Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coach Rankings Part 2

Yesterday, I explained the concept of my coach rankings. Today I provide the detailed numbers for each conference.

Big East      Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
Connecticut   Jim Calhoun       0.91  1.96  0.52  3.39  
Louisville    Rick Pitino       0.91  1.09  0.46  2.46  
Georgetown    John Thompson III 0.84  1.27  0.22  2.33  
Pittsburgh    Jamie Dixon       0.44  2.04 -0.17  2.32  
Syracuse      Jim Boeheim       0.93  0.82  0.30  2.04  
Villanova     Jay Wright        0.92  0.91  0.15  1.99  
Notre Dame    Mike Brey         0.68  0.33 -0.12  0.89  
St. John's    Norm Roberts      0.23 -0.23    
West Virginia Bob Huggins             1.32 -0.47   
South Florida Stan Heath              0.35  0.40   
DePaul        Jerry Wainwright       -0.09  0.07   
Cincinnati    Mick Cronin             0.20    
Seton Hall    Bobby Gonzalez          0.06    
Rutgers       Fred Hill      
Providence    Keno Davis      
Marquette     Buzz Williams

Recent Hires: Keno Davis has zero NCAA wins, but one very shiny national coach of the year trophy. Buzz Williams has only one (moderately successful) year of head coaching experience. He was a serious downgrade for Marquette.

Hot Seat: Norm Roberts dodged the hot seat this year, but he needs to make the tournament.

ACC            Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
North Carolina Roy Williams      1.41  2.47  0.55  4.43  
Duke           Mike Krzyzewski   1.80  2.33 -0.34  3.79  
Georgia Tech   Paul Hewitt       1.02  0.43  0.29  1.73  
Maryland       Gary Williams     0.69  0.50  0.47  1.66  
Boston College Al Skinner        0.14  1.42 -0.24  1.32  
Clemson        Oliver Purnell    0.20  0.55 -1.04 -0.30  
Miami          Frank Haith       0.33  0.24    
Virginia Tech  Seth Greenberg    0.32  0.23    
Florida State  Leonard Hamilton  0.84 -0.69    
Virginia       Dave Leitao             0.24    
NC State       Sidney Lowe      
Wake Forest    Dino Gaudio

Recent Hires: Dino Gaudio has some very talented young players and a great chance to prove himself in the coming years.

Hot Seat: Leonard Hamilton has clearly recruited a lot of talent to Florida St., but his teams can't seem to put it together.

Big 12        Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
Kansas        Bill Self         1.57  2.19  0.25  4.00  
Texas         Rick Barnes       1.02  2.14 -0.07  3.09  
Baylor        Scott Drew        0.50  0.03    
Missouri      Mike Anderson           0.42  0.45   
Iowa State    Greg McDermott          0.50 -0.44   
Texas A&M     Mark Turgeon            0.44    
Colorado      Jeff Bzdelik            0.31    
Oklahoma      Jeff Capel III          0.31    
Nebraska      Doc Sadler              0.22    
Oklahoma St   Travis Ford            -0.18    
Kansas State  Frank Martin      
Texas Tech    Pat Knight      

Recent Hires: I think Travis Ford will be fine at Oklahoma St., but you usually do not get hired after you narrowly miss the NCAA tournament.

Hot Seat: Frank Martin doesn't have Beasley anymore. Can he hang onto the job?

Big 10         Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
Ohio State     Thad Matta        1.13  1.45  0.32  2.90  
Michigan State Tom Izzo          1.03  1.09  0.72  2.84  
Wisconsin      Bo Ryan           0.55  2.02  0.13  2.70  
Illinois       Bruce Webber      0.42  1.42  0.41  2.25  
Penn State     Ed DeChellis      0.04  0.03    
Northwestern   Bill Carmody      0.00 -0.02    
Minnesota      Tubby Smith             1.77 -0.05   
Purdue         Matt Painter            1.23 -0.13   
Indiana        Tom Crean               1.07 -0.15   
Michigan       John Beilein            0.55    
Iowa           Todd Lickliter          0.47

Recent Hires: Tom Crean will have his work cut out for him, but he can get it done at Indiana.

