any year, and that is hard to duplicate. Partly it may be due to the fact that certain groups of players have a set ceiling. Memphis has reached the Elite Eight two years in a row, but what additional experience are they going to gain in Conference USA to push them over the hump this year? (And of course, mainly this is just a statistical fluke.)

But I love the stat, and in order for it to hold up this year,

Ohio St. cannot win the national title this year - Plausible
UCLA cannot advance to the championship game - Hmmm
Georgetown cannot advance to the championship game - Hmmm
Kansas cannot advance to the Final Four - Really?
North Carolina cannot advance to the Final Four - Really?
Memphis cannot advance to the Final Four - Really?
Oregon cannot advance to the Final Four - Hmmm

Get ready for me to quote this statistic mercilessly during the season folks.

The blog is now going on a vacation. Have fun with Midnight Madness and I'll be back in a few weeks!

National Championship Hunt Rankings

So far the poll voters have done a very nice job, leaving out teams like UConn that have undefeated records, but no marquee wins. But as the number of undefeated teams dwindles, it may be becoming harder and harder to find 25 worthy teams. Let's look at each undefeated team and one loss team and see what they've done so far. I start with the undefeated teams:

The One Good Team

1. LSU - Don't tell me they struggled to beat Florida, needing five 4th down conversions. This team is amazing, and Florida is nearly as good. LSU has beaten 5-1 S. Carolina, 5-1 Virginia Tech, 4-2 Florida, and 4-2 Mississippi St. No other undefeated teams are even close right now.

Early Contenders

2. California - Beat 4-1 Oregon, 3-2 Tennessee

3. South Florida - Beat 5-1 West Virginia, 4-2 Auburn

4. Missouri - Beat 5-1 Illinois, 4-2 Nebraska

5. Ohio St. - Beat 5-1 Purdue. The rest of the schedule is very weak, and I just get the feeling that this team might be over-rated. The one good thing is that they have been blowing people out.

Need More Information

6. Arizona St beat 4-2 Colorado and is 3-0 in the Pac 10, but all the tought Pac 10 games are still upcoming.

7. Boston College is 3-0 in the ACC, but the Wake Forest and Georgia Tech wins are looking less impressive now that those teams are 3-2 and 3-3 respectively.

Rank Them if You Must

8. Cincinnati beat Rutgers 3-2 and Oregon St. 3-3 so you can't say they haven't played anybody. But when did wins over Rutgers and Oregon St. ever convince you a team was for real?

9. Kansas beat a 3-2 Kansas St. team. If you think that's better than starting 4-2 in the SEC, then I guess you can rank them, but I'm still not impressed.

Zero Losses, Zero Meaningful Wins

10. Hawaii - How long until the Boise St. game?

11. Connecticut - Beat 2-3 Pittsburgh. Yep, that's as good as it gets.

One Loss Teams

OK, looking at the above teams, I'm convinced a 1 loss team will sneak into the national title game. But which team?

No Bad Loss Here

1. S. Carolina beat 5-1 Kentucky, 4-2 Georgia, and 4-2 Mississipi St., with the only loss to undefeated LSU.

2. Illinois beat 5-1 Wisconsin, 5-1 Indiana, and 4-2 Penn St., with the only loss to undefeated Missouri.

3. Oregon beat 4-2 Michigan, with a very close loss to undefeated California.

Deserve to be Ranked and in the Hunt

4. Florida St. beat 4-2 Alabama and 4-2 Colorado, with an opening day loss to Clemson.

5. Oklahoma beat 4-2 Texas, crushed 4-2 Miami, and lost close to Colorado.

Big Names, Small Profiles

These teams can probably get back in the hunt, but they only have one nice win so far.

6. USC beat 4-2 Nebraska

7. West Virginia beat 4-2 Maryland

8. Virginia Tech beat 4-2 Clemson

9. Wisconsin beat 4-2 Michigan St.

Deserved to Be Ranked, But Barely

10. Kentucky beat 3-2 Arkansas. Everyone is beating Louisville now.

11. Virginia is 3-0 in the ACC, but the best win is 3-3 Georgia Tech. The loss to Wyoming doesn't look that bad right now.

12. Texas A&M's best win is 3-3 Oklahoma St., and they barely beat Fresno St., but I'd probably still give them one of the very last slots in my Top 25.

