Friday, October 24, 2014

Morning News: New Bracket, UNC Scandal, LJ Rose, And More


"Do I remember anybody talking about AFAM classes? Hmm... I don't think so..."

New Bracket Projection If you missed it earlier in the week, my newest bracket projection is out. The next one will be posted November 16th, which will mark 17 weeks until Selection Sunday. Remember that the regular season doesn't start until November 14th this year, but the season will start with a bang. There are a ton of really good games just in the first week.

UNC Academic Scandal If you've been on the internet in the last few days, you've read the #HotTaeks, so I'll spare you. But obviously this is a really serious problem for the university. Roy Williams was smart enough not to use his official university e-mail account, but it stretches credulity to believe he didn't know what was going on. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Tar Heels receive some "lack of institutional control" penalties, although the football team looks more likely to get that than the basketball team. At this point, we have to just wait to see what the NCAA wants to do.

Houston's LJ Rose Out For Two Months Kelvin Sampson is off to a solid start at Houston in terms of upgrading the level of talent in the program, but a lot of it won't be suiting up when the season tips off in a few weeks. LJ Rose, who is an awfully good pure point guard, will miss the next two months or so with a foot injury. Houston was going to have quite the uphill battle to the tourney bubble as it was, so this is obviously going to make that task even tougher.

Shawn Lester Leaves Charlotte This story might not be particularly relevant nationally since Charlotte is unlikely to be in the bubble mix in February, but Shawn Lester was second on the team in points per game last season (11.9 per game) despite only making one start, and only finishing fifth on the team in minutes. Lester could be a real asset for a big program, depending on where he ends up.

DJ Johnson Will Likely Miss The Season The 6'9" DJ Johnson averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game off the bench last season for Kansas State, but his foot injury will likely force him to redshirt this coming season. The Wildcats look like a prototypical bubble team this coming season (they're currently the last at-large team in my projected bracket), so even a little loss like this can make a big difference.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Post-Midnight Madness BP68

Believe it or not, regular season college basketball is right around the corner. Every team is practicing, and nearly all have had their Midnight Madness (or the equivalent) events. The first exhibition games will begin in the next week or so.

There are a couple of dates to keep in mind. First, November 14th is the opening day of the regular season. It's a little bit later than usual, but it just means that we're going to have a high density of really good games in the opening weeks. We'll be barely a week into the season when the Thanksgiving Week tourneys get underway. The second date to keep in mind is November 16th, just the third day of the regular season. That will be 17 weeks from Selection Sunday, and the date I'll be posting the next BP68.

Since my last bracket, there is only one team moving into the Field of 68, and that is Kansas State. Oregon drops out, for obvious reasons. The Ducks would struggle to field five scholarship guys if they had to play a game tomorrow.

If you want to know why I have a team where I do, you can click on my conference previews on the upper right of the page as well as the tags for each team on the left. The conference previews were done back in April, but I have been tracking any significant roster changes since then in Morning News posts, so you'll find them via the team tags.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday 2015:

1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
1. DUKE (ACC)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12)

2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. North Carolina
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Virginia

3. Texas
3. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)
3. GONZAGA (WCC)

4. Oklahoma
4. Florida
4. Louisville
4. Utah

5. Michigan
5. Ohio State
5. Iowa
5. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)

6. West Virginia
6. Iowa State
6. Dayton
6. SMU (AAC)

7. UConn
7. Colorado
7. Pittsburgh
7. Stanford

8. Xavier
8. Nebraska
8. Georgetown
8. Illinois

9. Cincinnati
9. Syracuse
9. UCLA
9. Northern Iowa

10. BYU
10. Maryland
10. Oklahoma State
10. Colorado State

11. Richmond
11. Tennessee
11. Michigan State
11. HARVARD (IVY)

12. Arkansas
12. Miami-Florida
12. Butler
12. Kansas State
12. TOLEDO (MAC)
12. UC SANTA BARBARA (BIG WEST)

13. CLEVELAND STATE (HORIZON)
13. UTEP (CONFERENCE USA)
13. SIENA (MAAC)
13. DREXEL (COLONIAL)

14. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
14. DENVER (SUMMIT)
14. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)
14. FLORIDA GULF COAST (ATLANTIC SUN)

15. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
15. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
15. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (PATRIOT)
15. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)

16. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
16. STONY BROOK (AMERICA EAST)
16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. WOFFORD (SOCON)
16. ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN (NEC)
16. ALABAMA STATE (SWAC)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Memphis, Tulsa, Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Creighton, Providence, Minnesota, Purdue, Baylor, Illinois State, UNLV, California, Oregon, Georgia, Saint Mary's

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Houston, Temple, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia Tech, George Washington, UMass, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Indiana, Northwestern, UC-Irvine, Northeastern, Louisiana Tech, Green Bay, Iona, Western Michigan, Missouri State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, San Francisco

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Duquesne, Penn State, Texas Tech, Delaware, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Northern Illinois, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Boise State, Wyoming, Oregon State, USC, Washington State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Portland, San Diego 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Morning News: Midnight Madness, Coaches Poll, Florida News, And Evan Smotrycz

"I got it... I got it... I got it... Crap."

New Bracket Projection This week I just want to give you all a heads up that I will have a new BP68 posted in the next day or two. The most recent one, which I posted on June 29th, is here.

Midnight Madness Goofiness This post being led by a Drake joke was such a sure thing that it was off the board in Vegas, but somehow Tubby Smith stole the spotlight with his motorcycle crash. The story from Kentucky, other than Drake doing Drake things, is the hype machine is revving up again. Rather than give you my 40-0 speech again, I'll just link to what I wrote about this a year ago.

Preseason Coaches Poll Revealed Overall, I do think this is a decent preseason Top 25 from the Coaches Poll, which isn't too surprising. Remember that the most accurate human poll of the season tends to be the preseason poll, since it's the only poll where pollsters are actually trying to rank the 25 best teams and aren't bound by stupid rules like head-to-head transitive properties.

The most underrated team is no surprise: Utah. The Utes were staggeringly underrated last season due to a crap strength of schedule (the 350th ranked non-conference SOS out of 351 by Pomeroy) and horrible luck in close games (1-8 in games decided by four points or less). So on Selection Sunday they were 80th in RPI and nowhere near the tourney bubble, but in the Top 40 of both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They now return their entire regular rotation and add a strong recruiting class. Utah deserves to be a Top 20 team, but it'll probably take at least until December before polling catches up with them.

The most significantly overrated team by my projections is Michigan State. I honestly don't really understand the logic of pollsters having them ahead of teams like Ohio State and Iowa, other than "I dunno, Tom Izzo will figure it out".

Speaking of clueless pollsters, I spoke on twitter about the fact that we need a sting operation to weed out voters who effectively announce that they don't pay attention to the sport. This year, we could have eliminated any voter who voted for Oregon, who are in 35th place in the Coaches Poll with 9 votes. Now, that wouldn't have been a terrible place for them back in April, when I had them as a 10 seed in my projected bracket after they lost three starters and two key bench pieces to graduation off a pretty good team. But since then? Three players have been booted out of the school for domestic assault, two more have been recently arrested and suspended, they lost their star recruit (JaQuan Lyle) and lost Michael Chandler for a while with a knee injury. At this point they're going to struggle to get five scholarship players on the court when the season starts. Anybody giving them Top 25 votes just isn't paying attention and should have their voting privileges revoked.

Florida Loses Brandone Francis For The Season The Chris Walker suspension got a lot of attention in the press this week, but I doubt it's going to really matter. Walker's "three game suspension" includes an exhibition and two relatively easy home regular season games. He'll even  have a full game back in the lineup before Florida gets their first big time test at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The more important news for Florida is that Brandone Francis is going to miss the entire season after being declard academically ineligible. Francis was not going to start as a freshman, but he was expected to be a regular contributor off the bench.