Hot Seat: Ed DeChellis, Bill Carmody, nothing new here.

Pac 10        Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
UCLA          Ben Howland       1.10  1.90  0.67  3.68  
Arizona       Lute Olson        0.88  1.49 -0.14  2.22  
Washington    Lorenzo Romar     0.81  0.88 -0.46  1.23  
Oregon        Ernie Kent        0.44  0.39 -0.07  0.76  
Arizona State Herb Sendek             0.61  0.09   
USC           Tim Floyd               1.12    
California    Mike Montgomery              -1.14
Washington St Tony Bennett      
Stanford      Johnny Dawkins      
Oregon State  Craig Robinson

Recent Hires: In his last stint in the Pac10, Mike Mongomery was dominant in the regular season and struggled in the tournament. Johnny Dawkins looks to prove that Duke assistants are better than people think. Craig Robinson needs to work a miracle.

SEC            Coach             RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
Florida        Billy Donovan     1.31  1.57  0.71  3.58  
Alabama        Mark Gottfried    0.81  0.48 -0.10  1.19  
Vanderbilt     Kevin Stallings   0.43  0.74  0.01  1.18  
Mississippi St Rick Stansbury    0.60  1.01 -0.53  1.09  
Georgia        Dennis Felton     0.34  0.07 -0.30  0.12  
Auburn         Jeff Lebo         0.31 -0.38    
Tennessee      Bruce Pearl             1.77  0.01   
LSU            Trent Johnson           0.82  0.09   
Kentucky       Billy Gillispie         0.86 -0.02   
Arkansas       John Pelphrey           0.07    
South Carolina Darrin Horn            -0.06    
Mississippi    Andy Kennedy           -0.21    

Recent Hires: Trent Johnson is a proven winner and a great hire by LSU. Believe it or not, Darrin Horn actually recruited some talent to Western Kentucky, otherwise his regular season rating would be higher. South Carolina hopes he can recruit in the SEC.

Hot Seat: Jeff Lebo needs to show some signs of progress. Dennis Felton may have saved his job with an SEC tournament win. Still, what does it say that his team played better when they did not have time to practice?

Notable Non-BCS  Coach           RECR  REG   PASE  TOT
Memphis     CUSA John Calipari   0.90  2.02  0.20  3.12  
Gonzaga      WCC Mark Few        0.35  1.99 -0.17  2.17  
Xavier       A10 Sean Miller     0.28  0.84  0.47  1.59  
S. Ill.      MVC Chris Lowery    0.02  1.31  0.05  1.38  
UNLV         MWC Lon Kruger      0.24  0.62  0.32  1.18  
George Mason CAA Jim Larranaga   0.00  0.36  0.66  1.02  
Nevada       WAC Mark Fox        0.00  1.22 -0.20  1.02  
Arkansas St   SB John Brady            0.65  0.28   
Saint Joes   A10 Phil Martelli   0.05  1.11 -0.34  0.83  
Davidson     Sth Bob McKillop    0.00  0.33  0.46  0.78  
UAB         CUSA Mike Davis            0.16  0.56   
Pacific       BW Bob Thomason    0.00  0.41  0.19  0.60  
Saint Louis  A10 Rick Majerus          0.79 -0.33   
G. Wash.     A10 Karl Hobbs      0.09  0.58 -0.22  0.45  
Creighton    MVC Dana Altman     0.11  0.75 -0.42  0.43  
Utah State   WAC Stew Morrill    0.00  0.48 -0.14  0.34  
Wichita St   MVC Gregg Marshall        0.31  0.02   
Temple       A10 Fran Dunphy           0.58 -0.36   
Belmont     ASun Rick Byrd       0.00  0.19 -0.04  0.15  
Oral Roberts Sum Scott Sutton    0.01  0.23 -0.14  0.10  
Wright State Hor Brad Brownell         0.51 -0.42   
New Mexico   MWC Steve Alford          0.27 -0.21   
Charlotte    A10 Bobby Lutz      0.29  0.09 -0.35  0.02  

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coach Rankings Part 1

Although I've discussed this at length before, let's stick to the numbers. The perception of the top coaches is mostly based on NCAA tournament appearances and wins. Here are the coaches who have the most appearances plus wins in the last 10 years (NCAA tournaments 1999-2008).

