Saturday, December 22, 2007


As a fan of Georgetown, I often get irritated when tempo is described incorrectly. But I thought Jay Bilas said it perfectly at the start of the Georgetown-Memphis game. “If you want to play at a faster tempo, you have to do it on the defensive side of the court. If you try to force tempo offensively by taking bad shots early, you end up playing defense for the entire game.”

Shockingly, despite Georgetown’s reputation as a half-court team, Georgetown was at its best against Memphis when the game was played at a faster tempo. Georgetown broke full-court pressure for at least three lay-ups and scored more lay-ups by getting 7 steals against Memphis, including a sick steal by Chris Wright who robbed Derrick Rose when Rose tried to use the cross-over to get past him. But in the half-court, aside from a handful of backdoor cuts in the first half, Georgetown looked pedestrian. Georgetown was 3-14 from 3 point range, Hibbert was 3-8 in the paint with 3 turnovers, and on most of Georgetown’s trips into the paint, Georgetown was fouled. This should have been a good thing except that Georgetown shot only 13-23 from the free throw line.

The net result was that Memphis was actually the first team to not only beat Georgetown, but to beat them by shutting down Georgetown in the half-court. The defensive pressure started at the end of the first half, and resulted in Memphis outscoring Georgetown by 22 points down the stretch. The key was that Memphis was able to defend Georgetown straight up. Dorsey was strong enough to hold position against Hibbert and by staying tight on Georgetown’s guards, the Half-court Hoyas looked ordinary. Not many teams are able to do that, and if Memphis can play that kind of defense in the Elite Eight, they can finally break through into the Final Four.

Quick Notes

-Bruce Pearl got called for an out-of-the coaches violation that almost cost Tennessee the game against Xavier. I don’t agree with Doug Gottlieb that the officials need to let the rule slide in late game situations, but I do agree that this is a dumb rule to be emphasizing this year. My guess is that this will cost a team in the NCAA tournament and then the rule will be de-emphasized again next year.

-I can’t believe how little press Pittsburgh got in the pre-season polls. The same thing goes with Wisconsin. These teams may not have the biggest high school stars, but they always win and the Pittsburgh-Duke game was no shocker. From my perspective the Wisconsin-Duke game was the shocking outcome, and I'm a big believer in Duke this year.

-The Big Ten continues to struggle. Since I updated the non-conference results in my last post, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan have all lost to team's they were expected to beat. This really looks like a 3 bid year for the Big Ten.

-Posts continue to be sporadic with the holidays, but I hope to have more to say in the New Year. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Early Season Cheat Sheet

If you are like me and have been distracted by college football and ignoring college basketball, I have good news. Today’s column is all about catching up on the early part of the basketball season. First off, you haven’t necessarily missed that much this year. There have been about 1600 games played so far, but only 89 of those were between BCS teams. (To put this in perspective, in January or February it only takes about 10 days to get in this many BCS vs BCS games.) Here are a few highlights:

Best Comeback: Villanova defeats LSU after trailing by 21 with 9 minutes left.
Biggest Upset: Mercer defeats USC
Best Coaching Move: Tim Floyd uses the triangle and two to slow down Memphis (but still loses.)
Most Impressive Win: Texas at UCLA
Best Player: DJ Augustin. His impressive 126.6 ORtng isn’t even the best on his own team, but he had one of his best nights (19 points) at UCLA. Scoring in the big game is the sign of a true star.

USC’s loss to Mercer probably won’t matter at the end of the year. But what if USC ends up 9-9 in Pac10 play and 4-6 in the last 10? Then that loss might be the factor that keeps them out of the tournament. Again, it is a long shot, but you never know which games will matter at the end of the year. With this in mind, here’s a snapshot of 22 of the biggest upsets on the season to date:

