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Archive for April, 2008

One shining moment

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 8, 2008

Well, now that we know Tony Bennett is sticking around for at least one more season (no surprise here), maybe we all can finally relax, kick back, and suspend our Cougar angst just long enough to exhale.

In the first of what will be a couple of looks back at this season — which I can now finally let go of since the champion was finally crowned last night — join me in watching One Shining Moment … again. I never get tired of it.

I count three four WSU appearances in the video. Enjoy.


Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament, News, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

And the winners are …

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 8, 2008

Congratulations to Morgan Knows and CliftonParkNYInterloper, the winners of our inaugural WSU HOOPS Bracket Challenge! Each scored 133 points out of a possible 192, capped off when Kansas won the championship last night.

That’s pretty darn awesome if you ask me, especially since I could only muster 87 points, good for ninth place. But I take solace in the fact that I did beat Jo~Jo, who finished 15th with 75 points.

What doomed me, ultimately, were two things.

First, when I filled out my bracket, I didn’t totally believe what I had pretty much believed all year: That Kansas was the most complete team in the country. They just had too many head-scratching performances for my liking, but in the end, good Kansas was able to overcome bad Kansas for enough of the time to win the championship.

Second, I had spent the better part of the year completely convinced — and telling anyone who would listen — that there was no way Memphis could win a national championship because their free throw shooting would be a problem at some point. Heck, you can tell by looking at my bracket that I was convinced they couldn’t even get deep in the tournament because of it.

Then, the Tigers started making all their free throws, and I was completely convinced that I was totally wrong about them, and heading into last night I was sure they were going to beat Kansas — which appeared to be true for 38 minutes.

Of course, we wouldn’t even be talking about Memphis’ free throw shooting if Kansas hadn’t played lights out for those final two minutes and Mario Chalmers doesn’t hit the miracle shot of his life. (Although, to be fair, the guy is a 46.7 percent 3-point shooter who was able to get square to the basket, so I’m not sure “miracle” is entirely accurate.)

And I guess that’s what bums me out about this morning. That game was incredible, but I feel absolutely awful for Memphis, which had the game in its grasp. Because of that, people are saying the Tigers collapsed. I don’t see it that way. Kansas has showed over and over this year that when it is hitting on all cylinders, it’s easily the best team in the country — just ask North Carolina. And after sputtering for the middle part of the second half, the Jayhawks started clicking once again, and not even the awesome defense of Memphis could withstand the onslaught.

So give credit where credit is due this morning, and resist the urge to use words like “choke” and “collapse.” Even if Memphis could have done more to win the game, Kansas took it.

Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament, News | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Domination by elite teams becoming more regular

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 6, 2008

If you took the time to listen to me blab on that New York guy’s radio show back in February, you might remember me saying that the reason the NCAA Tournament is so spectacular is that you get a wild first couple of rounds (complete with unexpected upsets), but by the time you get deep in the tournament, the cream has risen to the top and the heavyweights duke it out for the ultimate prize.

Although there weren’t a ton of early upsets this year coupled with a surprising number of blowouts, this obviously has become the ultimate example of that with four No. 1 seeds making it to the Final Four. This continues a recent trend of a handful of national powers making up the bulk of the tournament’s final weekend (table courtesy of John Gasaway at Basketball Prospectus; more on him in a second):

Snootiest Final Fours
1985 to Present

       Avg. Seed
2008     1.00    (North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, Kansas)
1993     1.25    (North Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas)
2007     1.50    (Florida, Ohio State, Georgetown, UCLA)
2001     1.75    (Duke, Michigan State, Arizona, Maryland)
1999     1.75    (Connecticut, Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State)
1997     1.75    (Kentucky, North Carolina, Minnesota, Arizona)
1991     1.75    (Duke, UNLV, North Carolina, Kansas)

Gasaway explores this phenomenon, and what might explain it, which I found highly interesting. He chalks it up to the freshmen, and their opportunity to contribute not just because of the forced year in college, but because of the voids left by other early defectors. I think that only partly explains it. After all, North Carolina and Kansas don’t have any of those heralded freshmen — they’ve got deep squads filled with guys who are very good, but not quite good enough to make that jump so fast.

My take? It all comes down to how many athletes a team has. It’s a tall order to win six games in a row (or even the four in a row it takes to get to the Final Four), and teams are going to have an off performance somewhere in there. Supreme athleticism — while no guarantee of success (hello, Kansas State and USC) — allows very good teams to overcome games in which they perform below their normal level. Memphis had Mississippi State, UCLA had Texas A&M, Kansas had Davidson.

Speaking of Davidson, I think my theory applies there, as well, despite their No. 10 seed and “mid-major” status: It took some superhuman efforts by Stephen Curry for the Wildcats to get as deep as they did. Without Curry — a good athlete who somehow got missed by the ACC — there is no possibility of the Elite Eight.

As a side note, if you like what we do here with statistical analysis, you’ll love what they do at Basketball Prospectus, and you ought to be reading it regularly.

Posted in Around the 'Net, Breakdowns, NCAA Tournament | 1 Comment »

Bracket Challenge, semifinal leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 6, 2008

Well, just one game to go, and we’ve got a logjam at the top of the leaderboard. Four — four! — brackets currently are tied for first place, and if Memphis wins tomorrow, it will stay that way.

Some interesting things have emerged as we approach the championship. First, it appears most of us had a little bit of Pac-10 bias: 14 (of 23) brackets picked UCLA as the champ. Other interesting tidbits:

  • None of us picked both championship participants correctly.
  • Nobody picked Memphis to win the Tournament.
  • Just three people picked Kansas to win it all.

Since so few people picked Kansas and no one picked Memphis, most of the standings are locked in where they are. “Morgan Knows” and “CliftonParkNYInterloper” have a chance to tie for first with a Jayhawk win, while “WSU HOOPS” (not my bracket — I wish!) would jump all the way from 11th to third.

The rest of us are pretty well stuck, which isn’t all bad, at least for me. After a truly pitiful start, I’ve made a comeback to respectability by being a model of consistency: I scored 16 points in every round but the first to ascend to eighth place. Weird.

Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament | Comments Off on Bracket Challenge, semifinal leaderboard

The Pac-10 just got tougher

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 4, 2008

This guy's return to the Pac-10 is good for the conference's stature, but bad news for the rest of league's teams.In a move that would have been akin to Mike Price taking over for Ty Willingham, Mike Montgomery is apparently going to become the next head coach at California.

While I’m surprised Montgomery made the jump across the bay after so many years at Stanford (most recently as assistant AD), frankly I’m more shocked that it took this long for Montgomery to get another job. I also wish it had been in a different conference, because he’s a heck of a coach that just made things that much more difficult for everyone else.

I was always surprised that his name didn’t surface more often in connection with job openings. Maybe it’s because he was content to keep drawing those massive checks from the Golden State Warriors for doing nothing and all the ADs knew it, or maybe it’s because he’s not a hot, young, up-and-coming coach in a profession infatuated by potential and “making a splash.”

Whatever it was, as the Bears have made an excellent hire that is sure to revive the dormant program. Montgomery won 30 games three times at Stanford, taking the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 18 years. If he can do it under the kinds of restrictive admissions guidelines he worked with at Stanford, he certainly will bring a winner to Berkeley.

Bennett getting another raise

Back in Pullman, the WSU administration is doing everything it can to make sure the Cougs are contributing to that conference clout, announcing that they’re reworking Tony Bennett’s deal for the second consecutive year. It appears that Bennett wasn’t the one requesting it, and that we’re not really changing any of the terms other than compensation.

This just shows what a tremendous understanding President Floyd has of what athletics do for the stature of a university, no matter how much academics want to pretend it doesn’t matter. I love the aggression in terms of making sure our coach is happy (put well in this Daily Evergreen piece), but this is uncharted territory for WSU. I can’t help but wonder if we can keep doing this every year. 

Can we keep this up? And what kind of precedent are we setting if, say, Paul Wulff somehow puts together an instant winner on the gridiron?

Those questions aside, I love that we’re taking our shot now and being proactive, rather than waiting until later to try and do just enough to keep him, as we’ve been wont to do in the past. When you get lightning in a bottle, you better do everything you can to keep it.

Posted in Game Threads | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Bracket Challenge, Round 4 leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 2, 2008

Hey everybody! Sorry for not getting the updated standings up at the conclusion of the action on Sunday, but I’ve been vacationing for Spring Break, the reason things have been quiet on the site.

Our “vacation” basically just consists spending a couple of days at a hotel in Seattle with my wife, which might not seem like much of a vacation to most of you, but trust me, when you have a 13-month-old son and you haven’t had a true weekend alone since he was born … well, let’s just say this has been a welcome respite.

We’ll have some more stuff this weekend — I am positively jacked for this Final Four — and we’ll start looking forward soon. The beginning of the regular letter of intent period is right around the corner (April 16), and the word on the street (read: Internet) is that we could be adding two more to this recruiting class.

A couple of names being floated are Paul McCoy, a top 100 point guard out of Oregon, and DeAngelo Casto, a rangy big man. Both would fit apparent immediate needs for this team, especially Casto. But I don’t pretend to have any inside info — I’m just regurgitating what I see, so hang tight until those letters actually come in.

Posted in Bracket Challenge | 1 Comment »