NCAA Appearances – Wins, Coach - School
10 – 28, Roy Williams - North Carolina
10 – 26, Mike Krzyzewski - Duke
10 – 24, Tom Izzo - Michigan State
10 – 22, Bill Self - Kansas
10 – 16, Rick Barnes - Texas
9 – 22, Billy Donovan - Florida
9 – 17, Tubby Smith - Minnesota
9 – 15, Lute Olson - Arizona
9 – 9, Mark Few - Gonzaga
8 – 22, Jim Calhoun - Connecticut
8 – 9, Bob Huggins - West Virginia
7 – 17, Gary Williams - Maryland
7 – 11, Jim Boeheim - Syracuse
7 – 10, Bo Ryan - Wisconsin
6 – 17, Ben Howland - UCLA
6 – 12, Thad Matta - Ohio State
6 – 10, Bruce Webber - Illinois
6 – 8, Mike Montgomery - California
6 – 7, Jay Wright - Villanova
6 – 6, Al Skinner - Boston College
6 – 5, Mike Brey - Notre Dame
5 – 12, John Calipari - Memphis
5 – 9, Rick Pitino - Louisville
5 – 7, John Thompson III - Georgetown
5 – 7, Bruce Pearl - Tennessee
5 – 6, Ernie Kent - Oregon
5 – 6, Jamie Dixon - Pittsburgh
5 – 6, Paul Hewitt - Georgia Tech
5 – 5, Mark Gottfried - Alabama
5 – 5, Herb Sendek - Arizona State
5 – 5, Tom Crean - Indiana
4 – 7, Mike Davis - UAB
4 – 6, John Brady - Arkansas State

My rankings evaluate how coaches obtain these appearances and wins. Is it through recruiting? Is it through player development and by earning a high seed in the regular season. Or is it by exceeding expectations in the tournament?

Let’s start with coaches that exceed expectations in the tournament. Based on past NCAA tournament data, here are the wins expected for each seed.

ExpWins - Seed
3.42 - 1
2.41 - 2
1.82 - 3
1.49 - 4
1.15 - 5
1.24 - 6
0.88 - 7
0.67 - 8
0.58 - 9
0.64 - 10
0.49 - 11
0.50 - 12
0.25 - 13
0.18 - 14
0.04 - 15
0.00 - 16

This spring I discovered that ESPN also uses this concept. ESPN calls it PASE or Performance Against Seed Expectations. Here are the coaches with the highest PASE in the last 10 years, averaged over the number of NCAA appearances, with a minimum of three NCAA appearances.

PASE Coach -School
0.72 Tom Izzo - Michigan State
0.71 Billy Donovan - Florida
0.67 Ben Howland - UCLA
0.66 Jim Larranaga - George Mason
0.56 Mike Davis - UAB
0.55 Roy Williams - North Carolina
0.52 Jim Calhoun - Connecticut
0.47 Sean Miller - Xavier
0.47 Gary Williams - Maryland
0.46 Rick Pitino - Louisville

Jim Larranaga and Mike Davis show that if you rarely make the tournament, but then make the Final Four, you look like a good tournament coach.

