Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Post-Draft BP68

As in past years, I'm due to post my updated projected bracket now that the NBA Draft is over. I'm slightly confused this year because we are going to a 68 team bracket, and nobody has yet decided how we're going to arrange those 68 teams. For now I'm going to assume that we have four teams seeded 1-through-17. If you just want to see the bracket then please scroll down lower in the post.

But for those who care about my two cents on this, I do think that the way the NCAA chooses to arrange the teams will tell us a lot about the future. If you just want to put together a 68 team bracket, the logical choice is to have the bottom 8 teams play each other in a preliminary round. Having the last eight at-large teams play each other is really not fair for a number of reasons:

It wouldn't be obvious how you'd decide how to do it. Let's say you have six at-large teams that get a 12 or 13 seed, do you then just pick the two worst 11 seeds to play in this preliminary round? Do we punish a 12 seed that happens to be an at-large team by making them play in the preliminary round, despite having an even resume to an automatic bid 12 seed, simply because they got in as an at-large? And how ugly would the bracket look with random preliminary games depending on where the at-large teams are (for example, if only a single 13 seed is an at-large team, then only one 13 seed would have a play-in game). And what would you seed those teams? Would we have a 13 seed play a play-in game against a 12 seed? Then a 13 against an 11? Considering how much the NCAA depends on bracket contests for basketball revenue, you'd think they wouldn't want something so confusing. Second, it's not fair, not only that some 12 seeds have to play an extra game while others don't, but also that some 4 and 5 seeds will have to play a team coming off a big win while others won't.

The arguments against having the last eight teams play a preliminary round don't make sense anyway. The first is that it would stigmatize the bottom eight teams, which is nonsense. They don't feel bad for getting a 16 seed and being first round fodder now? Maybe they'll actually get to win a game now that people will be watching, since casual fans basically ignore 16 seeds and the play-in game right now. The second argument is even dumber, which is that since we always argue about the last few teams in the Tournament, now they'll be able to take it out on the court. Um, no. We're just going to now argue about who the 68th best team is, instead of the 64th or 65th best team. There was no dictum from God that says we need the best 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament. College football fans tell us that they just want the top four teams to get a chance in a playoff, and the top four teams certainly get a chance in basketball. There's nothing special about being the 64th best team versus being the 32nd best team, or any of the other sizes the Tournament used to be. No matter where we draw the line, the first team out of the bracket is going to have angry fans and is going to get talked about on television.

Of course, most of us realize that the NCAA eventually wants to grow the Tournament to 96 teams, and if that's the case then it makes sense for them to get the final at-large teams to play each other. They will want to get Americans used to watching seven rounds of basketball so that it won't seem like a big deal when a lot of teams are playing a seventh game. So I think that the NCAA will try to get at-large teams to play in that preliminary round, although it remains to be seen if they'll be able to come up with a good enough system to make it realistic.

For now, I'm going to just seed teams 1-through-17, and I'm switching the name from the BP65 to the BP68. And we'll see what happens.

As usual, the next bracket will be out within a week of Midnight Madness, which will be in mid-October. And of course, there will be plenty of other posting between now and then. Without further ado:

1. TEXAS (BIG 12)

2. Purdue
2. North Carolina

3. Kansas State
3. Pittsburgh
3. Kansas
3. Ohio State

4. Baylor
4. BYU (MWC)
4. Kentucky
4. Syracuse

5. Florida
5. Virginia Tech

6. Illinois
6. Texas A&M

7. New Mexico
7. Wisconsin
7. Temple

8. Villanova
8. West Virginia
8. Arizona State

9. Louisville
9. Oklahoma State
9. San Diego State

10. Northwestern
10. UTEP
10. Vanderbilt
10. Clemson

11. Missouri
11. Boston College
11. Marquette
11. California

12. Saint Louis
12. Florida State
12. Miami (Fl)

13. UConn
13. Mississippi
13. Maryland

14. OHIO (MAC)




Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
NC State, Dayton, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Minnesota, VCU, Creighton, South Carolina, Saint Mary's, New Mexico State

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Duquesne, Richmond, Saint John's, Indiana, George Mason, UAB, Fairfield, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Colorado State, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Arkansas, Mississippi State

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Charlotte, Rhode Island, Cincinnati, South Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, UC Santa Barbara, Drexel, Northeastern, Central Florida, Southern Miss, Tulsa, Cleveland State, Wright State, Princeton, St. Peter's, Siena, Akron, Kent State, Bradley, Southern Illinois, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, Washington State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Portland, Fresno State, Nevada

Monday, June 28, 2010

Can The Big 12 Survive Re-Alignment?