Might Be Worth a Poll Vote, but won't play in the National Championship

13. Wyoming beat 5-1 Virginia and lost to 3-1 Boise St.

14. Boise St. beat Wyoming.

Shouldn't Be in Polls Yet

15. Indiana's best win is at 2-4 Iowa. Actually, it might be 3-3 Akron.

16. Purdue's best win is 1-5 Notre Dame. Actually, it might be 3-3 Central Michigan.

17. Texas Tech's best win is 1-5 Iowa St. OK, its probably 4-2 UTEP.

So from these 28 teams, at least 7 do not deserve to be ranked yet: Hawaii, UConn, Wyoming, Boise St, Indiana, Purdue, and Texas Tech. I might give a vote to Hawaii and Wyoming out of respect to the mid-major programs, but that leaves plenty of room in my Top 25 for Florida and other mid-level SEC schools. But 2 losses is too many for the national title picture.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Fear Jim Harbaugh

Is Stanford over USC the biggest upset of the year? I felt like Syracuse's win over Louisville was the upset of the year, but now that Louisville has continued to struggle, that upset looks less monumental. And, since Stanford was struggling just as much as Syracuse, this probably should be classified as a true shocker. But, for some reason it just didn't feel that shocking. Maybe this had something to do with how USC struggled last week, or how USC was due for a home loss after 35 straight home wins, but I really felt the announcers were exaggerating to call this the "upset of the year". Appalachian State over Michigan holds that spot, if for no other reason than shear embarrasment factor.

By the way, John David Booty is no Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart. Playing against a Stanford team that had surrendered a minimum of 41 points in its first three Pac 10 games, Bootry threw 4 interceptions and looked rattled by Stanford's pressure defense. Stanford actually had more sacks in this game than USC had allowed all year.

Also, Tavita Prichard, why weren't you starting from Week 1? Pritchard certainly wasn't perfect (11 of 30 anyone?!), but he executed flawlessly down the stretch in his first ever start. He tucked the ball and ran for a first down. He strong-armed a 20 yard 4th down completion into a tight space, and he floated a perfect fade pass for the go-ahead TD. But, I was most impressed with his cannon arm. His 60 yard bomb to start the final drive looked effortless, and even though it was nearly picked off, his arm strength gives Stanford's offense a serious weapon. Now if they can only find a speedy receiver to get open deep down the field.

Well, I'm happy to see Jim Harbaugh again, if for no other reason than to remind me of my all-time favorite Mike Ditka moment. In a game at the Metrodome, the Bears led the Vikings 20-0, when Harbaugh audibled and threw a bad interception that was returned for a TD. The Vikings came back to win 21-20 and Ditka's head nearly exploded on the sideline. Since Harbaugh still makes plenty of bad decisions, I think we should still expect some bad losses for Stanford in the Pac 10 this year. But for a team that's 1-3 in Pac 10 play, that's one great win.

Other Games

Speaking of surprises, Temple and Buffalo both won today. We're not the worst teams in Division 1 anymore baby!

Speaking of Jekyl and Hyde teams, UCLA lost. How did UCLA get blown out by Utah and lose to a winless Notre Dame and yet start 3-0 in the Pac 10?

Don't get your hopes up Notre Dame fans. You still play Boston College and USC and bowl ineligibility is still close.

Play nobody saw, Indiana defender Leslie Majors intercepted a pass while laying on his back.

How does LSU convert five 4th down plays in one game? I still can't believe they didn't kick the tying field goal from the 5 yard line. Florida is easily the best 2 loss team in the country.

Why don't crowd shots pick up innapropriate things more often? During the Nebraska - Missouri game, they panned to the following sign:


You just can't make that stuff up.

Early Headline I Didn't Post: North Carolina 27, Miami (FL) 0. This can't hold up can it? It almost didn't.

Is there some law that when Northwestern and Michigan St. lock up they must score 1 million points? Last year, Michigan St. came back from 35 down to beat Northwestern 41-38. This year Northwestern won 48-41 in overtime.

No Michigan fans, your team still doesn't deserve to be ranked after an ugly win against Eastern Michigan.

I'm officially off the Central Florida bandwagon after they lost to East Carolina.

Meanwhile, South Florida escaped with an ugly win against Florida Atlantic. When was the last time South Florida was good enough that you could say they "escaped"?

Well, Kansas finally has a legitimate win (over Kansas St.), but I still don't think they should be ranked. Who would I rank? I'll be back with a post in a short while.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Basketball FYI

At some point I’ll probably start writing about college basketball again. I’ll either have my own season preview or a reaction to some of the previews written elsewhere. Topics I expect to discuss:

Which Duke team will show up this year? The team that limped to the finish and lost in the first round, or the team that now has eight McDonald’s All-Americans and one of the best coaches of all time?