The Bad Losses
11/17 Alaska Fairbanks 62 Oregon St. 60
11/23 Rider 82 Penn St. 73
11/10 Mercer 96 Southern California 81
11/25 St. Peter's 65 Rutgers 58
11/09 NC Greensboro 83 Georgia Tech 74
11/24 North Carolina A&T 96 DePaul 93
11/07 Gardner Webb 84 Kentucky 68
12/01 Harvard 62 Michigan 51
12/01 Centenary 70 Texas Tech 66
11/30 Louisiana Monroe 72 Iowa 67
11/24 Brown 73 Northwestern 67
12/08 Stephen F. Austin 66 Oklahoma 62
11/17 Siena 79 Stanford 67
11/18 Winthrop 79 Georgia Tech 73
11/14 North Texas 82 Oklahoma St. 73
11/14 Sam Houston St. 56 Texas Tech 54
11/18 New Orleans 65 North Carolina St. 63
12/12 New Orleans 67 Colorado 65
11/09 Belmont 86 Cincinnati 75
11/19 Belmont 85 Alabama 83
12/05 Western Kentucky 69 Nebraska 62
11/24 Western Kentucky 73 Michigan 69

-Doug Gottlieb said at the time that Rider was more talented than Penn St. I’m not quite buying that. But because of Penn St.’s poor defense and good offense, they will definitely be a high variance team.

-Georgia Tech really misses Crittenton and Young, but this team can still be a factor in the ACC.

-What was Michigan thinking playing former coach Tommy Amaker at Harvard?

-Bob Knight felt flu-like symptoms in Texas Tech’s loss at Centenary. But how did he really feel after the game? (What’s the craziest part about the loss? It actually suggests that Bob Knight makes a difference. His team led at halftime, but with Knight no longer on the sidelines in the second half, Texas Tech lost the lead and the game.)

-Is Sam Houston St. really this good? No. Don't look at the RPI yet. Remember Appalachian St. last year? They beat Virginia and Vanderbilt and were #7 in the RPI. Then they lost to Elon and it was all over.

-Is Winthrop really this good? Yes, but this is still a bad loss for Georgia Tech. The sad fact for all of the winners listed above is that they play in conferences that are RPI killers. The Sun Belt is having a better year, but Western Kentucky’s RPI is going to plummet just for playing half the teams in its league. And if the Hilltoppers should lose to some of weaker teams in their league, good night.

For mid-majors on the other hand, wins against BCS teams are priceless. A top 3 finish in a mid-major league coupled with a pair of marquee wins against BCS opponents is often a ticket to the big dance. With that in mind, let's take a look at the mid-major conferences making some noise in the early going:

Mid-Major Wins to Brag About

11/24 Utah St. 75 Iowa 62

12/02 Virginia Commonwealth 85 Maryland 76
11/22 George Mason 87 Kansas St. 77
11/25 George Mason 69 South Carolina 68

11/11 Bowling Green 69 Cincinnati 67
11/13 Buffalo 76 South Florida 69
12/12 Ohio 61 Maryland 55
11/25 Miami OH 67 Mississippi St. 60

11/09 New Mexico 54 Colorado 47
12/08 Wyoming 73 Colorado 64
11/15 Colorado St. 69 Oregon St. 56
11/23 Brigham Young 78 Louisville 76

11/27 Northern Iowa 61 Iowa St. 48
12/08 Illinois St. 62 Cincinnati 52
11/23 Southern Illinois 63 Mississippi St. 49
12/05 Drake 79 Iowa St. 44
12/14 Drake 56 Iowa 51
11/14 Bradley 65 Iowa St. 56
11/23 Bradley 67 Iowa 56
11/09 Creighton 74 DePaul 62
11/24 Creighton 74 Nebraska 62

11/17 Cleveland St. 69 Florida St. 68
11/09 Cleveland St. 73 South Florida 70
11/23 Butler 84 Virginia Tech 78
11/21 Butler 79 Michigan 65
12/01 Butler 65 Ohio St. 46
11/24 Butler 81 Texas Tech 71

11/20 St. Mary's 99 Oregon 87
12/01 St. Mary's 85 Seton Hall 70
11/24 Gonzaga 82 Virginia Tech 64
12/01 Gonzaga 85 Connecticut 82

12/01 Saint Joseph's 79 Penn St. 67
11/29 Charlotte 63 Wake Forest 59
12/08 Dayton 70 Louisville 65
12/12 Massachusetts 83 Boston College 80
11/28 Massachusetts 107 Syracuse 100
11/16 Rhode Island 74 South Florida 67
12/04 Rhode Island 77 Providence 60
12/08 Rhode Island 91 Syracuse 89
12/12 Xavier 64 Cincinnati 59
11/24 Xavier 80 Indiana 65