You might read the title to this post and wonder if I've been in a deep sleep for the last few weeks. The re-alignment is done, right? Well I don't think it is. Here's what we know so far:

For the 2010-11 season there will be no changes. Schedules were already made, so the BCS conference teams will all play out in the same conferences they played in during the 2009-10 season. The changes will begin in 2011-12 when Nebraska moves to the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah to the Pac-10, and Boise State to the Mountain West. This post will only be talking about the Big 12, so I'll leave the other stuff for another post.

The reason I don't think re-alignment is done is because the Big 12 situation is completely untenable. First of all, there's a reason why conferences want 12 teams, and that's the football championship game. The Big Ten and Pac-10 have now added an extra game that will bring in many millions of dollars, while the Big 12 will lose theirs. Second, the idea that a conference becomes stronger if it becomes smaller and higher quality on average is nonsense (and it's not even certain that quality went up for the Big 12 anyway, since Nebraska football is a huge loss). If that were true then Texas would be better off as an independent. Even Notre Dame, with their unique history and nationwide following, is still in the Big East in every sport besides football, and will likely eventually quit being a football independent as well. Even if a conference brings in more money per school, it's still less money in all. Losing Nebraska football money is a lot of money for a conference to lose.

So not only does the Big 12 lose a lot of money with two fewer teams, but it's also in an untenable position because it's really the Big Texas Conference now. Texas is now calling the shots, and will get whatever it wants, including (apparently) their own tv channel. Texas has learned that now they can make any demand of the Big 12, and the mere threat that it might cause them to jump to the Pac-10 will cause the Big 12 bigwigs to immediately acquiesce. This is good for Texas, but it will destroy the conference. Schools like Baylor and Iowa State are going to starve as they get a smaller and smaller piece of Texas football money.

So I do think that in the end the Big 12 is going to change. One possibility is that Texas really does leave for the Pac-10 along with the Oklahoma and a couple of other schools (most likely Texas Tech and Oklahoma State). This would likely kill the conference, causing the remaining teams to flee to other conferences, or else cause the Big 12 to just swallow up so many new teams that the name remains but the entire character of the conference changes (such as annexing the entire Mountain West).

The other possibility is that Texas realizes that the Pac-10 isn't right for them and the Big 12 realizes it as well, and the power balance fixes itself. In this latter scenario the Big 12 would have to add teams eventually, which would likely mean raiding the Mountain West.

Either way, I do think that the Big 12 will dramatically change over the next few years. In some sense it was inevitable. There has always been a desire for the bigger conferences to grow, and they always want to grow by picking the best teams from other conferences. The biggest conferences will always win out, the way that the ACC looted the Big East, which in turn looted Conference USA a few years ago. And the fact is that the Big 12 has been the weakest of the six major conferences. Not only that, but the Big 12 just happens to sit right in the middle of the three conferences most likely to look to expand (the SEC, Big Ten and Pac 10), and also has the one prize that the other conferences really want to tap into (the Texas recruiting pool).

But I just don't see any way that the Big 12 doesn't either lose or gain teams over the next few years.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Taylor King Gone From Villanova

Big news for Villanova as Taylor King has been booted off the team for good. The official word is that he broke "team rules", with no further description, but the rumors seem to be that it's related to his drug and alcohol issues, which were the cause of a suspension he had this past season.

Villanova was a team that had all sorts of off-the-court issues in 2009-10, and while it's impossible to know which of the internet stories are true, there's no question that Villanova went from being the best team in the Big East to a mediocre squad that went out meekly in both the Big East tournament and the NCAA Tournament because of whatever happened off the court.

Taylor King is certainly a talent, and his loss hurts Villanova on paper. Villanova did not have a lot of offense from its forwards in 2009-10, and King really helped to stretch the floor. Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes were the three offensive playmakers, and they had a whole lot more room to work in when King was there. With Reynolds graduating, Fisher and Stokes will be the focal point of the offense in 2010-11, and the loss of King will allow opposing teams to pack the paint more.

That all said, Villanova has a ton of young talent that is 6'6" or taller. Mouphtau Yarou played very well in extended bench minutes in 2010-11, while Isaiah Armwood was a very big piece of Villanova's 2009 recruiting class that will be expected to provide more as a sophomore. Yarou is a center, while Armwood is a swing player. Meanwhile, Markus Kennedy and Jayvaughn Pinkston are Villanova's two best 2010 recruits. Kennedy is a pure post player, while Pinkston is more of a swing player.

Villanova has a ton of other talent coming back. Maalik Wayns will provide backcourt depth, Antonio Pena is an outstanding post player, and Maurice Sutton will add post depth.