PASE Coach -School
-1.14 Mike Montgomery - California
-1.04 Oliver Purnell - Clemson
-0.53 Rick Stansbury - Mississippi State
-0.47 Bob Huggins - West Virginia
-0.46 Lorenzo Romar - Washington
-0.44 Greg McDermott - Iowa State
-0.42 Dana Altman - Creighton
-0.42 Brad Brownell - Wright State
-0.36 Fran Dunphy - Temple
-0.35 Bobby Lutz - Charlotte

California is getting a good regular season coach, but Mike Montgomery had some colossal tournament flops before he left Stanford for the NBA. Oliver Purnell took Dayton to the tournament as a 4 seed and 11 seed and took Clemson as a 5 seed, but has won zero tournament games. Rick Stansbury has taken Mississippi St. to the tournament five times in the last decade, but he has never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Bob Huggins improved his numbers with a deep tournament run this year. In the last decade, Fran Dunphy took Penn to the tournament 6 times and Temple once, but he does not have a tournament win to show for it.

Some coaches earn their NCAA tournament wins and appearances through recruiting.
I ran a regression to estimate the impact of talent, looking within coaches over time. Not surprisingly, McDonald's All-Americans and upperclassmen that were top 100 recruits had the biggest impact on success. Based on these regressions I assigned a value to each type of recruit. I also lowered the value of McDonald's All-Americans based on the fact that most leave early for the NBA. With these numerical evaluations, I assigned a value to each recruiting class for the last 9 years. I only evaluated coaches at their current school, and I threw out the first year in the current job. Based on these numbers, the top recruiters are:

RECR Coach - School
1.80 Mike Krzyzewski - Duke
1.57 Bill Self - Kansas
1.41 Roy Williams - North Carolina
1.31 Billy Donovan - Florida
1.13 Thad Matta - Ohio State
1.10 Ben Howland - UCLA
1.03 Tom Izzo - Michigan State
1.02 Rick Barnes - Texas
1.02 Paul Hewitt - Georgia Tech
0.93 Jim Boeheim - Syracuse

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated had a great article pointing out that Coach K gets a lot of McDonald's All-Americans, but the causality may be wrong. His recruits may be called McDonald's All-Americans simply because they decided to go to Duke, not because they are really top 20 players. If this is true, you may want to lower Coach K's recruiting rank.

Also, according to my evaluation, recruits aren't everything. Tom Izzo has enough of a tournament coaching advantage (see above) over someone like Bill Self, that he can make up for having less talented recruits. (The key problem for Izzo in recent years is that he has struggled in the regular season.)

Here are the worst recruiters at a BCS school for at least 4 years (i.e. minimum 3 recruiting classes.)

RECR Coach - School
0.00 Bill Carmody - Northwestern
0.04 Ed DeChellis - Penn State
0.14 Al Skinner - Boston College
0.20 Oliver Purnell - Clemson
0.23 Norm Roberts - St. John's
0.31 Jeff Lebo - Auburn
0.32 Seth Greenberg - Virginia Tech
0.33 Frank Haith - Miami
0.34 Dennis Felton - Georgia
0.42 Bruce Webber - Illinois

The worst of the worst recruiters tend to lose their jobs at about the 3 year mark, so I should add that Greenberg, Haith, Felton, and Webber are hardly horrible. In fact, the only way you keep your job if you can't recruit at the elite level is by knowing how to coach.

You can also earn wins and appearances during the regular season by developing players and earning a high seed. For the last 6 years, I take expected wins based on seed and subtract off expected wins based on talent and get regular season performance. (I only have 9 years of recruiting data, and I can only evaluate each team's seniors for the last 6 years, so I can only make this calculation for the last 6 years.)

REG Coach - School
2.47 Roy Williams - North Carolina
2.33 Mike Krzyzewski - Duke
2.19 Bill Self - Kansas
2.14 Rick Barnes - Texas
2.04 Jamie Dixon - Pittsburgh
2.02 John Calipari - Memphis
2.02 Bo Ryan - Wisconsin
1.99 Mark Few - Gonzaga
1.96 Jim Calhoun - Connecticut
1.90 Ben Howland - UCLA

Not surprisingly, the best coaches at winning in the regular season were also some of the best recruiters. (Players like to play for a winning coach.) The interesting feature here is that Jamie Dixon and Bo Ryan show up on this list even though they weren't on the recruiting list. Even with less talent, these coaches have been consistent winners in the regular season.

