Sunday, November 25, 2007

Extended Wrapup

I may be crazy, but I actually love College Basketball's Championship Week more than the first week of the NCAA tournament. First off, there are actually more games on simultaneously and more games tends to lead to more dramatic outcomes. Second, I enjoy the details of arguing who will be in, who will get the top seeds, who will lose their jobs, and I love when cinderella teams steal at-large bids from mediocre major conference teams. I love the fact that the MWC semis can have a huge impact on teams in the Big East and that by tracking things closely I can see insights into the selection process that even the announcers on TV can't see in real time. I love discussing all these intricacies and when the NCAA tourament starts, it is actually a bit of a letdown for me. After all, the tournament is simply win and advance. There's really nothing left to discuss.

College football works in a similar vein. While I find the last three weeks exceptionally fascinating as teams jockey for last minute bowl position while playing all the toughest rivalry games, once the bowls actually get started, there isn't much to discuss. Teams simply show up and play.

That's why I've traditionally taken time off work for championship week, and why for the first time I live blogged championship week last March. On the flip side, I've been an utter failure this week in blogging the Thanksgiving frenzy. And that's too bad. Because a quick look back on the Thanksgiving schedule shows that there was a year's worth of drama unfolding in just a few short days. I start with a look-back at the college football and then the basketball from this weekend.

College Football Wrap-up

Thursday, USC and Arizona St. met with "the Pac-10 title on the line." This marked at least the third time this year this occurred. First was USC-Oregon, then when Arizona St. kept winning, much to everyone's surprise, suddenly the game of the year became Oregon-ASU. Then when Oregon's QB got injured, it suddenly became USC vs ASU. USC prevailed in dominant fashion on Thanksgiving night which actually sets up a possible 4th Pac10 title showdown next week. If Arizona St. loses to Arizona, USC will meet UCLA with the USC/UCLA winner going to the Rose Bowl. The BCS title picture has been crazy all year, but the Pac 10 has been just as crazy.

Friday kicked off with Colorado and Nebraska playing a win-or-go-home game. The winner would go to a bowl, the loser at 5-7 would not be eligible for a bowl. Nebraska gave up a boatload of points yet again which promptly led to Bill Callahan's firing.

Mississippi St. then met Mississippi in the Egg Bowl. Mississippi St. needed a win to ensure a bowl bid, given the large number of eligible conference teams. Coach Sylvester Croom was practially in tears as his team won to improve to 7-5 and lock up a bowl slot.

When I look back on this season, I think just about every week the best game was the SEC game on CBS, just a tremendous schedule of football this year. Next up was Arkansas vs LSU with LSU hoping to go to the National Title Game. Arkansas showed why college football will always be more fun than the pro-game as elite RB McFadden played QB on numerous occassions in an attempt to stump the LSU defense. Arkansas eventually won in Triple OT, and LSU's national title hopes finally came to an end. West Virginia is now the favorite to meet the Big 12 champ in the title game, although I still keep wondering if Ohio St. won't get an influx of votes at the last minute. If Ohio St. hadn't lost so convincingly last year to Florida, they'd have a better chance of jumping West Virginia.

Texas A&M then held off Texas and even though Franchione was forced to resign the next day after a 7-5 season, his victory over Texas knocked Texas out of a BCS bowl game which had to feel good to A&M fans.

Finally, on Friday Night, Hawaii crushed Boise St. and ended Boise St.'s hopes of a BCS repeat. I'm really curious what will happen now if Hawaii loses to Washington (last place in the Pac 10) in the final game of the season. Hawaii is currently 12th in the BCS which would ensure a BCS at large slot in the Sugar Bowl, but a Hawaii loss could open up another BCS slot for the major conferences.

Saturday kicked off with Boston College rolling over Miami. Miami dropped to 5-7 and Miami is no longer eligible for bowl participation after the loss. The story of Miami's season tended to fly under the radar, but I find it somewhat shocking. The Hurricanes were the whole reason for the big ACC expansion a few years ago, and already the program has collapsed to the point where the Hurricanes are not even going to a bowl. Yikes.

Next Virginia Tech met Virginia with the winner advancing to the ACC title game. While Virginia had a great season, Virginia Tech won convincingly and now gets a rematch with Boston College in that title game.

Next Maryland faced NC State. Like the previous day's Nebraska vs Colorado matchup, only the winner would go to a bowl. Maryland was wildly inconsistent this year, but proved to be the better team here winning 37-0.

Next up was Kentucky vs Tennessee. Tennessee needed to win to go to the SEC title game. If Tennessee lost, Georgia would go to the SEC title game. As mentioned above, the SEC game on CBS once again proved to be the most exciting game of the day as Tennessee won in 4 OTs. Georgia may feel upset that they miss out on the SEC title game, but this basically clinched a BCS bid for Georgia since the Bulldogs are now guaranteed to end the year with only 2 losses. I expect Georgia to play in the Orange bowl against the ACC champ. The big loser in this game was probably Florida. Since the SEC can only get two BCS bids and Georgia has all but locked one up, Florida will play in a non-BCS new year's day game. Could we see Ron Zook's Illini face Zook's former school Florida in the Capital One Bowl?

Next up, BYU met Utah with both teams still having a shot at the MWC championship. BYU won its rivalry game and takes the top bowl slot for the MWC.

Wake Forsest beat Vanderbilt and ensured the Commodore's lengthly bowl drought continued. Vandy fell to 5-7 and is not eligible for a bowl. Vanderbilt and Indiana were tied for the longest bowl drought among BCS teams, but Indiana's streak should end this year as discussed last week. Wake's season was kind of an under-the-radar story this year. Wake Forest didn't fall apart a year after a shocking ACC title last year, but they couldn't beat any of the elite ACC teams either (lost to BC, Clemson, Virginia). Also, Wake's non-conference loss to Nebraska looks pretty bad right now. Still, Wake Forest was at the level of Duke a few years ago, so beating Vanderbilt to finish 8-4 has to feel good.

UConn met West Virginia for the Big East title, and as expected, West Virginia won handily. In a shocking turn of events, West Virginia not only won the Big East title, but is now favored to play for the national title. They simply have to beat a mediocre Pittsburgh team in the backyard brawl to get there. I don't have anything exciting to say about that game, other than, get out a map and look how close WVU's campus is to the Pittsburgh campus. This really is the backyard brawl.

Next, Fresno St. crushed Kansas St. to deny Kansas St. a bowl bid. By the way, anyone questioning why Kansas fell to 5th in the BCS standing need look no further than their resume. Kansas is still a paper tiger with one loss. Kansas beat only three BCS bowl eligible teams this year, Colorado (6-6), Oklahoma St. (6-6), and Texas A&M (7-5).

Missouri on the other hand played some tough competition earlier in the year and was better prepared for the game against Kansas. With Missouri's victory, the BCS title game picture became relatively clear again. If Missouri beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, it should be Missouri vs West Virginia. If Oklahoma beats Missouri again, West Virginia will likely face Ohio St. for the National Title. It has finally come down to just that.

Elsewhere, Georgia won its rivalry game against Georgia Tech, earning the likely Orange bowl bid as discussed above. UCLA beat Oregon, knocking Oregon out of the Pac 10 hunt for good. Oklahoma won a suddenly meaningless bedlam matchup against Oklahoma St. And Florida won a game that meant nothing except to the Heisman voters.

This is college football nirvana folks, and if one of these stories didn't excite you, you must not be a college football fan.

To quickly recap the total BCS picture. Should Missouri win against Oklahoma, here's how I see it going down. The four at-large BCS bids should go to Kansas, Georgia, Arizona St., and Hawaii. The Fiesta Bowl will pick Kansas to replace Missouri, the Orange Bowl will next pick Georgia, the Fiesta Bowl will pick Arizona St., and the Sugar Bowl will get stuck with Hawaii. The games will then look like this:

National Title: One vs Two, Missouri vs West Virginia
Rose Bowl: Big 10 vs Pac 10, Ohio St. vs USC
Orange Bowl: ACC Champ vs At Large, Virginia Tech vs Georgia
Fiesta Bowl: At Large vs At Large, Kansas vs Arizona St.
Sugar Bowl: SEC Champ vs At Large, LSU vs Hawaii

If Arizona St. or Hawaii lose, a 3 loss BCS team will end up taking their place. Boston College and Tennessee can also sub in as the ACC and SEC Champs if they win next week.

Turning quickly to the basketball court.

College Basketball Wrapup

Texas A&M crushed Ohio St. to win the NIT proving that either Texas A&M was a lot more than just Acie Law last year, or that Ohio St. is still pretty young. I say it was a little of both.

Iowa went winless in the South Padre Invitational, falling to Utah St. and Bradley. Bradley lost in the championship to Vanderbilt. Iowa which has struggled recently against Drake and N. Iowa cannot be happy to lose to another MVC team in Bradley.

Xavier dominated Indiana to win the Chicago Invitational Challenge. While Butler, S. Illinois, and even Davidson are getting a lot of press early, Xavier was flying under the radar. But that's about to change. Look for Xavier to be a serious March sleeper team.

In one of those, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me moments, the organizers of the Las Vegas Invitational essentially rigged the tournament to ensure a Louisville vs UNC game in Las Vegas. But, BYU spoiled the party defeating Louisville in the semis. (Missing David Padgett stories were seen everywhere.) UNC then won the title game against BYU.