Evan Smotrycz Out 4-6 Weeks A sprained ankle will probably sideline Smotrycz until after the CBE Classic during Thanksgiving week. Maryland looks to be a Tournament quality team this coming season, but they're far from a sure thing after so much roster turnover during the offseason. A concern for them is front court depth, and Smotrycz is a strong defensive rebounder who can guard opposing power forwards. After the CBE Classic, their next tough non-conference game will be December 3rd, at home against Virginia as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If Smotrycz can't make it back for that, Maryland's final significant non-conference test will be December 21st at Oklahoma State.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Morning News: Kentucky's Pro Day, Jon Octeus, Martez Walker, And Craig Sword

Bill Self channeled Andrew Wiggins for his "Late Night At The Phog" attire.

Kentucky's "Pro Day" One of the more annoying parts of college basketball fan bases is everybody complaining both that the tv networks hate their team and that their rival coaches are all shameless promoters. Leaving the former issue aside, the reality of the latter is that every coach does a ton of self-promotion to try to attract recruits. It's part of the job. Did Calipari form his "pro day" event to shamelessly promote himself and to attract recruits? Of course. It's the same reason he hired an "analytics guy" to help promote his players to NBA scouts who supposedly don't realize that points-per-game is a bad way to compare players who don't play the same number of minutes per game.

Are pro scouts getting anything out of a pro day less than a week after practices begin? Of course not. Is Calipari's "analytics" guy going to improve the draft stock of any of his players? Of course not. But they impress high school recruits. And the reality is that every other fan base is simply jealous that their coach didn't think of it first. It's why Calipari is the best recruiter in the sport.

Jon Octeus Will Play For Purdue The Colorado State transfer had signed for UCLA, but failed to qualify for their graduate school. Because he's a graduate transfer he can switch schools and still remain immediately eligible, so he will play for Purdue this coming season.

Octeus is listed as a point guard, though he's not really a true point in any sense of the word. So he won't fill the gap left by Ronnie Johnson's transfer. But he'll have the chance to start, and should at least be a significant contributor off the bench. With AJ Hammons returning, Purdue does have a real chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament. They have to be considered at least a borderline bubble team at the moment.

Martez Walker Withdraws From Texas This was probably inevitable after all of the offcourt troubles for Martez Walker, who had played reasonably well off the bench as a freshman for Texas. But he has been arrested twice in approximately the last month, including an alleged assault of his girlfriend, so he's now officially withdrawn from the university.

I've talked about this before, but the issue for Texas is backcourt depth. Their front court has a ton of really good bigs, but they are going to need perimeter play, and particularly perimeter offense. This Martez Walker saga will not help.

Mississippi State's Craig Sword Out 4-6 Weeks Craig Sword was Mississippi State's leading scorer last season. In addition, Juco transfer Johnny Zuppardo will miss the entire season. But the reality for Mississippi State right now is that even if everything went right they still weren't going to end up anywhere near the bubble this season. Rick Ray still has a long way to go with this roster.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Morning News: Welcome To The 2014-15 Regular Season

Teams are practicing! For real!

Hey everybody, the college basketball season started!

No, really, it did.

Yeah... I know. Not really. But it's only a little over a month until regular season games tip off. And we're only about two or three weeks from a goofy preseason exhibition result that the media overreacts to. In the meanwhile, let's get to some news from the last few days:

Oregon's Abdul-Bassit And Cook Arrested In the latest in a string of bad pieces of news for Oregon this offseason, Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Elgin Cook have been arrested for shoplifting. Oregon is already going into this coming season without star recruit JaQuan Lyle, and projected starting center Michael Chandler is out with a knee injury, too. And don't forget the sexual assault case that cost Oregon three players back in May.

It remains to be seen if Abdul-Bassit, Cook and Chandler will be gone for a significant piece of the regular season, but while those three are out I believe Oregon is down to six active scholarship players (by my count, at least). In my most recent bracket projection I had Oregon as the last at-large team in the Field of 68, but that was before the JaQuan Lyle news broke. So even before the Chandler, Abdul-Bassit and Cook news, I was going to drop the Ducks out of my next bracket. It could be a long year in Eugene for Dana Altman.

Tristian Etienne Leaves Washington The 6'9" recruit has only said "personal reasons" are why he won't join Washington, but his departure leaves 6'7" Donaven Dorsey as the only high schooler in Lorenzo Romar's 2014 recruiting class (they do add some transfers). The Huskies were a better team last season than their 17-15 record would suggest, but their margin for error is small in a deep Pac-12. If Romar can't get this team back to the NCAA Tournament, and at this point it's not looking likely that he will, don't be stunned if Romar isn't the head coach in 2015-16.

Kedren Johnson Will Be Eligible For Memphis Immediately Johnson transferred to Memphis after being suspended at Vanderbilt for the 2013-14 season. Johnson was not the greatest shooter in the world at Vanderbilt, but he's an aggressive player who can create a lot of offense for himself and his teammates.

After losing four starters from a team that wasn't particularly good last season, Memphis was desperately in need of an influx of talent. That's particularly true in the backcourt, where every proven regular graduated. Point guard Dominic Magee is their top 2014 recruit, but a true freshman is always a risk. Kedren Johnson immediately becomes the best Memphis backcourt player, and puts them in a real position to move into my next bracket projection.

Brandon Miller Taking A Leave Of Absence This is a story we'll have to follow, because it's unclear precisely why Miller is taking time away from Butler or how long he'll be gone. Obviously we have to hope it's not a serious health problem for a guy who is only 35 years old. Butler is due for a bounce-back season, but they're likely going to be a bubble team at best, so any offseason turmoil is bad news.

Dominic Woodson Will Be Eligible For Tennessee The 6'10", well over 300 pound Woodson did not play much for Memphis as a freshman, but he clearly has a lot of raw talent if he can actually lose weight and get into shape. It would be a mistake to expect too much from his in his first year in Knoxville, but any help is welcome help for a team likely to end up on the tourney bubble.

Matt Thomas And Abdel Nader Suspended For Three Games Abdel Nader transferred to Iowa State from Northern Illinois, while Matt Thomas was the first man off the bench for the Cyclones as a freshman. That said, this three game suspension includes an exhibition game, so the only regular season games they'll miss are home contests against Oakland and Georgia State. Georgia State will be a very dangerous team this year, but the Cyclones will have a good chance to escape these suspensions without any impact on their at-large profile.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Morning News: Midnight Madness, Cam Biedscheid, Cam Wright, Charles Mitchell And More

Cameron Biedscheid will not play for Notre Dame or Missouri next season.

It's time to get caught up on the last two weeks of college basketball news! Unfortunately, it's that time of year where there aren't too many positive stories coming out. It's mostly suspensions, dismissals, arrests, et cetera. But let's get to it:

College Basketball Starts This Week! (kinda) The NCAA has, over the last few years, changed the way Midnight Madness works. And so teams can begin to practice as early as Friday (two days from now). Don't expect any Midnight Madness events this week, though. Most schools will have theirs sometime in mid-to-late October, with ESPN's Midnight Madness coverage on Friday, October 17th.

I always put out a bracket projection the week of Midnight Madness, so I'll be using that ESPN date. Look for a new bracket right around October 20th.

Cameron Biedscheid Has Left Missouri It's not clear exactly why Biedscheid has left the team, but he will not play for them this season after transferring from Notre Dame. There's been quite a bit of turnover with Missouri lately, with the dismissals of Zach Price and Torren Jones to go with the NBA defections of Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. Even with quite a few additions (including Baylor transfer Deuce Bello), Kim Anderson is down to just eleven scholarship players. And with two of those players suspended after an arrest, Anderson really just has nine players to work with at the moment.

It's going to be an uphill battle for Missouri just to get to the NIT next season, honestly.