REG Coach - School
-0.69 Leonard Hamilton - Florida State
-0.38 Jeff Lebo - Auburn
-0.23 Norm Roberts - St. John's
-0.21 Andy Kennedy - Mississippi
-0.18 Travis Ford - Oklahoma State
-0.09 Jerry Wainwright - DePaul
-0.02 Bill Carmody - Northwestern
0.03 Scott Drew - Baylor
0.03 Ed DeChellis - Penn State
0.06 Bobby Gonzalez - Seton Hall

On the flip side, Leonard Hamilton has turned some great recruiting classes into zero NCAA tournament appearances at Florida St. I also give less weight to success at non-BCS schools based on the fact that most coaches making the transition fail. Even so, I find it a little surprising that Travis Ford earned the Oklahoma St. job after FAILING to qualify for the NCAA tournament with a talented team.

REC , REG , PASE , TOT, School - Coach
1.41 , 2.47 , 0.55 , 4.43, North Carolina - Roy Williams
1.57 , 2.19 , 0.25 , 4.00, Kansas - Bill Self
1.80 , 2.33 , -0.34 , 3.79, Duke - Mike Krzyzewski
1.10 , 1.90 , 0.67 , 3.68, UCLA - Ben Howland
1.31 , 1.57 , 0.71 , 3.58, Florida - Billy Donovan
0.91 , 1.96 , 0.52 , 3.39, Connecticut - Jim Calhoun
0.90 , 2.02 , 0.20 , 3.12, Memphis - John Calipari
1.02 , 2.14 , -0.07 , 3.09, Texas - Rick Barnes
1.13 , 1.45 , 0.32 , 2.90, Ohio State - Thad Matta
1.03 , 1.09 , 0.72 , 2.84, Michigan State - Tom Izzo

This list should look a lot like the list of wins and appearances at the start of this post. I've simply broken apart where the success comes from. Bill Self is a star recruiter; John Calipari fattens up in the regular season and earns a high seed and better NCAA tournament path; and Tom Izzo makes his money by exceeding expectations in the tournament.

The above number says Bill Self should average 4.0 wins plus appearances per year. But Bill Self's numbers in the initial list were 10 appearances and 22 wins, or 3.2 per year. The key difference is that the recruiting figure is ONLY for Kansas. This does not include Self’s recruiting at Tulsa and Illinois which was at a slightly lower level. The regular season and tournament figures are derived from all of Bill Self’s jobs. Even though he only earned 3.2 wins plus appearances per year, if he stays at Kansas, this model suggests that Bill Self should average 4.0 wins plus appearances in the future.

For someone like Coach K at the same school, the discrepancy between the actual 3.6 wins and 3.8 wins is explained by the different time horizons for the various factors. I evaluate RECR for 9 years, REG for the last 6 years, and PASE for the last 10 years.
Differences will also occur when there is an unusual amount of early entry at a school. I currently do not penalize coaches for early entry.

I'll be back later with a conference by conference breakdown.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Coaching Candidates

Since I won’t get a chance to post my updated coaching rankings until later this month, I wanted to briefly discuss the top non-BCS coaching candidates.

In Your Dreams
John Calipari
Mark Few

Maybe the Oklahoma St. money could do it, but I highly doubt it.

Not Interested in Moving
Dana Altman
Jim Larranaga
Phil Martelli
Rick Majerus

Larranaga has already turned down the Providence job. I don’t see Majerus moving this soon. I also think he may prefer to keep a lower profile job.