In the Philly Classic, Seton Hall edged Virginia proving that the ACC is not invincible in early season tournaments, it just looks that way.

In the Legends Classic, Texas beat Tennessee and proved all those early stories about the team not missing Durant may have some merit.

In the Great Alaska Shootout, Butler continued last year's early season tournament magic. Butler beat three BCS teams en route to the title, and made a great case for an NCAA at large selection in March. Butler beat Michigan, Virginia Tech, and Texas Tech in Alaska. The final day belonged to the mid-majors as Gonzaga also upended Virginia Tech in the 3rd place game and Western Kentucky upended Michigan in the 5th place game.

The Anaheim Classic went to the BCS leagues as USC won a tough game against Southern Illinois for the title. That game is going to be a huge feather in USC's cap come March.

Finally, in the Old Spice Classic, Penn St. went winless, losing to Rider and UCF along the way. George Mason picked up two huge wins and a quality loss, edging Kansas St. an South Carolina, while losing to Villaova. NC State won a dramatic 1 point game against Villanova to win the Old Spice title.

With Feast Week wrapped up, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is about to get underway. As everyone knows the ACC always wins this thing. Due to time constrainsts, I doubt I'll have much of a preview, but I'm willing to bet the Basketball Prospectus link will have something to say, so click on the link in the upper left.

Later folks!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Topic - Eaton, (Not Eating)

After Oklahoma St. fell to 1-2 at the Maui invitational and 2-3 on the season, Doug Gottlieb’s head seemed like it was about to explode. And his main complaint was the lack of development of McDonald’s All-American Guard Byron Eaton.

Byron Eaton, Okl. St.  PPG  RPG  APG  MPG 
Freshman               7.8  2.3  3.2 23.7 
Sophomore              7.7  2.6  3.6 24.7 
First Junior Games     6.2  2.8  3.0 20.4 

Eaton’s numbers are worse when you consider Oklahoma St. is really hoping he’ll still be a star for his team. Bobby Frasor’s PPG also went down last year, but his role was largely supplanted by Ty Lawson.

Bobby Frasor, UNC      PPG  RPG  APG  MPG 
Freshman               6.4  2.2  4.4 27.5 
Sophomore              2.4  0.7  1.6 10.1 
First Junior Games     5.3  1.3  2.0 16.0 

Outside of Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts, the Junior McDonald’s All-American class was never hyped to the same degree as the recent classes. This was because it was the last class to have players jump straight to the NBA. In fact, seven of the MAA’s went straight to the NBA, and two others (McRoberts and Julian Wright) jumped last year. Here’s how the other 15 have fared in their debut games this year:

Juniors                PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Results
Richard Hendrix, Alab 25.0 15.7  1.7 30.3 L Belmont, W Troy, Mercer
Jon Brockman, Wash.   22.5 12.5  1.3 30.8 L TexasA&M, W Utah, EWash, NJTech
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC 22.3 10.3  0.3 25.7 Beat Davidson, Iona, SC State
Eric Devendorf, Syr   15.8  3.0  4.3 37.3 L Ohio St., W St. Joes, Siena, Fordham
Korvotney Barber, Aub 15.0  8.0  0.8 26.5 L Tulane, W Kenn, AlabSt, CharS
Danny Green, UNC      13.7  5.0  1.7 20.3 Beat Davidson, Iona, SC State
Mario Chalmers, Kans  12.0  2.8  5.8 26.8 Beat NAriz,ULMon,UMKC,Washb
Brandon Costner, NCSt 10.3  8.0  2.7 32.3 L New Orleans, W W&M, Rider
Greg Paulus, Duke      8.0  2.2  4.6 26.6 Beat Marq,Ill,Princ,NewMexSt,NCCen
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU   7.3  5.7  2.0 22.0 L OklSt,ArSt, W Cham,SELou,McN
Byron Eaton, Okl. St.  6.2  2.8  3.0 20.4 L Marq,Ill, NTex, W LSU,PVAM
Bobby Frasor, UNC      5.3  1.3  2.0 16.0 Beat Davidson, Iona, SC State
Luke Zeller, N. Dame   5.0  2.5  0.8 14.8 L G. Tech, Baylor, W Monmouth, LIU

Two players transferred and are starting their first full year with their new teams:

Transfers              PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Results
Micah Downs, Gonzaga   6.7  4.3  2.0 26.0 Beat Montana, Idaho, UCRiverside
Eric Boateng, Ariz St  5.0  4.3  0.0 15.0 L Illinois, W LSU, Princeton

Many of the above names are known nationally, but it is worth noting that three of these players appear to have taken a more starring role in their junior season:

Richard Hendrix, Alab  PPG  RPG  APG  MPG 
Freshman               9.4  8.0  0.8 27.1 
Sophomore             14.6  8.7  1.9 27.6 
First Junior Games    25.0 15.7  1.7 30.3 
Jon Brockman, Wash.    PPG  RPG  APG  MPG 
Freshman               8.4  6.5  0.7 24.1 
Sophomore             14.2  9.6  1.1 28.8 
First Junior Games    22.5 12.5  1.3 30.8 
Korvotney Barber, Aub  PPG  RPG  APG  MPG 
Freshman               6.8  4.8  0.4 21.3 
Sophomore             11.3  6.6  1.1 25.5 
First Junior Games    15.0  8.0  0.8 26.5

It is unclear whether or not they can keep this up, but if you haven’t heard about Hendrix, Brockman, and Barber in the hype for Love, Mayo, and Beasley, maybe you should have.

Tournament Action

Again, I’ve been too busy eating Apple Pie and Turkey to watch much basketball, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

CBE Classic: UCLA made a terrific second half rally to defeat Michigan St. late Tuesday Night.

Maui Invitational: The final day produced three good games, Chaminade edged Princeton, Arizona St. edged LSU, and Duke edged Marquette.

NIT: Jonny Flynn’s early heroics came to an end as he went 0-6 from the floor and watched fellow freshman MAA Kosta Koufos make a statement. And despite a 21-15 double double from Jon Brockman (listed above), Washington fell to Texas A&M in the other semifinal.

Great Alaska Shootout: For the second year in a row, Butler found early tournament success, crushing Michigan in the first quarterfinal matchup. Butler will face Virginia Tech on Friday.

The Anaheim Classic and Old Spice Classic are just kicking off. I’ll have more comments later in the week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Todd Bozeman? Really?

Ken Pomeroy had a nice article today evaluating last year’s new coaches. I came up with my own coaching metric last spring, and after reading his article, I’m reminded what a difficult task it is to generate a true coach ranking.

Pomeroy’s coach ranking (actually his adaptation of a Dean Oliver idea) highlights my biggest problem with my own rankings. Within any one year, it is clear that the best coaches are the coaches that take an unsuccessful program and win more than expected. In fact, this sounds terrific, until you evaluate the flip side. Coaches that maintain a level of excellence can never rise to the top of the list.

For example, over the last 5 years, I essentially rated Ohio St.’s coach Thad Matta as the top coach in college basketball. That is because he led to a significant improvement at three straight schools. This sounds good in principle, but did it really prove that Thad Matta was a better Coach than Billy Donovan? Billy Donovan won two championships but mostly just maintained a program at the highest possible level.

To put it another way, if you lived to enjoy the end of UCLA’s glory days, was your reaction, “Eh they should win every year”, or “There goes the greatest coach of all time”? I think the answer has to be the later, and if that’s true, you really cannot overlook the most important metric of all, victories.

After all, if you put Anthony Grant at North Carolina, I’m not sure he would win the ACC or compete for a National Title. But, I’m sure that if you put Roy Williams at VCU, he would make an impact. Just look at what John Calipari did after he returned to college to coach at Memphis. From his Memphis Bio,

“Although the Tiger program wasn't as far down as UMass was when Calipari arrived, even the most loyal Memphis basketball supporters would admit their beloved Tigers had fallen on hard times in the mid-to-late 1990s. From 1993-94 through 1999-2000 (seven seasons), Memphis posted only two 20-win campaigns (1994-95 and 1995-96), and the Tigers had consecutive losing seasons in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.”

But now, “Calipari's 181 victories and 25.9 wins per year are the most by a Tiger mentor in his first seven seasons.”

Clearly a big name coach can step into a mid-level school and raise them to prominence. So for that reason, I think any reasonable measure has to reward success as a whole, not just improvement.

A Silly Criticism

To be fair, Pomeroy knew this wasn’t a tool to evaluate all coaches, and that’s why he looked at only new coaches in his article. Moreover, he also pointed out that new coaches often struggle because they inherit difficult situations. And I’m sure if you pushed him further, he would agree that there are other important factors to consider when evaluating new coaches.

For example, look at how the improvement metric would compare the new coaches Bob Huggins (now at West Virginia) and Frank Martin (now at Kansas St.). If they have equal success this year, this type of metric should rate them the same. After all, both programs were borderline NCAA teams last year. But since Frank Martin runs the same system as Bob Huggins, and because his recruits were already in place, if Bob Huggins takes West Virginia as far as Kansas St. this year, I’ll consider it a minor miracle.

In the day and age when Moneyball fanatics like to think that statistics can solve everything, including removing the need for scouting, I’m pleased to note that a regression can’t observe everything. But its still kind of fun to look. After all, why else would we have a reason to discuss Todd Bozeman?