Pitt's Cam Wright Out Injured A broken foot will sideline Cam Wright until mid-December, most likely. That will have him out for their trip to the Maui Invitational, and also their road trip to Indiana as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wright's not the greatest offensive player, but he's a strong defender and athlete and he started every single game for Pitt last season.

A full strength Pittsburgh has a chance to be a Top 25 team next season, but in a very deep ACC, Pitt could find themselves in some bubble trouble if they fail to collect a quality non-conference win or two. And if they collect those wins, they'll have done it without one of their starters.

Charles Mitchell Will Be Eligible For Georgia Tech The 6'8" rebounding monster transferred in from Maryland over the offseason. After losing three of the top four players off a team that went 16-17 last season, the Yellow Jackets were going to need a bunch of roster additions to have any chance to get to the postseason. Mitchell doesn't get them there by himself, but he's certainly a big help.

Oregon Removes JaQuan Lyle From Their Roster Oregon hasn't announced precisely what the academic issue is, but blue chip recruit JaQuan Lyle is not cleared academically to start the year at Oregon, which has put his entire freshman season into doubt. With the graduation of Johnathan Loyd, Lyle was expected to immediately step in as the new point guard. In my most recent bracket projection I had Oregon as the last at-large team in the field. Unless Lyle rejoins the team in the next couple of weeks, it's basically a certainty that the Ducks will drop out of my next bracket projection.

Jon Octeus Denied Admission At UCLA The Colorado State transfer was expected to step right in and start at point guard for the Bruins. While point guard was UCLA's biggest need this past offseason, I don't think this is going to be a significant blow for them. For one thing, they're stacked with talent at every other position. For another, I'm not sure it's a significant drop-off to Bryce Alford, who was really good as a freshman this past season. So even without Octeus, UCLA should still get back to the NCAA Tournament next season.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Morning News: Tracy Abrams, Martez Walker, Davon Reed And More

Tracy Abrams will be watching the 2014-15 season from the bench.

It's not a particularly eventful time of year, but it's time to catch up on some news from the last couple of weeks. The Tracy Abrams news, in particular, is really significant. College basketball doesn't ever register nationally in mid-September, but you'll be glad you knew about this news when November rolls around.

Tracy Abrams Gone For The Season Illinois was primed for a really nice season. John Groce has a trio of transfers getting eligible in order to make this perhaps the most talented Illini squad since 2005-06 (the last season of Dee Brown and James Augustine). But a torn ACL for Tracy Abrams will be a significant blow. Abrams is no All-Big Ten player, but he has been the starting point guard for the Illini in all three of his seasons on campus, and the team does not have an obvious point guard replacement.

The best option for the Illini at the point might be Ahmad Starks, one of the incoming transfers (from Oregon State). Groce might choose to abandon a traditional point guard role altogether. Either way, this is really tough news for a program that hasn't made a Sweet Sixteen since 2005.

Martez Walker Suspended With all of the focus on domestic abuse this past week in the NFL, Texas guard Martez Walker picked a bad time to allegedly beat up his girlfriend (not that there's ever a good time to beat up your girlfriend). For now, Walker is just suspended indefinitely, and it might be some time before we get a more concrete timeline for his return.

Martez Walker is far from the most important player on the Texas roster (as a freshman this past season he averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game), but I've talked before about the gratuitous depth Texas has in the front court and their thin backcourt. They really don't need Walker to be gone for a significant period of time.

Miami's Davon Reed Out For 4-6 Months Davon Reed will not return until conference play, and could miss most of the season for the Hurricanes. Reed didn't do a ton as a freshman (6.6 points per game), but he is a talent who was expected to play a significantly bigger role this coming season. In my most recent bracket projection, I had Miami in the Field of 68 but not by much (a 10 seed). An offseason injury is always bad news for a potential bubble team.

Michigan State's Kenny Kaminski Heading To Ohio The off-court issues that forced Tom Izzo to kick Kenny Kaminski off the Michigan State roster are a concern, but Kaminski is more talented than the type of player that Ohio normally lands. If he can keep focused on basketball, he can be a significant asset in the MAC. Kaminski will likely have to sit out next season, but next season is going to be all about rebuilding for new Ohio head coach Saul Phillips anyway.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How's College Football Playoff Selection Going To Work?


"Alright, here's how it's going to work..."
 Tonight is opening night for the college football season. Yeah, Georgia State played an FCS team yesterday, but whatever. Tonight's the night that real games start. And this is the first season with the college football "playoff", which will feature a Selection Committee, just like basketball.

A lot of college football writers out there are trying to guess at how the playoff committee will work, and how they will select teams. All in all there seems to be a lot of confusion. And certainly it will be impossible to predict how it will work before it happens. But as there's probably nobody who spends as much time as I do each year studying and understanding how college basketball's Selection Committee operates (here's what I wrote about the 2014 Selection Committee performance), I think I can shed light on a few things.

Let's start at the top, with the biggest issue:

Question: Will the committee take the four best teams?
Short Answer: No, but they'll swear that they did.

Longer Answer:
There are areas where experts in advanced analytics (e.g. sabermetrics) will disagree, but there are other areas that are not particularly controversial. Football teams punt too much, baseball teams bunt too much, and basketball teams really should foul intentionally when the game is tied, the shot clock is off, and the other team has a chance to hold for the final shot.

Another area where there is agreement is that a list of the best teams and the best resumes will not be the same. This is due to the fact that the results of close games are pretty much random chance. Over a large enough sample size, all football or basketball teams will win approximately 50% of their overtime games, so if a team has won four straight overtime games then they've been lucky more than they've been good, and their resume (or list of accomplishments) is above and beyond their actual team quality.

This position generally gets strawmanned by casual sports fans and major sportswriters as not believing that "clutch" play exists or denying that leadership matters or that great players can come up great in great moments. In reality, nobody denies that clutch play exists or that leadership matters or that big players often play at their best in the biggest moments. But the reality is that the total impact of all of those things is just too small to be seen in a sample size as tiny as a single football or basketball season. You can have the most clutch superstar on the planet and still lose four straight games on the final possession. Even in baseball, where the sample size (162 games) is much larger and a one run difference is so much more significant than a one point win in basketball or football, it's basically impossible to see an impact of clutch play on results of games. In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles set a major league record by going 29-9 in 1-run games, and with nearly the identical team the next season they went 20-31. The sample size of 162 games was just too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.

So, with that in mind, we can ask whether the playoff spots should go to the best teams or the teams that have accomplished the most. And I think the answer is that it should be the latter. In the end, even if a game that comes down to the final play is a random coin flip, we want that coin flip to matter. We want to care who wins. That's what makes sports exciting.

And that's what the basketball Selection Committee has always done. They reward the best resumes, rather than the best teams. And that's what we should expect the football version of the committee to do as well.

But here's the catch: The people on the committee do not understand anything I just said.

Confused? Read this twitter conversation I had with David Worlock back in March (start from the top of the page to get the whole discussion). Worlock is the NCAA's Director of Media Coordination. He handles the Mock Selection Committee with the media every year, and is basically as knowledgeable about what goes on in that room as anybody. Yet when I asked him about the topic of best teams or best resumes he responded to me as if I'd asked him which teams had been abducted by aliens:

Now what I said was not at all controversial to anybody who follows the Vegas lines or computer ratings. Utah would have been favored against UMass on a neutral court, as would Tennessee over Iowa State. Yet Worlock could not comprehend this concept. A concept that is absolutely standard in Las Vegas casinos was so foreign to him that it seemed literal insanity. UMass had a better resume than Utah, so therefore they were "better". That is how most of the media and most sports fans view the world as well.

So, when the college football Selection Committee members are interviewed on television, they will tell us (as the basketball committee head does) that they picked the best teams. They will swear up and down that they did. And some angry fans on the internet will point out that their team is rated higher in the Vegas computers than a different team that got into the playoffs. And everybody will scream right past each other because nobody will be speaking the same language.

