Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 4 Open Thread + Picking The Lines

The big story coming out of the first day of games was the horrific performance by the Mountain West. New Mexico and UNLV both flamed out in a big way, and overall the conference went only 1-3. Since I've been getting a lot of grief from New Mexico fans as a "hater" of the conference, you'd think I would be gleeful. But if you follow me on twitter you know that I was actually defending the league last night.

Yes, the Mountain West was overrated. Being #1 in the RPI ratings had to do with manipulating schedules to get a better rating. Smarter computer ratings had the Mountain West around the 5th best league, which makes more sense. But that said, it's always a fallacy to try to draw conclusions from a sample size of four games. Crazy stuff happens in a one-and-done tournament.

If New Mexico had made the Final Four or won the Tournament, the media would have shoved it in the faces of "metrics guys" and the tempo-free community as proof that Pomeroy sucks. But "metrics guys" understand the fallacy of this argument. Norfolk State beating Missouri doesn't prove that any computer rating with  Missouri ahead of Norfolk State was flawed. It means that there is randomness in sports. And that's all that happened yesterday with the Mountain West.

Anyway, two other teams done in by randomness were Pittsburgh and St. Mary's. Both teams had arguably their worst shooting day of the entire year at the exact wrong time. Wichita State played really well, so I don't begrudge them their upset, but Memphis played like crap. Unless they significantly improve their game they are going to get destroyed by Michigan State in the Round of 32.

It was not a good day for my bracket, and I even lost a Sweet 16 team (New Mexico). I really try to focus, as you guys all know, in not losing my late round teams early on. If teams have really tough Round of 64 games then I try to avoid taking them later. But... Harvard over New Mexico. Not sure how we could have seen that coming.

Anyway, let's get to Friday's games. Remember that I did pick all of these games in my Tournament previews, so you can read my extended thoughts on these games there.

Yesterday ATS: 7-9-0
Total through Thursday ATS: 9-11-0
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

Duke (-18) over Albany: Again, I would never actually bet a game like this. Duke is obviously going to win, but will they cover 18? They could easily come up short. I do think that Duke will come out playing well, though, after last year's debacle (against a Lehigh team far better than this Albany team, by the way). And if Duke plays well, they should cover

Wisconsin (-6) over Ole Miss: This is a popular upset pick, but I really don't think Wisconsin is the type of team Ole Miss wants to play. The Rebels play a lot of one-on-one offense and can be undisciplined at times. And Marshall Henderson can forget about having a big game behind the arc. I'd be shocked if Wisconsin lost this game, so I'm willing to give 6 points.

Temple (+4.5) over NC State: I hate lines like this. I picked NC State to win in my bracket, but certainly don't think this game is a gimme. The reason I picked NC State to win, essentially, was because I thought they could slow Khalif Wyatt enough to keep him from making up for their offensive rebounding advantage. But this is likely a game to go down to the final minute, so I'll choose to take the points.

Pacific (+13) over Miami (Fl): Miami should win, but Pacific is a really underrated team and a tough draw for any 2 seed. Miami is really being hyped up by the media as a sleeper, and I saw somewhere that they're the third or fourth most popular NCAA title pick in brackets this season. That's insane. Miami is arguably the softest 2 seed, and the only reason I have them getting to the Elite 8 in my bracket is because the East Region is so ridiculously weak. Pacific could definitely give them trouble.

Creighton (-3.5) over Cincinnati: Cincinnati is an underrated team, but they haven't been playing well the past few weeks, and Creighton is so incredibly explosive offensively. If the best shooting team in the nation gets hot and hit 4 or 5 three-pointers in a row, it will take Cincinnati two weeks to catch back up. They just cannot put up points in bunches unless Sean Kilpatrick goes for 30+.

La Salle (+6) over Kansas State: I think Kansas State will probably win this game, but La Salle is definitely a tough match-up for the Wildcats. Kansas State definitely matched up better with Boise State. Kansas State is a perimeter oriented team that runs little of its offense through their bigs, while La Salle led the A-10 in both 3PA/FGA ratio and 3P% defense. Kansas State will have an advantage on the offensive glass, which is where they have to exploit to cover the spread.

James Madison (+21.5) over Indiana: Just lay off this game. Indiana is going to win easily, but this is the type of game where they could get backdoor-covered. I don't think they're going to run a 16 seed out of the building like Louisville did.

Illinois (-1) over Colorado: I took Illinois to win this game in my bracket, so the 1 point spread isn't going to dissuade me. I think Colorado is going to struggle with the aggressive Illinois perimeter defense. Both teams struggle to score at times, but the Illini should get more easy baskets.