Top Candidates
Sean Miller, 3 NCAA appearances, 4 NCAA wins
Keno Davis, 1 NCAA tournament appearance, 0 NCAA wins, 1 coach of the year award
Lon Kruger, 2 NCAA appearances, 3 NCAA wins at UNLV, extensive college & NBA history
Bob McKillop, 3 straight NCAA appearances, 4 in last 7 years, 3 NCAA wins this year
Rick Byrd, 3 straight appearances at Belmont, almost beat Duke

The interest in Keno Davis seems to have cooled some, but that coach of the year award is still impressive. McKillop probably won’t leave Davidson, especially with Curry coming back, but he deserves a mention. If Rick Byrd is looking to move up to a mid-major, now might be the chance.

Don’t Forget
Chris Lowery, 3 NCAA appearances, 3 NCAA wins
Mark Fox, 3 NCAA appearances, 2 NCAA wins
Bobby Lutz, 5 NCAA appearances in last 10 years, missed 3 straight

Bill Grier of San Diego and Brad Stevens of Butler are too new to get an offer, but are worth keeping an eye on. There are also a slew of people like Fran McCaffery of Siena (won in tournament this year) and Ronnie Arrow of South Alabama (two straight NCAA trips, one with TexasA&MCC) that are interesting, but probably need to do a little more to move.

This really looks like it is going to be a boring year for coaching moves. Last year there were a lot of major dominoes to follow, particularly due to the Michigan and Kentucky openings. This year, Indiana caused a major stir by hiring Tom Crean, but with Marquette choosing an assistant for the head coaching position, and California going to the NBA to get Mike Montgomery, there isn’t expected to be a lot of movement among BCS teams. About the only way things are going to get really crazy is if Oklahoma St. is able to pull over Bill Self or another BCS coach. Assuming that doesn’t happen, here are the three BCS teams with vacancies still open:

Oklahoma St.

Will they choose someone from the above list, or will they get another BCS coach? The fun is just beginning.

Conference Wrap-Up

Here is how the multi-bid conferences fared in the NCAA tournament:
12-5 Big 12
6-4 ACC
11-8 Big East
8-6 Pac 10
5-4 Big 10
3-3 A10
2-2 Sun Belt
4-6 SEC
1-3 MWC
1-3 WCC
Memphis won more games than all the SEC teams combined.

As I’ve been discussing for several weeks, here is how the conferences did relative to the expectations given the seeds they received:
3.36 Big 12
0.89 Sun Belt
0.23 A10
0.11 Big 10
-0.04 Big East
-0.34 MWC
-0.74 WCC
-1.15 Pac10
-1.83 ACC
-1.89 SEC
Duke and Clemson bowed out earlier than would have been expected by seed, hurting the ACC’s ranking. The Pac10 was a media darling all year, but the Big 12 did more damage in the tournament, and it wasn’t just Kansas. Texas and Oklahoma lived up to seed, Kansas St. pulled an upset, and Texas A&M won the 8-9 game. Only Baylor, seeded 11th lost in the first round.

Rock Chalk

As the confetti fell from the rafters in San Antonio, you have to appreciate the joy of winning a championship. Kansas went two decades without a title; Bill Self was the best coach never to have made a final four. And in storybook fashion, the Jayhawks hit a miracle three, won in OT, and gave their fans a final satisfying payoff. Here are five thoughts on an exciting finale:

1) Sometimes the numbers are right.

-Both the Pomeroy Ratings and the Sagarin Predictor tabbed Kansas as the best team in the country. No one was better at blowing out their opponents than Kansas, and in the end, the numbers predicted a tournament championship.

-Memphis was a horrible free throw shooting team in the regular season, and they missed key free throws in the final minutes of the championship game. Perhaps Chris-Douglas-Roberts can take solace in the fact that those weren’t the first painful free throw misses in Memphis history. Do you remember Darius Washington missing foul shots and collapsing to the floor a few years ago? Memphis has come a long way, but they still know how to do heartbreak.

2) Did Memphis choke?