So while Taylor King's three point shooting gives him a unique set of skills that none of the other Villanova players have, there's no question that Villanova still has Top 25 talent without him. And there's also no question that the team needed to do at least a little bit of house cleaning to not have another season where the team is less than the sum of the parts. Is Taylor King the player that needed to go? I don't know, I'm not in their locker room. But it's possible.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thoughts Soon On Conference Shifts

I just wanted to put up a quick post to let people know that I will have some thoughts on all of the inter-conference moves. I've wanted to hold off the past couple of months because it was just speculation and I didn't want to waste my time analyzing a move that ended up not happening, but now it seems fairly certain that at least a few moves will happen. Nebraska is off to the Big Ten, Colorado is off to the Pac 10, and Boise State is off to the Mountain West.

Those three moves, of course, are all football moves. None of those three teams have been relevant in college basketball in years. But with dramatic moves likely upcoming for other Big 12 teams that actually are relevant in college basketball right now (such as Texas, Kansas, Baylor and Texas A&M), I do want to talk about it.

Expect a post either today or tomorrow, and I'll have more posts in the future as more information becomes known.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

John Wooden In Perspective

I thought about writing a post about the passing of John Wooden last night, but decided that there's really nothing that I can add to what is said. Instead I'll recommend just a couple of links: I enjoyed this study of the beginnings of the UCLA dynasty from Sports Illustrated in 2007, as well as a bunch of pictures of Wooden here, and a collection of Wooden-isms. I also enjoyed this video of a 17-18 minute speech he gave a short while ago about teaching.

One of the things I often talk about on this blog is perspective, and that not only do we always lack perspective, but we also overly-glamorous and lionize the past. We also don't realize that what we think now was most important about a past era wasn't the most important then. One great example is the Texas Western team, the first to win the national championship with a lineup with five black starters, the story which has been made into a feature film and numerous documentaries. What most people nowadays would be shocked to find out is that the race of that team was actually irrelevant at the time. Black players had played for major programs for decades before Texas Western won. San Francisco had won the national title 11 years earlier with blacks as their three best players, and three years before Texas Western won with five black starters the title was won by a team with four black starters (Loyola-Chicago). The racial aspect of that game was so irrelevant that in the front page Sports Illustrated article on the championship game published in the March 28th, 1966 issue (read the full issue in the SI archives here) there was not a single mention of race. The idea that it was a big deal that Texas Western won with five black starters is completely a creation of the modern political obsession with race, and nothing to do with what the world was like in 1966. Race was very important in the country then, of course, but nobody cared that the record for most black starters to win a college basketball title had risen from four to five.

And so I've actually pointed out in the past that in some ways Wooden's coaching success has been overrated in the media. His record of 10 championships in 12 years isn't quite as impressive as you'd think. It's probably the greatest streak of any team in college basketball history, because keeping a team among the best in the nation for 12 straight years is tremendously impressive, with the only comparison being the Duke run from 1985 through 2006 when they went to Sweet Sixteens in 17 of 21 years, including 3 championships, 7 title game appearances and 9 Final Four appearances. But what makes it deceptive is just how much easier it was to win a National Championship in the 1960s than today, particularly in the West. There were fewer games and fewer elite teams - it wasn't like today where the 100th best team can give the best team a run on a good day. But even more important was the region concept. Younger fans today often don't realize that back in the day the NCAA Tournament regions actually meant something, and so UCLA benefited from the fact that that almost all of the other good teams were in the East. I talked about this recently in the comments to this post. For example, UCLA made the 1967 Final Four by beating Wyoming and Pacific, and nobody else. It was still very impressive that they beat Houston and Dayton in the Final Four to win the Championship, but can you imagine how many Final Fours Coach K could have reached in a row if he only had to play Wyoming and Pacific to make the Final Four?

But what made John Wooden great wasn't his winning, but the effect he had on his kids. Recalling my last post on this blog, about John Calipari (see here and here for more of my writing about John Calipari), I talked about how college basketball coaches need to care about more than just winning. They have a responsibility to develop young men, they need to mentor them, and they need to help them with the rest of their life. John Calipari couldn't care less about what happens to his kids after they're done winning games for him. And that's the precise opposite of John Wooden, who often seemed to care less about winning the game than he did about winning life. The way his former players and assistants and friends idolize him is a testament to who Wooden was. And to go back to the Texas Western example, Wooden was in fact not a creation of the modern world. Going back through the Sports Illustrated archives I found this fascinating article about UCLA basketball from March, 1962, a full two seasons before his first trip to the NCAA Championship game. Yet even then, a full 48 seasons ago, his brilliance as a teacher and his excellence as a human being is on full display in the article. Even his famous "Pyramid of Success" makes a cameo appearance. For those of us who weren't around to watch Wooden at his coaching peak, this is evidence to us that as large as the legend of John Wooden is, he really lived up to that legend in every possible way.