Three Other Problems with My Rankings and Other Coach Rankings

1) Let’s assume for a moment that turning a program around will always be more impressive than maintaining a program. Then, what window do you use to measure that success? As Pomeroy said, new coaches often inherit situations where the program has bottomed out. If a team is without talent, even a top coach may not be able to get that team to win immediately. This suggests a longer time window is appropriate. It suggests we should look at coaches after five years, and see whether or not they have improved their programs. But a longer time window is also not without its downfall. After all, Roy Williams looks like a miracle maker over a short-time horizon, taking Doherty’s disappointments and turning them into National Champions. But relative to the long history of North Carolina, he’s only maintained the tradition. While Calipari clearly revitalized Memphis, the school had a tradition of success dating back to a 1973 title game against UCLA.

2) Is it easier or harder to win at a mid-major or a major school? For example, would you be more impressed with Roy Williams maintaining success at North Carolina or Mark Few maintaining success at Gonzaga? Yes, North Carolina has more tradition and a larger fanbase to fall back on, but Gonzaga faces fewer hurdles in conference play in the WCC.

3) Is it the coach or the program? The biggest problem in answering all these questions is that we don’t have enough variance in the coaching data, (we don’t have enough coaches switching between jobs) to truly identify the ability of any one coach. I think this is particularly true when it comes to recruiting. We don’t know how much the recruiting comes from the school and how much it comes from the coach. In some cases (think Duke), the two are so intertwined that it would be pointless to try to sort it out.

Of Course

So who is the best coach? I guess the reason I created my rankings is to ask the question “Best at what?” Best at Recruiting? Best at Development? Best in the Tournament? And if I’ve already bored you with this level of detail, just take the easy way out. Say John Wooden.

Tournament Action

Michigan St.’s big lead evaporated Monday night against Missouri, but they hung on for a victory. I’m sure if John Gasaway was still writing a daily column he’d discuss the fact that Michigan St.’s 17 turnovers were not terrible, particularly given last season’s MSU turnover rate and Missouri’s defense which is designed to create turnovers. But the obvious effect of all that defensive pressure was a lot of easy baskets. Michigan St.’s starting front court all shot over 50% and two of the players Gray and Morgan were perfect from the field.

The Big Ten success continued elsewhere late Monday as Illinois built a huge lead on Arizona St. Sadly for those of us Illinois fans hoping to watch the game, the large run to start the game was largely interrupted by bonus coverage of the Michigan St. vs Missouri. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Today’s games were mostly less inspiring.

Maui: Chaminade held tough with LSU but lost in the consolation bracket and Princeton looked tired against Arizona St. in the other semifinal. Marquette on the other hand looked fresh and dominant knocking down 11 of 16 three pointers in the victory over Oklahoma St. This of course led to the incoherent rant from Doug Gottlieb about how Oklahoma St. cannot stop penetration by guards. Uh dude, I’m sure that was important and all, but that would have been a much better talking point if Marquette’s guards hadn’t just hit 11 three pointers. Just saying.

CBE Classic: Missouri outlasted Maryland, and Michigan St. vs UCLA is just kicking off.

Tommorrow Night we have the finale of the Maui Invitational, the NIT Semis, the start of the Great Alaska Shootout, and a lot of people sitting in airports.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dramatic Day

The marquee story of the day is certainly the injury to Louisville’s David Padgett. Derrick Caracter was huge inside last year for the Cardinal, and he’s going to have to step up again with Padgett out. Since I’m short I’m time, I’ll just direct you to the recaps of the dramatic action from late Sunday and Monday.

Top of the World: Colorado St. topped off the classic with a dramatic one point comeback victory. (See recap here.)

Paradise Jam: Wichita State finally picked up a win defeating Illinois-Chicago in the 7th place game. Meanwhile Monmouth pulled its second upset of the tournament defeating Charlotte a day after defeating Wichita St. Monmouth’s overtime victory over Charlotte is recapped here. But, the game of the day may have been Georgia Tech’s dramatic one point win over Notre Dame in the 3rd place game. (Recap here.) Notre Dame cannot be happy to win only once in the Virgin Islands, but hey, they beat Monmouth. Finally, Baylor defeated Winthrop in a much less dramatic final to capture the Paradise Jam championship.

Maui: Marquette, Oklahoma St., and Duke won easily in the early games. Arizona St. vs Illinois is about to tip off.

CBE Classic: UCLA dispatched Maryland with Westbrook’s hair doing most of the talking. OK, Westbrook’s game was pretty good too. He had 13 points and 7 assists in UCLA’s win over Maryland. Oh, and Kevin Love just posted another double-double. OJ Mayo may average more points for USC, but UCLA is going to win a lot more games thanks to this guy. Michigan St. leads Missouri at halftime and if they hang on, it will set up a match-up of Top 15 teams on Tuesday. Back tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Feast Week Continues

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Final

Picture this. You’re in Puerto Rico. Your team is playing for the 3rd time in 4 days. If you’re Tim Welsh, you’re sweating it out in a suit like just about every other Division 1 coach. But if you’re Frank Haith you are wearing a white short-sleeve dress shirt with a University of Miami insignia. The look was right out of a retirement community. I mean who wears a short-sleeve dress shirt anyhow? Oh, that’s right. People that live in Miami.

You know what is often the key to winning multiple days in a row? Foul trouble. How often do you see a player in a Conference Tournament sit down one day with foul trouble and show up the next day as the only fresh player on the court? In this case it was Jack McClinton who picked up his 4th foul early in the second half and had to sit until the three minute mark. A that point in the game, almost every other shooter was coming up short on their three point shot, but when the fresh McClinton came into the tie game, he immediately hit the go ahead three pointer. This sparked a mini-run for Miami and despite the fact that McClinton then fouled out, his team had build enough of a lead to hold on for victory. Obviously it can backfire if your reserves don’t play well, but in these day-to-day tournaments, resting three point shooters can often pay dividends.

The Magic Continues

You have to give a lot of credit to Gregg Marshall. He’s had to earn his keep at every coaching destination in his career. He was never an assistant at a major program and never had the connections to quickly move up in the world. Despite being the Big South Coach of the Year 5 times, despite taking Winthrop to the NCAA tournament in 7 out of 9 years, he didn’t get a sniff at a big time coaching job. Instead, he’ll have to earn his way again, taking over a Wichita St. team in the almost major Missouri Valley Conference. The good news for Gregg is that if he wins at Wichita St., he should get a chance at a major coaching job. The bad news is that he doesn’t get to enjoy the continued ride at Winthrop.

Not only did his 11th seeded Winthrop squad defeat Notre Dame in last year’s NCAA tournament, for one of the best wins in school history, that same Winthrop team is now playing in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament. (At the time of this writing, Baylor vs Notre Dame is still in progress.) Winthrop defeated Georgia Tech in the PJ semis thanks to four starters in double figures. (Recap here.)

Sadly for Greg Marshall, his current team is the one that is struggling. Wichita St. has lost to Baylor and Monmouth and now must beat a dangerous Illinois-Chicago team to avoid finishing 0-3 in the Virgin Islands.

Other Tournament Games

Puerto Rico: Temple finally picked up a victory, but needed overtime to beat Marist in the 7th place game. Yikes. Houston beat Charleston for 5th place, and Arkansas outlasted VCU in the 3rd place game. The formerly cold and hot Eric Maynor was simply average in the final, scoring 12 points in 38 minutes.

Top of the World: Allow me to recap the field. Alaska, Tennessee St., Colorado St., Akron, South Carolina St., Portland St., IUPUI, and Oregon St. Oregon St. would be the only BCS team here. And that same Oregon St. team finished in 7th place, beating winless South Carolina Upstate for their only victory.

First off, how embarrassing is that for the Oregon St. team? I believe on my coach rankings page, (which I still need to update), that I said that Jay John was on the hot seat this year. This can’t have helped matters.

Second, who the heck is South Carolina Upstate? I’ve heard of South Carolina. I’ve heard of South Carolina St. But South Carolina Upstate? Here they are. Huh, I guess they play in the Atlantic Sun.

Third, the championship game between Portland St. and Colorado St. was on after my bedtime. I’ll check back tomorrow.

Do these Games Matter?

Come NCAA selection show time, we put a lot of stock into these early season tournaments because they offer some rare non-conference BCS match-ups. But, I’m not sure whether it is good to put a lot of weight on these games or not. On the one hand, the Miami-Providence final was often sloppy due to tired players. But, on the other hand, the best players often rise to the occasion in these games. Look back at Douglas-Roberts and Rose in the Coaches vs Cancer final. They were playing the second day in a row, and they looked like the elite players that they are. I guess I’ll say it’s a coin flip. These games should matter, but not as much as the long grind that is conference play.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Debuts

For the most part the holiday tournaments are taking Saturday off, so I’ll save my updated coverage for tomorrow night. But after yesterday’s feature on the debut performances of the McDonald’s All-American (MAA) freshman, I thought I’d show how the 14 returning MAA sophomores have performed in their debut games this season. This includes the Saturday afternoon games, but not the Saturday night games.