Florida Gulf Coast (+13.5) over Georgetown: Georgetown fans are definitely nervous about this game. Florida Gulf Coast is a strong 15 seed, and they have proven this season that they can hang in (and even beat) quality BCS teams. So don't be surprised if this game ends up close, particularly with the low-scoring Georgetown offense.

Ohio State (-14) over Iona: My concern about Iona here is just how aggressive and quick they are on offense. Even if this game is relatively close, Ohio State could end up pulling away late and winning by a score like 85-65. Considering the likely number of possessions, I don't think that spread is particularly large.

North Carolina (-4) over Villanova: I argued in my previews that North Carolina should win this game in a romp. UNC is a lot better than their seed and Villanova is a lot worse than theirs, and I think that Nova's turnover problems will allow the Tar Heels to get out and score a lot in transition.

Northwestern State (+20.5) over Florida: I've talked a lot about Northwestern State on this blog lately. They're a tough team to play because they attack so aggressively on the defensive end. Even Florida should expect to get turned over quite a few times. The Gators are going to win this game, but that's a 1/16-type spread. Florida is 1 seed quality, but Northwestern State is no 16 seed.

San Diego State (-3) over Oklahoma: The Mountain West needs to get a decent win or two to salvage something from this NCAA Tournament. And I'm relying on San Diego State just being the better team here, because in terms of personnel neither team has a significant advantage over the other.

Notre Dame (-1) over Iowa State: A 1 point spread means just pick the team you have winning. The Irish have been playing really good basketball the past few weeks, and are just a better team right now. The one place Iowa State has an advantage is in the paint, if they can get Jack Cooley in foul trouble. But that's not enough of a reason to go against the team playing clearly better basketball right now.

Western Kentucky (+20.5) over Kansas: Have I mentioned how much I hate picking the lines on 1/16 games? So, yeah. Thankfully this will be the last one this season. Western Kentucky is going to have no chance to score in the paint, which is okay because they love to chuck threes. If they get hot then they can actually keep this game reasonably close.

Minnesota (-3) over UCLA: This is an obvious pick to me. Minnesota has been the better team all season long. UCLA was much luckier, which is why they had a better record, but on net UCLA was +0.04 PPP in the Pac-12 while Minnesota was +0.00 PPP in the Big Ten... the latter is way more impressive. So that's why Minnesota is favored by 3 with the computers. But that Jordan Adams injury is just crushing. They got handled easily by Oregon in the one game they have played without him, and they basically have a six man rotation to go against the Gophers. I expect Minnesota to win pretty easily.


Jeff said...

Let's get going on Day 2. We are way, way overdue for a buzzer beating victory in the NCAA Tournament. Let's hope for one today.

Daffy Duck said...

And you're shocked already! Poor Wisconsin. Let's hope Wichita St beats Gonzaga so nobody gets that sections elite 8 team correct.

Jeff said...

In some ways that was a bigger shock than Harvard over New Mexico. Wisconsin hadn't had a worse shooting day in 7 years... and it came against the 8th best SEC defense? Unbelievable.

Adam said...

Isn't shooting percentage usually worse in the tournament, relative to a team's regular season%? (Obviously couldn't have expected Wisconsin to shoot that badly)

Jeff said...

I haven't seen any studies into that, but I'd imagine that the change in the Tournament is small. Maybe for small time schools, but for BCS schools the level of defense you're playing isn't really much higher than you faced in the regular season. For example, Wisconsin played a defense today that is softer than they're used to seeing in the Big Ten.

Adam said...

Competition and defensive intensity will be up a notch yes, but I'm thinking more about the nerves of playing in the tournament. Seems like that would depress shooting numbers on average. Haven't seen any studies though either.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I see your argument. You might be right. Haven't seen evidence either way, though, so I'm not sure.

Daffy Duck said...

Florida Gulf Coast hanging with the big dogs. Let's hope they can hang on for another half (and maybe hit some free throws).

Jeff said...

Yeah, things have been going a bit better against the spread this afternoon. James Madison pulling the backdoor cover was my highlight of the Tournament projection-wise.... as sad as that sounds.

Daffy Duck said...

I'm talking about a win for FGCU. They are playing like the much better team. No fluke win here.

Jeff said...

Indeed. Getting to the basket and holding their own on the glass. What happened to the Georgetown defense today?

Daffy Duck said...

Went on a date with Wisconsin's offense.