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Archive for the ‘Around the ‘Net’ Category

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 »

Don’t believe everything you read

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 29, 2008

We all expected this, right? I mean, you lead WSU to the Tournament two consecutive years including a Sweet Sixteen appearance, and everyone and their grandma is going to be after your coach.

If you believe everything you read, you believe that Tony Bennett is on the first plane to Bloomington this morning, and that the plane is filled with about $500 million. Or, you believe that Bennett is on the first plane to Berkeley, and that the plane is filled with about $1 billion. Or, if you truly believe that last story, you believe that he’s on the first plane to anywhere that’s not Pullman.

Or, you can listen to the guy who has covered the Cougs since last summer and believe him.

My thoughts on this haven’t changed at all — which I wrote about here and was written about here — and neither have those of anyone close to the program. So relax, and don’t panic. I still think Bennett is here for at least one more season, and probably longer.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Why we love WSU basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

We’ve all heard the story about Taylor Rochestie giving up his scholarship next year so the Cougs could pick up another recruit. But I guarantee you’ve never heard it told quite like this.

This is why, no matter what happens tonight, we love this team. And it’s why I count it an absolute blessing and privilege to have a man like Tony Bennett and the men that will take the floor tonight representing my university. It’s why I do what I do with this blog.

The beauty of a selfless act is that it begets more selfless acts. Tony Bennett gave Rochestie a chance when no one else would. Rochestie gave up his scholarship when the team needed it. And everybody on the team knows it, which means when it comes time for the next selfless act — showing up for extra workouts during the offseason, sticking around for an extra hour to help a struggling teammate shoot jumpers, staying up and talking with a teammate who had a particularly rough day, giving a guy a ride — they’ll do it.

Not because they have to. Because they want to.

Thanks to Longball for passing the link along. 

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , , | 2 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 »

Getting a read on Notre Dame, initial thoughts

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 21, 2008

Notre Dame coming up tomorrow. Here are some links for your thinking pleasure, along with some of my initial thoughts after watching a good portion of the Notre Dame beatdown of George Mason.

My initial reaction to Notre Dame? This is a team that likes to get up and down the floor offensively, and is at its best pushing the tempo. It’s also a team that is less-than-committed on defense, especially if it has to work very hard. That was George Mason’s biggest failing last night. The Patriots played right into the hands of the Irish, getting into a much higher paced game than they should have. I will bet the Cougs won’t make that same mistake.

Luke Harangody is pretty darn good. He’s got surprising agility for how dang goofy he looks with that silly flat-top haircut, and will be one heck of a challenge for Aron Baynes. I didn’t really get much of a sense of other strengths and weaknesses of the Irish from the game, mostly because George Mason made it so easy for them with porous transition defense predicated by ill-advised shots on offense.

Your thoughts?

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Tony Bennett: They’ll trust him with their kids

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 12, 2008

I ran across an interesting read on this morning, where they polled the Pac-10 writers on a number of different topics relating to the conference. Not a ton of love for the Cougs in there, until this question: If you could choose your son to play for any coach in the Pac-10, who would it be?

Tony Bennett was the overwhelming choice.

“Tony Bennett, in a heartbeat. That team epitomizes teamwork, sublimation of egos for the collective good, and Bennett doesn’t try to be the show. Plus I’ll bet his graduation rate will be outstanding when the numbers come in in several years.”

“Solid values, seems to get more from his players than some other coaches, and also seems to have a clearer vision as to how the pieces will fit together. I like that he doesn’t recruit from’s top 100 list.” (Except that we got one this year, Michael Harthun. Give it time, man. We’ll be there in another year.)

“He’s charismatic, yet has minimal ego. He’s got some old-school traits, passed along by gus dad, mixed with a modern take on the game.”

“Good guy, good coach.”

“He’s down to earth, seems to have things in perspective, communicates well, is young enough to appreciate players’ concerns and is not affected by the public’s perception of the players’ abilities.”

“Tony Bennett. Just don’t ever expect me to ever visit my kid in Pullman.”

Other interesting things in there?