Welcome Back                 PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Chase Budinger, Arizona     25.0  6.0  4.0 32.0 Beat N. Arizona
Wayne Ellington, UNC        20.0  3.0  1.0 33.0 Beat Davidson
Jon Scheyer, Duke           17.5  4.0  3.5 25.5 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
D.J. Augustin, Texas        14.5  2.0  7.5 37.0 Beat Texas-SA, UCDavis
Sherron Collins, Kansas     16.0  3.5  5.0 27.5 Beat ULMon, UMKC, Wshb
Darrell Arthur, Kansas      12.7  7.0  1.0 25.7 Beat ULMon, UMKC, Wshb
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova 13.0  1.0  6.0 33.0 Beat Stony Brook
Earl Clark, Louisville      10.0 11.0  3.0 30.0 Beat Hartford
Robin Lopez, Stanford        9.8  6.0  1.0 24.2 L Sna W Hrv,NWSt,CSB,NW
Gerald Henderson, Duke      13.0  2.5  2.0 22.5 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Lance Thomas, Duke           7.0  3.0  0.5 21.0 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Tywon Lawson, UNC            8.0  1.0  1.0 21.0 Beat Davidson
Vernon Macklin, Georgetown   4.0  4.0  0.5 20.0 Beat Michigan, W&M
Tweety Carter, Baylor        6.5  1.0  1.5 20.0 Beat WichSt,JacksonSt

Sample selection may matter here, as the sophomore MAA’s that stayed in school are not quite hitting the same peak performances as the freshman MAA’s listed yesterday. The one exception is Chase Budinger who is really not getting enough press here on the East Coast. He’s an elite player and a good reason my pre-season predictions had Arizona 2nd in the Pac10.

The most important stat in the table listed above may be that only one of the teams with a sophomore MAA has lost yet, while four of the freshman MAAs play on teams that already have “bad” losses.

If you think I’m focusing too much on MAA’s, you’re right. But remember, since the inception of the MAA team, only two teams have won a National Title without a MAA on their roster.

Big Ten Network

I watched four Big Ten Games at once this afternoon thanks to the Big Ten Network (and ESPN) and all four came down to the wire. And just like that the Big Ten season is over. Here are a few thoughts:

-Wisconsin nearly blew the chance at a New Year’s Day Bowl against 1-10 Minnesota. But, in typical Gopher fashion, the Gopher’s muffed a punt late in the game which provided a critical cushion for the Badgers.

Paul Bunyan’s axe is clearly the coolest of all the rivalry trophies. Earlier in the day Illinois won the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk which is basically a tiny axe in a display box. It was passed off on the sidelines between Northwestern and Illinois staff and then casually brought into the tunnel. In other words, the players didn’t even know they won it. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin-Minnesota game always ends with a bunch of football players running across the field with an oversized axe in their hands. Note to future rivalry trophies. Oversized is better.

-Penn St.’s 4th down attempt sailed incomplete in the final minutes and Michigan St. sealed a huge comeback against the Nitany Lions. Penn St. probably wasn’t going to go to the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl two years in a row, but Saturday’s loss virtually assured Penn St. of the #5 slot in the Champs Sports Bowl. Glancing at the top 5:

Conf All Team
7-1 11-1 Ohio St.
6-2 9-3 Illinois
6-2 8-4 Michigan
5-3 9-3 Wisconsin
4-4 8-4 Penn St.

If nothing wacky happens in the BCS, Ohio St. should go to the Rose Bowl as the lone BCS bid. Thanks to their upset of Ohio St. last week, Illinois appears to be the clear choice for the Capital One Bowl. The final New Year’s Day Bow, the Outback Bowl, will have a choice between Michigan and Wisconsin. If Lloyd Carr retires, I could see that being the factor that keeps Michigan ahead of Wisconsin, but it could go either way. The loser should get the Alamo Bowl.

-Indiana meanwhile had a huge 24-3 lead, lost the lead, and needed a little magic to defeat Purdue. (Did that Indiana kicker look nervous or what?) Purdue has now lost 3 games in a row, and may have lost a chance to go to a Big Ten affiliated bowl. Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan St. now have identical records of 7-5 (3-5) and the Insight and Motor City Bowls can only choose two of them. Michigan St. beat both Purdue and Indiana this year and may have the fanbase to take the Insight Bowl. But Indiana’s 14 year bowl drought should be an attractive enough story for the Motor City Bowl to choose the Hoosiers. Purdue will have to hope a bowl slot opens up elsewhere, and the way this season has broken, there is no guarantee that will happen.

-Iowa and Northwestern on the other hand are probably going to be without a bowl. Iowa has the better chance based on a better conference record, but at 6-6 the only way these teams can take an at-large bowl slot is if every single 7-5 team already gets a bowl game. Moreover, other leagues may have more deserving 6-6 teams. When you look inside the numbers, Iowa didn’t have to play Michigan or Ohio St. this year and still only got to 6 wins. More importantly, when you lose at home to a MAC team in your final game of the season, your fanbase probably isn’t going to want to travel.

Friday, November 16, 2007

MAA Watch

Who will be the next Kevin Durant? Lots of freshmen have stepped up early. Here’s the stat line for the 24 Freshman McDonald’s All-Americans in their debut games:

The Wow Group                PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Michael Beasley, Kansas St. 31.0 19.0  3.5 30.0 Beat SacSt., PittSt.
Eric Gordon, Indiana        33.0  6.0  4.0 35.0 Beat Tenn-Chatt
J.J. Hickson, NC State      31.0  7.0  1.0 30.0 Beat William & Mary
Kevin Love, UCLA            20.7 10.3  2.3 27.0 Beat PortSt,YSU,SBern

My Team Lost to Who?         PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
O.J. Mayo, USC              24.0  7.0  4.5 37.0 L Mercer, W Citadel
James Anderson, Okl. St.    22.5  5.0  4.5 33.0 L N.Texas, W PVAM
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky  8.0  7.5  1.0 22.5 L GardWebb, W C.Ark
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech     7.0  4.3  0.3 15.7 L UNCGB, W Chrlt,TennSt

It is probably too early to pull out the tempo free stats for these players, but BP points out that Mayo needed a lot of shots to get that many points.

For Real                     PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Derrick Rose, Memphis       19.8  5.5  2.5 30.8 Beat Conn,Okl,Rchm,TMrt
Donte Greene, Syracuse      19.0  8.0  1.3 36.7 Beat StJoes,Siena,Frdhm
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse       13.0  3.3  7.7 34.3 Beat StJoes,Siena,Frdhm 
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma     14.8  8.6  1.8 26.6 L Mem, W SF,Den,Alc,GaW

The above players have played at least one game against a quality opponent and they look legit. These next players look like vital cogs for their teams, but we’ll know more when they play better competition.

Need More Data               PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Nick Calathes, Florida      17.3  3.3  6.3 30.7 Beat NDSt,TennTch,NCCen
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona     18.0  1.0  5.0 34.0 Beat N. Arizona
Kosta Koufos, Ohio St.      18.5  7.5  1.0 24.5 Beat Wisc-GB, Columbia
Kyle Singer, Duke           12.5  6.0  1.5 23.0 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
James Harden, Arizona St.    First Game Monday Night  

And here are some players that have yet to take starring roles for their teams.

Role Players?                PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Taylor King, Duke           13.5  5.0  1.5 18.0 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Jai Lucas, Florida           9.0  2.0  2.7 26.0 Beat NDSt,TennTch,NCCen
Nolan Smith, Duke            9.0  0.0  3.5 18.0 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Austin Freeman, Georgetown   6.0  3.0  0.5 17.5 Beat Michigan, W&M
Chris Wright, Georgetown     5.0  3.0  0.5 15.0 Beat Michigan, W&M
Corey Stokes, Villanova      2.0  2.0  1.0 15.0 Beat Stony Brook
Cole Aldrich, Kansas         3.0  4.0  0.0  9.3 Beat ULMon, UMKC, Wshb

Taylor King has made the most of his minutes so far, but the jury is still out. Jai Lucas has been quiet offensively, but his team hasn’t needed him to be a big scorer yet. I could see Nolan Smith earning more minutes (particularly given my lack of faith in Paulus), but Duke might have to play its big men more in future games which could limit his minutes. Georgetown is deep enough that Freeman and Wright may have to be role players this year.

What’s the upside for players like Beasley and Mayo? Well, of last year’s 24 freshmen McDonald’s All-Americans, 8 went on to the NBA. Here’s how they fared last year:

Last Year’s Stars            PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Pick
Kevin Durant, Texas         25.8 11.1  1.3 35.9   2
Greg Oden, Ohio St          15.7  9.6  0.7 28.9   1
Mike Conley, Ohio St        11.3  3.4  6.1 31.6   4
Brandan Wright, UNC         14.7  6.2  1.0 27.4   8
Spencer Hawes, Washington   14.9  6.4  1.9 28.9  10
Thaddeus Young, G. Tech     14.4  4.9  2.0 29.6  12
Javaris Crittenton, G. Tech 14.4  3.7  5.8 31.3  19
Daequan Cook, Ohio St        9.8  4.3  1.0 19.7  21

Or, for those of you who find this more informative:

Last Year’s Stars           eFG% ORtng Team Result
Kevin Durant, Texas         53.6 116.5 Lost 2nd Round
Greg Oden, Ohio St          61.6 116.2 National Runner-Up
Mike Conley, Ohio St        55.2 117.6 National Runner-Up
Brandan Wright, UNC         64.6 118.9 Elite Eight
Spencer Hawes, Washington   53.3 108.6 None
Thaddeus Young, G. Tech     53.1 112.5 Lost 1st Round
Javaris Crittenton, G. Tech 50.1 106.2 Lost 1st Round
Daequan Cook, Ohio St       53.0 103.7 National Runner-Up

Other than Durant, these numbers don’t look that impossible to duplicate. It would not shock me for Kevin Love to better Oden’s 15-10, especially since he has more experience around him.