12/08 East Carolina 75 North Carolina St. 69
12/01 UAB 73 Cincinnati 54
11/09 Tulane 77 Auburn 62
11/25 Central Florida 70 Penn St. 59
11/15 Memphis 63 Oklahoma 53
11/16 Memphis 81 Connecticut 70
12/04 Memphis 62 Southern California 58

Utah St. has very little shot at an at-large bid because the WAC has fallen apart this year. The league remained strong even after the defection of the MWC teams 7 years ago, but things have gone completely wrong this year. The WAC is currently 26th in conference RPI, and the lack of quality wins is a key reason. Other than the win over Iowa listed above, the best win for the conference is probably New Mexico St.’s victory over #116 New Mexico. Uggh.

One factor in the WAC’s struggles may be coaching turnover. There are three new coaches in the WAC this year in Bob Nash at Hawaii, Kerry Rupp at Louisiana Tech, and Marvin Menzies at New Mexico St. While these coaches may need some time to build their programs, other teams are just disappointing. Stew Morrill’s Utah St. team brought back a talented senior guard in Jaycee Carroll, but despite Carroll’s incredibly efficient play (129.6 ORtng while taking 22.9% of his teams shots), Utah St. has a disappointing 5-5 record.

Nevada lost Sessions and Fazekas in the off-season and can be forgiven for a slow WAC start this year, but without them, no one is winning. Consider that last year the league had 5 teams with RPIs in the Top 100. Right now Nevada leads the way at #107. If the WAC teams don’t start winning some non-conference games, they could be a one-bid league with the winner earning a 14 or 15 seed. Ouch.

Better news elsewhere, particularly the Atlantic 10. I’ve already seen several articles touting that the league is back. That A10 still has way too many teams for my liking, but with some very good teams at the top, at least the A10 will be back in the discussion this year.

Finally, Wright St. may have beaten Butler already in Horizon play, but Cleveland St. is the Horizon team picking up the quality non-conference victories.

Again, I can’t promise all of these wins are going to be meaningful, but some of them will turn out to be critical when making decisions on selection Sunday. Any true prognosticator of the tournament field should have the above games emblazoned in their head come March.

Besides the Small Conference teams and Mid-Major teams, the BCS teams also played a few games against each other. Through Friday Dec. 14th, there were 88 non-conference games between BCS teams. To no one’s surprise, the ACC is leading the way in the BCS showdowns.

22-12 ACC
18-13 Big12
15-14 BigEast
12-12 Pac10
12-20 Big10
09-17 SEC

I should probably break these wins apart by level of quality. After all, a win over Indiana is a lot different from a win over Iowa this year. That said, I still think it is way to early to start drawing conclusions about teams based on the RPI. Consider what we saw last year. The following teams all had non-conference RPIs in the top 30 and none of them made the tournament: Clemson, Florida St., Alabama, Oklahoma St., Utah St., Air Force, Dayton, Bradley, Drexel, and Appalachian St. On the other hand, the following teams all had non-conference RPIs over 90 and still made the tournament: Stanford, USC, Texas, Vanderbilt, Louisville, and Virginia.

In other words, there is still a lot to be determined. But for those of you interested in the first 88 games, here's the rest of my early season cheat sheet:

11/28 Maryland 69 Illinois 61
11/19 Georgia Tech 70 Notre Dame 69
11/26 Wake Forest 56 Iowa 47
11/28 Boston College 77 Michigan 64
11/17 Virginia 75 Arizona 72
11/27 Virginia 94 Northwestern 52
11/23 North Carolina St. 63 South Carolina 61
11/25 North Carolina St. 69 Villanova 68
11/23 Florida St. 65 Florida 51
11/27 Florida St. 75 Minnesota 61
12/01 North Carolina 86 Kentucky 77
11/28 North Carolina 66 Ohio St. 55
11/27 Clemson 61 Purdue 58
11/15 Clemson 84 Mississippi St. 82
12/01 Clemson 85 South Carolina 74
12/02 Miami FL 66 St. John's 47
11/18 Miami FL 64 Providence 58
12/13 Miami FL 64 Mississippi St. 58
11/21 Duke 77 Marquette 73
12/08 Duke 95 Michigan 67
11/27 Duke 82 Wisconsin 58
11/20 Duke 79 Illinois 66

