Friday, September 18, 2009

Autumn is Here

I have some ideas planned for the college basketball season, but time constraints are limiting what I can post. For those of you looking for something to read, you’ll have to stick with the normal sources of college basketball diversion for now.

Computer Rankings like Sample Size

The college football season has yet to draw my attention this year. This week features a matchup between Texas and Texas Tech. And it is a good thing they scheduled a tough Big 12 game early, because neither team has a marquee game on the non-conference slate. Texas and Texas Tech are two of only four BCS teams that failed to schedule another BCS team in the non-conference part of the schedule. (The other two are Ole Miss and Wisconsin.)

Look, I understood when there were 11 regular season games that teams would often schedule 3 winnable games, but now that there are 4 non-conference games, it seems inexcusable not to add at least one BCS non-conference test.

Sadly, the numbers are down across the board this year. This year there are only 100 non-conference games between BCS teams, down from 106 in 2008. That's even fewer games with which to evaluate the quality of teams and compare the leagues. Here is how the conferences stack up when it comes to BCS competition. First I list average BCS games and then I break it down between conference and non-conference games. (Note: I include Notre Dame as a BCS team.)

TotalBCS = ConfBCS + AvgNC BCS, League
10.50 = 9.00 + 1.50, Pac10
10.00 = 0.00 + 10.00, Notre Dame
9.67 = 8.00 + 1.67, ACC
9.27 = 8.00 + 1.27, Big 10
9.17 = 8.00 + 1.17, SEC
9.00 = 7.00 + 2.00, Big East
8.92 = 8.00 + 0.92, Big 12

Overall, the ACC plays more non-conference games against BCS schools than any other league in the country with 20 games or 1.67 per school. The Big 12 is at the bottom with 11 non-conference games or 0.92 per school. But the Pac10 teams still face arguably the toughest schedules due to 9 conference games.

The Big 12 is playing 4 fewer non-conference games against the BCS leagues than they did last season. Now, not all non-BCS games are equivalent. Oklahoma deserves some credit for playing BYU, ect. But I’d still like to see the Big 12 teams test themselves.

2009-2010 Euroleague Basketball

Besides my normal college basketball coverage, this winter I intend to start to track the 2009-2010 Euroleague. Call it Ricky Rubio or Josh Childress fever, but I’m hoping to make sporadic posts on what is happening in professional basketball overseas.

Euroleague Basketball would like to be like Champions League Soccer with the best teams from each country earning a chance to compete in an elite basketball league. This year the field expanded from 24 to 30 teams giving the champions of more countries, such as Belgium and Latvia, an opportunity.

Here’s one way to think of ranking the top 30 teams in Europe, based on the quality of each country’s basketball league:

Champ Spain
Champ Italy
Champ Greece

Champ Russia
Champ France
Champ Turkey

Champ Lithuania
Champ Serbia
Champ Croatia

Champ Slovenia
Champ Germany
Champ Poland

2nd Spain
2nd Italy
2nd Greece

2nd Russia
2nd France
2nd Turkey

3rd Spain
3rd Italy
3rd Greece

Champ Belgium
Champ Latvia
Champ Ukraine

2nd Lithuania
2nd Serbia
2nd Croatia

Champ Israel
Champ C. Republic
Champ Netherlands

The idea was proposed that the top 22 teams would automatically qualify for the Regular Season starting in October. Prior to this, in September, the bottom 8 would compete in a mini-tournament for 2 more slots in the Regular Season.

