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Archive for March, 2008

The two best teams in the tournament: UNC and WSU

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 25, 2008

The two best teams in the NCAA Tournament are meeting on Thursday night at 4:27 p.m. in Charlotte, N.C.

It might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But it’s not as ridiculous as it might first seem to some outsiders: Statistics from the first two rounds suggest that, at the very least, North Carolina and WSU are the two most impressive teams of the first weekend of the tournament.

All the media pundits are talking about how great the Heels have been in this tournament, and the recognition certainly is deserved. After all, they’ve scored 100-plus points in their first two games, something nobody had done in nearly 20 years. But what if I told you the Cougs — of “they can’t possibly compete with North Carolina” fame — have been nearly as good as the Tar Heels through the first two games, and better than every other team in the tournament?

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Posted in Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Getting a read on North Carolina

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 24, 2008

This seems to have become a pretty popular feature, so here we go again. The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming up on Thursday, and as befits one of the glamour programs in the country, there is no shortage of sites for your scouting pleasure.

And if you missed the awesomeness that was UNC’s first two victories, here are a pair of videos courtesy of CBS. You also can watch the games in their entirety at the MMOD site, if you’re so inclined.

North Carolina 108, Arkansas 77

North Carolina 113, Mount St. Mary’s 74

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament, Video | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Bracket Challenge, Day 4 leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 24, 2008

One full weekend in the books, and I’m getting my butt kicked! Apparently, all you have to do to perform well in this thing is to have some association with Taylor Rochestie — “Taylor Rochestie’s Scholarship” continues to dominate all of us, and in a close second behind him is “The #10 jersey,” which I’m going to assume is not homage to Sir Alex.

That second place entry, by the way, belongs to my little brother. He is enjoying the fact that he is absolutely smoking me so far. Trust me.

Anyway, find the updated standings here, or by clicking the Bracket Challenge link at the top of the page.

Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament | Comments Off

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 »

Go crazy folks, go crazy

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 22, 2008

I hate to steal a line from Jack Buck, but it seems appropriate right now. I’m absolutely walking on cloud nine, as are all of you. Party it up tonight — you deserve it.

I’ll have thoughts on the game tomorrow. For tonight, I’m just going to enjoy this one.

Sweet Sixteen, here we come! Bring on the Heels!

Posted in NCAA Tournament | 10 Comments »

Bracket Challenge, Day 2 leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 22, 2008

I’ve updated the Bracket Challenge standings — sorry it’s so late. Three teams neck-and-neck for first, while I had a little bit of a comeback yesterday thanks to some upsets.

Think Duke losing right now might have an impact on some brackets? It won’t on our leader — “Taylor Rochestie’s Scholarship” is in prime shape. That guy picked West Virginia to knock off Duke. Well done.

Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament | Comments Off

GAME THREAD: No. 4 WSU vs. No. 5 Notre Dame

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 22, 2008

Cougars (25-8) vs. Fighting Irish (25-7)

Pepsi Center (Denver, Colo.), 3:40 p.m. PDT
TV: CBS

In the old Schoolhouse Rock song, they used to say that three was a magic number.

Well, when it comes to today’s contest between Notre Dame and Washington State, 52 will be the magic number. As in, 52 effective field goal percentage. That’s because the Fighting Irish haven’t lost a game all year when they top that number, while the Cougs are 21-3 when holding opponents below that number.

(Those three losses when holding the opponent under 52 eFG%? All to the same opponent. Thank goodness we will never, ever see those guys again.)

What’s usually the difference between getting above 52 and not? Three-point shooting. And that — not containing Luke Harangody — will be the key today. (So I guess, in a way, 3 still is a magic number.)

Because Harangody (right) is the Big East player of the year and creates matchup problems galore for most teams with his strength and agility, most people will point to shutting him down as the key today for the Cougs. That’s simply not true.

I’ve isolated Harangody’s performances in the seven losses for the Irish, which you can see for yourself here, but here’s the gist: By every statistical measure other than assists and turnovers, he actually exceeded his season averages in those losses. His two best performances of the year in terms of points were 40 against Louisville and 32 against UConn … Notre Dame’s last two losses.

So while the Cougs of course will want to try and contain Harangody, focusing on him would largely be a mistake if it comes at the expense of keeping the Irish from shooting the 3 effectively.

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Posted in Game Threads, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »

 
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