Looking back, it’s a little shocking that Hawes, Crittenton, and Cook went pro given that they weren’t even efficient players in college. None of them have ORtngs over 110. But since they all ended up as 1st round draft picks, they obviously made the right move.

So if the high end freshman MAA produces around 15 PPG, 6 RPG and 2 APG, what’s the worst production one could observe for a MAA player? How about 36.5% eFG% and 1 PPG. That’s what James Keefe did last year. He’s one of two MAA freshman from last season who you shouldn’t look for in the NBA or college this year:

Player                      eFG% Ortng Team Result    Status
Brook Lopez, Stanford       50.2  98.2 Lost 1st Round Suspension
James Keefe, UCLA           36.5  77.0 Final Four     Inactive

I haven’t heard whether Keefe is going to try to transfer from UCLA, but at this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Lopez decided not to attend class.

And while we’re at it, we might as well look at the other 14 MAA freshman performances from last year:

Player                       PPG RPG APG MPG
Chase Budinger, Arizona     15.6 5.8 2.0 33.0
D.J. Augustin, Texas        14.4 2.8 6.7 35.6
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova 14.8 2.8 4.0 29.6
Tywon Lawson, UNC           10.2 2.9 5.6 25.7
Jon Scheyer, Duke           12.2 3.3 1.8 33.7
Wayne Ellington, UNC        11.7 2.9 2.1 23.9
Sherron Collins, Kansas      9.3 2.3 2.9 22.3
Darrell Arthur, Kansas       9.8 4.7 0.4 19.0
Tweety Carter, Baylor        8.7 1.8 2.7 25.5
Earl Clark, Louisville       5.9 3.8 0.4 16.0
Robin Lopez, Stanford        7.5 5.5 0.9 24.0
Gerald Henderson, Duke       6.8 2.9 1.1 19.3
Lance Thomas, Duke           4.0 2.5 0.0 14.9
Vernon Macklin, Georgetown   2.9 1.5 0.5  9.8

Player                      eFG% Ortng 2007 Result
Chase Budinger, Arizona     55.4 120.1 Lost 1st Round
D.J. Augustin, Texas        51.5 114.4 Lost 2nd Round
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova 47.6 107.0 Lost 1st Round
Tywon Lawson, UNC           55.5 116.0 Elite Eight
Jon Scheyer, Duke           50.5 116.2 Lost 1st Round
Wayne Ellington, UNC        52.0 115.0 Elite Eight
Sherron Collins, Kansas     56.5 113.0 Elite Eight
Darrell Arthur, Kansas      53.8 107.2 Elite Eight
Tweety Carter, Baylor       48.8 110.0 None
Earl Clark, Louisville      51.4 106.7 Lost 2nd Round
Robin Lopez, Stanford       48.0  98.5 Lost 1st Round
Gerald Henderson, Duke      47.2  96.7 Lost 1st Round
Lance Thomas, Duke          56.8  89.3 Lost 1st Round
Vernon Macklin, Georgetown  74.1 119.5 Final Four

Reynolds was not nearly as efficient as the others, but he was the only scorer on his team, and had to carry the load. Macklin on the other hand was unbelievably efficient, but because he played on such a deep team, he didn’t get to take very many shots or play very many minutes.

So whether this year’s freshman MAA’s end up starring like Durant, flubbing like James Keefe, or simply posting decent numbers in limited minutes like Darrell Arthur, I’ll try to post their numbers at various times throughout the season.

Friday’s Games

Coaches vs Cancer: Despite leading the world in blocked shots last year, Connecticut had no answer for Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose driving to the basket. Memphis won 81-70.

Puerto Rico: Thursday, VCU beat Houston despite 1-12 shooting from Eric Maynor. Friday, Maynor scored 27 points, but VCU still fell to the University of Miami. Thus we learn our first non-lesson of the day. Eric Maynor needs to play a lot worse if his team is going to go very far this year.

Miami will meet former Big East rival Providence in the championship game on Sunday. Providence shot 38% from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times, but still upset Arkansas in the other semifinal. The key stat here appears to be the 32 turnovers by the Razorbacks. 32 turnovers!! With 52 turnovers, was this game played in the rain? That’s some ugly basketball.

Also in Puerto Rico, Temple lost its second heartbreaker in a row. After losing by 2 to Providence, Temple lost by 3 to the College of Charleston. With Houston beating Marist in the other side of the consolation bracket, Sunday’s games look like this:

Miami vs Providence, 1st Place Game
VCU vs Arkansas, 3rd Place Game
Houston vs Charleston, 5th Place Game
Temple vs Marist, 7th Place Game

Top of the World: The field seems extra weak this year and they set up a funny bracket with probably the two best teams, Oregon St. and Colorado St. playing on the first day. Colorado St. did the MWC proud, winning late Thursday and is now the clear favorite.

Paradise Jam: Georgia Tech was out-rebounded, turned the ball over more, and shot fewer free throws than Charlotte. But Georgia Tech shot 52% from the floor and picked up the win. Georgia Tech will now face Winthrop in one of the Sunday semifinals. The other key game Friday was Wichita St. vs Baylor. While the MVC has often earned its high ranking by winning games in these types of tournaments, Baylor’s Curtis Jerrells scored a respectable 23 points and 8 rebounds and led his team to victory. Baylor will now face Notre Dame in the other Sunday semifinal.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holiday Tournament Week

Championship Week lasts nine days in the spring. Holiday Tournament Week is really two weeks in the fall, but since the early rounds of the NIT are so watered down, I'm declaring that it officially began with the Coaches vs Cancer semis on Thursday. I'll have detailed coverage of the tournaments for the next 10 days, except when I'm sleeping, eating Turkey, working, playing scrabble, taking my mom to visit tourist stops in DC, watching the Vikings play even worse football without Adrian Peterson, and blogging about college football. OK, so I'm not taking a week of vacation like I do for Championship Week in the spring, but let's have some fun anyway shall we? Let's start with the brackets. I love all brackets big and small and I posted the main brackets here last week. So what are you waiting for? Print them off and let's get started!

Coaches vs Cancer: UConn vs Memphis is set for the final on Friday. UConn still looks like an amazing defensive team, holding Gardner Webb to 31.5% shooting, but we already knew that. Memphis never lost their cool against Oklahoma, well except for that weird technical foul incident. (I shoved you into my teammate and you were knocked down and we're off-setting. Sure.)

Puerto Rico: Arkansas, Providence, Miami, and VCU were the winners Thursday setting up two great semifinals Friday. VCU won despite Eric Maynor shooting 1 for 12 from the field. Both the Providence and VCU games were nailbiters. (VCU recap here. Providence recap here.)

NIT: The Final Four was actually set Wed. and all the expected teams won. Next Wednesday Syracuse plays Ohio St. and Washington plays Texas A&M. The NIT seems quite watered down. (NJIT, really?) But we did see one interesting development. Despite playing for the second day in a row, Syracuse used a five man rotation against St. Joe's. Check out the box score here. Yikes. I think Syracuse has the potential to be a real sleeper this year, but they won't win the NIT if they don't play a few more players.

CBA Classic: The Final Four is also according to plan. Missouri plays Michigan St. and Maryland plays UCLA next Monday.

The Top of the World Classic and Paradise Jam are also underway tommorrow.

Random Notes

The MVC has officially hit the big time. Now its recruits are making stupid decisions.

Although I feel that linking to ESPN appears to be a blogging sin, I do it all the time, so why not link to this excellent article by Kyle Whelliston. Kyle shows that we should fear the Atlantic Sun, a conference that abandoned its TAAC name in an apparent attempt to move up in the alphabetic listings of standings. Coming soon, the Aardvark Conference.

While I miss the flow of the Ken and John's old posts, I'm definitely warming up to Basketball Prospectus. I just wish they'd get rid of the NBA guy. I'm sure he's nice and all, but there's no natural synergy between college basketball and the NBA. The synergy is with college football ;). Did you see Arizona beat Oregon tonight? Oy, I feel bad for the Oregon fans. The injury to Dennis Dixon was critical. It now appears that the winner of the Big 12 quasi-playoff should have the inside track to face LSU in the national title game. Missouri vs Kansas, Winner vs Oklahoma. It's almost like a bracket.

Inside the Hoyas

Let's face it. Even if I'm trying to be a national blog, I'm still going to cover the team I have season tickets to more carefully then say a Pac 10 team that is never on while I'm awake. And like any actual fan, I get most excited by "my" teams preview. So despite several worthwhile previews on Basketball Prospectus, let me focus you in on the Big East preview. In particular, the Georgetown preview.

Last year the Hoyas had a lot of turnovers and a lot of high percentage shots. Obviously Georgetown could improve on their turnover percentage by throwing fewer risky post passes and taking bad shots earlier in the shot clock. But since that isn't exactly an appealing idea, Georgetown appears to be trying something different. BP recommended that Jonathan Wallace turn the ball over less. And the plan is in action through two games. To cut down on turnovers Jonathon Wallace has passed his primary point guard duties to Rivers, freshman Chris Wright, and even Jesse Sapp. Wallace is no longer taking the ball up the court, and while he will still try to create for others in the flow of the offense, he is focusing more on being a spot up shooter and 2 guard. Stats observant coach John Thompson the 3rd, I salute you. (As a side note, SI's preview issue discusses this exact move. Nice eye Ted Keith.)