11/20 Minnesota 68 Iowa St. 58
11/21 Ohio St. 79 Syracuse 65
12/08 Penn St. 89 Seton Hall 86
11/28 Penn St. 66 Virginia Tech 61
11/21 Illinois 65 Oklahoma St. 49
11/19 Illinois 77 Arizona St. 54
11/17 Wisconsin 78 Colorado 52
11/24 Wisconsin 68 Georgia 49
12/08 Indiana 70 Kentucky 51
11/27 Indiana 83 Georgia Tech 79
11/28 Michigan St. 81 North Carolina St. 58
11/19 Michigan St. 86 Missouri 83

12/08 Georgia 72 Wake Forest 50
11/17 Florida 88 Rutgers 63
11/28 Arkansas 94 Missouri 91
11/23 Tennessee 74 West Virginia 72
11/22 South Carolina 74 Penn St. 67
12/06 South Carolina 68 Providence 67
12/01 Vanderbilt 92 Georgia Tech 79
12/12 Vanderbilt 91 DePaul 85
12/05 Vanderbilt 83 Wake Forest 80

12/09 Kansas St. 82 California 75
11/18 Baylor 68 Notre Dame 64
12/09 Nebraska 63 Rutgers 51
12/02 Nebraska 62 Arizona St. 47
11/30 Iowa St. 71 Oregon St. 64
12/08 Iowa St. 56 Iowa 47
11/19 Oklahoma St. 83 Louisiana St. 77
12/01 Oklahoma St. 96 Washington 71
11/20 Missouri 84 Maryland 70
12/08 Missouri 73 Purdue 63
11/28 Texas A&M 76 Alabama 63
11/21 Texas A&M 77 Washington 63
11/23 Texas A&M 70 Ohio St. 47
12/08 Kansas 84 DePaul 66
11/25 Kansas 76 Arizona 72
12/02 Kansas 59 Southern California 55
11/24 Texas 97 Tennessee 78
12/02 Texas 63 UCLA 61

11/17 DePaul 54 Northwestern 53
11/18 South Florida 68 Florida St. 67
12/05 West Virginia 88 Auburn 59
11/24 Seton Hall 74 Virginia 60
12/08 Pittsburgh 75 Washington 74
12/04 Notre Dame 68 Kansas St. 59
12/06 Villanova 68 Louisiana St. 67
12/01 Providence 98 Boston College 89
11/16 Providence 67 Arkansas 51
12/05 Syracuse 70 Virginia 68
11/23 Syracuse 91 Washington 85
12/08 Marquette 81 Wisconsin 76
11/20 Marquette 91 Oklahoma St. 61
12/05 Georgetown 70 Alabama 60
11/15 Georgetown 74 Michigan 52

11/21 Arizona St. 87 Louisiana St. 84
12/01 California 86 Missouri 72
11/29 Oregon 80 Kansas St. 77
11/30 Washington St. 67 Baylor 64
11/15 Stanford 71 Northwestern 60
12/02 Stanford 67 Colorado 43
11/17 Southern California 85 South Carolina 75
11/29 Southern California 66 Oklahoma 55
12/02 Arizona 78 Texas A&M 67
12/08 Arizona 78 Illinois 72
11/19 UCLA 71 Maryland 59
11/20 UCLA 68 Michigan St. 63

I haven’t been able to adequately rant about how impressive Duke looks to me this season. Duke may be younger and smaller than North Carolina, but they have more McDonald’s All-Americans, and the hype for this team is only getting started. Duke’s also the only team listed above with 4 wins against other BCS teams. Not a bad start for a team that lost in the first round last year. I had Duke at #5 in my preseason tournament predictions, but I felt so embarrassed about this at the time that I simply listed them as one of the Elite Eight teams without revealing their actual rank. I feel a lot better about that prediction today.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Air Must Be Really Thin

I’m sort of on the fence about looking at this year’s statistics. On the one hand, most major teams have only played 2-3 BCS opponents, so the stats could very well be unrepresentative of what we’ll see later. On the other hand, now that college football’s regular season is over, I might as well write about something.