Based on last season, you would fill in the league like this:
Champ Spain: Regal FC Barcelona***
Champ Italy: Montepaschi Siena***
Champ Greece: Panathinaikos Athens***
Champ Russia: CSKA Moscow***
Champ France: ASVEL Villeurbanne
Champ Turkey: Efes Pilsen Istanbul***
Champ Lithuania: Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius
Champ Serbia: Partizan Belgrade
Champ Croatia: Cibona Zagreb
Champ Slovenia: Union Olimpija Ljubljana
Champ Germany: EWE Baskets Oldenburg
Champ Poland: Prokom Gdańsk
2nd Spain: Caja Laboral Baskonia***
2nd Italy: Armani Jeans Milano
2nd Greece: Olympiacos Piraeus***

But basketball in Europe isn’t nearly as popular as soccer, and a strictly merit based system isn’t stable enough. In order to have a profitable league, you also need to make sure the high TV revenue, high attendance teams are included every year. Thus based on historical performance, TV revenue, and attendance, 13 teams were given three year licenses into the Regular Season. Thus whether these teams were good last year or not, they will compete in the Euroleague Regular Season. This includes seven teams with a *** above, as well as six other teams in the Regular Season based on popularity and past success:

2nd Turkey: Fenerbahçe Ülker Istanbul***
3rd Spain: Unicaja Málaga***
2nd Lithuania: Žalgiris Kaunas***
Champ Israel: Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv***
Other Spain: Real Madrid***
Other Italy: Lottomatica Roma***

The final slot in the Regular Season was awarded to last year’s winner of the Eurocup, a competition for teams that do not qualify for the Euroleague. Last year’s winner, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius already qualified by winning the Lithuanian league, so the slot was awarded to the 2nd place EuroCup team:

2nd Russia: Khimki Moscow Region

With the field of 22 set for the Regular Season, there are still 8 slots for the qualifying tournament. Returning to the original ordered list, the next teams are:

2nd France: Entente Orléans Loiret
3rd Italy: Benetton Treviso
3rd Greece: Maroussi Athens
Champ Belgium: Spirou Charleroi
Champ Latvia: BK Ventspils

France was not happy with the new Euroleague format. They weren’t given any of the 3 year Regular Season licenses despite having arguably the 5th best league in Europe. The compromise was to award France wildcards into the qualifying tournament. ASVEL Villeurbanne, already a Regular Season participant this year, was guaranteed at least a qualifying slot every year for the next 3 years. Also, a wildcard slot was given to another French team:

3rd France: Le Mans Sarthe Basket

Also, to appease Greece, a wildcard slot was given to the 4th place Greek team.

4th Greece: Aris Salonica

The next team on the initial list was Ukraine Champ, Azovmash Mariupol. But they had some problems meeting facility requirements. Since the 2nd place Lithuanian team already had a License to the Regular Season, the next slot should have gone to the 2nd place Serbian team. Sadly for Serbia, the Euroleague council decided that Serbia does not equal ratings, and offered a wildcard slot to a quality German team coming off a down year in the German league.

3rd Germany: ALBA Berlin

And so we have the field for the Euroleague 2009-2019. The league is sort of based on merit, but the final slots are based on ratings and popularity, (kind of like the BCS.)

Upcoming Games

The qualifying tournament for the Euroleague begins on September 29th

Champ Belgium - Spirou Charleroi vs 2nd France - Entente Orléans Loiret
Champ Latvia - BK Ventspils vs 3rd Italy - Benetton Treviso
3rd Greece - Maroussi Athens vs 4th Greece - Aris Salonica
3rd France - Le Mans Sarthe Basket vs 3rd Germany - ALBA Berlin

Only Le Mans and ALBA Berlin were in the EuroLeague last year. Le Mans went 2-8 in the Euroleague first round and was eliminated. ALBA Berlin went 4-6 in the first round and then 0-6 in the second round.

Notable: According to Wikipedia, BK Ventspils roster includes former Texas A&M star Bernard King and Illinois forward Warren Carter. Benetton Treviso includes USC guard Daniel Hackett and Kansas State forward Cartier Martin. ALBA Berlin includes Georgia guard Rashad Wright and former BYU forward Lee Cummard. Aris Salonica includes Iowa State guard Curtis Stinson. Maroussi Athens includes former Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon.