Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tasty Appetizer

For those looking to get excited for the new season (it's hard to concentrate on basketball with football dominating the college landscape right now), try a few of these tasty videos of top incoming freshmen from around the country:

I don't know if all of the hype about this year's incoming class will turn out to be true. People tend to have short memories, and draft and recruiting classes tend to be called "one of the best ever" far too often. But certainly the Kevin Love/OJ Mayo rivalry will be huge if for nothing else than the racial aspects. As for other stars, we'll have to wait to see who shows up and who busts. It's rare that the hyped players in preseason end up dominating (like last year, with Durant and Oden). Expect some freshmen to come out of the woodworks to star this coming winter.

Whatever happens, I can't wait to find out. And if you're reading college basketball blogs in September, my guess is that you feel the same way.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Welcome back to a new year of college sports

It's been a while, but with college football beginning this past weekend it really feels like the new basketball season is upon us. We could talk basketball news, but in all honesty it will be more interesting to talk about Michigan-Appalachian State than legal troubles at UAB.

I think that most of us who follow college basketball closely saw exactly what happened in the aforementioned Michigan game. It was a top-level mid-major upsetting a top ranked team that wasn't ready to play. We love this stuff in college basketball, but for some reason college football doesn't seem to enjoy the same type of upset. College football is more obsessed with big-name programs, and big regular season matchups between undefeated teams than college basketball. And I think it does the sport a disservice, as people don't realize that there are good teams outside of the BCS conferences.

Sure, there is a bigger difference between the #1 and #50 or #100 team in the country in football than basketball. There are more kids on a team, so the top teams can secure more of the top talent. At the same time, the #50 team in the country is still a pretty good team. If the #50 team in the country beats the #1 team it's a big upset, but it certainly isn't Earth-shattering. And that's what happened this past Saturday.

What am I talking about? You certainly wonder how I could be calling App State a Top 50 team. They're a I-AA team (screw that FCS, FBS nonsense). There are 119 I-A teams. Surely App State is somewhere around the 119th best team in the country. That's what everyone on ESPN is making it out to be.



Appalachian State is the two time defending I-AA National Champion, and they seem well on their way to a 3rd. And dozens of I-AA teams are better than dozens of I-A teams - there is a lot of overlap on talent. We can see this by looking at the Sagarin rankings. I am hesitant to use the rankings for this season, since they only have one game to work with and are still based on preseason rankings. So let's use last season's, since surely this App State team is atleast as good as they were last year. And I'll even throw college football analysts a bone and not use the ELO-CHESS (even though that's the ranking used in the BCS standings), because I believe in my own opinion that the ELO-CHESS biases towards undefeated teams with poor schedules. Even if we use the overall ranking, App State shows up as the 53rd team in the country.

Compare that to other "Big name teams". App State was been better than FIVE Big Ten teams. Four SEC teams. Four ACC teams. They would have been the best team in the MAC. Iowa finished 51st. Alabama was 55th. Kansas State beat Texas and only finished 60th. In other words, Duke's near-upset of Miami late last season would have been a far bigger upset (#153 over #49). App State winning at Michigan isn't much different from Iowa winning at Michigan. A big win, of course. But to call it one of the biggest upsets of all-time is preposterous.

Most people think that the I-AA stinks because the top teams tend to schedule bad I-AA teams who they can destroy. For example, we all saw Louisville crush Murray State. But that was to be expected, as Murray State is one of the worst teams in I-AA. Using the 2006 Sagarin rankings again, Louisville should won that game by 68.57 points. Michigan should have beaten App State by 20.38 points. To compare this to basketball, again, we can use this past season's Sagarin basketball rankings. What sort of team would the #5 team in the country (UCLA) been favored by 20.38 points at home against? The closest would have been Belmont, at 128th in the country. A big upset, sure, but not incomprehensible.

Anytime you hear someone on ESPN harp on how embarrassing it was for Michigan to lose to Appalachian State, and how anybody who votes them in the Top 25 should have their voting privileges revoked, just replace the word "Appalachian State" with "Iowa" or "Kansas State." The Kansas State win over Texas last season was a bigger upset. But nobody said that anybody voting for Texas should have had their voting privileges revoked.

Ah... college basketball. Where upsets like this are appreciated, not mocked. We're less than three months away. I can't wait.