The four best teams will not be the four best teams selected. Just accept it, and move on. It's for the best.

"No, seriously, UMass is better than Utah. I have no idea what you're talking about."

Question: What official criteria will be used to select the best teams?
Short Answer: Nobody has a goddamn clue

Longer Answer: Now that we've established that the Selection Committee is going to pick the best resumes rather than the best teams, the obvious follow up question is how do you pick the best resumes? And unfortunately, though rather unsurprisingly, nobody can give a straight answer. See this article by Kevin Trahan on some of the mixed messages from the committee itself.

In short, they want to take into account won-loss records, strength of schedule, conference records, conference title game results, head-to-head results, record vs common opponents.... unaware, of course, that all of these things would create different lists of the four top teams. And of course, choosing any of these metrics would divert from choosing the four best teams, which they also say they're going to do. And that doesn't even get into specifics like which strength of schedule metric you want to use, since there are many different choices. And there are plenty of other arbitrary metrics ("Top 25 wins", for example) that will be in play as well. And we haven't even started with conference politics (e.g. Will we allow two SEC teams in? Could we reject the entire SEC one season? Can we deny the Big Ten two straight seasons?). In short, nobody has a goddamn clue.

In the end, while the system is going to be a mish-mash, I expect that there will be pretty high agreement, and that agreement will be very close to the polls. When the human brain is bombarded with too much information, it simplifies that information and searches for the evidence it needs to come to the conclusions it wants.

In the end, if four teams are clear above the rest in the Top 25 polls, expect those four teams to be selected. If spots #4 and #5 are really close in the Top 25 polls, then we could certainly see the Selection Committee disagree with the pollsters. But while there might be some early season disagreements between the pollsters and the committee members, I'd be stunned if the Selection Committee goes far outside the box.

As we've seen over and over again in sports, and also outside the world of sports, big institutions are sensitive to the demands of their consumers. Sports fans come to expect things to be done a certain way, and there will be tremendous pressure on the playoff committee to bend to that will. To use the college basketball analogy, if Tennessee had been seeded higher than Iowa State (even though Tennessee was the higher rated team in basically all of the computer ratings) there would have been literal riots. Literally, cars would have been set on fire in Ames, Iowa. Nobody wants to go against the grain that much.


Question: Will we be able to predict the four teams selected prior to the official announcement? If so, how?
Short Answer: Basically. Look at the polls.

Longer Answer: Once we understand that the Selection Committee is going to be looking at the same mish-mash of information as the pollsters, we understand that the selection process will mirror very closely the polling process.

How does the polling process work? Well, it's an archaic set of arbitrary rules, where teams cannot drop if they win but will always drop if they lose, meaning that a team that loses in overtime on the road at the #1 team in the land is treated worse in the polls than a team that wins in overtime over a 1-10 Sun Belt team, even though the former performance was far superior to the latter. That's just how things go.

Over the larger sample size, a lot of these quirks get washed out, which is why the basketball Selection Committee generally ends up doing a pretty good job by March. In college football, with the shorter season, this will be more difficult.

Expect won-loss records and conference alignment to matter most. If any SEC team goes 13-0, they will be #1 and they will get in. If any teams goes 13-0 from any of the five major conferences they'll get in. Any 11-1 SEC team will get in over any 11-1 team from the Big Ten or ACC. We all know the rules. Strength of schedule should be a very minor factor, although you can be absolutely sure that we'll hear about it constantly in television broadcasts and from mainstream analysts.

One of the biggest problems with the conference obsession is that the mainstream media and casual fans both suck at judging conferences. The SEC's perception as the dominant conference is based on the league being the best from top to bottom over the decade of the 2000s. It wasn't the best every season, but more often than not it was. But the reality is that the era of SEC dominance is over. The Pac-12 has been the best conference in football the last two seasons, and that's a pretty universal and clear perception in every computer rating that I'm aware of. But it will take at least two or three more seasons of Pac-12 dominance before anybody will even be willing to seriously suggest on television that the SEC isn't the strongest league. It just takes a really, really long time for narratives like that to change.

So over the short run, the perception of the conferences will not change. Even if Ohio State ends up with a tougher SOS than South Carolina, there's no way 11-1 OSU will get into the playoffs over 11-1 South Carolina.

Is it possible that the polls will have 11-1 Oklahoma ranked 4th and 11-1 Stanford ranked 5th but the Selection Committee will determine that due to a tougher schedule they're going to take Stanford over Oklahoma? Sure. That's definitely possible. But don't expect any significant deviations from the polls. And so because of that, we'll all be able to predict with fairly high accuracy ahead of time which teams will be selected.


Question: What makes you think you can see the future? Maybe you're wrong about all of this!
Short Answer: True.

Longer Answer: Look, any time you try to predict the future, you can be wrong, so I'm not going to Gregg Doyel myself by declaring as unfit for adult society anybody who disagrees with me. Maybe the Selection Committee will flip the world on its head by, for example, actually selecting the four best teams even if one of them goes 9-3.

But realistically, that's just awfully difficult to see happening. History says that sports leagues give the fans what they want. From instant replay in baseball to goal line technology in soccer to Donald Sterling's suspension and ousting from the Clippers... leagues may drag their feet, and they may come kicking and screaming, but in the end the fans are going to get what they want.

And when a league is trying to institute a new system for determining its champion, the last thing it needs is for the majority of its fan base to not buy in. So they're not going to rock the boat too much.

So don't expect to be shocked by the Selection Committee. Expect to waste a lot of time in September arguing about what will happen if we have six teams that go undefeated. Expect to waste a lot of time in October arguing whether a 12-0 team from the Mountain West should get in over an 11-1 team from the Big Ten. Expect to waste a lot of time in November arguing whether an 11-1 team should automatically get in over an 11-1 team that they beat head-to-head. And expect to waste a lot of time in December arguing whether an 11-2 team that just lost its conference title game should get in over a 10-2 team that finished on a winning streak.

But in the end, we all know how this is going to play out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Morning News: Aaron Brown, Vanderbilt Transfers, Briante Weber, And More

Aaron Brown is a nice pick-up for Boston College

This week marks the start of the college football season, which is always one of the signs that college basketball is right around the corner. In fact, there was an FCS football game on Saturday, though everybody else kicks off later this week. So with kids all back on campus now, we are finishing up with the last of the player transfers that will impact the coming season.

Let's get to some of those stories from the last week or so:

Aaron Brown Has Transferred From Southern Miss To Boston College Aaron Brown will be eligible to play next season, and he'd been considering quite a few different schools before choosing Boston College on Friday. Brown is a good pickup for BC as he was the most complete scorer for Southern Miss last season, leading the team in three-point shooting (38.7%) and finishing second in free throw attempts (145).

Once Oliver Hanlan decided that the Steve Donahue firing was sufficient to cause his return, we knew Boston College wouldn't be too bad next season. Hanlan could be first team All-ACC preseason. Throw in Aaron Brown and Boston College will now have two good scoring options. But with Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon stil transferring out of a Boston College team that was perhaps the most disappointing in the nation this past season and the Eagles should still expect to spend Jim Christian's first season near the bottom of the ACC.

Southern Miss is heading into a rebuilding season under new head coach Doc Sadler. With the loss of Aaron Brown they have now lost all five starters from last season's NIT team. It's not unreasonable to think that if everything goes right next season that they could contend near the top of a Conference USA that does not have a dominant team, but most likely they're going to finish in the middle of the pack.

Dai-Jon Parker And Kedren Johnson Leaving Vanderbilt It's been a rough offseason for Vanderbilt, to say the least. Eric McClellan was kicked off the team, and Parker and Johnson might have gotten something of the same treatment. Kevin Stallings wasn't clear about the reasons for the transfer, but it was some sort of "non-academic university policy" that was violated. Parker, in particular, is a blow. He was second on the team in minutes this past season, averaging 8.3 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Next season will be a rebuilding season for the Commodores for sure. They have six incoming freshmen, though none is a blue chipper (point guard Riley LaChance is probably the highest rated by the scouting services). Those young players will be thrown into the fire a bit earlier than Stallings probably wanted.