Factoid that May Only Interest Me

College basketball, how I lover your random traditions. Last year the Hoya student section had a mid-game salute that involved clapping for Jeff Green's mom. Thursday Night, she once again took her seat in the stands, but she was now wearing a green and white Sonics jersey. It didn't matter that her son had now moved on to the NBA, she still received the same honorary salute. Attention loving and deserving moms everywhere take note, send your son to Georgetown!

Factoid that May Only Interest Big 10 Fans

Michigan doesn't quite have the three point shooting prowess to run Beilein's system yet. There were at least three bad air-balls shot in the loss to the Hoyas. Georgetown's experience and depth really showed in this game as Michigan looked intimidated from the start. (Box score here.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Basketball Boxscore Item, Football Extra

Here in a nutshell is my sports obssessed weekend:

Georgetown Home Opener

College Football Saturday

Direct TV NFL Ticket

Fantasy Team pulls ahead during Sunday Night Football

Arrghh. Despite all my good intentions to blog about the start of the basketball season, I may have to wait until next weekend before I delve into the early basketball box scores. But here's a quick nugget:

2 Points: Number of points scored by newcomers and returning bench players.

66 Points: Number of points scored by Georgetown’s 4 returning starters in Georgetown’s 68-53 win over William and Mary.

I know experience is more important early in the year, but this is ridiculous. Those 2 points were scored by freshman McDonald’s All-American Austin Freeman. Fellow freshman McDonald’s All-American Chris Wright scored 0 points in the opener. Last year's bench scored 0 points.

Later this week, I’d like to do a feature on the debuts of all the McDonald’s All-Americans if I get time. But now onto the Football.

A Happy BCS?

Though I haven’t written much about college football in the last few weeks, I did have time to make one set of predictions here. Not only did I predict that Ohio St. would lose one if its final games, I also said, “For BC, even Maryland is no gimme.” On Saturday, Illinois defeated #1 Ohio St and Maryland defeated #8 BC. Go me.

The experts have pretty much been saying for weeks that LSU and Oregon are the best two teams in the country. (See ESPN GameDay wrapup shows, Stewart Mandel Bullet Point #5) And they may actually get their wish this year as LSU and Oregon have moved up to the top 2 spots in the BCS standings.

While LSU could have a tough game in the SEC Championship and schizophrenic UCLA or rival Oregon St. could give Oregon a scare, LSU and Oregon should be favored to win out. The real question is what happens in the Big 12. The Saturday after Thanksgiving one loss Missouri travels to undefeated Kansas and the winner should face one loss Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. There are really three scenarios.

1) If Oklahoma wins the Big 12 championship game, I think the poll voters will remember Oklahoma’s poor BCS Title game performance in the 2005 Orange Bowl and not jump the Sooners over a dominant Oregon team. (Remember Oregon’s only loss came in a game they could have easily won. Check out this depressed fan’s recap.)

2) If Missouri wins the Big 12 championship game, much like West Virginia, I think they will not be able to overtake Oregon in the human polls.

3) But, if Kansas wins the Big 12 championship game, then all hell is going to break loose. Not only will several of the computers have to move Kansas up after beating two one loss teams, but the poll voters will have an emotional time leaving an undefeated Kansas team out of one of the top spots.

Keep an eye out for people accusing the poll voters of preseason bias with regards to Kansas. The idea is that if Kansas had started as a ranked team like Ohio St., they’d already be #1. The reason I mention this is that BOTH Kansas AND Oregon were not ranked to start the season, but Oregon moved up earlier, in part because they went on the road and beat Michigan. Meanwhile Kansas was beating up on the weakest of non-conference schedules (Central Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo, and Florida International). So Kansas is a victim of its own scheduling as much as preseason bias.

Other BCS Bowls

Lot’s of places are going to have BCS predictions over the next few weeks, but there are still too many permutations for me to invest too much energy. But I highly suggest Stewart Mandel’s bowl predictions, because he usually explains how he makes his decisions. The key thing is to understand the BCS selection process which you can read about here.

If I remember correctly from past readings, the selection process goes something like this.

1) Slot Big 10, Pac 10, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 Champions in the obvious bowls.
2) The two bowls that lose their “home” teams pick next.
3) Then, this year, the Orange Bowl picks.
4) Then the Fiesta Bowl picks.
5) Then the Sugar Bowl picks.

Because there are some automatic qualifiers, the Sugar Bowl actually just gets stuck with a team. They don’t really have a choice. For awhile, it looked like the Sugar Bowl was going to get stuck with Hawaii, but either because of injury or simply the juggernaut known as Boise St., that is seeming less likely. But the Sugar Bowl will still probably end up stuck with some sort of automatic qualifier that they don’t want, we just don’t know who yet. The Fiesta Bowl might get stuck with someone too, particularly if we get a wacky outcome like UConn winning the Big East.

But, what makes things interesting is that this could be the first year that an at-large BCS selection has 3 losses! Just take a look around the leagues:

ACC: This Saturday, Clemson takes on Boston College for the ACC Atlantic title. The day after Thanksgiving, Virginia takes on Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal title. The winners will meet in the ACC title game. All four teams already have 2 losses, and three of the teams are guaranteed to lose once, so the BCS will have to take a 3 loss team to take a 2nd team from the ACC.

Big East: West Virginia faces 2 loss Cincinnati and 2 loss UConn over the next two weeks. I will be shocked if West Virginia does not win both games easily. So all at large candidates will have 3 losses here.

Big Ten: If Ohio St. wins, everyone else already has 3 losses. If Michigan upsets Ohio St. and takes the auto-bid, would a BCS Bowl want an Ohio St. team that had lost its final 2 games of the year?

SEC: Georgia would have to get past Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and LSU in the SEC title game for the SEC to have two teams with 2 losses. The SEC is almost guaranteed to have a 3 loss team earn an at-large bid and it will probably be Florida.

The Big 12 was reviewed above and should have multiple teams with less than 2 losses, especially when you add in Texas.

The Pac-10 still has multiple teams with less than 2 losses. The USC vs Arizona St. game on Thanksgiving could very well be for one of those BCS at large bids. Moreover, assuming Oregon earns a BCS title game slot, USC vs Arizona St. could be a game for a trip to the Rose Bowl!

Middling Teams Fight For Bowl Berths

OK, the other thing I love about the next few weeks is the last minute shuffling for bowl slots. Consider this:

10 of the 11 Big Ten Teams are Bowl eligible.
10 of the 12 SEC Teams are Bowl eligible. (Vanderbilt will be an 11th if they can upset Tennessee or Wake Forest)

What kind of sick world rewards a 10th place conference team with Bowl eligibility? Oh, the kind of world where you can play 4 cupcakes and go 2-6 in conference and still be eligible. Woo-hoo we’re 2-6! Let’s celebrate. Ah, but the fates have stepped in. With so many teams eligible, there are not enough bowl partnerships. The Big Ten only has 7 affiliations unless it somehow steals a 2nd BCS bid. The SEC only has 8 affiliations, and while it almost certainly will get 2 BCS teams this year, that’s still 9 affiliations for possibly 11 teams.

I was going to break this down game by game, but almost every game matters next weekend in these conferences. Remember, teams can be skipped in the bowl pecking order if the lower team has a more attractive fan base. And if the Motor City Bowl is mean-spirited, Indiana might even have 7 wins this year and still not earn a bowl bid! The drought may continue.

Oh, and don’t expect the other conferences to give a bid up.

ACC: At least 8, and possibly 9 teams are eligible with only 8 affiliations. (Miami could be a 10th if they could upset Virginia Tech or BC, but given that Miami just lost 48-0 to Virginia, I think they won’t be eligible this year.) Key Game: Maryland vs NC State

Big 12: Probably 9 teams with only 8 affiliations. The Big 12 is almost guaranteed to get a BCS at large though, so they’ll be OK. Key Game: Colorado vs Nebraska, winner is bowl-less.

Big East: 5 or 6 teams with 5 affiliations. The wild card is Louisville. Will Louisville beat Rutgers or South Florida?

Pac 10: Five are qualified already with 5 affiliations. Assuming they get a BCS bid that opens up one more slot, but Washington St., UCLA, and Arizona can still keep it within the Pac10 by finishing strong. Washington St. may actually have the best shot at that since UCLA and Arizona each finish with 2 ranked teams.

Oh, and don't forget the MWC. BYU has been on a roll, but here comes Utah. In CUSA..., OK I'm going to stop and go to bed now. Can't wait for next weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are You Kidding Me 4!!!??

There is no way.

OK, Michigan St. vs Grand Valley St. was an indication that Michigan St. was a little over-rated. And the game didn't count.

Ohio St. was integrating a lot of freshman into its rotation in its exhibition game. And the game didn't count.

But this one counts. Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68. Are you kidding me? For Kentucky's sake, I hope this is simply a case of North Carolina vs Santa Clara, where no one will care at the end of the year. Because if this is any meaningful indication of Kentucky's ability?!!! Gardner Webb was 8-21 a year ago. GW's only top 200 win last year was Lipscomb.

This is truly shocking.

I was thinking of writing a column on how there is really no reason to be shocked by anything until January. After all, the pre-season polls are often wrong, or may be measuring a team's expected success in March, not current ability. I was thinking how often the announcers get excited when an underdog team is hanging around 12 minutes into the game. Its only 22-18. They haven't been blown out yet. And how this grates on me. The game starts 0-0!