Call me crazy, but I didn’t see a Memphis team that choked away the game. I saw a Kansas team that made plays to win down the stretch. One of my mottos on this site has been - “great comebacks require steals, not fouls.” Too often announcers claim that teams need to foul to get back in the game, eschewing the obvious fact that steals can bring a team back. And as Jay Bilas has pointed out numerous times, it is often easier to get steals at the end of the game because you can slap at the ball without worrying about the consequences.

In a game like this, steals were huge. How many times did we see Memphis steal the ball, only to have Kansas steal it back 3 seconds later. The teams had 11 steals apiece in the game. Heck, Memphis only turned it over 13 times, meaning they had only 2 turnovers that weren’t on steals. So when Kansas stole the ball under the Memphis basket (ala Pittsburgh at Syracuse), and Sherron Collins drained a 3 pointer from the corner, that was the play of the game. Chalmers 3 will be the shot that gets replayed, but if the earlier shot doesn’t cut it to 4 points, it isn’t even close at the end.

Some people view the steal as a choke job by Memphis, but I totally disagree. It was just a good basketball play. The bigger choke job occurred two days earlier when Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough threw it away on a lazy 20 foot outlet pass after UNC had cut the lead to 4 points. That steal was inexcusable. The Kansas steal on Memphis was simply a terrific basketball play.

The biggest argument that Memphis choked was that they missed free throws. But given the way Memphis shot free throws in the regular season, a few misses were to be expected. If Memphis was going to win, they either needed to build a bigger lead, or execute on defense in the final minutes. They weren’t going to win a title by going 24 of 25 at the line. I don’t know anybody that believes the “We’ll make them when they count” theory. The only thing that tempers this is the fact that CDR was the player missing free throws (as compared to say Dorsey), but I still don’t view this as a choke.

3) What was John Calipari’s biggest coaching mistake?

I’ve heard a lot of complaints that Calipari should have called a time out to set up his defense after the Rose free throw at the end of regulation. Part of the reason is that Calipari didn’t handle his post-game interview very well. Calipari criticized the officials for not calling his team for a foul in the final seconds, and he claimed that his players were running away instead of listening to his instructions. But by launching this criticism, he actually put the target on himself. He made it seem like he should have called timeout. The truth is this is a bang-bang decision that only looks bad in 20/20 hindsight. The decision to let his players play defense and not call timeout fit much more with the Memphis season.

The Memphis team has been drilled all season on playing a free-flowing game and making plays in the rhythm of the game. This is not a team where you draw up a set play and expect them to execute. Recall what happened with 45 seconds left in the game. Kansas decided not to foul and the Memphis players started standing around like they didn’t know what to do. Calipari called a time out, but even that possession did not produce a point.

Calipari doesn’t want to micromanage the game. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about strategy. He does want to teach phenomenal defense and drill his team on offense, but in crunch time, he just wants to sit back and let his players make plays. And I think this is one of the major reasons Calipari took a job at Memphis instead of a BCS gig. This laid-back strategy works a lot better in a smaller conference where most of the games aren’t close, and you can just depend on your team’s phenomenal talent to win. There is a reason his recruiting pitch is “Come to Memphis where we won’t make you play a boring screening offense. We’ll just let you play the game.” Calipari is looking for players who will execute based on fundamentals and ability, not based on X’s and O’s.

So I have no problem with him not calling a timeout to set up the defense in the final minute. And despite the outcome, I thought his team executed flawlessly. Memphis nearly forced Collins to turn it over, Memphis pressured Chalmers enough that he double clutched, and then Chalmers made a very difficult 3 pointer. Memphis could not have played it any better.

Some people claim that Memphis should have fouled in the final seconds, but how could they? Kansas had the ball at the three point line with 5 seconds left. You just can’t foul when a team gets this close. You can foul if a player is facing the wrong way or out at half-court with 3 seconds left, but it is way too risky to foul when a player like Collins or Chalmers has the ball at the 3 point line. At contact, either of those players could just throw it up and act like they were shooting. I thought Memphis executed fine defense on the final play of regulation, Kansas just made a better offensive play.