Kedren Johnson has already announced his transfer to Memphis, where he will appeal for a waiver to play right away. As far as I know, Parker has not yet announced where he's going.

Briante Weber Will Be Suspended For VCU's Opener Briante Weber will miss VCU's season opener after stealing an iPhone. And while this wouldn't matter if VCU was opening up against a cupcake, they're actually opening up against Tennessee on a neutral court. You should still expect VCU to be favored, as Tennessee has undergone quite a bit of change after a coaching transition, but if they do get upset on opening day, you can be sure that they'll wish they'd had their best player on the court.

Colorado State Adds Antwan Scott Antwan Scott isn't well known to casual fans, but he averaged 15.7 points per game last season for Grambling State, which was third best in the entire SWAC. Even though it turns out that Chane Behanan will not end up playing for Colorado Sate, Larry Eustachy still has four quality transfers coming in to play this coming season (Dantiel Daniels, Stanton Kidd and John Gillon are the other three). Expect the Rams to sneak up on people this season. I already had them as an at-large team in my last bracket projection, and the addition of Scott should slide them up another line or two.

Oregon Adds Dillon Brooks, Who Reclassified It's been a rough offseason for Oregon, with a sexual assault leading the exit of Dominic Artis, Damyeon Dotson and Brandon Austin. In all, six of their top nine minute earners from last season will not play for the team next season. But the effort to refill up the roster is underway, as four-star recruit Dillon Brooks not only committed to Oregon but reclassified to 2014, meaning he'll be eligible to play this fall. With the Ducks likely to end up in the vicinity of the bubble, Brooks might be the key addition that puts them over the top and back into the NCAA Tournament.

By the way, it's worth noting that blue chip 2014 recruit JaQuan Lyle has still not been completely academically cleared for this coming season. Oregon seems confident that the issues will eventually be cleared up, but there will be some panic in Eugene if we get close to the season opener with Lyle still in limbo.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Morning News: Catching Up On O'Bannon, Doug Wojcik, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenny Kaminski And More

If anyone wants to donate paper towels to UCLA, they're interested.
It's that time for another Morning News post. There are kids are on campus!... Some of them, at least. We're reaching the end of the summer, and getting closer to more regular blogging. As I've been doing all offseason, I'll be catching up on news from over the past few weeks.

Autonomy/O'Bannon Before getting to the actual college basketball news, I want to touch briefly on the autonomy vote and the O'Bannon ruling. I've talked on these issues before, so I only want to address the impact of those two things on college basketball itself. And I think the answer is: Not much. Even if the O'Bannon ruling withstands appeal, the media has vastly overreacted to what really shouldn't produce any significant change.

The primary change that is coming was inevitable once the autonomy vote came, which is some kind of stipend or "cost of attendance" payment to athletes - something along the line of $2000-$3000/semester. Big schools have wanted this for a long time and the autonomy vote will finally allow them to get it. On the record, they want the stipend to help kids struggling to make ends meet, but off the record they simply believe it will provide a recruiting advantage. The O'Bannon ruling simply says that the NCAA can't ban those small stipends if conferences and schools want them. The O'Bannon judge, despite ruling against the NCAA across the board, still does not allow athletes "salaries", a direct piece of merchandise or video games, or to be endorsed. All that it allows are these relatively small stipends.

Will the stipends help the big schools in recruiting? I guess. But I doubt it will mean much. The bigger/wealthier  schools already spend so much money on their athletes to attract recruits, from personal chefs to charter jets to beautiful training facilities, that I doubt an extra few thousand dollars will make a difference. Also, this situation already exists for many athletes. Most college sports fans don't realize this, but scholarship athletes who live off campus already receive stipend checks to pay for room and board. If these checks are more than sufficient to pay for room and board (as is generally the case) the players get to pocket the extra money.

I remain supremely skeptical that any significant changes to college sports will ever happen. The world Jay Bilas and his allies want, where college sports are blown up and replaced by minor league football and basketball and players can be paid millions of dollars, just seems so incredibly implausible on so many levels. And the NCAA holds a trump card in that it can run to Congress and ask for anti-trust protection. In the end, I think we're getting what the O'Bannon judge suggested: $2,000-$3000/semester stipends to help supplement what is already covered by scholarships. It will mean a little bit of pain for kids in non-revenue sports (a few schools will have to cut some non-revenue men's and/or women's teams to pay for these stipends), and it might impact recruiting a little, but fundamentally college sports will remain basically the same.

College of Charleston Fires Doug Wojick This was one of the more slow-moving firings in recent memory. He's been on the way out for weeks, after allegations of verbal abuse. Presumably the last few weeks have simply been about lawyers negotiating the terms of the firing, to prevent a lawsuit down the road, but the net effect on the basketball program itself is pretty rough. College of Charleston has basically missed out on summer recruiting, hurting them for this coming season as well as the next couple of seasons.

College of Charleston did fine in their first season in the Colonial, finishing 6-10 in conference play. But there was no real reason to expect them to be significantly better next season, so certainly don't expect to hear much of them anytime soon. The next we'll hear from this program will be when a new coach comes in.

Emmanuel Mudiay Going To China This move presumably happened because Mudiay failed to qualify academically at SMU. The history of American basketball players in China is not great, so it remains to be seen how much of that supposed $1.2 Million he ever actually receives and what this does to his NBA prospects, but certainly this is a huge blow for SMU basketball next season. The Mustangs were strong enough last season to make the NCAA Tournament and were only left out as punishment for their crap strength of schedule, but with Mudiay in the fold Larry Brown's team was going to be a consensus Top 25 team preseason.

That all said, you can still make a case for SMU being a Top 25 team. There is other talent, including Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, and they still add Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert. UConn is also likely to be a borderline Top 25 team, so expect either UConn or SMU to be the preseason favorite in the AAC.

Kenny Kaminski Dismissed From Michigan State Kaminski will transfer to another school, but has not made that decision yet. In the short term, this is yet another blow for a Michigan State team that is heading into next season really short on depth - particularly in terms of players that can score. Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling are gone, as well as Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd. Kaminski provided front court depth, and also was an outside sharpshooter.

With Matt Costello the only proven front court returner, Tom Izzo will be forced to play a lot of small lineups built around Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine and Lourawls Nairn. My most recent bracket projection had Michigan State as an 11 seed, and they might end up dropping out of my next bracket. They certainly have the look and feel of a bubble team.

Vanderbilt's Eric McClellan Heading To Gonzaga This is some old news that I didn't get around to before, but it's important enough that it really should be mentioned. Vanderbilt's last season went into the tank once they lost McClellan, an explosive and dynamic backcourt playmaker. They were likely going to be near the bottom of the SEC next season even with McClellan, and so without him they'll likely be pretty poor.

This has been a fantastic summer for Gonzaga. They had a bunch of quality big men, including the newly added Kyle Wiltjer, and their questions were in the backcourt. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are very good, but there was nobody else returning who was at all proven. With the additions of Byron Wesley and now Eric McClellan, along with star 2014 recruit Josh Perkins, the Zags suddenly have a wealth of explosive backcourt options. The Zags have to be in contention for the Top Ten in the preseason polls.

Ohio State Will Likely Be Without Trevor Thompson The Virginia Tech transfer had applied for a hardship waiver, but it has been declined, and he will likely have to sit out the season. The big man will still be a good pickup for the Buckeyes, but it'll have to wait for another year.