I was thrilled to see Pomeroy also started looking at the numbers on Wednesday. He has a nice article that reintroduces his statistical metrics, and while I found that useful, I thought his first look inside this year’s stats was even more insightful.

For instance, who knew Chris Allen was such a shot hog? Now I really want to watch a few more of the Michigan St. games to see what’s behind this development. On the one hand, this could be a huge mistake by a selfish guard. After all, Neitzel, Morgan, and Suton are all off to incredibly efficient starts, and almost every possession should end with one of those three taking a shot. But on the other hand, maybe Allen’s large number of shots are a function of the team. After all, there are no other three point shooters besides Neitzel, and even though Allen is hitting a disappointing 32% of his threes to date, if teams pack the paint or double team Neitzel, Michigan St. is going to need someone to take three point shots. To me the key question is whether Allen is taking natural shots in the offense or forcing shots. That’s something to watch for.

I also didn’t know to watch out for Butler’s Matt Howard and his 126.5 ORtng. He’s obviously getting a lot of easy layups due to his all-star guards Graves and Green who just happen to have ORtngs of 124.4 and 125.2 respectively, but if he can keep defenses honest by providing an inside presence, this team will maintain its lofty poll status.

Of course, my jaw is still dropping over Malcolm Grant’s 128.1 ORtng and clutch baskets in Villanova’s comeback last night, but Grant is only taking 18.2% of Villanova’s possessions while Howard is taking 29.7% of Butlers.

I was also pleased that Pomeroy emphasized my biggest pet peeve in his column. You need to interpret all data within its context. Games are not played in a vacuum, and if you see a weird trend, it helps to watch the games to actually understand what is happening. For example, you need to know volume of shots to know whether efficiency is meaningful. A few weeks ago I flashed up the numbers for last year’s freshman All-Americans. As I said then, Scottie Reynolds efficiency numbers looked pedestrian compared to the others, but when you consider his importance in his team’s offense, the team needed him to take a lot of shots.

One place I differ is I think if you want to summarize the most information in the least amount of data, I’d show PPG and ORtng instead of % of Possessions and the ORtng. You can mostly back out % of Possessions if you have PPG & ORtng and since general college basketball fans can relate to PPG, I think that is a little more natural pair of numbers to examine. The key advantage of % of Possessions is that it isn’t influenced by pace, but whether or not you want to take pace out when summarizing a player is probably a personal decision.

Speaking of pace, I thought I’d take a few moments to look inside this year’s pace statistics (as found on Ken Pomeroy’s statistics pages).

Something is obviously happening in the water in Colorado. Not only does Air Force continue to have one of the slowest paced teams in the country, look what has happened to three of the other local teams:

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
Colorado St. 2007 68.9  93 68.7  92
Colorado St. 2008 61.0 324 62.0 327
Denver       2007 68.0 109 67.3 136
Denver       2008 56.6 341 58.0 339
Colorado     2007 72.8  20 72.7  13
Colorado     2008 60.2 330 63.1 311

Well what’s happening is that two of these teams hired former Air Force coaches. Both Colorado’s Coach Jeff Bzdelik, and Denver’s Coach Joe Scott (at Air Force and more recently Princeton) have always been known for slow paced teams that work the shotclock and try to get a high percentage look. Colorado St. on the other hand is a big surprise. New coach Tim Miles was not known for a slow-it-down approach at North Dakota St. Perhaps he is trying to shorten the game to make things simpler for his young team (which rotates just one senior), or maybe there really is something in the water in Colorado. I would think someone would start a fast pace team in the area, just to attract the high school recruits with something different. Perhaps the VMI coach is available, although even he has toned back his ridiculously fast paced team from last season.

