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Archive for March 23rd, 2008

Putting the Sweet Sixteen in perspective

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

My head is still spinning a little bit from the idea that the Washington State University Cougars are in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. My buddy Chris must have thought I was going a little loony — I just kept saying, “Dude! We’re in the Sweet Sixteen!” randomly throughout the night.

Honestly, I rank this right up there with the Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl in 1997. This is that significant.

Making it to the second round of the tournament last year was nice, but making it to the Sweet Sixteen is something else altogether. It means that for another whole week, every major media outlet is talking about the Cougars — especially because they’re playing North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and one of the most storied programs in college basketball history. You can’t even begin to measure the worth of that.

It’s been a little irritating to me that it’s been a little late in coming, that the Cougs haven’t received any more attention than they have for absolutely dismantling two opponents (more on just how dominating those two performances were tomorrow). I think it’s because beating up two teams the way we did just doesn’t make for great television theater on SportsCenter — no high-flying dunks, no last-second heroics … just the cold efficiency of an assassin.

But the reality is that they will have to talk about WSU basketball this week, even if it’s only to say we don’t have a chance to beat North Carolina (as Digger Phelps and Steve Lavin did tonight). And at the end of that week, we’ll be on national TV, playing the No. 1 team in the country. It’s not great that we’re playing them at 4:30 p.m. on the west coast, but the people that want to see it are going to see it — including all those potential recruits.

And if we can somehow beat UNC? That’s even better. Go to the Final Four … well, all bets are off at that point. The way we’re playing right now, I wouldn’t put anything past this team.

But this much is certain: We’ve already cleared a major hurdle towards putting this program on the map, not just for last year and this year, but for years to come.

Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: | 16 Comments »

Surprise! It’s North Carolina

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

Jo~Jo said in a comment on one of the previous posts that he’s officially scared of North Carolina.

We should be: UNC just posted an offensive efficiency rating of 160.6.

That is not a typo. The Heels scored 108 points in a 67-possession game, which is beyond ridiculous. An average rating is around 101. A normal team gets pretty excited about something above 120. North Carolina shrugs is collective shoulders and scores 1.6 points per possession.

The good news is that they haven’t done that all year — their previous high against a major conference opponent was 135.2 (Miami FL) — and their defense hasn’t been all that great in the two blowout wins. Really, it hasn’t had to be. But it will have to be on Thursday against us.

It’s tough to identify weaknesses in a team that has only lost two games all year, because that means the team won a lot of games even when it wasn’t playing at its best. But I think the key is that you can’t try to run with North Carolina, and you have to play outstanding transition defense so the Heels don’t get easy buckets. Arkansas really tried to push the tempo early and got buried. Obviously, the Cougs won’t make that mistake.

The other key? Keeping the Heels off the offensive glass. Kenpom.com shows a pretty strong correlation between offensive rebounding percentage and UNC’s offensive efficiency, which makes sense — Tyler Hansbrough is an absolute rebounding machine, 80th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.

There are a lot of other things Hansbrough does well, and while you’ll get dang tired of hearing about “Psycho T” this week, there’s a ton of substance there.

You know we’re not big fans of traditional stats around here, so here’s one for you: Hansbrough is second nationally in kenpom.com’s individual offensive rating among players who have used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions (meaning at least 24 percent of his team’s possessions end with him doing something with the ball). That’s really, really good — better than guys such as Kevin Love (third), Ryan Anderson (eighth), Stephen Curry (11th), Michael Beasley (12th), Roy Hibbert (17th) and Chris Douglass-Roberts (23rd). For perspective, the only player for the Cougs to rank in the top 100 is Aron Baynes (93rd).

Hansbrough also ranks in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (80th), which leads to a ridiculous free throw rate (36th). In short, it’s nearly impossible to stop the Tar Heels, but in the effort to slow them down, keeping Hansbrough off the offensive glass and off the free throw line would be a really good place to start.

Oh, and he’s also in the top 100 in turnover rate (70th), so don’t expect those double teams to work against him like they did against Luke Harangody.

I could go on and on like this about the rest of the Heels — they’ve got three other players in the top 151 in offensive rating — so the message is clear: The Cougs have a very tall order in front of them. But the reality is this. You want to go to the Final Four? You want to win a national championship? There are no easy roads there. You’ve got to beat great teams to get there, and this is one of them.

Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

GAMES THREAD: NCAA Tournament – Round Two, Day 4

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

Welcome to Day 4 of the NCAA Tournament. I always wondered what it would be like to watch basketball today, knowing that my team is already in the Sweet Sixteen. Now I know.

This is your thread for all that you see today. Here’s the slate, along with my picks, which will come from my bracket if I still have the winner alive. All times PDT.

  • (12) Villanova vs. (13) Siena, 9:10 a.m. – Siena flat-out outclassed Vandy in the first round. They can get past the Wildcats. Pick: Siena.
  • (2) Texas vs. (7) Miami, FL, 11:15 p.m. – Longhorns roll. Pick: Texas.
  • (2) Tennessee vs. (7) Butler, 11:30 p.m. – Vols have a tough time with disciplined teams that won’t be intimidated or flustered. The second No. 2 seed goes down here. Pick: Butler.
  • (2) Georgetown vs. (10) Davidson, 11:50 p.m. — You can be sure that the Hoyas’ defense will not allow Stephen Curry to do what he did on Friday. Pick: Georgetown.
  • (12) Western Kentucky vs. (13) San Diego, 11:50 p.m. — Toreros’ defense is the difference in this one, as it was against UConn. Pick: San Diego.
  • (1) Memphis vs. (8) Mississippi State 1:45 p.m. — The Tigers better be darn careful with this one. Bulldogs’ inside presence will be tough to contend with. Pick: Memphis.
  • (3) Louisville vs. (6) Oklahoma, 2 p.m. – Cardinals ready to reclaim a little Big East pride after Notre Dame and Marquette yesterday. Pick: Louisville.
  • (1) North Carolina vs. (9) Arkansas, 2:15 p.m. — The Arkansas fan club just swelled by the size of Cougar Nation. My heart is in one place, but my head is in another. Pick: North Carolina.

Posted in NCAA Tournament | 4 Comments »

Bracket Challenge, Day 3 leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

The updated standings are up for the Bracket Challenge. “Tony Rochestie’s Scholarship” is running away with this thing right now. Tony’s only missed a two Sweet Sixteen’s and has lost none of his Elite Eight. That’s pretty good, says the guy who’s lost three Elite Eight teams already. And since he has the Cougs in the Final Four, I won’t be sad if he continues to dominate us all.

Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament | 1 Comment »

 
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