Marquette's Todd Mayo Leaves To Go Pro Marquette's roster went into flux after the coaching transition, and things still haven't quite settled down. Todd Mayo didn't start a game last season for Marquette, but he was fifth on the team in minutes, earning 24 minutes per game off the bench and finishing as the team's third leading scorer. He would have been the top scoring returner. The thing with a coaching transition like this is that Marquette is going to end up with a small and young roster next season - it's inevitable. But if Wojo can't put together a good 2015 recruiting class and his team shows improvement throughout the season, it'll be a successful first year.

Josh Fortune Transferring From Providence To Colorado Fortune, one of the most important players at Providence this past season, is not a superstar, but he'll provide backcourt scoring depth and will have a good chance to start when he's eligible in the 2015-16 season. This is one of those moves that we'll be able to evaluate better a year from now.

Devon Walker Out For The Season Florida should still be a very good team next season, and very much in contention for the SEC title. But as talented as they are, it's tough to win when you have a total turning over of talent. Florida lost four starters from last season's team, and Walker's torn ACL costs them a proven bench piece. Rutgers transfer Eli Carter will be expected to step in and eat many of those minutes, though Carter himself is coming off a serious injury (a broken leg that forced him to sit out all of last season), so he's far from a sure thing himself. In other words, expect Kentucky to be the consensus preseason SEC favorite.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post-Draft BP68

This is my first bracket projection since April and it will be my last until Midnight Madness. The goal here is to take into account everything that has happened since April, including coaching changes, transfers, NBA defections, suspensions, signings, etc.

There are a few changes since the last bracket. The biggest is Kentucky moving to #1 overall. I've talked before about how I'm still not a total believer in this Kentucky team because Calipari is going to have to pull some kind of magic act to keep all of his players happy. But at this point, the safe pick is putting them #1 overall. I can say with pretty high confidence that they'll be #1 in the preseason media polls.

As for the teams making up the Field of 68, there have been two changes. Elfrid Payton's defection to the NBA has flipped the Sun Belt favorite from Louisiana Lafayette to Georgia State. Meanwhile, Colorado State (the first team out of my last bracket) moved into the field while UNLV dropped out after the losses of Khem Birch and Deville Smith.

There are other teams that moved up and down in terms of seed, but one change that didn't get made is Kansas/Texas for the Big 12 favorite. I've talked about this already on the blog, but while the media is likely going to pick Texas as the Big 12 preseason favorite, I'm sticking with Kansas. As much of a strong prospect as Myles Turner is, Texas is already well-stocked in good big men who need to play in the paint. They need another perimeter player, or they need significantly improved shooting from Isaiah Taylor, to finally stop Bill Self's reign of terror atop the Big 12.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday 2015:

1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
1. DUKE (ACC)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12)

2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. North Carolina
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Texas

3. Florida
3. Virginia
3. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)

4. Oklahoma
4. GONZAGA (WCC)
4. SMU (AAC)
4. Louisville

5. Utah
5. Michigan
5. Ohio State
5. Iowa

6. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)
6. West Virginia
6. Iowa State
6. Dayton

7. UConn
7. Pittsburgh
7. Illinois
7. Colorado

8. Stanford
8. Xavier
8. UCLA
8. Nebraska

9. Georgetown
9. Cincinnati
9. Syracuse
9. Maryland

10. Miami-Florida
10. Northern Iowa
10. BYU
10. Oklahoma State

11. Richmond
11. Michigan State
11. HARVARD (IVY)
11. Arkansas

12. Tennessee
12. Colorado State
12. Butler
12. Oregon
12. TOLEDO (MAC)
12. UC SANTA BARBARA (BIG WEST)

13. CLEVELAND STATE (HORIZON)
13. UTEP (CONFERENCE USA)
13. SIENA (MAAC)
13. DREXEL (COLONIAL)

14. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
14. DENVER (SUMMIT)
14. FLORIDA GULF COAST (ATLANTIC SUN)
14. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)

15. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
15. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (PATRIOT)
15. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)
15. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)

16. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
16. STONY BROOK (AMERICA EAST)
16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. WOFFORD (SOCON)
16. ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN (NEC)
16. ALABAMA STATE (SWAC)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Memphis, Tulsa, Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Creighton, Providence, Minnesota, Purdue, Baylor, Kansas State, Illinois State, UNLV, California, Georgia, Saint Mary's

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Houston, Temple, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, George Washington, UMass, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Indiana, Northwestern, UC-Irvine, Northeastern, Louisiana Tech, Green Bay, Iona, Western Michigan, Missouri State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, San Francisco

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duquesne, Penn State, Texas Tech, Delaware, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Northern Illinois, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Boise State, Wyoming, Oregon State, USC, Washington State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Portland, San Diego

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Previewing The 2014 NBA Draft

It's that brutal time of the year.

The NBA Draft? Nah, that's kind of fun. I mean the run-up to the NBA Draft.

As with all things, there's a sensible middle ground. When I criticize Chad Ford-type draft analysts for being too impressed by how high guys can jump or how good they look in workouts against chairs, the typical pushback I get (on twitter at least) is that potential and athleticism matter and you can't just pick the best college players. And my response to that is: Yeah. No kidding. Nobody anywhere thinks Doug McDermott should get drafted before Andrew Wiggins just because he was better in 2013-14.

But at the same time, college performance matters, too. Throw out straight-out-of-high-school guys and European guys, and ask yourself how many guys you can think of who were non-elite college players yet who went onto become elite NBA players. You can have all the athleticism in the world, but if you can't translate it into quality play in college, why are you going to magically translate it into performance in the NBA? Particularly if you're buried on the end of the bench?

Every year there are one or two lottery guys who just tickle the fancy of draft analysts. They jump through the roof, they dominate every drill, and they look fantastic in an open gym... and everything that gets written about them in the run-up to the draft confuses the hell out of everybody who just watched them play actual basketball games in the NCAA. Last year that guy was Alex Len. And this year, we have a tie for the winner of the draft analyst love affair award between Joel Embiid and Zach LaVine. You think "love affair" is too strong of a phrase? Well...
Let's just say, Joel, that if you get some flowers with an anonymous card, we've got a leading candidate.

Anyway, I do these draft previews every year. Here is last season's, and from there you can find links to previous ones. As usual, I'm only going to talk about college players, as I have nothing educated to say about the European picks. So let's do this:


Green Room Guys:

Underrated:

TJ Warren - The full list of Green Room invites appears to be here. Warren turns 21 years old between the draft and the start of the regular season, which is a concern, but he did improve significantly between his freshman and sophomore seasons, so he doesn't appear to be close to peaking yet. If you didn't watch a lot of ACC basketball, you might not have seen Warren much prior to the NCAA Tournament. But be assured that what you saw of him in March was what he did all season long. The 37.3% of his team's shots he took while on the floor were third most in the nation, and he managed to do it efficiently (a 54.8 eFG%) and while physically dominating his opponents.

Warren is far from a sure thing. He's not a prolific rebounder, so he might have a bit of a "tweener" body. But he's a guy who, if he was on a more prominent team and fit better into media narratives, could easily be talked about as a Top 5 pick. He has superstar upside. Anywhere outside the top ten he'll be a good value. And right now, many are projecting him out of the lottery altogether.

Marcus Smart - It's funny that Smart ended up here since he was one of the most overrated players in the nation as a freshman. But narratives can be powerful, and the perception that he hasn't progressed blew up with all of his flopping and the shoving incident. But let's debunk these in reverse order. The shoving incident was dumb, but he's a very young guy and he had a momentary lapse in judgment - there's nothing else that we know about him that makes him seem like a troublemaker or thug. Can't give up on a kid over one small incident like that. As for the flopping... did you see Lebron and Dwyane Wade in the playoffs this past season? Elite NBA players flop. And as for the idea that he didn't progress? Well, between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smart shouldered a significantly larger fraction of OSU's offense while shooting better, scoring more efficiently, assisting on more baskets and dropping his turnovers. But other than that...

