What’s say, we talk about some college basketball teams not hailing from East Lansing today . . .
Big Ten Roundup
- Tony Bennett to Bloomington? That’d be a fine move for Indiana based on what I know about Bennett. But, from a Spartan perspective, I’d rather see them go with a more up-tempo guy like Bruce Pearl. Playing against deliberate, disciplined teams in Big Ten play may build character, but I could go for a little variety. Washington state ranks 335th out of 341 Division 1 teams in average possessions per 40 minutes this year.
- UMHoops has a review of the Michigan season composed by a guest blogger. Said blogger notes that Beilein clearly made the decision to implement his own system from the get-go, even without the personnel to make it work well this year. I’d say that was the correct decision. Cost them some bad losses this year, but may speed up a return to contention over the next couple years as the returning players will be able to mesh with the recruits Beilein brings in.
- Badgercentric reviews all the things that went wrong for Wisconsin in their loss to Davidson last night. As I watched the game, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “I know the Wisconsin Badgers. The Wisconsin Badgers are a friend of mine.* And this team is not the Wisconsin Badgers.” (*Well, an acquaintance, at least.) For once, a Wisconsin opponent seemed like the more efficient and composed team on the floor. The biggest oddity to me was that Ryan never got the team to pound the ball down low to take advantage of the size mismatches Wisconsin had.
- Thus ends the Big Ten’s existence in 2007-08 NCAA men’s basketball play. (Note: Forgot about the Buckeyes in NIT play.) Two teams in the sweet sixteen was a good showing given that the Big Ten only got 4 teams in the tournament this year, vs. the 5-6 teams that’ve participated in most recent seasons. And there’s every reason to think the conference is on the upswing. With the exceptions of IU and maybe Ohio State, there’s reason to think every other team in the league should be at least as good as they were this season, if not better. (Wisconsin loses Butch and Flowers, but has a permanent exemption from ever having their future prospects discounted due to the graduation of one or two key players.)
An Evening at Ford Field
I’ll be headed to Detroit tomorrow to take in the Midwest regional final between Kansas and Davidson. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been to a Final Four (2001 in Minneapolis) and opening round games (2006 at the Palace), but never to a regional final.
Regional finals often seem to produce the best pure basketball games in tournament play (see, for example, MSU-Iowa State in 2000 and MSU-Kentucky in 2005). You’ve reduced the field to eight quality teams. The teams are in a rhythm having already played three tournament games, but haven’t yet faced the hype machine that kicks into action between the second and third tournament weekends. And the enduring glory of a trip to the Final Four is on the line.
I’ll be donning a red t-shirt tomorrow and appointing myself an honorary Wildcat for the day (if LeBron can do it, so can I, right?). I thought, therefore, I should do a quick scouting report on Davidson.
Having won three NCAA games as a #10 seed, Davidson has been designated as this year’s Cinderella. But both the world’s leading expert on mid-majors and the Wildcats’ tempo-free statistics say this is simply a very good basketball team. Witness:
- 29-6 overall record
- A perfect 20-0 record in Southern Conference play
- Single-digit nonconference losses against UNC and Duke
- A 25-game winning streak
- A rank of #20 in the kenpom ratings
- Ranks of #15 and #37 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency
The highlight of their tempo-free statistical profile is in the area of turnover percentage. They give it up on only 16.9% of possessions while forcing their opponents to do so on 24.0% of trips down the floor. That’s an extra five shots per game in a 70-possession game.
They makes those extra shots count with an effective FG% of 54.1%. Sophomore Stephen Curry has, of course, become a national phenomenon by scoring 103 points on just 65 FG attempts in three tournament games. Curry has averaged 25.9 points/game this season, coming into tournament play sporting shooting percentages of .546/.468/.898 (2pt/3pt/FT). Those are nearly unbelievable numbers for a guy who ranks 12th in the nation in the percentage of his team’s shots he takes while he’s on the floor.
What struck me in watching Curry last night is how he seems to glide through picks, rather than sprinting through them the way Neitzel does. It’s almost as if he’s lulling the defense into a sense of complacency before he launches his quick-release, picture-perfect jumpshot.
Complementing Curry to form a lethal backcourt is senior point guard Jason Richards, who averages 12.9 points and 8.1 assists per game. He’s put up 27 assists vs. just 4 turnovers in the three tournament games and ranks 10th in the nation in assist rate at 38.1% (assists divided by made field goals).
Also noteworthy: The Wildcats rebound very well on the defensive end for a team without a starting player taller than 6’8″ or bigger than 220 pounds. They hold their opponents to an offensive rebounding % of 29.0%.
In spite of all of this, Kenpom predicts a 79-67 win by the statistically-dominant Jayhawks (example: 14.5 percentage-point spread between offensive and defensive 2-point shooting percentages). Let’s hope Davidson can squeeze that margin a bit and provide a little more March magic to help distract us from last night’s Spartan collapse . . .