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
VMI          2007 90.7   1 90.9   1
VMI          2008 80.0   3 78.4   7

Like Bzdelik, Todd Lickliter kept possessions down at Butler, and he’s trying to limit them at Iowa. And you can’t blame Lickliter. In the roaring 70 possession game against Wake Forest, Iowa had an offensive efficiency rating of 67.0 and lost by 9 Meanwhile, in the crawling 53 possession win over Northern Iowa, Iowa’s offense had an efficiency rate of 116.1 and Iowa won by 7.

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
Iowa         2007 65.5 221 67.6 126
Iowa         2008 61.1 323 61.0 330

It can take time to change a culture of losing or winning, but it is nice to know that coaches can at least change some things within their first year. For teams that maintained their coach, dramatic change is less likely, but still possible. Both Notre Dame and Texas have played significantly slower this year.

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
Texas        2007 69.7  74 68.5  97
Texas        2008 64.5 285 63.4 306

Notre Dame   2007 70.5  53 71.5  29
Notre Dame   2008 67.6 216 66.6 232

One reason may be that both teams have clamped down on defense. By allowing fewer easy looks, they’ve caused their opponents to hold the ball longer which has slowed down the game. From a defensive efficiency standpoint:

Def Eff      Year  Raw  Rnk  Adj Rnk
Texas        2007 100.5 131 94.6  62
Texas        2008  95.2 105 92.3  75

Notre Dame   2006 104.5 233 98.5 120
Notre Dame   2007  96.2  49 93.0  49
Notre Dame   2008  89.5  44 89.6  56

I was actually under the impression that Notre Dame’s defense was significantly worse last year than these numbers show, but that may have been because of 2006. It also may have had to do with the defensive efficiency rating of 131.8 against Georgetown in the Big East tournament last year. Either way, Notre Dame’s defense is off to a strong start this year including an impressive 81.7 in Monday’s win over Kansas St.

I’ve always been under the impression that strong defense and slow pace are highly correlated, and if you run the raw numbers you do see that trend, but to a lesser degree than I might have expected. In 2007 a 10 possession faster game only decreased the defensive efficiency rating of a team by 1.5 points. That said, most dominant defensive teams do play at a slightly slower pace. (The key exceptions are pressing teams like Tennessee which can cause lots of turnovers and ultra-talented teams like North Carolina.)

On the flip side, the biggest increase in unadjusted pace has occured at Navy and Creighton.

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
Navy         2007 63.9 269 66.2 187
Navy         2008 77.7  12 77.9   8

Creighton    2007 62.4 301 63.6 289
Creighton    2008 70.4 118 74.1  43

Navy has historically been a faster paced team, so this may simply be returning to what Billy Lange does best. Creighton on the other hand, has historically been one of the slowest teams in the country, so perhaps Dana Altman has decided to reinvent himself after a controversial off-season. Here are a few other notable faster teams:

Pace         Year  Raw Rnk  Adj Rnk
W. Virginia  2007 63.6 277 64.1 273
W. Virginia  2008 72.0  75 69.9 133

Kansas St.   2007 67.6 130 66.5 174
Kansas St.   2008 76.7  14 76.3  19
Indiana      2007 64.0 268 65.4 217
Indiana      2008 72.0  77 71.0  93
Duke         2007 66.1 203 65.9 203
Duke         2008 73.0  56 75.0  31
Louisiana St 2007 65.0 240 63.9 279
Louisiana St 2008 70.8 103 73.4  50

Bob Huggins has made West Virginia faster, while Kansas St. has gotten even faster after he left. Indiana is riding Gordon’s skill to play at a faster pace, while Duke’s 8 McDonald’s All-American’s are pushing it at a different level than last season. Finally, LSU has sped up considerably this year now that it no longer has Big Baby Davis to feed in the paint. But after last night’s colossal collapse, LSU probably wishes they had kept the game about 3 possessions shorter.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Are you kidding me?

LSU led Villanova 54-33 with about 10 minutes left in the fourth and final game of the SEC-Big East Invitational. And then the unthinkable happened. The stunned look on Anthony Randolph's face said it all. Villanova went on an unfathomable 35-13 run and Dante Cuningham's putback with 5 seconds left sealed the incredible comeback for the Wildcats. Poor Anthony Randolph. The freshman forward for LSU had a dominant game, and his four blocks and 12 points helped build the huge lead for his team. But when the lead was cut under twenty he started to look distressed picking up his 4th and 5th fouls within a minute. Then Villanova really went on a run and as the lead shrunk to single digits they kept panning to Randolph on the sideline, squirming in pain as his team took bad shots and committed stupid fouls.