Is Greg Marshall a great mid-major hire? Or has the MVC peaked?

Which preseason tournaments are worth watching?

Will the Big East – SEC challenge be more competitive than the Big Ten – ACC challenge?

In the meantime, one thing I decided to start working on was updating my coach rankings. My biggest concern is that while you can get a pretty good sense of regular season coaching ability with only a few years worth of data, the tournament is much more random. It only takes one bad game to ruin a season, while a single championship run can forever change a coaches’ tournament reputation. Basically, my concern was that under my old formulation, I labeled Coach K as one of the worst tournament coaches in the country, and I didn’t think that was defensible. In fact, if you look at the last 10 years of data instead of the last 5 years, Coach K looks a lot better. I’ll share my updated coach rankings in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with the raw numbers:

Tournament Wins Last 10 Years
28 Mike Krzyzewski
25 Roy Williams
25 Jim Calhoun
24 Tom Izzo
23 Tubby Smith
22 Billy Donovan
19 Gary Williams
18 Lute Olson
16 Bill Self
13 Rick Barnes
13 Jim Boeheim
13 Ben Howland
12 Kelvin Sampson
12 Thad Matta
10 Bruce Webber
9 Mark Few
8 Bob Huggins
8 Bo Ryan
8 Rick Majerus
7 John Calipari
7 Mike Davis
6 Al Skinner
6 Ernie Kent
6 John Brady
6 Rick Pitino
6 Paul Hewitt
6 John Thompson III
6 John Beilein
5 Bob Knight
5 Mark Gottfried
5 Jay Wright
5 Jamie Dixon
5 Cliff Ellis
5 Herb Sendek
5 Bruce Pearl
5 Kevin Stallings

I could go back further, but I also figure there is somewhat of a statute of limitations on judging a coaches’ current ability based on past tournament wins. Bog Knight is still a good coach, but he certainly isn’t considered in the same league he was when he won a championship at Indiana.

More in a few weeks!


Wow, did I ever pick the wrong weekend not to watch any college football. Huge upsets all weekend long and suddenly we're down to only 15 undefeated teams.

Pac 10 - USC, California, Arizona St.
Big 10 - Ohio St., Wisconsin, Purdue
Big East - South Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut
SEC - LSU, Kentucky
Big 12 - Missouri, Kansas
ACC - Boston College
Other - Hawaii

There is a great shot that a 1 loss team will sneak into the championship game this year. Other than USC and LSU, none of the remaining undefeated teams were preseason favorites. Yes, some like Cal have great wins and now look like they have a chance. Others like Wisconsin, have only been eeking by, and seem like they could lose at any time. Ohio St. looks like they don't need a rebuilding year, and South Florida looks like they've already built a big-time program, but this weekend showed that upsets will happen. And if USC or LSU slip up, there is a very good chance a 1-loss team will crash the national title game party.

Conference Cup

I've been keeping track of how the BCS conferences have done against each other in non-conference play. It obviously isn't a perfect measure of conference strength. In fact, the Big 10 looks good mainly because it has been beating up on the weaker teams in some other conferences. But, for better or worse, it still provides a decent gauge of what most computer programs will spit out.

Wins vs BCS/ND, Losses vs BCS/ND, Non BCS Losses
9-4-3 Big 10
4-4-0 SEC
5-3-3 Pac10
6-7-1 Big East
7-7-4 ACC
5-6-5 Big 12
0-5-0 Notre Dame

This week's BCS vs BCS
Purdue beat Notre Dame
Florida St. beat Alabama
Virginia beat Pittsburgh
Maryland beat Rutgers
Louisville beat NC State

Really Bad Losses
Miami (OH) beat Syracuse

Syracuse is 1-0 in Big East play, 0-4 in non-conference games.

The Big Ten's strength is largely builty on a 4-0 mark against Notre Dame. If we take the golden domers out of the equation:

Throw out N. Dame
4-4-0 SEC
5-3-3 Pac10
6-7-1 Big East
5-4-3 Big 10
6-7-4 ACC
5-6-5 Big 12

This fits a little closer with what most experts think with the SEC and Pac 10 as the top 2 conferences. The Pac10 looks really strong at the top, while the SEC is probably stronger from top-to-bottom.

Next week I might watch some games and actually have something to say!