Outside of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, Smart is the surest commodity in the draft. You can plug him into just about any NBA starting lineup right now. If he goes anywhere lower than third overall (which he surely will) he'll be a good value.

Aaron Gordon - Because he's not a big scorer, Gordon is unlikely to ever be an NBA superstar. He gets compared to Blake Griffin, but I think that's just because he physically looks like Blake Griffin. He even wears the same facial expressions as Griffin. But their games are very different. Griffin was a much bigger college scorer. But Gordon is a fantastic defender, and he clearly has NBA size and athleticism. But even if Gordon probably will never be 1st team All-NBA, I'd bet on him starting in the NBA for the next dozen years. And that will make him a good value late in the top ten, which is where he's projected to go.

Overrated:

Joel Embiid - The thing with Embiid is that it looks like he might plummet in the draft now that a stress fracture was announced last week, which is a bit bizarre. His back injury this past season should be seen as a much more significant red flag than a freak foot injury. Maybe it's all a case of recent-ism.

Anyway, I've talked about this plenty, so I'm going to repeat myself here, but the Joel Embiid Phenomenon this past season was a narrative blown out of control. Andrew Wiggins was hyped up as the greatest prospect since Lebron James, meaning that there was no way that there wouldn't be media narrative blowback anytime he had a down game (everybody has down games, but nobody has each one dissected more than Wiggins). And part of the blowback was the over-hyping of his teammate. Embiid was a pretty good player, but via Ken Pomeroy, here were his top freshman statistical comps: Tony Mitchell, Eric Moreland and Joel Bolomboy.

An additional concern is that Embiid played smaller than his height as a freshman. He repeatedly struggled against teams like Texas, Baylor and Florida that had NBA-sized big men, while he piled up his best performances against undersized teams like Iowa State and Oklahoma State. There's a big difference between looking good in the paint against 6'7" guys and against 6'11" guys, and in the NBA you're not going to see much of the former.

I feel like the Joel Embiid Crazy is summed up by this tweet, which isn't coming from Skip Bayless or Chris Broussard, but from ESPN Stats & Info:
If you really believe the worst case scenario for Embiid is Yao Ming, who made 8 All-Star games, 5 All-NBA teams and averaged 19 points per game over his NBA career, he's a no-brainer #1 overall pick. But that's not the real worst case. The real worst case is Sam Bowie. The fact is that Embiid ticks every "draft bust" box. He's 7-feet tall, he's super raw, he struggled most against NBA size, he's media hyped and he has a significant injury history. Ask yourself: How many raw 7-footers with injury history have ever gone top ten in the NBA Draft and paid off? I can't think of one. But I can think of a lot of busts.

Zach LaVine - The thing with Joel Embiid is that as much as I think he's going to be a bust, at least he was one of the two or three best players on one of the best teams in the nation. Zach LaVine was something like the sixth or seventh best player on UCLA. Meh. If you draft him, be aware that he's almost guaranteed to play in the D-League as a rookie. He's just so incredibly far from being a quality NBA player.

Ask yourself why all the draft analysts who harp on one or two down games that Andrew Wiggins had never mention that LaVine averaged 4.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game over six Pac-12 and NCAA tourney games, or that he had at least as many fouls committed as points scored in four of their final seven games. Yet every mock I've seen lately has him going before TJ Warren, who as a sophomore absolutely carried NC State to an NCAA tourney win? Please. Take the Warren, leave the LaVine.

Rodney Hood - Hood was a very overrated college player, too. He scores a lot, and he's a good shooter, but he's a 6'8" guy who doesn't rebound and is a poor defender. It's ironic that Jabari Parker gets hammered all the time for being a zero-defense guy, yet Parker is a defensive monster compared to Hood. It's pretty tough to play in the NBA if you're 6'8" and don't rebound or play defense. To overcome that, you need to be an explosive scorer, but Hood is more of a jump shooter. Only 18.9% of the shots he took from the field at Duke were at the rim. Late in the lottery, you can do a lot better.


Late 1st/Early 2nd Round Guys:

Underrated:

PJ Hairston - I'm going to put a little bit of an asterisk here because I haven't seen Hairston play a game in more than a year. It's possible that his training went off the rails during his year of ineligibility. But Hairston was an incredibly efficient scorer for North Carolina as a sophomore, showing dramatic improvement in all aspects of his game. He has a nice outside shot and he can also beat his man off the dribble and finish at the hoop or draw fouls. There are enough question marks that you'd want to lay off him in the first 15 picks, but he'll be a really nice value late in the first round.

Kyle Anderson - Anderson is a hard player to figure out because he doesn't fit into any mold. He's a 6'9" player who looks so slow when you watch him run, yet he put up the stats of an elite point guard. When you watch him play, he seems to glide as he moves in apparent slow motion past his man to the basket... yet he always beats his man to the basket. He needs to fall into the right situation, but if he gets a coach who knows what to do with him and how to fix his flaws, he has the raw potential to be an NBA star someday.

Mitch McGary - This is a risky pick, of course. Back injuries for big guys are something that can ruin a career. But of course, Joel Embiid had one, too, and you're going to have to use a really high pick to get him. Later in the first round, if you have a chance to get a guy who has NBA All-Star potential, you absolutely have to take him. Remember, McGary was going to likely be a top 5 draft pick a year ago. He's physical, he's a strong rebounder, and he's an effective finisher around the rim. He might end up a bust, but late in the first round that's a risk you've got to be willing to take.

Khem Birch - This is another "upside" pick, which if you haven't noticed the trend, is what I think NBA teams should be picking late in the first round and into the second round. At his size, Khem Birch needs to develop a mid-range jump shoot to be anything more than a defensive specialist, but he's a big time defender with NBA size and length, and he's a strong rebounder as well. Think of him as a poor man's Serge Ibaka, and remember how Ibaka quickly turned into an elite player once he developed a mid-range jump shot.

Overrated:

Jordan Clarkson - If you're a poor outside shooter who hasn't improved your shooting in three seasons, you need to be elite at something else to become an NBA point guard. But what is Jordan Clarkson elite at? He's not even much of a passing point guard either. He'd make a better shooting guard than point guard if he could shoot, but he can't. Seems bizarre to use a first round pick on him when a guy like Shabazz Napier could easily still be on the board.

Jerami Grant - Most mocks have Grant very narrowly behind his college teammate Tyler Ennis. Huh? Ennis has a significantly higher ceiling and has proven to be an elite college point guard. Grant's reputation seemed to grow because of the mistaken media narrative that Syracuse fell apart when he missed a couple of weeks. Jerami Grant is a solid player, but he wasn't an elite college player and he doesn't have an elite skill. He's a 6'8" guy who doesn't shoot well, yet who will likely never be physical enough to play in the paint in the NBA. Ennis deserves to be a borderline Top 20 pick. His teammate does not.

Patric Young - It's weird to think of a four year player at an elite program as a "workout guy", but that's what Patric Young is. He looks fantastic - he's the most physically imposing player in college basketball jogging out of the tunnel. But he's just never been elite, and he never improved much over his four seasons, meaning that there's little hope for a dramatic improvement from him in the NBA. Most mock drafts seem to have Young going in the early second round, and that's just an uninspired pick in that location, in my opinion.

Everybody Else:

Underrated:
 
Jordan Bachynski - Once you get past the lottery, you're probably not getting an NBA starter with your draft pick. So you want to go with upside guys, or else you want a guy who has a clear NBA skill. And Bachynski is the latter. He's never going to be much of a scorer, but he might have been the best shot blocker in the nation this past season, and at a legit 7'2" he's likely going to be able to continue that in the NBA. Bachynski is a guy who probably will play 10-15 minutes per game in the NBA, and late in the second round that's excellent value.