On the flip side, this game was all about the emergence of the next great Villanova guard. Freshman Malcolm Grant was already averaging an astounding 1.87 points per shot before tonight. And tonight all he did was score the marjority of his 18 points in the most memorable comeback of the year so far.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Here are my projections, which could still be very wrong.

Rose Bowl picks Illinois to fill in for Ohio St.
Sugar Bowl picks Georgia to fill in for LSU.
Orange Bowl picks West Virginia.
Fiesta Bowl picks Kansas. Even though this sets up Kansas vs Oklahoma, these two Big 12 teams did not play each other during the regular season, and Stewart Mandel says this is possible.
Sugar Bowl gets stuck with Hawaii.

This leaves:

National Title, One vs Two: Ohio St. vs LSU
Rose Bowl, Pac10 vs At Large: USC vs Illinois
Orange Bowl, ACC vs Big East: Virginia Tech vs West Virginia
Fiesta Bowl, Big 12 vs At Large: Oklahoma vs Kansas
Sugar Bowl, At Large vs At Large: Georgia vs Hawaii

This could be wrong for several reasons.

First, LSU may not be in the national title game. If its Georgia, just flip LSU and Georgia.

Second, if you are the Sugar bowl, and you are stuck with Hawaii, why not just pick Kansas to fill in for LSU. 12-0 Hawaii vs 11-1 Kansas might sound appealing to a certain group of fans. I doubt they would pass on Georgia though.

Third, the Rose Bowl could still choose Georgia or West Virginia or some other surprise team. But if they want to stay part of the BCS and not have the Big 10 seceed, I think they'll have to pick Illinois.

Fourth, Hawaii could still lose tonight. Washington just scored first.

Fifth, Arizona St. could still go to the Fiesta Bowl over Kansas.

If this scenario does unfold, the big loser is Arizona St. who a week ago looked like a lock for the Fiesta Bowl. You know who's watching intently? Purdue. Depending on what happens, they could be playing anywhere.

The Greatest Football Season Ever

We are ticking down to one of the most controversial National Championship Game ever. Despite several attempted meltdowns, and the possible destruction of a set of crutches by Dave Wanstedt, Pittsburgh did the unthinkable and defeated West Virginia. What a game! Controversial holding calls, crucial missed field goals, questionable decisions to kick on fourth and one, and oh what a finale. After a kick return set up West Virginia in Pittsburgh territory, an injured Pat White came off the sideline in heroic fashion and DID NOTHING. Are you kidding me? This should top Appalachian State-Michigan and Stanford-USC for the upset of the year for simple reason that West Virginia had so much to play for. This was West Virginia’s year. They’ve slowly been creeping up to the upper echelon, doing things like crushing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, and now finally, they had the offense, they had the defense, they had the good fortune to be in contention with one loss. And West Virginia blew it.

Oh, and Missouri is trailing too. I immediately thought “LSU is getting in”. Then I flipped over to ABC and you could literally see the wheels turning in Herbstreit’s head. All of a sudden he latched onto it. “LSU deserves to be number 2.”

Let’s look at the other candidates.

Hawaii – Other than Boise St., they have no marquee wins. That’s just not good enough.

Kansas – As I said last week, their best win was 7-5 Texas A&M. That’s just not good enough.

Georgia – They may have a six game winning streak, and a good chance, but they didn’t win the SEC. LSU won the SEC.

Virginia Tech – They have only two losses and won the ACC, but they were blown out by LSU.

USC – They won the Pac 10 and lost to a very bad Stanford team.

Oklahoma – Why no love? They beat Missouri twice, Texas, and lost to two bowl eligible teams.

LSU – Yep, they should get it. The computers are going to love them, but will the voters take the time to think? Or will they just move Georgia up? We’re about to find out. And no matter what happens, the controversy is about to begin.