Saturday, December 11, 2010

So How Good Is Arizona Anyway?

#21 BYU 87, Arizona 65
Every year there are a few teams that are rated far differently by Pomeroy's ratings than by humans, and more often than not he gets proven right (For the most part Sagarin's PREDICTOR mirrors Pomeroy's ratings, but Sagarin is not nearly as visible as a person online, so we don't ever see him defending his ratings like Pomeroy does). This year the #1 team that's fallen into this debate is Arizona, a team rated in the Top Ten by Pomeroy for almost the entire season (as well as 12th by Sagarin's PREDICTOR) while the human pollsters aren't putting them even that close to the Top 25. And now Arizona goes out and gets absolutely thumped by BYU, so the question is: was Pomeroy wrong? Pomeroy has already come out and blamed it on Arizona really struggling with zone defenses, but I find that a weak defense. If you can't play against zone defenses in Division I college basketball you're going to end up seeing a whole lot of zone. Instead, I think Arizona was just a little bit overrated because of some really big blowouts of inferior teams. Sabermetricians note that blowing out bad teams does actually mean more to future performance than close wins over quality teams, but at the same time I don't think a 45 point win means more than a 35 point win. Pomeroy himself often admits that he has thought about capping winning margin in his ratings for this very reason. Arizona had only played one Top 100 team already this season (Kansas) and lost, so the sample size just wasn't there. Arizona is a good team, but I just don't think they're a Top Ten team. As for BYU, this sure was an impressive win. Other than Jimmer Fredette nobody really stood out (other than maybe Jackson Emery), but they did get a lot of bench production, and it's a good thing to have a lot of bench options to turn to - to not be dependent on the same three or four people every game. BYU moves to 10-0 with wins over Saint Mary's, Utah State and South Florida along with this one. At this point they're certainly keeping pace with UNLV and San Diego State atop the Mountain West. Their next game will be against UCLA next Saturday.

#16 Kentucky 81, Indiana 62
This game was a whole lot closer than the final score. The game was within 2-4 points almost the entire way, and Indiana even pulled into the lead briefly with a little under ten minutes to go. But from that point on they went ice cold. Over the next nine minutes they shot 0-for-10 from the field. Kentucky grew confident with their home crowd behind them and pulled away. For Indiana, this is just another sign that they are improved, but not improved enough to be a Tournament team. They are 7-2 but without a quality win. They head to Northern Iowa on December 22nd, but their next big test will be New Year's Eve against Ohio State. Kentucky is also 7-2, but their 7 wins include victories over Washington and Notre Dame. They shouldn't be tested again until they play on December 31st at Louisville.

Richmond 72, VCU 60
Richmond did a really good job of pushing the ball into the paint, earning high percentage shots while VCU was stuck firing from outside. Other than star Jamie Skeen, the other frontcourt players for VCU combined for 8 points and 3 rebounds. Richmond continues to put that loss to Iona in the rearview mirror, and they (along with Temple) really appear to be separating themselves from the rest of the Atlantic Ten. Richmond will play Georgia Tech next Saturday, and also plays Seton Hall and Wake Forest before beginning the A-10 regular season. As for VCU, they still do not have a bad loss, but they are 6-3 with only wins against UCLA and Wake Forest worth anything. They don't have any big time opponents left on their schedule, so they'll have to go at least 14-4 in Colonial play to have a shot at an at-large.


Justin said...

Let me get your opinion on some things I noticed over the past few days: The first one is regarding Indiana, how long before you think Tom Crean is going to put it together there? In 2010, his recruiting class was not in top 25 and in 2009 it was in the top 15. I know he's a great coach coming fron marquette and if i'm not mistaken, comes from the Tom Izzo coaching tree(I may be wrong on that). I wonder too if IU is still feeling the sting from the mess Kelvin Sampson left. My 2nd question is regarding Oakland University in Michigan. I saw they played Mich. St. tough, as well as Purdue and Illinois and then beat Tennessee last night. They are playing a tough schedule and I wonder are they for real and could they be a "cinderalla" or a pesky team to look for in the Big Dance? Love your blog, keep it up. I read it as much as I can!!

Jeff said...

You are correct that Tom Crean was an assistant under Izzo for a few years. As for when Indiana will be back? It depends how you define "back". I think this year they will be on the bubble until the final couple of weeks, and I think that next year they'll make it back to the Tournament. They're already back getting elite recruits out of the state of Indiana. But contending for a Big Ten or National title? It's not clear to me yet that Crean will ever get them there. He did inherit a really bad mess from the Sampson fiasco, as you said.

And yes, Oakland is definitely a dangerous team. The question is: can they actually win a game. They have a reputation for playing elite teams close, but always come up a bit short. They finally closed the deal on a team this week. And if you were watching the body language of the players as they finally won that big game it was not one of excitement, but one of built-up frustration and exhaustion - finally they finished a game off.

But certainly any team that overlooks them in March will regret it.