Heck, even when I flipped past Michigan St.'s second exhibition game and saw they only had a 3 point lead in the second half, I didn't think you could learn much from it. I was a little surprised that UConn struggled with Morgan St., but they fought through it and picked up the win. But Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68. This is pretty mindboggling. (I'm not sure if the link will be stable, but Kentucky posted an early recap here.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tiger Season

The regular season is underway! While I'm planning on posting primarily on the weekends, I thought I would post tonight in honor of the start of the college basketball season. The "2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs Cancer" began this afternoon. No word yet on the "XBox 360 College Hoops Invitational Challenge benefiting the 25th Annual Health & Well-Being Charity Walk". Richmond edged Maine 44-42. (Recap here.) Not sure whether the 44-42 final score indicates a season of competitive basketball or a season of boring low-scoring basketball, but I'll assume the former.

While this tournament is a great chance for many of these teams to build their tournament resumes, it serves an entirely different purpose for the Memphis Tigers. Unless and until someone in CUSA steps up and challenges Memphis on a regular basis, this is the regular season for Memphis. And there are plenty of intriguing games on the Memphis non-conference schedule. These include:

Oklahoma (projected)
Kentucky or UConn (projected)

But can this really prepare a team for the NCAA tournament like facing the variety of styles in the Big East or the depth of the ACC?

Last year, I thought Memphis was exceptionally lucky to receive a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. While a George Washington team with only three top 50 wins received an 8 seed in 2006, last year's Memphis squad had only one top 50 win and still earned a 2 seed. I think this fell somewhere under the commitees stated goal to "get out and watch games". The committee saw Memphis in person and knew they were a better team than the computer profile showed.

And while I commend the committee for doing the right thing from a basketball point of view, it really makes the season seem unimportant for Memphis. If they don't have to earn a high seed with quality wins, the regular season doesn't mean much for Memphis. The only real question is how far they'll advance in the NCAA tournament this year. If they make the Final Four they'll be a success. After two straight Elite Eight appearances, anything else will be a disappointment.

I asked in my preview what would bring them over the top this year. A lot of people think that the MAA guard Derrick Rose will be the answer, and I can understand the temptation that he'll be a more effecient version of Jeremy Hunt. The only problem is that Hunt was pretty darn efficient. Rose is off to a nice start. Rose posted 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in his first game against Tenn-Martin. (Recap here.) Memphis scored over 100 in their opener even without Joey Dorsey who is nursing an ailing shoulder.

Memphis will be back again tommorrow with a game against Richmond. Even if most teams are just warming up, its Tiger Season.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Why am I Re-capping an Exhibition Game?!!

Can a Top 10 team drop in the rankings because of an exhibition game? We're about to find out because Michigan St. just lost to Division 2, Grand Valley State.

We pick up the action with 1 and 1/2 minutes to go. Michigan St. trails by 3 and gets two critical steals to take the lead. Grand Valley State misses a shot and suddenly Michigan St. has the ball and the lead and the shot clock is off. Grand Valley State refuses to foul Neitzel and when Neitzel has to give it up, Tom Izzo calls time out. Travis Walton then proceeds to throw the inbounds pass to a player on Grand Valley State. Worse yet, Walton threw the ball into the backcourt allowing the Grand Valley player to take the steal to the bucket and earn a three point play. Now Michigan St. trails by 2 points with 8 seconds left. Neitzel takes the inbound and appears to trip leaving the ball bouncing in the middle of the floor. But, the Grand Valley player gets called for holding Neitzel down. He didn't get called for a push, but it was ruled that when Neitzel fell into the Grand Valley player, and when the Grand Valley player fell on top of him, that Neitzel was not allowed to get back up. Neitzel goes to the line where he is something like a 99% free throw shooter and makes both free throws to send the game into overtime.

Michigan St. then took a 4 point lead in overtime, but it wouldn't last. Neitzel missed a three at the buzzer, and the game went into the second overtime where the size and depth of Grand Valley State took over. With Naymick and Suton fouled out, Izzo went with a very small lineup and Grand Valley took advantage taking it to the basket and sealing the three point win.

Trust me folks, Michigan St. wanted to win this game. It might not count in the standings, but it says something about this team. I'm a huge fan of Tom Izzo, but I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that they are not a Top 10 team right now.

Are You Kidding Me 2?

You may remember this upset from the start of the football season that aired on the Big Ten Network. Could we be seeing a similar upset in an exhibition basketball game on the Big Ten Network? I've had Michigan St. vs Grand Valley State on in the background while I typed up my basketball preview and Michigan St. is actually trailing by 4 points at half-time. Worse yet, they aren't just trailing because they are playing all their bench players. They're really trying to win! My prediction that Michigan St. will not be one of the top 2 teams in the Big Ten is looking a little better already.

Yet Another Preview

The Early Season – Forming A New Identity

If you are a college basketball fan, you don’t have to wait another decade for Tom Brady to retire. You don’t have to wait for the Yankees roster to finally get old enough that they miss the playoffs. The beauty of college sports is that one quarter of the roster turns over every year. No matter what you think you know about a team, a lot is going to be different the next fall. If a star player dominated your team last year (think Kevin Durant), there’s a good chance he’s playing in the NBA right now. Not everyone jumps early, (think JJ Reddick), but eventually everyone runs out of eligibility.

This makes any type of preseason prediction a bit silly. Every year each team forms a new identity, and the teams that blend together are often the teams we least expect. As I pointed out recently, for four straight seasons, no Elite Eight team has advanced further in the following year’s tournament. And, while that trend may not continue, there is plenty to learn before the start of conference play in January.

1) Which marquee freshmen are for real? Like Ohio St. last year, Duke has three McDonald’s All-Americans coming in this year and Syracuse has two that should play dominant roles. You’ve probably also heard that Indiana has a sensational freshman guard, that UCLA has a sensational freshman forward, that USC has arguably one of the most hyped high school players in recent history, that Georgetown has two outstanding guards coming in, and so on.

2) Which bench players will earn vacant starting spots? I often believe that having one or two starters graduate is beneficial because it gives the reserves the incentive to compete for a starting spot. And it is frequently the case that an unknown underclassman will step up and become a star.

Darren Collison
05-06 FR, 32.8% of threes, 5.5 PPG and 2.3 APG
06-07 SO, 44.7% of threes, 12.7 PPG and 5.7 APG

Eric Maynor
05-06 FR 4.7 PPG and 2.2 APG, VCU 19-10
06-07 SO 13.9 PPG and 6.4 APG, VCU 28-7 with an NCAA win

Last year Darrell Arthur was an ultra-talented freshman for Kansas, but he played less than 20 minutes per game. Will Julian Wright’s exit open the door for him to become a superstar?

3) Which starters will have unexpected improvements in their game?

Everyone seems to think that returning the majority of your players will lead to a successful season. While experience can help early in the year, when a team brings everyone back, it can also become complacent because everyone’s role is defined. For experienced teams to get better, it often requires that a starter become much more efficient in the same number of minutes.

Luther Head
03-04 JR, 34.3% of threes, 11.0 PPG and 2.6 APG, Illinois 26-7 Sweet Sixteen
04-05 SR, 41.0% of threes, 15.9 PPG and 3.8 APG, Illinois 37-2 National Runner-up

Al Horford
04-05 FR, 48% of FGs, 5.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG, Florida 24-8 Lost Second Round
05-06 SO, 60% of FGs, 11.3 PPG and 7.6 RPG, Florida 33-6 National Champs

Horford and Head played only slightly more minutes in the second seasons listed above, but both had dramatic improvements in personal efficiency.

Will Goran Suton elevate his game and allow Michigan St. to live up to its preseason billing, or will he suffer through another year of inconsistency. Last year Wayne Ellington was a quiet assassin for North Carolina, hitting tons of threes, but missing them in critical games. Will this be the year he makes the buzzer beaters?

For a team like Memphis that has made the Elite Eight in two straight years, but has failed to make the Final Four, who will be the difference maker this year? What player has made strides that will finally allow Memphis to take the final step and reach the Final Four?

4) How will teams adjust to new styles of play?

Will Michigan struggle to learn John Beilein’s offense? Or will the fact that Michigan lost so many seniors mean that the new players will immediately buy into the new system? Duke seems loaded on the perimeter. Will Duke operate with more four guard lineups than ever before?

Yet Another Prediction

Another year has passed and much has changed. has become Ken Pomeroy and John Gassaway (Big Ten Wonk) have joined a new site called Basketball Prospectus. And another slew of ESPN columns are insider-only reading. On the plus side, Yoni Cohen’s blog is still free.

I’m going to leave it to the experts to do a comprehensive preview of the season, but one question that I was asked over the summer was whether or not my coach evaluation tool could be used to predict the upcoming season. The answer of course is that it can, but that it is a very blunt instrument for predicting this year’s performance.

Using essentially the same model as I used this spring where McDonald’s All-Americans and senior and junior Top 100 recruits best predict victory, my model concludes that the most talented teams in the country are:

1. Duke (8 McDonald’s All-Americans)
2. Kansas (5 MAA, more Upper Class T100 than UNC)
3. North Carolina (5 MAA)
4. Arizona (3 MAA)
5. Georgetown (3 MAA)
6. Syracuse (3 MAA)
8. Louisville
9. Indiana
10. Oklahoma St.
Honorable mention: Texas, Villanova

And after I factor in regular season and post-season coaching ability, the model predicts Duke to win it all. Is this a bad prediction?