The mistake I think Calipari made was how he handled the Joey Dorsey foul situation. The absence of Dorsey was clearly critical in the game. It didn’t matter in regulation, but with him out of the game in OT, the Kansas interior players were able to put the game away. How could this happen?

First, what was Calipari doing with Dorsey at the end of regulation? Dorsey is a terrible FT shooter, and an irrelevant offensive player, so why pull him from the game when he picked up his 4th foul with 3:36 to go? The only reason would be to tell him not to commit a stupid foul. But that’s clearly not what happened. Memphis took him out, realized it was silly, put him back in, and watched him commit a stupid foul on the perimeter to foul out of the game. I just don’t get what they tried to do here.

Second, if Calipari’s skill is in player management instead of X’s and O’s, why couldn’t he fire up his team for the start of OT? Why didn’t he go to Taggart and Dozier and challenge them to make it happen with Dorsey fouled out? That to me was a bigger mistake then not setting up the defense on the final possession.

4) What was the biggest coaching mistake in the championship game?

I thought the worst coaching move belonged to Bill Self, not John Calipari. The move to the junk defense (Box and One) was a horrible mistake. Kansas had led for most of the game and was doing a decent job on Rose and CDR. But when Kansas moved to the junk defense, Rose heated up, Kansas blew the lead, and Kansas almost blew the game.

Having watched a number of Bill Self press conferences at Illinois, it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Self has always said that he believes in order to win a championship, in the key moments of a championship, you have to be able to beat the other team with man-to-man defense. So why would he change his philosophy when he was finally playing in the championship game?

Yes, Kansas had used a box-and-one a little this season. But this totally played into the hands of Memphis. Ever since the USC game, Memphis had been expecting to see junk defenses, and they’ve been practicing against them on a regular basis. So while Kansas busted out a less effective defense that it used only occasionally, Memphis was playing against something they had practiced against all year. This decision didn’t cost Kansas the game, but it almost did.

5) Was Kansas a surprise champion?

As I said at the beginning, the predictive ratings loved Kansas in this tournament because they were great at blowing teams out. This was partly because they had the best interior depth so that it was easy to build a big lead, even when they went to the bench. This proved particularly true in the tournament when Sasha Kaun dominated the early rounds and was perhaps the MVP of a victory over Davidson. Similarly, Cole Aldrich came off the bench against UNC and played phenomenal. I wrote a few weeks ago that foul trouble would probably do Kansas in during the tournament, but I had no idea Kaun and Aldrich would play so well.

The truth is that Kansas was what we expected all year long, the most talented team in the country. Despite the fact that college basketball has become a game for ultra-talented freshman (like Rose and Love), at least for one year, experienced talent won it all. If Kansas hadn’t been so disappointing in the tournament the last few years, that talent might not have stuck around. If Brandon Rush didn’t get injured last spring, he might not have stuck around. But at the end of the day, no one stacked up to this team. The rotation of 8 players in the title game included 3 seniors who were top 100 recruits out of high school in Kaun, Jackson, and Robinson, a junior McDonald’s All-American in Chalmers, a junior who was a huge MAA snub in Rush, two sophomore MAA’s in Collins and Arthur, and a freshman MAA in Aldrich. It hardly seems fair when you can bring a player like Aldrich in off the bench as an emergency sub. (UCLA’s emergency MAA James Keefe was not nearly as brilliant.)

Honestly, if Kansas hadn’t been such a big disappointment the last few years in the tournament, if Bill Self didn’t have the Final Four gorilla on his back, we all would have picked this team to win it all. And they still only won in OT. That’s how great CDR and Rose and company played. These were two phenomenal teams. The numbers may not mean as much now that the seasons have been expanded, but Kansas has the most ever wins for a National Champion. Memphis has the most ever wins for a Runner-Up. And best of all, after weeks of blowout games, the final lived up to the hype.

Blog Notes

I intend to be back with updated coaching rankings and notes on the coaching changes later in the month.