  • Two guys said Taylor Rochestie is the conference’s most underrated player — “He resembles an intramural player until he burns you” — an assessment I have a hard time arguing with given that he didn’t make the conference’s honorable mention team, but Mitch freaking Johnson did.
  • An overwhelming number of writers thought the conference’s most overrated player is Chase Budinger, something I also totally agree with. Superstar one minute, disappears the next.
  • More writers felt coach of the year should be Herb Sendek, not Trent Johnson.
  • At least a couple of writers picked Coug fans as the “best and classiest” in the Pac-10, saying, “More than eight thousand brave blizzards to cheer their boys, and they regularly cheer hustle plays by opponents — so long as the Cougars are still comfortably ahead,” and “Washington State seems to have loud, but not belligerent, fans. Perhaps they have not learned how to be repulsive yet.” Perhaps. Perhaps not.
  • Oregon won the most offensive category “by the margin of three offensive gay references,” according to one writer.

(Hat tip to

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Butch needs you for a final push

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 11, 2008

You heeded my original call. Now, it’s winning time.

Butch is in first place in the EA Sports NCAA 09 Mascot Challenge voting — FIRST PLACE, above ALL OTHER SCHOOLS — and we want him to stay there. Voting continues until Friday.

Do your duty.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Man, it sucks to be a Husky

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 10, 2008

It appears losing for the seventh consecutive time to the Cougs wasn’t the end of the misery for the Huskies on Saturday, according to the Times’ Bob Condotta.

After playing their hearts out, and getting their hearts ripped out, (the Huskies) showed up to the Pullman airport only to find they were getting one of those new Horizon planes painted in the colors and logos of the Northwest Pac-10 schools. And guess which one the Huskies got? Yep, the Cougar plane.

I know reader Mike R. swears the last incident involving the Cougar plane at SeaTac was pure coincidence, but c’mon … flying the Huskies back on the WSU plane? Can we keep calling these things accidents?

(Hat tip to Northwest Sports Blog.)

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

So, maybe I don’t know anything

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 6, 2008

On Tuesday, I said I thought the Cougs’ bottom end for a seed could be as low as a No. 10 seed if they lose on Saturday and flame out in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi disagrees — he thinks their bottom end is a No. 6, according to this interview on KJR. It’s around the 12-minute mark. He draws his conclusion from the fact that so many at large teams pretty much stink this year, which supports the caveat in my post; I just didn’t realize the pool of at large candidates was viewed as so mediocre.

(Hat tip to the WSU Football Blog for digging this one up.)

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

I’ve got those ‘No Cougar Basketball Thursday’ blues

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 6, 2008

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my Thursdays just seem a little bit — OK, a lot bit — emptier when I don’t have a Cougar basketball game to look forward to that night. I’m already dreading what it’s going to be like when this fairytale run of last season and this comes to an end. (Hopefully, we’ve got another six weeks or so.)

So, if you’re like me and you’re a little down today, perk up. I’ve got a few things to throw your way.

First, the Seattle P-I’s Jim Moore has a nice column about Tony Bennett, in which he both rails about the national media’s constant speculation about Bennett and other jobs and does his own speculating about Bennett’s reasons for not coming out and outright denying his interest in other jobs. The latter includes another shout out to WSU HOOPS, where I provided what I think is a unique perspective on Bennett’s silence on the matter.

If, after that, you’re still jonesing for more Cougar news, hop on over to for links to all the stories relating to the Cougs from around the Web.

And if you’re dying because you just don’t know what to do with your Thursday night since the Cougs won’t be on the tube, have no fear. First of all, as a college hoops fan, there’s no way you should miss Stanford at UCLA, even though the outcome means nothing to the Cougs. Second, there is plenty for you to follow that does have a direct impact on WSU, as I mentioned in Tuesday’s breakdown of WSU’s tournament seeding chances that how the teams that the Cougs have beaten perform from here on out could have a lot of influence over how we are perceived by the Tournament committee.

Here are games of note, and how you should root to help the Cougs:

  • Arizona State at Oregon, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN Full Court/ Two teams the Cougs swept, but Arizona State winning and bolstering itself as a tournament team does more for the Cougs.
  • Cal at USC, 7:30 p.m.: Same goes for the Trojans, even though they’re chasing the Cougs for third place. As long as we take care of business on Saturday, there’s no problem with sharing 3rd with USC — especially when they’re in third because we beat them twice.
  • Utah State at Boise State, 6 p.m.: November seems like a long time ago, but remember that we beat the Broncos in Boise. It might seem insignificant, given BSU’s near-100 RPI, but a true road win at another conference’s champion is never a bad thing. These are the top two teams in the WAC, and I wish this game was on TV — I’d watch it.

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament | Tagged: , | Comments Off on I’ve got those ‘No Cougar Basketball Thursday’ blues