Let’s look at those MAAs?
Senior DeMarcus Nelson
Junior Greg Paulus
Sophomores Lance Thomas, Gerald Henderson, and John Scheyer
Freshmen Taylor King, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler

Nelson and Paulus haven’t blossomed into stars yet, but the rest of these players have substantial upside. Shouldn’t Coach K be able to turn 6 young MAAs into something? Would you feel differently if it was Thad Matta bringing in another class of 3 freshmen MAAs?

Even so, it is hard to see how this young Duke team could be favored over the talented AND experienced Kansas and North Carolina teams. So clearly there is a flaw in the model. As I see it, there are at least two obvious problems.

1) Freshman MAAs have clearly had a huge impact in the last 10 years, but not all MAAs are created equal. Daequan Cook and Greg Oden were both freshmen MAAs, but it was because of Oden that Ohio St. made the Final Four, not because of Cook. So I really need a separate indicator for Oden-level freshman. But who knows who the Oden level freshman are ahead of time? Yes, sometimes they are obvious, but no one saw Durant coming last year, and Carmelo Anthony certainly did not receive Oden level hype out of high school either. Both were McDonald’s All-Americans, but I’m not sure I could tell you how we can clearly tell that Kyle Singler is worse than Kevin Durant until we see him play in the college atmosphere.

2) Last season matters. That’s why no one has Syracuse or Oklahoma St. in their top 10 this year. But does it really? When I looked within coaches, there is actually very little year-to-year correlation. Good years are usually followed by bad years (the best players leave), and bad years are usually followed by good years (the best players stay.) As I said recently, for four straight tournaments, no elite eight team has advanced further in the following years’ NCAA tournament.

And not surprisingly, this should be a bit of a down year for Ohio St. and Florida. But for other teams that return the majority of their players (UCLA, Georgetown, North Carolina, Kansas), the drop-off shouldn’t be so big. In some sense, the key is to control for percentage of returning minutes and returning scoring when considering the impact of the previous year. Basketball Prospectus appears to factor in returning minutes when making their predictions. I use a simpler model which codes for substantial NBA defections.

The model works basically like this:
1) Start with the high school talent level of each current player.
2) Adjust for experience, (the teams success the previous year unless there are major NBA defections).
3) Add the coaches’ regular season success over the past 5 years and spit out the regular season league champions.
4) Add the coaches’ tournament success over the past 10 years and spit out the tournament predictions.

And here’s what I get:

League Champ
ACC – North Carolina edges Duke
Big East – Georgetown wins easily, Pittsburgh second
Pac 10 – UCLA wins easily, Arizona second
Big 12 – Kansas wins easily, Texas second
Big 10 – Wisconsin narrowly edges Indiana
SEC – Kentucky edges Tennessee

The only surprises here are Pittsburgh and Wisconsin. But, Jamie Dixon and Bo Ryan have done such an amazing job developing players and winning regular season games over the last 5 years, that this would not be a real surprise. It doesn’t hurt that Wisconsin returns a dominant MAA center. Michigan St. has not had much regular season success in the last 5 years which is why they are rated lower than an extremely talented Indiana team.

National Title: UCLA over Georgetown
Final Four includes: North Carolina, Kansas
Elite Eight includes: Duke, Memphis, USC, Louisville

OK, so my coaching model spits out something that looks fairly similar to the pre-season Top 25. But I don’t actually believe any of this. The beauty of autumn college basketball is what you don’t know, not what you know.

When to Watch

For those of you who don’t care about the subtleties of early season games, you can always look to the holiday tournaments to deliver some outstanding hoops.

Teams participate in exempt tournaments so that they can play more games than the NCAA normally allows. This increases revenue, but many of these tournaments aren’t really tournaments at all. They’re just round-robin events that give extra home games to major teams. (Even some mid-majors have joined in. Drake hosts both a Drake Classic and a Drake Invitational.) I’m not going to list any tournaments with fewer than 8 teams. If you’d like to see these small tournaments and the one-day events like the Jimmy V Classic and the Wooden Tradition, someone was kind enough to compile them here.

But there are still 3 “challenges” and 18 tournaments worth keeping an eye out for:

ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Nov 26-28
Big 12/Pac10 Challenge, Nov 29-Dec 2
SEC/Big East Challenge, Dec 5-Dec. 6, sadly only 4 games and 8 teams

Pre-season NIT, November 12-23
Includes: Syracuse, Ohio State, Washington, Texas A&M, Utah, UTEP, St. Joe’s, Siena, Delaware St., Oral Roberts

Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, Nov 16-19
Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Baylor, Wichita St., Charlotte, Illinois-Chicago, Winthrop, Monmouth

Maui Invitational, Nov 19-21
Duke, Marquette, LSU, Oklahoma St., Illinois, Arizona St., Princeton, Chaminade

Rainbow Classic, Dec. 19-22
Georgia, St. John’s, Ohio, Tulane, St. Mary’s, Louisiana-Lafayette, East Tennessee St., Hawaii

Great Alaska Shootout, Nov 21-24
Michigan, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, Butler, W. Kentucky, E. Washington, Alaska Anchorage

Puerto Rico Tipoff, Nov 15-18
Arkansas, Miami (FL), Providence, Temple, VCU, Houston, College of Charleston, Marist

Old Spice Classic, Nov 22-25
Villanova, Kansas St., South Carolina, Penn St., NC State, George Mason, UCF, Rider

Anaheim Classic, Nov 22-25
USC, Mississippi St., Miami (OH), Southern Illinois, San Diego, South Alabama, UC Irvine, Chattanooga

2K Sports College Hoops Classic for Coaches vs Cancer, Nov 5-16
Includes: UConn, Oklahoma, Memphis, Kentucky, Richmond, San Francisco, Buffalo

CBE Classic, Nov 11-20
Includes: Michigan St., Maryland, UCLA, Missouri, Fordham, Central Michigan, Tulsa, Weber St.

Top of the World Classic, Nov 15-18
Includes: Colorado St., Oregon St., Akron

The rest of these kind of stretch the idea of a “tournament”, but here they are anyway:

South Padre Island Invitational, Nov 18-24
Includes: Iowa, Vanderbilt, Bradley, Utah St., Austin Peay, Valparaiso

Chicago Invitational Challenge, Nov 18-24,
Includes: Indiana, Xavier, Illinois St., Kent St., UNC-Wilmington
An invitational & challenge all in one? Really? When’s the Chicago Classic Invitational Challenge?

Las Vegas Invitational, Nov 18-24
Includes: North Carolina, Louisville, BYU, Old Dominion

Las Vegas Classic, Dec 17-23
Not to be confused with the Las Vegas Invitational
Includes: Purdue, Alabama, Iowa St., Missouri St.

Legends Classic, Nov 14-24
Includes: Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, New Mexico St.

Philly Classic, Nov 11-24
Includes: Seton Hall, Virginia, Drexel, Navy, Penn

Glenn Wilkes Classic, Nov 9-18
Includes: Florida State, South Florida, Rhode Island, UAB

Enjoy the start of the season!

The Terrific 10

Before I present my season basketball preview, let me catch up on the college football. We’re now down to 5 undefeated and 7 one-loss teams. Assuming Hawaii and Boise St. have no real chance at the national title game, that’s 4 undefeated teams, and 6 one-loss teams.

Ohio St. – Wisconsin, Illinois, at Michigan
Boston College – Florida St., at Maryland, at Clemson, Miami, ACC Champ?
Arizona St. – at Oregon, at UCLA, USC, Arizona
Kansas – Nebraska, at Oklahoma St., Iowa St., Missouri, Big 12 Champ?

LSU – at Alabama, Louisiana Tech, at Ole Miss, Arkansas, SEC Champ?
Oregon – Arizona St., at Arizona, at UCLA, Oregon St.
Oklahoma – Texas A&M, Baylor, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma St., Big 12 Champ?
West Virginia – Louisville, at Cincinnati, Connecticut, Pittsburgh
Missouri – at Colorado, Texas A&M, at Kansas St., at Kansas, Big 12 Champ?
Connecticut – Rutgers, at Cincinnati, Syracuse, at West Virginia

I don’t see any of the undefeated teams staying undefeated. Ohio St. plays the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th place teams in the Big Ten. For BC, Miami and Florida St. aren’t what they once were, but even Maryland is no gimme. Arizona St. still plays the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place team in the Pac 10. And Kansas may have to beat two one-loss teams to win the Big 12.

That said, I do see the one loss teams having some success. If LSU wins at Alabama, there’s a very good chance they are playing for the national title game in the SEC title game. And even though Oregon plays some tough games, if they beat Arizona St. this weekend, they’d have to be considered a favorite to face LSU in that game. Oklahoma and West Virginia may find that it doesn’t matter what they do from here on out, but Oklahoma will have a better chance to impress the computers than West Virginia. Looks like controversy ahead as usual.

Even more fun than the national title race is the bowl race. It looks like a record number of teams could be qualified for bowls. I’ll have a more detailed looks in the upcoming weeks, but last week’s victory by Iowa could have sealed a bowl for Iowa while costing Michigan St. Michigan St. will not be favored in any of its remaining games and could easily end up 5-7. Meanwhile, Iowa plays Minnesota and a MAC team and should have a pretty clear path to 6-6. But if 9 or 10 teams reach 6 wins, who gets the bids? It should be fun to sort it all out.