Bryce Cotton - Cotton doesn't have the profile for a guy you want to draft. He doesn't have superstar upside and he doesn't have an obvious NBA skill (he's very good at everything, but not elite at anything). The fact that he was a four year player at Providence (and honestly it felt like he played for six years) means that you'd generally lay off of a guy like him. But first of all, Cotton was very young for his year. He's 21 years old, and younger than Mitch McGary. Second, Cotton is such an incredible basketball player. He never sat on the bench, and gave maximum effort at all times, absolutely carrying a Providence team that had very little of anything else. If anybody in his situation can find a way to adapt and become a useful NBA rotation piece, I'd bet on Cotton. He's worth a flyer in the latter half of the second round.

Overrated:

Johnny O'Bryant - Is O'Bryant supposed to be an upside guy? He didn't improve much over three seasons at LSU. He's only 6'8.5" in shoes, yet he has no outside game and isn't much of a paint scorer. And he's not a great rebounder or defender either. He's a big, strong guy, but that means a lot more for 6'8" guys in college than it does in the NBA. I just don't see what anybody sees in Johnny O'Bryant as a prospect.

James Michael McAdoo - There was a running joke I had going the past two seasons, which was to watch out for the announcer of every North Carolina game to say that this was a "disappointing" or "sub par" performance from McAdoo. There were maybe one or two games in his entire career that you didn't hear it. In a sensible world, these repeated disappointments would cause the media to lower their estimation of how good McAdoo was. But they didn't. McAdoo was not a particularly good college play and he has no specifically elite skill either. You look at him wearing a uniform and he physically looks like he should be a superstar, but he's not.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Morning News: Catching Up On A Month Of News

"Wassup, guys?"

It's been close to a month since I had a Morning News post, so it's time to catch up on some of the bigger news stories in college basketball that I haven't covered yet. As a side note, be aware that I'll have an NBA Draft preview post up later this week. I'll also post another complete bracket projection sometime during the week following the draft. So stay tuned for those two posts.

Jerian Grant Officially Returning To Notre Dame There had been talk about this for a few months, but it's now official that Jerian Grant will be back. This is really big news for them, of course. The Irish were never one of the 25 best teams in the country this past season (though they were ranked in the official polls briefly in November), but their season went into a total tailspin after they lost Grant, and they ended up just 6-12 in the ACC. Getting Grant back doesn't mean the Irish will be elite again next season (the loss of Garrick Sherman will be huge), but it should at least get them back to the Tournament bubble.

Byron Wesley To Gonzaga USC basketball was obviously a dumpster fire this past season, but the one bright spot was Byron Wesley, who was legitimately one of the better players in the Pac-12. He now takes his talents to Gonzaga, where he'll have one year of eligibility left which he will use right away. This fills a bit need for a Gonzaga team that is going to have a lot of size and length but needed perimeter ball handling after the loss of David Stockton. I already had Gonzaga as a 4 seed in my projected bracket, and I'm not going to move them higher than a 3 seed now, but this strengthens their position as a clear Top 25 team and a dark horse Final Four contender.

Oklahoma Adds Houston's TaShawn Thomas This transfer may or may not matter for next season since, as far as I'm aware, Thomas is still awaiting word from the NCAA whether he'll be immediately eligible or not. But if he can play, he'll provide Oklahoma with an explosive front court scorer, as well as a very strong paint defensive presence. And while most see next season's Big 12 as a battle between Texas and Kansas (the media will likely choose Texas while I'm choosing Kansas), TaShawn Thomas would have the ability to put the Sooners right into that discussion. They'll likely be Top 25 to start next season even if Thomas is ineligible.

Bruce Pearl Adds KC Ross-Miller And Antoine Mason Mason was the nation's leading scorer at Niagara last season. Ross-Miller, a point guard, was one of the best players on New Mexico State last season. And Auburn had already added Kareem Canty from Marshall. We knew Bruce Pearl would upgrade the talent level at Auburn, and he certainly has. Should Auburn fans start printing NCAA Tournament tickets? Well, no. But they'll have a supremely more entertaining team, and they should if nothing else be competitive in SEC play after five consecutive seasons of winning fewer than 40% of their SEC games, and no NCAA Tournament appearances in more than a decade.

Lots Of Maryland News It feels as if Maryland has had total roster turnover. They've had something like eight players transfer out and five transfer in (that might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight). I've already covered plenty of Maryland news already this offseason (see here for links to all of that). What are the newest Maryland updates? Well, they have added Richard Pack from North Carolina A&T and Robert Carter from Georgia Tech, while losing Charles Mitchell to Georgia Tech. And Nick Faust, who was already announced as a transfer, is officially going to Long Beach State.

Faust will have to sit out next season, so while that's a big pickup for Long Beach State, it will have no bearing on next season. Robert Carter also will have to sit out next season. The change for Maryland here is losing Mitchell while getting Pack eligible for next season. Mitchell was the team's best rebounder this past season, so that's a significant blow for the Terps heading into the Big Ten. Pack was a monster scorer at North Carolina A&T, though a big part of his game was getting to the free throw line, and that's the sort of ability that often doesn't translate from the lowest tiers of college basketball to the highest tiers. I've basically thrown up my hands at figuring at Maryland, though. The roster is just too different. If I have to guess? I'll say they're a likely Tourney team, but unlikely to be Top 25. But nobody really knows.

The Charles Mitchell pickup, by the way, is really nice for a Georgia Tech team that had to get totally rebuilt this offseason. They lost four of the top six players from a team that was pretty poor to begin with. But Brian Gregory has aggressively gone after transfers, and Mitchell will join Demarco Cox, Nick Jacobs and Josh Heath. It's not a Tournament team yet, in my opinion, but they should at least be competitive in the ACC next season.

USC Adds Elijah Stewart Stewart, a shooting guard, joins point guard Jordan McLaughlin as cornerstones of a very strong 2014 recruiting class for USC. This has led to another round of fawning articles about Andy Enfield (like the one I linked to), but as regular readers know, I continue to be skeptical about him. The reality is that Stewart and McLaughlin are good recruits, but they're not Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. And this USC team lost the only good player from an awful team that went 2-16 in Pac-12 play. Enfield also adds Katin Reinhardt, who started at UNLV as a freshman in 2012-13, but again... what roster are they adding these guys to? Enfield still needs to add a whole lot more talent. At some point, he has to win games or the media will start to forget about him.

Creighton Adds Ricky Kreklow From California With basically everybody graduating, Creighton was in need of a massive influx of talent to stay in the top tier of the Big East. The problem is that while Kreklow will play right away, he'll have only one year of eligibility left and the other two prominent Creighton transfers (Cole Huff from Nevada and Maurice Watson from Boston University) will likely have to sit out next season. So I don't think this move is going to win Creighton any Big East titles. But it gives the Bluejays just a little bit of hope of sneaking back into the NCAA Tournament.

LSU Transfer Anthony Hickey Will Be Eligible For Oklahoma State We already knew Hickey would be heading to Oklahoma State, but now he knows that he'll be eligible to play immediately. The point guard will provide a significant boost to a Cowboys team that will likely be in the vicinity of the Tournament bubble after significant offseason losses. With Stevie Clarke gone for good (and with Marcus Smart off to the NBA), point guard was a particular need.

Eron Harris To Michigan State This is an important transfer, but not for next season, when Harris will have to sit out. Harris, a sharpshooting combo guard, was the second best player on West Virginia this past season. He'll be a weapon immediately after becoming eligible in the Big Ten.

Deville Smith Leaves UNLV Deville Smith is no superstar, but he was UNLV's starting point guard this past season. And that makes it official that the Runnin' Rebs will lose their entire starting lineup, despite only one leaving via graduation. Dave Rice does have a really nice recruiting class coming in next season that features three blue chippers, highlighted by Rashad Vaughn, who might have been the top shooting guard recruit in the nation. But without much of anything returning from last season, UNLV will be a bubble team at best.